"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
February 5, 2014
Healing Naaman
by Marian Stoddard

We were reading the story of Naaman and Elisha in 2 Kings 5 in our Institute class. I don't use video pieces very often, but I did for this. The Church has produced a compilation of short videos as a companion to the Old Testament, and the film made of this story was so wonderful I had to share it.

Naaman, the leper, is one of those stories most of us are familiar with. Naaman comes to Elisha and is told to go wash in the Jordan River seven times and he will be made clean. We cite this story as a call to obedience, and we may remember that Naaman was not an Israelite but a Syrian, an outsider.

The scriptures say that he was a man of great responsibility, and an honorable man. Being a leper, he was also an object of pity and fear. The disease would certainly shorten his life.

He had brought a "little maid" captive out of Israel to wait upon his wife in the household, who told her mistress that there was a prophet in Samaria (in Israel) who could recover the master from his leprosy. Accustomed to action, Naaman sends to the king of Israel to request this help, and sends the king into a tizzy because the king well knows that he has no such power, and he fears the repercussions.

Elisha, however, sends word that the Syrian may come to him.

When Naaman arrives with his guards and his chariot, he is met by a messenger. He's used to better treatment than this. Doesn't this prophet know he's an important man? Go wash seven times in the Jordan -- what sense does that make? He was angry. He expected to speak to this man face to face. He expected some dramatic gesture of power.

The record says that his servants came to him and said, "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?"And so Naaman is persuaded and receives the miracle of being healed.

I hadn't thought deeply enough about this story to imagine it once he decided to follow Elisha's direction. I had always pictured Naaman walking out into the waters of the Jordan, where it was deep enough, and counting -- once, twice, and so on, until it had been seven times. Mechanical obedience, I guess, making sure the instructions were followed. Obviously none of us can peer back through the centuries and observe the event itself.

But watching this imagining was profound. His companions, his guards, who know him so well and regard him so well that they can approach him when he's angry and counsel him, are gathered up on the bank. They wonder if he's been told truly by this man in this land, and they hope for him. They're uncertain.

As he goes down to the river, running muddy and brown (surely we have better rivers in Damascus, he says), and cups some water in his hands, letting it trickle out through his fingers, he ponders. Anger won't do him any good. Might performance?

He walks out into the river, submerges himself, rises up and walks back out. He performs separately, seven times, as he would do once in ordinary circumstances, in "bathing," and each time he looks at himself, his body, his arm, as he rises back up from the water. There is no change the first time, the second time, or the third time. There is no change in his leprosy the fourth, fifth, or sixth time.

Yet there is a change. I asked the class, what was changing? The answer: he was opening his heart. You could see it in his demeanor and in his eyes, his face. Absent any visible alteration in his disease, as he looked, he continued, and rose the final time to the miracle.

Wash seven times in the Jordan. Such a simple, ridiculous thing. The prophet didn't even come out to tell him himself. How often do we wish to be noticed? We want the depth of our troubles acknowledged. We crave some dramatic answer to our dramatic problems.

"If the prophet had bid you do some great thing, would you not have done it?" But Captain Naaman, he's given you something simple.

The Savior said, except you become as a little child. Trusting, continuing. How easily we might wail at the world, "Oh, what's the use! How can this do any good?" And we abandon the effort, not hearing or heeding that quiet voice of hope beckoning us.

I remembered President Kimball saying that sometimes it's not that you're not doing the right thing; it's that you haven't yet done the right thing long enough. Often we have to follow what the Lord asks of us fully to its conclusion.

Not until the seventh, final submersion did the disease vanish away, but the healing, teaching process began with his very first step into the river. One solitary dip would not have done what the command of seven was able to do for Naaman's understanding.

Simple gifts, often overlooked, can be the most profound.


If you don't have the DVD set and want to watch this video, you can find it here

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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