What lessons can we learn from the Sermon on the Mount? Below are some of my thoughts.
The Salt of the Earth
I hope I don’t offend anyone, though I’d be lying if I didn’t expect the possibility. This subject can be somewhat divisive. My hope is that those who feel attacked would consider what the scriptures say, and the possibility that I might not be too far off the mark.
In connection to being a “light of the world”, the Savior talks about how we are also to be salt. The uses of salt at this time period were varied, so it is difficult to pin down the exact meaning of the parable. Still, the people of the day knew salt to be essential for human life. Stemming from that, it’s not too much of a stretch to at least suggest that we, as salt, can bring necessities of spiritual life to others when we act as “salty” witnesses for the Savior.
But how can salt, an extremely stable compound, lose it’s savor? It’s not in any chemical change in the salt, but how the salt is delivered.
When we offer our “salt”, do we offer too little? Do we offer impure or diluted salt? Or do we offer too much salt?
The first two ways that salt can be delivered aren’t the focus of this post, but I’d imagine that offering too little salt might be like hiding our light and not sharing the gospel, and offering impure or diluted salt might be like how our good actions are corrupted by mistakes or sins.
But too much salt? How can we have too much salt?
Most of us have likely heard of the pranksters that loosen the lid on the salt shaker, only to watch their victim dump the entire contents of the shaker on their steak, or burger, or potatoes. More of us likely have accidentally added too much salt to a dish and been left unsatisfied with how it turned out.
Is this like being overbearing (see Alma 38:12)?
I would say no. When our boldness crosses into overbearance, that’s like our good salt being diluted with poor choices; the purity of our message is lost in the unwise delivery.
What, then, is having too much salt?
I would suggest that there is value in thinking of too much salt in terms of what I call “salty communities”. Here in Utah, what one of my hometown friends affectionately calls “Mormon Land,” we have too much salt in one place to the point that it looses its savor. When I was a student counselor, I would talk every day with business majors at BYU (a university with the motto “go forth to serve”) who saw their “forth” as up the street in Utah Valley somewhere.
What a tragedy it is when so much salt is concentrated around the Wasatch front! What a tragedy it is to sit in a high council group with six ex-stake presidents, five ex-bishops, and a handful of ex-stake presidency members and ex-bishopric members who could all be out in the world doing gospel good! What a tragedy it is when you haven’t had the chance to bear your testimony outside of fast Sunday meetings in years because everyone you have a close relationship already knows that the gospel has been restored!
It’s true that the salty members who live here probably do a lot of gospel good, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s gospel good, or salt, we don’t need here. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s gospel good, or salt, desperately needed somewhere else. An appropriate amount of pure salt somewhere less concentrated could make all the spiritual difference in the world.
Does this position come up from the real doctrine makers, the First Presidency and the Apostles? Of course it does. For example, just in this last General Conference, President Monson himself made the plea:
“And now to you mature brothers and sisters: we need many, many more senior couples…. Make yourselves available to leave home and give full-time missionary service.”
What is he asking? He asks that couples leave their salty communities to do gospel good in the world.
As you consider your career and life plans, consider the Savior’s admonition to be salt that does not loose it’s savor, and consider that in order to retain your personal savor, you may have to leave the “salty communities” of Utah.
Continuing the Series
- Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount – Mountains
- Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount – Salt
- Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount – Light