“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.”
How can salt “lose its savor” except through contamination or impurities? When that is lost, the salt cannot preserve. There is no remaining savor. Then the salt is nothing more than common dirt, to be cast aside and trodden under foot.
This is the gentile predicament in the last days. They will, of course, lose their savor. They will reject the fullness offered to them. (3 Nephi 16: 10.) When they do, they will be torn apart and trodden under foot. (3 Nephi 20: 16; 3 Nephi 21: 12.)
Notice it is the Lord who “gives unto you to be the salt of the earth.” This condition is a gift from God. Through repentance, or turning to Him, you can receive this. Without repentance you cannot become the salt.
There are no private lives. Every life counts. Your private devotions are more important than your public notice. The salt which preserves may be unknown, likely is unknown, to most people. But if you are the salt, then your private life of devotion to the Lord is saving the lives of many others. The angels want to begin the harvest. They are impatient to begin reaping and cutting down the wicked now. (D&C 86: 5.) There is only time given because of a few who deserve more time to grow in faith before the harvest begins. (D&C 86: 6-7.) Your growth is all that is keeping the harvest from beginning now. Therefore, how you proceed has consequences far beyond your own life.
When wheat is ripe it will be protected. When tares are ripe they will be burned. But the tender plants worthy of preservation are the only ones allowed more time. (D&C 86: 4.) I advocate for them and realize how tenuous a position humanity itself is in at present. But you are the ones in the balance and for whom time is granted. How much longer no one knows, but your sins are not private. Your repentance is critical to all of creation. Do not think your life is your own. All of us have a share in your good works.
Do not think the Savior’s words are without cosmic significance. I define “cosmic” to include the cosmos or organized creation here. Even the earth itself longs to be freed from the burden of sin upon her face. (Moses 7: 48.) It is the Lord alone who has granted you time to repent. This current state of the creation we live is affected by the promise held in those who are repenting. As soon as that hope ends, and no further repentance is to occur, then the harvest will begin. Therefore, becoming salt has never been so important as it now is.
He speaks about the heart, rather than the hands and feet. Christ is speaking about beholding God, unlike the retreat Israel took from the offered opportunity at Sinai. (See D&C 84: 22-25.) He is returning to the time of Moses, when a higher way might have been chosen.
It is also interesting that what must be “pure” is the “heart.” There are so many other things one might measure. But what the Lord looks upon to determine purity is the “heart.”
How few hearts are pure before God. How rare a thing it is to contemplate such a person. How few we produce in this restoration of the Gospel. We remain as a people too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending to be called of God. No wonder we stumble and fall backward and many are taken in snares. (Isa. 8: 11-17.)
The standard applied to us is the standard we apply to others. This is repeatedly set out in scripture:
Alma teaching his son Corianton recorded: “Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again. For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.” (Alma 41: 14-15.)
This earth abides by a Celestial Law. (D&C 88: 25.) Therefore, it is destined to become a Celestial Kingdom because it will be sanctified by a Celestial Law. (D&C 88: 25-29.) The destiny of the earth is glory. (D&C 84: 101.) Therefore, to “inherit the earth” is to inherit a Celestial Glory.
Since this is so, you need to understand the definition of “meekness.” Elder Hales made these remarks about “meekness” in General Conference: “
I’ve given another explanation in Beloved Enos. There I explained it is necessary to be meek first before being trusted with great power. The power to seal on earth and in heaven is something which cannot be handled apart from meekness. Without meekness a man cannot be trusted with such a power. When Enos used the power, he did so meekly. He asked rather than pronounced. He petitioned rather than decreed. Though the Lord would hearken to his words, he refrained from acting.
This is because the proper way to use such authority is only and strictly in conformity with the Lord’s will. The reason Nephi received the authority was because he was meek. The account of the conferral is also the account of his qualification:
Therefore, when the Lord had tried him and determined he was willing to serve Him at all costs, he qualifies to receive trust from God. That trust allows the Lord to confer upon the man great power. (See also TPJS p. 150: “After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, is baptized for the remission of his sins, and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness and living by every word of God. The Lord will soon say unto him, ‘Son, thou shalt be exalted.’ When the Lord has thoroughly proved him and finds that the man is determined to serve him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and election made sure.”)
Meekness is required to qualify for great power. And you know a man is meek when, having great power, he uses it strictly in conformity with the Lord’s will; never varying from the Lord’s command, and never pursuing his own agenda. This kind of meekness is men is a rare thing. Nephi, after receiving that power, was instructed that he was to deliver the Lord’s message: “thus saith the Lord God, who is Almighty: Except ye repent ye shall be smitten, even unto destruction.” It is the Lord’s judgment. It is a meek man who delivers it. But such judgments only come after the Lord has a meek soul upon whom He can place this trust. For He has covenanted to always first employ such a servant before imposing judgments upon mankind. (Amos 3: 7.)
Therefore, when the Lord teaches the “meek shall inherit the earth” it is a statement which includes exaltation for the meek. It is one of the Lord’s deepest teachings, and most profound descriptions of those who will be exalted and why.
“And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
This is unconditional. “All” are included. “All they that mourn” will be blessed.
Between sessions of conference Saturday I attended a friend’s funeral. Mourning because of death is the first cause we associate with this promise. Over death, however, He has gained the victory. It was His mission and ministry to bring about victory over death. “And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death.” (Alma 7: 12.) This done now, though death continues to claim all of us. We know we will have part in His victory. Comfort from that victory will come to us all.
Death is not the only cause of mourning, however. We all experience afflictions, troubles, temptations, and pains while mortal. He has gained the victory over all of these also: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.” (Alma 7: 11-13.)
Do you mourn because of afflictions? Temptations? Pains? Sickness? Infirmities? The troubles of the flesh? Sins and transgressions? It does not matter the cause of your mourning, Christ has suffered all these things so that He may understand the troubles of the flesh and, by understanding them to overcome them all. By overcoming them all, He then in turn can share the victory.
Your failures are not going to be reason to punish you. If you repent, they will be lessons from which to learn. The guilt will be removed, you will be comforted, and the lessons will remain. Your mortal trials will confer upon you the taste of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Gen. 3: 17-19.) You will have learned from what you suffer the difference between the two, and have the benefit of Christ’s atonement to remove all guilt. (2 Nephi 2: 26.)
All will be comforted from every offense they have ever suffered. All that remains will be the choices you have made. (Moroni 7: 16-17.) The offenses you suffered at the hands of others will be made up to you. All infirmities you have been plagued with while mortal will be removed. (Alma 40: 23.) Only your choices will remain as either a continuing blessing or continuing affliction. But that is your choice. (Alma 41: 13-14; Moroni 7: 18-19.)
Earth’s valuable lessons will remain with you, and inform you eternally with knowledge of good and evil. In this you will have become like God. (Gen. 3: 22.) But the experiences you suffer, which are the means of learning good from evil, will all be removed. You will no longer “mourn” for anything. You will, however, remain accountable for your choices.
This is the perfectly balanced experience. Through it we learn and gain experience (Abr. 3: 25-26), but we are only burdened by what we voluntarily impose upon ourselves through our choices. (1 Nephi 15: 32-33.) The promised “comfort” against our mourning will be complete if we have chosen to follow Christ, and incomplete if we have chosen to reject Him. Because He can only remove all the burdens of nature and mortality imposed as a condition of life here, He cannot remove those voluntarily assumed by wrong choice while living here. (Mosiah 16: 8-13.)
The balance between necessary experience and accountability is maintained. Through Christ are all things made possible.
This pattern is in scripture for a reason. It is intended to be a guide for us as we ask questions such as: Although the priesthood has been conferred upon me, what must I do to obtain power? (D&C 121: 36-37.) It is almost always the case that the priesthood is merely “conferred,” and there is no power within it. Through repentance, the powers of heaven are accessed and the priesthood’s power becomes real. Alma is a prime example of this transition from powerless and error-filled pride into repentance and possession of the Spirit of God.
We are not meant to remain “poor in spirit” but to “come to Christ” and move beyond that. Moving beyond it we find ourselves joyfully informed that “ours is the kingdom of heaven.” We cannot claim it for ourselves. But Christ can claim it for us. This is how our poverty of spirit is to be cured. The Lord juxtaposes poverty with the riches of heaven itself. The contrast is designed to make us think, and to make us grateful. We were always intended to have joy. Above all else, Christ is a Deliverer from sorrow. (Rev. 7: 17.)
This is why commandments are given to us. They tell us how we can continue to receive and renew a continuing conversion to Christ’s way of life. Commandments are not a burden to bear but a roadmap to follow. They are not a measuring stick to judge and then abuse others. It is a light for us to follow.
These explanations by Christ are beyond the question of “faith verses works” because Christ is telling us we act from our heart in faith, receive ordinances because of our faith, then have our hearts filled again. We proceed from grace to grace. This is how Christ received the fullness, and the only way we may receive the fullness. (D&C 93: 12-14, 19-29.)
The break between this portion of Christ’s teachings and what would follow is interesting to consider. The remainder of His teachings will form the primary message foundational to Christianity. It is the new, higher law which replaces the earlier Law of Moses. Yet this portion, declared by Christ as His “doctrine” is the part to be taken first and declared everywhere. Why?