A couple of years ago, I ran a marathon. During one of my long training runs, I drank lots of water but didn’t ingest any electrolytes. At about mile 15, I experienced horrible leg cramps. When I arrived home, I did a little research and discovered the likely culprit: sodium depletion, also known as hyponatremia. I had lost a lot of salt through my sweat and had not replenished any of it, because I was only drinking water. Fortunately, I was able to modify my routines and avoid a recurrence of the problem.

Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), or in the version of His sermon recorded in the Book of Mormon, “I give unto you to be the salt of the earth” (3 Nephi 12:13). What does that mean, and how do we as His disciples fulfill that mandate?

1. Sprinkling

Sister Susan H. Porter pointed out that, even in small amounts, salt has significant influence. “It is surprising how much difference a sprinkling of salt makes in the flavor of what we eat. And yet salt is one of the least expensive and simplest ingredients…. You may be young or feel of no importance,” she said, “but you can be as salt in your family, at school, and in your community” (“Lessons at the Well,” General Conference, April 2022). So the first lesson of salt is this: A little bit of goodness goes a long way. Our influence may be more far-reaching than we realize.

2. Being Different

President Dallin H. Oaks pointed out Jesus’ warning that Satan wants to sift us as wheat. (See Luke 22:313 Nephi 18:18.) He said this means “to make us common like all those around us.” In contrast, President Oaks said, “we who follow Him should be precious and unique, ‘the salt of the earth'” (“Unselfish Service,” General Conference, April 2009).

Salt wouldn’t be very useful if it tasted the same as the food it was seasoning. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” (Matthew 5:13, compare 3 Nephi 12:13). Elder Larry W. Gibbons explained, “How do we lose our savor? One way is when we stop being different from the world. Many in the Church are drifting in the direction of the world and looking and becoming more and more like the world. We must stop drifting” (“Wherefore, Settle This in Your Hearts,” General Conference, October 2006).

I think this may be what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:6, italics added). If you are just parroting what everyone around you is saying, you aren’t adding a lot of value. It is the unique gospel perspective you bring that makes your contribution impactful. So the second lesson of the salt is this: Don’t just fit in. Be true to your discipleship, even if it makes you stick out.

3. Permanence

To ancient Israel, the Lord gave this instruction:

Every oblation of thy [grain] offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy [grain] offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.

Leviticus 2:13

Why was salt an important part of this offering? Because it conveys durability. It is used as a preservative. It makes things last a long time. Speaking later to Aaron, the high priest, the Lord said, “It is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord unto thee and to thy seed with thee” (Numbers 18:19). And King David’s great-grandson Abijah declared, “The Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt” (2 Chronicles 13:5).

Disciples of Jesus Christ approach the experiences of life with an eternal perspective. We make covenants that last beyond death, and we consider the long-term consequences of our decisions. We can therefore help the people around us avoid the pitfalls and traps caused by narrow, short-term thinking. So the third lesson of the salt is: Keep focusing on eternity. It will help everyone around you be more resilient.

Today, I will heed the Savior’s call to be the salt of the earth. I will perform small acts of kindness, trusting that their influence will be magnified. I will live according to the gospel, even if it makes me different from the people around me. And I will make decisions with an eternal focus.

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