Jacob, soon to become the successor to Nephi as the leader of the people, is among the greatest of the doctrinal analysts and preachers in the Book of Mormon. Jacob is the consummate observer and articulator of the scattering and gathering the Lord’s people. Having been born, like his younger brother Joseph, during Lehi’s transit through the wilderness (see 1 Nephi 18:7), Jacob has no personal acquaintance with a life rooted in a permanent home, but instead is a wanderer and stranger. At the end of his days, Jacob takes a somewhat melancholy look back: “The time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days” (Jacob 7:26).
Nevertheless, Jacob is able, through the strength of the Lord, to overcome the effects of the travail of the scattering and experience the joy of the gathering. Upon this solid gospel foundation, Jacob builds his life-long ministry. His father knew of his innate goodness: “And thou hast beheld in thy youth his [the Redeemer’s] glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free” (2 Nephi 2:4). Even after the death of Lehi, when he follows Nephi and the other faithful descendants of Lehi away from the wicked sphere of Laman and Lemuel to start life anew, Jacob finds reason to rejoice: “And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). In his discourses and writings, Jacob eloquently relates mankind’s journey from the foundation of time to the ultimate Judgment and bestowal of heavenly rewards.