The Old Testament account of the military leader Naaman and his choice to follow the Lord’s prophet was written thousands of years ago. But in this day of endless opposing voices — with some saying “Do this,” and others saying “No, do this” — the ancient example of Naaman remains as relevant as at any moment in history. Naaman was the captain of the Syrian army who was “honorable” and “a mighty man in valour” (2 Kings 5:1). He was also very sick, afflicted with leprosy.
Naaman’s wife had a young servant girl who had a strong testimony of the Lord’s living prophet, Elisha. She knew the prophet Elisha had the priesthood power to heal the sick.
“Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy,” she said (2 Kings 5:3).
Desperate, Naaman followed the young girl’s advice. When Elisha learned that Naaman sought his company, he invited the captain, saying “let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8).
Naaman arrived at Elisha’s home in grand fashion in a chariot pulled by many horses. But the prophet did not receive his important visitor. Instead, he sent a messenger to the door with these simple instructions: “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (2 Kings 5:10).
The Bible records that Naaman was enraged by Elisha’s actions. He was insulted that the prophet would dispatch a messenger instead of meeting him in person. He felt slighted by Elisha’s simple instructions to wash repeatedly in the Jordan River.
“Behold, I thought, He would 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.
“Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:11-12).
Naaman’s heart was eventually softened by the counsel of servants who understood the safety of following the word’s of God’s prophet. There is timeless wisdom in the servants’ question to their prideful master: “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:13).
So Naaman chose obedience. He went to the Jordan River, dipped himself seven times, “and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
Naaman’s pride had stood in the way of his own health and happiness. His ego was bruised from a perceived slight by the prominent religious leader. He had expected Elisha to perform a dramatic, earth-shattering miracle.
Thankfully, he put his pride aside. Naaman followed the prophet’s simple instructions and demonstrated faith and humility. He was healed.
The disease of pride can be as toxic as leprosy or any other physical ailment. It can keep us from the Lord and cause us to reject His servants, the prophets and apostles. But, like the repentant Naaman, we can know God’s healing power when we follow their loving words and counsel.
“What a humbling thing it must have been for Naaman to realize how close he came to allowing his own pride and his unwillingness to listen to the counsel of the prophet to prevent him from receiving such a great, cleansing blessing,” taught Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “And what a humbling thing it is to contemplate how many of us might miss out on great and promised blessings because we do not listen and then do the relatively simple things our prophet is telling us to do today” (April 2001 general conference; Ensign, May 2001).
Elder Claudio R.M. Costa, General Authority Seventy, testified that safety can still be realized in our lives when we follow the prophets and apostles. “It is a great blessing to receive the word, commandments, and guidance of the Lord in these difficult days of the earth. The prophet can be inspired to see the future in benefit of mankind.
“We are told that ‘surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets’ (Amos 3:7). We learn from this scripture that the Lord will reveal to His prophets absolutely anything that He feels is necessary to communicate to us. He will reveal His will to us, and He will instruct us through His prophets.
“The Lord promised us that if we believe in the holy prophets, we should have eternal life (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:26). In the sixth article of faith, we declare that we believe in prophets. To believe means to have faith and confidence in them and to follow and do what the prophets ask us to do” (October 2010 general conference).
The final verse and chorus of a beloved and joyfully simple Primary song teach a lesson that crosses time and ages:
Now we have a world where people are confused. If you don’t believe it, go and watch the news. We can get direction all along our way. If we heed the prophets — follow what they say. Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, Follow the prophet; don’t go astray. Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, Follow the prophet; he knows the way. (“Follow the Prophet,” by Duane E. Hiatt)