The Salt of the Earth

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This common chemical compound has something to teach us about our covenants with God.

salt of the earth

Photographs by Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Thinkstock and iStock/Thinkstock; illustrations by Hemera/Thinkstock and iStock/Thinkstock

Bible Facts

  • Under the law of Moses, priests put salt on all of the offerings of grains and meats before placing them on the altar (see Leviticus 2:13; Ezekiel 43:23–24).

  • The temple in Jerusalem required huge amounts of salt for preparing offerings and tanning hides. Jewish tradition says salt was sprinkled on the ramp leading to the altar so that the priests would not slip. Herod’s temple included a salt chamber to store all the necessary salt.

  • The phrase “covenant of salt” is used in the Old Testament to signify the desirable and everlasting nature of covenants between God and man (see Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5).

  • Anciently, salt was not scarce in the Holy Land. There was a large mine near the Dead Sea and shallow evaporation pools along the Mediterranean coast.

Common Salt

Chemical Makeup: Sodium chloride (NaCl), a crystalline compound formed when sodium hydroxide (NaOH)—a base—reacts with hydrogen chloride (HCl)—an acid—to form an ionic bond (Na+ + Cl-).

Major Uses: Food preservative, food seasoning.

Other Uses: Cleanser, ingredient in soap, aid in leavening, ice-melting agent, agent for tanning animal hides, color-fixing agent in dyeing of textiles, and many others.

How It Works: Salt preserves food by stopping the growth of bacteria and destructive enzymes. When salt comes in contact with the surface of food, the salt molecules try to achieve a balance between the number of salt molecules inside and outside the food. It does this by drawing water molecules out of the food and inserting salt molecules into the food through osmosis across semipermeable cell membranes. As a result, the number of free water molecules is reduced to a point where most bacteria cannot survive and most enzymes cannot operate because, basically, they get dehydrated.

What We Can Learn

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

Salt:

  • Prevents decay. As individuals, we can be personally sanctified through covenants. As a group, those who make and keep sacred covenants can halt the spread of moral decay by living righteously and being a force for good. They also sometimes help prevent the judgments of God from falling on societies that have ripened in iniquity—or over-ripened and rotted (see, for instance, Helaman 13:14).

  • Makes things last. Throughout the scriptures, God refers to His “everlasting covenant,” promising us eternal blessings (see Topical Guide, “New and Everlasting Covenant”). Those who make and keep covenants also work to spread those covenants throughout the world, extending eternal blessings to more and more of Heavenly Father’s children. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “The key to this work is the keeping of covenants by individuals” (“Keeping Covenants: A Message for Those Who Will Serve a Mission,” New Era, Jan. 2012, 4).

  • Enhances flavor. Our covenants allow us to have the gift of the Holy Ghost, which enhances our spiritual capabilities and purifies our natural feelings. Righteous covenant keepers who are spread throughout the world make the world a better place to live in and are pleasing to Heavenly Father, because they help bring salvation to His children.