Monday, March 21, 2011

Why both “salt of the earth” and “light of this people”?

Recently I was reading the Savior’s words to the Nephites and I ran across these sayings:
13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.
15 Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;
16 Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (3 Nephi 12:13-16)
My question upon reading this was, why did Jesus feel it necessary to give two different versions of what seems to be the same idea? They both seem to convey the idea of how the Lord’s covenant people are to be special and an example. I have heard explanations that salt on sacrifices is a symbol of the covenant, but for some reason I have a hard time grasping this association; it feels like the ideas are too far apart. (Maybe I just haven’t progressed to the point of getting it yet.)

But back to the question of why both “salt of the earth” and “light of this people” were used. What is the same between them and what is different?

I noticed that these two metaphors involved different senses—taste and vision. Being a light to the eyes is like being an example. But taste is a bit trickier. Nonmembers don’t taste us…. Or do they? I remembered a verse from Job that I had noticed a long time ago.
Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat? (Job 12:11)
I went searching for more instances in the scriptures where “taste” is used and I found three other helpful verses.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalms 119:103)

Is there iniquity in my tongue? cannot my taste discern perverse things? (Job 6:30)

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Colossians 4:6)
In a sense, words can be tasted by the ear just like salt is tasted by the tongue. There is a special flavor and savor to the godly conversation of the Saints that is refreshing. Our words can impart gospel principles and a unique perspective of the world. As Paul said to the Colossians, our speech can be with grace (which the Bible Dictionary says is “enabling power”) that can edify and motivate and even help change lives. The savor of our words is instrumental in attracting people to the gospel and in teaching it.

So it seems that Jesus meant to use the metaphors of “salt of the earth” and “light of this people” to convey the ideas that both our words and our example help the world.

I know I really savor the words of faithful Latter-day Saints. I was trying to remember a particularly memorable experience I could share of savory words someone spoke and I realized how blessed I am to associate with so many members so often. I taste that savor in general conference. I taste it in the scriptures. I taste it in well-prepared church talks and lessons. I taste it in sincere prayers. I taste it in everyday conversation that is tinged with faith. I taste it on so many of your blogs.

I think a most recent example is in our relief society lesson on charity yesterday in which our instructor mentioned that she had realized that she needed to show her husband more charity by not bringing up past mistakes he had made. We all giggled a bit at this admission of hers, but there was a special savor in hearing her thoughts about it. I know I appreciated it because it motivated me to commit to being more forgiving of my husband too.

I also can’t help but give my mother credit for her savory words. In my upbringing she exemplified “salt of the earth.”

Can you tell me of an experience you had when the savor of someone’s words helped you?

6 comments:

Charlotte said...

Great thought. I am tucking this one away for the next time we're having a family discussion

RGG said...

The April 2010 BYU Womens Conference; Sister Julie Beck,General President of the Relief Society gave a powerful talk. I have been reading this talk for a year and it reminds me of the best meal I've ever eaten and I don't mind the leftovers

Sister Beck begins her talk with these words
QUOTE:"I feel a great urgency for the daughters of God to do all they need to do to strengthen and lift not only themselves, their families, sisters who are in their wards, but also the world. I feel that the sisters in this Church who know and understand their covenants will be a significant force in helping this world, which seems to have lost its moral moorings.
If the sisters who have made covenants with God know what they are supposed to do, that they are in for the long haul, and that they are in with all their faith, then this world will be okay and we will be all right. The theme of the conference is, “Say unto this people: Choose ye this day, to serve the Lord God who made you. Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course; and thou shall abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me.”1 What a beautiful theme." END QUOTE

From that point,the message is quite intense and the only way to really enjoy it to come back and break it down into its most component parts and read it part by part. Each word, every sentence is over flowing with love, advice, nurturing,and concern.

I have had my eyes "opened" to the blessings of the Temple. I have learned how to be a better wife. I have learned to feast on the words in the Book of Mormon.
Thanks for this post

Roger and LeAnn said...

I enjoyed reading your post today. I am going to ponder on the thoughts and perhaps recall some moments when someone's words helped me. I think I could come up with numerous thoughts.
Always conference has so many messages that can change lives and have helped me many time.
Thanks, for your thoughts and blessings to you! LeAnn

Michaela Stephens said...

RGG, thanks so much for sharing that selection from Sister Beck's talk. I felt the Spirit when I read it and I felt it even stronger when I read it a second time.

Anonymous said...

Just reading through this, I know it has been a long time! Thought I'd share a piece of information.
Salt adds great taste to any meal! But that is not all it should do.. Natural salt or unprocessed salt contains minerals. Minerals are what we need to survive and make our bodies healthy! Salt provides things like selenium, copper, & chromium to name few. All these things heal the body! So while we are being told to be the flavor or the earth, we are also being told to heal the earth!
The two phrases have more in common than what is originally thought.

Michaela Stephens said...

Thanks for dropping by, Anonymous. Interesting associations there. I suppose the message you're getting to is that our examples can help heal others.

Thanks for sharing!