Last week, in a column headlined "Adultery and blind obedience," I wrote about the army of Christian soldiers in the world. I had no idea a full regiment of that army would weigh in about the quality of the "chow" I was serving up. Comments on the piece came from all over. Some people collect quarters from every state. I could collect e-mails. Red Sox fans talk about the "Red Sox Nation." Well, there's a "Mormon Nation," too.

Not everyone agreed with me, of course — or agreed with each other — but I took heart in the tone of the debate. Speak to a person's heart, Emerson said, and they will suddenly become ennobled. But that can only happen if a noble soul resides inside that heart to begin with. And I am encouraged by the Brave Hearts scattered around the country.

The new pope, Benedict XVI, has said Christianity was never meant to be the full loaf of bread, but the leaven — the yeast — in the loaf. Christianity was meant to influence, not control. It was meant to be the candle on a stick giving light to the house, the city on the hill that can't be hidden, the "salt" of the earth giving savor to everything else — the way a pinch of salt adds flavor to a kettle of soup.

Jesus gave his disciples the "salt lecture" after he caught them bickering. He said, in effect, "If you're going to waste that special flavor you have in arguing, how are you going to season the earth? Lose that flavor and you'll only be good for sprinkling on sidewalks to melt the ice." (Rough translation).

The grains of "savory salt" are out there. My mail bag this week is a 25-pound sack of it.

That "candle on a stick" is out there. Here at the Deseret Morning News we see the gleam every time we publish an article that kindles hope.

Funny thing about hope. It doesn't take a bonfire to ignite it. All it takes is one peep of light.

A little goes a long way.

It's the message of the loaves and fishes, the widow's mite and the woman with her tiny cruse of oil.

It's the message of Christmas.

The people 2,000 years ago were awaiting a king to ride in on a fiery steed and fill the world with his majesty. Instead, at least for Christians, what the world got was a peep of light from a stable on the backstreets of a distant village.

But that was enough.

A little went a long way.

Some 27 years ago this week, in a Thanksgiving talk, Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke about those beams of hope.

"The disciple can note the depressing signs of the times without being depressed," he said. "He can be disappointed in people without being offended at life. Thus it is that ultimate hope — if it does not dissolve our daily disappointments — at least puts them in perspective."

This past week has been fun for me. And encouraging. It has given me perspective. I could taste the pinch of salt in this amazing Mulligan Stew called America. As "NCG" said in an online comment to my column, "I am pleased there are so many Mahatmas (great souls) out there."

Me, too.

You give me hope.

It's been a good week.

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