I have to say that Jacob is probably one of my favorite Book of Mormon characters. He doesn’t have the same war glory as Moroni or sheer brass as Ammon, but I feel like I can relate to Jacob. Why? Because I think he was a little bit like me, at least in regards to anxiety.
Even from chapter one of his book, he seems to be very deliberate in what he writes, making sure everything is proper and carefully worded. When it comes to using the actual word, “anxiety,” I would venture to guess that his short book in the Book of Mormon has more occurrences of it than any other single book of scripture? I may be wrong, but that might be my anxiety and perfectionism talking 😉
Jacob is very concerned with the weight of responsibility he feels as prophet. I’m sure most, if not all, prophets similarly feel the heavy burden of being the Lord’s mouthpiece to His people, but I think Jacob sincerely worries about it and lets us know that he does. He takes his calling extremely seriously and doesn’t want to screw anything up.
In Jacob 2:3 we read:
And ye yourselves know that I have hitherto been diligent in the office of my calling; but I this day am weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of your souls than I have hitherto been.
Poor Jacob. I’ll bet he was diligent! If he was anything like me, he probably felt the need to magnify his calling and really made sure he accomplished everything that he was supposed to do. He felt the pressure of his responsibility and that in turn must have led to feelings of great stress and worry for his people. Maybe he thought that if they sinned, he would be held responsible somehow? Maybe he figured that he might be blamed for not teaching or warning them fully?
I’m sure many of us with obsessive compulsive disorder experience similar fears: What if I didn’t do enough? What if I forgot to do this one thing and that is what would have made the difference between, oh, someone being well or getting hurt (spiritually or physically)?
Regardless, I feel for Jacob. I know it feels like to be “weighed down” with anxiety.
In Jacob 4:18, right before he explains an extensive allegory to his people, he says,
Behold, my beloved brethren, I will unfold this mystery unto you; if I do not, be any means, get shaken from my firmness in the Spirit, and stumble because of my over anxiety for you.
I just want to give him a hug and say, “it’s okay, Jacob! You don’t have to preemptively make excuses for your potential failure to do something! Don’t let the anxiety take over your life!” Because I’ve been there. Have you? Have you made excuses for things that haven’t happened yet and probably won’t? Have you worried about failing because you are so stressed out and nervous? Have you felt so much anxiety to do something that you probably don’t actually want to do but know you MUST?
Maybe you can begin to appreciate why the book of Jacob is one of the shorter books in the Book of Mormon. Bless him, he was probably exhausted writing as much as he did.
He signs off in chapter 7, verse 27 with:
And I, Jacob, saw that I must soon go down to my grave; wherefore, I said unto my son Enos: Take these plates. And I told him the things which my brother Nephi had commanded me, and he promised obedience unto the commands. And I make an end of my writing upon these plates, which writing has been small; and to the reader I bid farewell, hoping that many of my brethren may read my words. Brethren, adieu.
Oh, how I love Jacob—his diligence and obedience to his duty, his thoroughness, and even his anxiety. I appreciate knowing that even ancient prophets had similar feelings to those of us today—and I hope he finally feels some relief from his anxious heart.
Do you think Jacob’s anxiety was something out of the ordinary? Do you have any other favorite scripture “heroes” who exhibit similar personalities?