In ancient times olive was the clearest and cleanest of all animal and vegetable oils, in this way it represents purity. It was also the brightest burning and longest lasting. “We find through all the prophetic writings that olive trees and olive oil are emblems of sacredness and purity.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr.
Possible symbolism of the olive tree
Olive trees have a very long lifespan, more than 2,000 years. It’s very possible that some of the olive trees found in the garden of gethsemane may have been there when Christ suffered there for the sins of the world, the long lifespan of the olive tree may also symbolize everlasting life. Though Olive trees look like a deciduous they are actually evergreen meaning they keep their leaves year-round, another possible symbol of everlasting life. If an olive tree is cut down it begins to regrow from the roots a possible symbol of the resurrection.
Olive oil as a symbol of the blood of Christ
Jesus preformed the first component of the atonement by suffering for the sins of the world in the garden of gethsemane. The word Gethsemane comes from the two Hebrew words; “Gath”: which means Press and “Shemen” which means olive oil. The olives were pressed under the weight of huge round stones, similar to the way that Christ took upon himself the weight of the sins of the world. AS Christ suffered he sweat great drops of blood. “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” D&C 19:18. When olives are pressed the liquid comes out into collecting trays in a brownish red color almost resembling blood.
Symbol of Light
Olive oil was used in lamps to provide light in darkness. When Jesus Christ appeared to the Nephites he referred to himself as the light and life of the world ” And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.” (3 Nephi 11:11) Another reference is to the light of Christ, The truth of God that proceeds from his son Jesus Christ and encourages his children to do right. “Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space. The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.” (D&C 88:12-13)
The olive branch as a symbol of peace.
Nearing the end of the great flood Noah sent out a dove from the ark. The dove returned with an olive branch, indicating that the water had begun to recede and expose the earth again, this was a symbol that God had ceased to destroy mankind. “And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.” (Genesis 8:11) Likewise the olive branch was used as a symbol of peace by the Greek’s and Romans, as a tradition the defeated army would hold up an olive branch to indicate their surrender.
Ancient Healing and Medical Uses of Olive Oil
In ancient times olive oil was considered a universal antidote. It was used to reverse the effects of several poisons, it was used as a poultice to drain infection or sickness. When combined with other liquids it was also used as an ointment to sooth cuts, bruises, cores, and open wounds. Christ taught about loving thy neighbor through the well known “Parable of the Good Samaritan” In the parable a Jew was traveling from Jerusalem to Jerico and was attacked by thieves who stole everything including his clothing, injured him and left him by the side of the road to die. A priest saw him on his way and passed him on the other side of the road. A levite came and again passed him on the other side of the road. But when a Samaritan saw him he took compassion on him, he provided medical attention, put him on his beast and took him to a nearby inn and payed his way. Regarding the medical attention the scriptures say that the good Samaritan poured oil and whine in the wounds of the injured Jew. “And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” (Luke 10:34)