“If Thine Eye Be Single” – 3 Nephi 13:22

Jesus said, “The light of the body is the eye.” Therefore, He added, “if…thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” But He added this warning: “If thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23, 3 Nephi 13:22-23).

The Greek word translated as “single” in this passage, haplous (ἁπλοῦς), means literally “without folds.” The imagery is of a cloth that is open, uncomplicated, and completely visible. It is a fitting metaphor for a sincere seeker after truth with no hidden agenda.

In contrast, the word translated as “evil,” poneros (πονηρός), means “toilsome” or “painful.” We make life difficult for ourselves when we overcomplicate it with cynicism, distractions, or conflicting motives.

Moroni explained that God would not allow anyone to handle the sacred record of his people unless “it shall be done with an eye single to his glory” (Mormon 8:14-15). As an angel, he provided the same warning to young Joseph Smith. As Joseph reported:

[He] added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them.

Joseph Smith—History 1:46

Several years later, the Lord revealed through Joseph Smith that a fundamental qualification for those who want to serve Him was “an eye single to the glory of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:5).

In a recent general conference, President Dallin H. Oaks explained how this principle can help us receive light and knowledge from the words of prophets:

In His sermon to multitudes recorded in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, the Savior taught that mortal bodies can be full of light or full of darkness. We, of course, want to be filled with light, and our Savior taught us how we can make this happen. We should listen to messages about the truths of eternity. He used the example of our eye, through which we take light into our bodies. If our “eye be single”—in other words, if we are concentrating on receiving eternal light and understanding—He explained, “thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matthew 6:223 Nephi 13:22). But if our “eye be evil”—that is, if we look for evil and take that into our bodies—He warned, “thy whole body shall be full of darkness” (verse 23). In other words, the light or darkness in our bodies depends on how we see—or receive—the eternal truths we are taught.

We should follow the Savior’s invitation to seek and ask to understand the truths of eternity. He promises that our Father in Heaven is willing to teach everyone the truths they seek (see 3 Nephi 14:8). If we desire this and have our eye single to receive them, the Savior promises that the truths of eternity “shall be opened” unto us (see 3 Nephi 14:7–8).

The Melchizedek Priesthood and the Keys,” General Conference, April 2020

Today I will seek for light and receive it with simplicity, sincerity, and optimism. I will avoid overcomplicating my life and will strive to do God’s work with pure motives and without distractions.

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