Teaching on a plain overlooking Galilee and then to believers gathered around a temple in the Americas, the Savior admonished His disciples to “be the salt of the earth”.¹ Understanding this commandment puts perspective on the relationship between our premortal and earth life. When this principle is understood, we discover that the Lord blesses His children through a small but powerful minority. As members of the church, we have the responsibility to be those people.
Who we are:
From the restoration onward the Lord’s prophets have declared that choice children of Heavenly Father have been reserved specifically for this time.² Aside from the obvious confidence which can come from truly believing this, the most important consideration is the question of why we were reserved. We must comprehend this in order to know what it is we must do in our time on Earth.
The great prophet Alma, seeking to reclaim those who had lost their way, shared insight about the nature of our foreordination. Speaking of those who held the Holy Priesthood, he taught that they received their calling based on premortal righteousness. Thus, they were, “called and prepared from the foundation of the world… on account of their exceeding faith and good works[.]” The purpose of this foreordination was so that “the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.” ³ Thus, the role of priesthood-holders is to provide a present example of Christ; to point the way to the Savior’s salvation.
This calling does not only apply to the men of the church. John A. Widtsoe applied the doctrine of foreordination to all church members.
“In our preexistent state … we made a certain agreement with the Almighty. … We agreed … to be not only saviors for ourselves but measurably, saviors for the whole human family. We went into a partnership with the Lord. The working out of the plan became then not merely the Father’s work, and the Savior’s work, but also our work.” ⁴
Thus, every soul who comes to this earth accepted the challenge to prove themselves faithful, but a select number desired to take on extra work: to help others find the salvation they hoped to gain. These spirits understood that the world would be cut off from the Lord’s presence, that He could not be there physically, and that they could serve as a bridge back to Him for their beloved brothers and sisters. Though we may not understand it, we are those people.
As members of Christ’s church, we make up a minuscule fraction of the earth’s population. Thus, we cannot justifiably shrug off the commitments we have made. Our work is integral to His work and the salvation of our brothers and sisters hangs in the balance. The lord has called us to be the saviors of men with this warning— “And inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” ⁵
Jehovah, in revealing His law to Moses commanded every offering to be salted. ⁶ In ancient semitic culture, salt was a symbol of purity. To this day Arabs say “there is salt between us”, which refers to the sharing of meals. Thus, salt is also a sign of friendship and hospitality. ⁷
Additionally, the characteristics of salt inform us on the kind of discipleship the Lord expects from us.
1. Salt is pure.
Salt will remain in it’s pure chemical compound forever. The purity of salt is only compromised through contamination. Similarly, as God’s chosen servants, we should remain uncontaminated through mixture with the philosophies of men, the uncleanliness of the world, and unrighteous dominion. ⁸
2. Salt is preserving.
From ancient times salt has been recognized for his curative and preservative properties. Applied to food, it changes the chemical state from one prone to deterioration to one which can endure. Similarly, we have in our possession the renewing power of the gospel life. As we help others to receive the Holy Ghost, they change into a state which allows for enduring to the end.
3. Salt is valuable.
Because of it’s potency, and because of limited means of obtaining it, salt was always expensive and precious in the ancient world. So to, covenant members of the Lord’s church are precious and rare, but strong.
4. Salt is cleansing.
In a negative sense, pouring salt in a wound is a phrase which denotes an increase of pain. However, that pain comes as a sign of cleansing which prevents infection and begins the healing process. We too can show the way to begin healing for God’s children.
5. Salt is powerful.
Only a very small amount of salt my flavor a much larger portion of food. Only superficial application of salt to a piece of meat, for instance, is enough to effect a major change in it’s chemical composition. Likewise, though few in number, as God’s chosen, foreordained servants, we are powerful. We can cause a great and marvelous change throughout the larger portion of the world’s population.
How we become the ‘salt of the earth’.
Salt was always associated with the covenants and ordinances of the ancient temple. Today it is also through living our covenants that we become the salt of the earth. The immediately obvious covenant in relation to our service to others is The Law of Consecration. Sadly, it is also one of the least understood and most neglected of all the covenants we make in this church.
“Many ignore consecration because it seems too abstract or too daunting. The conscientious among us, however, experience divine discontent because of progression mixed with procrastination.” —Neal A. Maxwell ⁹
That nagging feeling inside, pestering you to do more, to be better— listen to it. Consecration puts our duty and our work in perspective. As we put the kingdom of God and service to His children ahead of our own interests we better remember our place in this work and progress down the path of our potential.
A consecrated disciple would not forgo a conversation with an obviously troubled stranger because of business.
A consecrated disciple would not reject a call to home teach a less-than-firendly less active member.
A consecrated disciple would not demand compensation for service rendered.
In short, a consecrated disciple is more concerned about them than themselves.
Eye hath not seen.
We cannot comprehend, now, all the blessings that await us. The blessings of striving to be the salt of the earth have are less like rewards of gold stars and more like the awareness of added muscle from concerted exercise. The very fact that the Lord allows us, mere infants, to work alongside Him is magnificently humbling.
“At the perfect day, we will see that we have been a part of things too wonderful for us. Part of the marvel and the wonder of God’s ‘marvelous work and a wonder’ will be how perfect Divinity mercifully used us—imperfect humanity.” ¹⁰
At the end of our journey it will be amazing to see what we have become if we have lived up to our potential, because we will have become like Christ. ¹¹
1. Matthew 15:3, 3 Nephi 12:13
2. “You are not just ordinary young men and young women. You are choice spirits, many of you having been held back in reserve for almost 6,000 years to come forth in this day, at this time when the temptations, responsibilities, and opportunities are the very greatest. ” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, pp. 43, 46–47; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, pp. 30, 32)
“The Lord has chosen a small number of choice spirits … to come forth in the last day … to organize the Kingdom of God upon the earth, to build it up and to defend it” (Wilford Woodruff, as quoted in Our Lineage [course of study for genealogy classes, 1933], pt. 1, p. 4).
“You, our youth of today, are among the most illustrious spirits to be born into mortality in any age of the world. … Be prepared to become leaders in that glorious millennial day when Christ himself will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Harold B. Lee, “Happiness through Faith in Jesus Christ” [family home evening manual, 1977–78], pp. 34, 39)
3. Alma 13:2-5
4. Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Oct. 1934, p. 189).
5. D&C 103:9-10
6. Leviticus 2:13 – “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.”
7. The World Book Encyclopedia, 1978, 17:69
8. “Savor is lost through mixture and contamination. Similarly, priesthood power does not dissipate with age; it, too, is lost through mixture and contamination. … Flavor and quality flee a man when he contaminates his mind with unclean thoughts, desecrates his mouth by speaking less than the truth, and misapplies his strength in performing evil acts.” (Carlos E. Asay, “Salt of the Earth: Savor of Men and Saviors of Men,” Ensign, May 1980, 42)
9. Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance,” Ensign, May 2002, 36
10. Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Out of Obscurity’,” Ensign, Nov 1984, 8
11. Moroni 10:48