Sunday, April 13, 2014

By the Voice of My Servants

For thousands of years the relationship between Syria and Israel has been tenuous at best. Certainly that was the case in the 9th Century B.C., when Israel's King Jehoram was approached with an unusual request from the leader of Syria's army. That leader, a captain by the name of Naaman, had heard from one of his servants that there was a prophet in Israel that could miraculously cure him of his leprosy. He had come to Jehoram with money, gifts, and a letter from Jehoshaphat, king of Syria, requesting that Naaman be healed.

At Elisha's request, Naaman was eventually sent to the prophet's home in Samaria. He arrived with his servants 'a mighty man in valor' and appears to have also been a very good man, for 'by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria' from the Assyrians (2 Kings 5:1). It isn't known how severe Naaman's case of leprosy was, only that he was willing to seek out an unfamiliar prophet in a rival country on the chance he could be miraculously freed from his disease. That willingness to seek out the prophet made it all the more important for Elisha make a good impression-- not only for political reasons, but also to show the idolatrous Syrians the reality of the one true god of heaven.

Leprosy at the time accounted for any number of chronic skin diseases ranging from skin that was scaly with reddish patches to conditions so severe flesh actually fell off the bone. Fearing Syria was seeking an excuse to make war with Israel by requesting the medically impossible, and without faith the prophet Elisha could provide a satisfactory resolution, Jehoram rent his clothes in frustration, exclaiming, 'Am I God... that [the king of Syria] doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?'

Given the gravity of the situation, and Naaman's expectation for a miraculous cure, what happened next was completely underwhelming. Rather than meeting with Elisha in his home and being healed of his infirmity, Naaman was greeted by a lowly servant who relayed the prophet's instruction to wash seven times in the dirty water of the Jordan River.

Insulted that the religious leader of his political rival had dismissed him without so much as a personal appearance, 'Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper... And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean' (2 Kings 5:9-14).

As with Naaman, sometimes the Lord teaches and blesses us through people we do not expect. His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways the same as our ways. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth,' He told the prophet Isaiah, 'so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts' (Isaiah 55:8-9).

President Spencer W. Kimball taught that the Lord hears our prayers, 'but it is often through another person that he meets our needs'. Significant lessons for our lives may come from the prophets in our dispensation through a conference address, a mission call, or a personal interaction. We may also learn and even witness miracles at the hands of the seventies, stake presidents, bishops, church spokespersons, home teachers, missionaries, and others that are appointed to deliver prophetic messages on their behalf.

The Lord has taught that we are to hearken to the voices of his servants, whatever their title might be, just as we would hearken to Him. On November 1, 1831, as the prophet Joseph Smith was preparing to publish the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord taught the saints, 'What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same' (D&C 1:38).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to be led by the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, as it has been in every dispensation throughout all of time. He inspires his servants, whether prophets or primary teachers, to speak His will to us. He also grants to each of us the gift of the Holy Ghost, so we can know through the Holy Ghost that the words of his servants are true. As Elder Oaks has taught, true inspiration will always be consistent with all other revealed truth and the teachings of the living prophets.

Naaman had to overcome his pride and his intellect to be healed of his leprosy. President Harold B. Lee taught, 'You might not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may conflict with your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life... Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow' (Conference Report, October 1970, p. 152-153).

Though it may be difficult at times, as we listen to the voice of the Lord and His servants He will soften our hearts, enlighten our understanding, and convert our hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that through Him we may be healed.

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