Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Twenty-eight: An Eye Single (To the Glory of God)

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Twenty-eight: 
An Eye Single (To the Glory of God)© (1)

In the Sermon on the Mount there is an interesting pericope at Mt. 6:22-23.  Jesus says:
22) The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23) But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! [Emphasis added.]
The problem is, what does the Savior mean by the phrase “if therefore thine eye be single”? He does not explain it here, nor in 3 Ne. 12:22.(2) This phrase only appears here in the Holy Bible; it is not to be found in the Old Testament or anywhere else in the New Testament.This situation leaves the interpretation of the phrase open to various explanations. Therefore, this appears to be another of those occasions as Elder Delbert L. Stapely observed in 1955, where the Savior has left the details of this to be explained by subsequent prophets, particularly those of the final dispensation.(3)

It is, therefore, quite interesting that the phrase does appear in modern scripture seven more times.(4) This includes 3 Ne. 12:22. The other six all have a modifying phrase attached that makes the meaning significantly more clear. The second and only other time it appears in the Book of Mormon is in Mormon 8:15 which reads: “For none can have power to bring it [the Book of Mormon] to light save it be given him of God; for God wills that it shall be done with an eye single to his glory, or the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of the Lord.” [Parenthetically, a question arises here. Are there two separate things spoken of? That is, single to his glory, and single to the welfare of the ancient covenant people; or is the welfare of the ancient covenant people one definition of the glory of God?]

The phrase “eye single” appears five more times in the Standard Works, but each of them is in the Doctrine and Covenants and each is modified by the same phrase or variant. For example, D&C 4:5 says in listing qualifying attributes of ministers, “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.” The most interesting version is found in D&C 88:67-68, which appears to be the Lord’s reiteration of the teachings in Mt. 6:22-23 in a more complete manner. [Emphasis added.]
67) And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. 68) Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will. [Emphasis added.]
There are several very important things to note about this passage, but I emphasize only two for our purposes here. First, the passage tells us we keep our eye single to the glory of God by sanctifying ourselves. That is another topic altogether, but this passage suggests that the condition of sanctification is a prerequisite to having an eye single to the glory of God. D&C 1:31 links sanctification with loving and serving God with all our might, mind and strength; which may be a further key to having our eye single to the glory of God.  

Second, the passage in Section 88 also says this condition of sanctification and having an eye single to the glory of God is prerequisite to something else–to seeing God. This is highly significant because seeing God is one of the primary objectives of the gospel.(5) The ultimate purpose of the gospel is to bring us permanently back into the presence of God as exalted beings, or as D&C 84:24 teaches, we are permitted to enter the “rest” of the Lord, which is “the fulness of his glory.” So the phrase is something of a technical term relating to the laws and ordinances of salvation an exaltation, especially those received in the temple, which prepare the Saints for this the greatest of all blessings.  Indeed, the Lord speaks of it as “the great and last promise which I have made unto you.”(6)  Joseph Smith refers to this promise in a January 1833 letter to W. W. Phelps then in Missouri. With the letter he sent a copy of Section 88.  In this letter Joseph connects the promise directly to the temple.
You will see that the Lord commanded us, in Kirtland, to build a house of God, and establish a school for the Prophets, this is the word of the Lord to us, and we must, yea, the Lord helping us, we will obey: as on conditions of our obedience He has promised us great things; yea, even a visit from the heavens to honor us with His own presence. We greatly fear before the Lord lest we should fail of this great honor, which our Master proposes to confer on us; we are seeking for humility and great faith lest we be ashamed in His presence.(7)
So, now to top it off, we return to the Savior’s statement in the Sermon on the Mount and note that the JST version of Mt. 6:22-23 is also modified as the other passages discussed above:
JST Mt. 6:22) The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23) But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light which is in thee be darkness, how great shall that darkness be. [Emphasis added.]
If Joseph Smith were making such edits to the Savior’s sermon (in 3 Nephi and in the JST) of his own accord it would not only be blasphemously presumptuous, but it would also be one of the greatest acts of hubris, egotism, and temerity known. But, to his credit he did not do this of his own initiative.(8) The meaning of this passage was revealed to him by God; not only to help us understand more clearly the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, but to see the significance of this doctrinal concept in our personal spiritual growth and development which is a fundamental and vitally necessary part of our preparation for the exaltation we seek.  Joseph Smith truly was a man with the answers--and how satisfying they are when we look at them closely.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


1. I got the idea for this topic from my friend Jeffrey Bradshaw. It comes from some comments he made in an Interpreter Roundtable discussion of  Sunday School lesson 9.

2. I do not have an explanation for the absence of the modifying phrase to be discussed in this article, in 3 Ne. 12:22. It is one of the few significant changes in the JST version of the Sermon that is not found in the Book of Mormon version. Generally the JST version mirrors 3 Nephi.

3. Delbert L. Stapley, “The Strait Gate–Repentance and Baptism,” The Improvement Era, 59 (June 1955), p. 416.

4. See: 3 Ne. 12:22; Mormon 8:15; D&C 4:5; 27:2; 55:1; 59:1 and 88:67.  

5. Many scriptures and statements of Joseph Smith and others could be marshaled to demonstrate this point, but let the following suffice: see the context of 88:67 in verse 63; also D&C 84:23-24 (19-26); and D&C 93:1. 

6. D&C 88:69, emphasis added.

7. Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 19, emphasis added.

8. The Lord actually assigned Joseph Smith to study the Bible and make revisions. In D&C 42:56-58 we learn that he was to ask questions and the Lord would give him “my scriptures”, but he was not to teach them until the process was complete and he had “them in full.” This was necessary because we have learned from studying the manuscripts that Joseph was learning “line upon line, precept upon precept” and sometimes he went back and revised something he previously revised because he now had additional information and understanding. The JST not only served to educate the Prophet Joseph Smith about the fulness of gospel doctrines, but through his work on the JST, and full blown revelations now in the Doctrine and Covenants that were given to him in answer to some of his questions, the Lord was educating a whole Church at the same time. 


  1. I wrote a previous comment but it got erased...

    I simply was thinking about King Benjamin's invitation in (2:34) to "render all" of who we are to our Heavenly Father of whom we are eternally in debt. Even when we obey Him in love we're never even with him because he "immediately bless[es]" us (2:24). I simply wonder how much of his sermon connects to what the Savior and the Prophet were teaching us in their "eye single" messages. As always, thank you!

    1. Good question about the relationship between Benjamin's sermon and the Sermon on the Mount.