Ye are the Salt of the Earth

Study Topics

Salt of the earth

This past week I was listening to a podcast on 3 Nephi 12 where Jesus is giving a sermon at the Temple in Bountiful similar to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. The podcast is by Mike Stroud and his wonderful series on the Book of Mormon is perhaps the longest commentary on the Book of Mormon ever published. He brings in a lot of interesting things, including some things out of the Old Testament I’d never contemplated before.

If you want to get this set up as a collection note in Scripture Notes to preserve (pun intended) this topic, do this:

Start off doing a search in your Scripture Notes app for:


This produces 47 results. There are going to be some verses that refer to the “salt sea” and geographic things that don’t relate to this exact topic. I removed verses and got down to 26 relevant ones. You may choose to keep more.

Before I share what Mike said, here are two verses that set the stage.

First, obviously, this is from a podcast on 3 Nephi 12 so the verse there is the command the Savior gave us:

3 Nephi 12:13. 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.

It’s interesting that the words “I give unto you to be” are used here. We know salt enhances flavor and it’s also a critical element for our bodily functions. In looking online for what salt does in the body, I found a list of 22 items on this blog post which highlight all types of things it does including communication between our body’s nerves, generating hydroelectric energy in cells, regulation of blood pressure, prevent muscle cramps, and absorption of food particles in the intestinal tract. Salt is critical for life. Without salt, we die. This will be particularly relevant below.

The second verse is:

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.

Under the law of Moses, the people were to put salt on their meat offerings. Why would you do that if you were just going to cook and/or burn the meat?

Here’s what Mike shared about this that I didn’t know.

“Notice that to be called the salt of the earth, it is a gift given to you by the Savior. Salt anciently, and even today, is a great preserving agent. It is difficult to preserve truth in the telestial world. Everything seeks to alter, diminish, and remove truth after it has been revealed and restored by God to man upon the earth.

These who receive this charge to be the salt of the earth have a commission to preserve the truth, to keep it pure and unadulterated. Apostasy results in the loss of truth, failure to preserve it. A restoration returns truth again, with a charge to preserve and protect it once again—and thus begins another cycle of restoration following an apostasy from light and truth.

The word savor refers to taste or odor; something that is perceived by the organs of taste and smell; it’s a quality which renders a thing valuable; sweet savor in scripture denotes that which renders a thing acceptable to God.

Salt which has lost its savor and cannot be used to preserve, bless, or enhance is good for nothing but to be placed upon ancient walkways which would keep them clear of weeds, i.e., good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden underfoot of men.

In ancient Israel, when sacrifices were offered upon altars according to the law of Moses, the Lord did not accept the burned flesh of the animal, the fruit of the ground, or the ashes, or smoke of such sacrifices. The acceptable part of that sacrifice to the Lord was the smell, the savor, a sweet savor unto the Lord―the pleasant smell of burning sacrifice in the temple.

To ensure that the smell would be sweet, the Mosaic law required that the offering be liberally sprinkled with salt. The scent of an unsalted burnt offering would be the stench of scorched flesh. But if the meat were generously salted, the odor would be quite different due to the reaction of the salt upon the cells that compose animal flesh. Under high salt conditions, cellular fluid rapidly escapes the cells to dilute the salts outside the cell membrane. When accentuated by heat, these fluids cause a sweet savor to emanate.

In Leviticus 2:13, the Lord said with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.

Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, gives us this account of burnt offerings: the priest would cleanse the bodies of the sacrificial animal and divide them into parts, and salt them with salt, and lay them upon the altar while the pieces of wood are piled upon one another and the fire is burning. This is the way of offering a burnt offering. (Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus)

Because of its preserving quality and its ability to make a sweet savor in the burning of sacrificial animals an acceptable offering unto the Lord, salt anciently was used symbolically and literally in the entering into of covenants with the Lord. This gives us great insight into what it means to be called the salt of the earth.”

Salt with savor = saviors of men

I found this all very fascinating. As salt enhances food, clearly the Lord wants us to enhance the world. Not only that, but by studying the verses on salt, you will find that to be the salt of the earth, makes us literally and figuratively, the saviors of men. From Doctrine & Covenants 103:9-10 we read:

9. For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men;

10. 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.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:

“Among the ancient Hebrews salt was used as a preservative, in seasoning food, and in all animal sacrifices. (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24; Mark 9:49-50. So essential was it to the sacrificial ordinance that it was the symbol of the covenant made between God and His people in connection with that sacred performance. (Lev. 2:13; Num. 18:19; 2 Chron. 13:5.)

Accordingly, our Lord’s statement, made first to the Jews and then to that other great body of Hebrews, the Nephites, that they had power ‘to be the salt of the earth,’ takes on great significance. They had power, in other words, to be the seasoning, savoring, preserving influence in the world, the influence which would bring peace and blessings to all others” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 667-68).”

How does salt lose its savor?

Elder Carlos E. Asay in Conference Report, April 1980, pg. 60; or Ensign, May 1980, pg. 42, wrote: “A world-renowned chemist told me that salt will not lose its savor with age. Savor is lost through mixture and contamination.”

Clearly, we need to be unspotted from the world or through contamination with it, we lose the ability to maintain the life-giving and enhancing functions salt provides.

What happens when the salt of the earth loses its savor? (markup and insertions mine)

3 Nephi 16:15. But if they (latter-day Gentiles) will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they (latter-day Israel) shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.

What happens when the wicked cast out the salt of the earth?

As further evidence for the life-preserving effect of salt in a society, remember, it’s when the wicked cast out the righteous “salt” from among them that they are destroyed. They have removed the life-sustaining element from the body of their society and life cannot be preserved any further. (See Alma 10:23 and Helaman 13:14)

Trace minerals in salt

After doing this research I also wanted to understand a little more about the types of salt from around the world and where it’s found. Salt is mined in various places and depending on the elements around it, acquires trace amounts of it into the salt.

For example, pink Himalayan salt comes from Pakistan and contains a trace amount of iron oxide (rust) which gives it a pink color. It also has small trace amounts of other minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Other types of salt contain different qualities. Kosher salt is larger in size and coarser in its flake structure which makes it good at extracting blood from meat before it’s eaten which as we read above is part of Jewish culture.

One study cited online identified the amounts of trace minerals in various types of salt and I found this comparison table interesting.

salt comparison table

After researching this I have this weird feeling I’m about to become a salt sampling “snob” sort of like growing up in Pennsylvania made me into a cheesesteak snob. I know it’s just a preference thing, but now I’ve got to try different salts side by side I think to see which seems to enhance flavor for me the best. :)

How to become salt with savor

The most important thing to know though, is how we become the salt of the earth. The Lord tells us in Doctrine & Covenants 101:39.

39. When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;

By entering into a covenant with the Lord and abiding within it, we become the salt that helps fulfill the covenants of the Lord. We magnify the covenant by helping others come into the covenant which further enhances and preserves the whole world.

Clearly there is a lot more we could study on this topic, but this is enough for a simple blog post. Here are a few articles with some additional information about salt and covenants if you are interested.

Got an insight to share? Post it in the comments below.

(Featured image by jirkaejc @

Ye are the Salt of the Earth

About the Author

God, family, country, scriptures, soccer, Sanderson, disc golf, dessert, development. These are a few of my favorite things. :) - Oak Norton

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