Approximately 570 B.C.
Jacob was a Nephite prophet and the fifth son of the prophet Lehi. He was born after the family left Jerusalem, so he was apparently taught by his parents and strongly influenced by his older brother Nephi. Although the extended family probably grew rapidly, obviously his ministry was restricted to that small but growing population. His recorded words, however, continue to teach millions today. He also had responsibility for the small plates of Nephi, which stewardship remained in his direct family line.
Preparation and Calling
Jacob was blessed with both great tribulation and great faith as a young man. Nephi, his older brother, consecrated him to be a priest and a teacher, which role he fulfilled with prophetic diligence. His vocabulary and ability to recall teachings from disparate sources show him to be well-educated and versed in scripture.
Interaction with God
Jacob seems to have been a man of unusual faith. He declared to Sherem, an anti-Christ, “I truly had sen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time” (Jacob 7:5). Nephi wrote that Jacob had seen the premortal Jesus Christ, and indeed perhaps his greatest teachings are of the Savior and His coming mission on earth.
Jacob was born in the wilderness to an aging prophet-father and righteous mother. As he matured, the rift between those who believed in God’s direction for the family and those who did not grew. In the promised land, the two groups grew apart spiritually and physically, even to the point of warring with each other. As the Lord blessed the righteous Nephites, they began to prosper. Jacob, a spiritually and emotionally sensitive man, was tasked with being a priest and a teacher to the Nephite tribe. Many of his teachings center on warning his people of pride, materialism, and unchastity, knowing that the spiritual downfall that these sins could cause was far greater than the afflictions, even death, that the Lamanites would cause.
Though Jacob taught several doctrines clearly and powerfully, his witness of the coming Messiah to the Jews is remarkable. He was visited by the premortal Jesus and recorded that the purpose of this writing on the plates was for future peoples to “know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming” (Jacob 4:4). His teachings regarding the scattering and gathering of Israel are also worth noting (see Jacob 5).
Living with the Prophet
Jacob was not blessed to live a life of ease. He was born in the wilderness, crossed a mighty ocean by ship, and helped his family carve out an existence in a new and foreign country. He had no fine schools to attend. Yet he must have been diligent in his personal studies, for he learned in those humble circumstances to read and write and was familiar with all the writings of the sacred records carried by the family. Perhaps because of this, he developed strong feelings for the power of written records. He was associated with previous generations primarily through the written word, and he tried to leave a legacy for his future generations by recording his testimony on the plates. Consider your own circumstances. Do you strive to not only get through life but also to improve your education? What kind of legacy can you provide to others by recording your testimony and experiences?
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 1, s.v. “Jacob.”
Book of Mormon, the books of Mosiah and Alma.
Book of Mormon, Reader’s Edition, ed. Grant Hardy.