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The Little Maid

This is a talk I offered in my (online) ward meeting a few weeks ago. The topic was my impressions from the previous week’s Stake Conference, but was otherwise open. The story of Naaman was shared at the Stake Conference, so I took the opportunity to share my feelings on one of my favourite females in scripture. 

 

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today. One of the prominent items that struck me in Stake Conference was the sharing of the story of Naaman. I love Naaman’s story because it includes two women, and one of my favourite women in the scriptures. Let me explain:

 

Quite a few years ago, I heard a speech given by Sheri Dew. Dew is the CEO of Deseret Book[1], and she was in the General Relief Society presidency from 1997 to 2002.[2] In this speech, Dew shared that she sometimes “plays a game” when she reads scriptures. That game is “what if this one verse was the only scripture in the world, what would I learn from it”?

 

This “game” adapted the way I study scriptures, so when I heard the story of Naaman, the two women in the story came to my mind, the first being Naaman’s “little maid.” “Little maid” is the term used in scripture, but is also includes the fact that she is a slave. [3]

 

In Camille Fronk Olsen’s Women of the Old Testament, we learn that there are a few ways in which the Little Maid may have become a slave:

She may have been born to slave parents.

She may have been sold by her parents to pay a debt.

We also learn that:

“Because she became the maid to his wife, Naaman probably led the attack that occurred near the Little Maid’s community, or he was given the maid as a gift by one of his subordinate officers who led a raid.”[4]

Regardless of how she became enslaved, she was property. She was not free.

 

The second woman was Namman’s wife. Now in this time period, in was not uncommon for men of honour to have more than one wife. Think of the story we heard of Esther that was also shared in stake conference; Ether’s story comes about 400 years after Namman’s.[5] In it, we know that Esther was not Ahasuerus’ only wife. Likewise, given centuries long ancient marriage traditions, we can safely presume that because of Naaman’s political position, he had more than one wife.[6]

 

Being a female in ancient times, being a slave, and as one of many marital voices  place both women in weak positions. Likewise for us, during a pandemic, we may feel week to combat everything that is going on- lockdown fatigue, yet another state or national COVID lockdown press conference, and divisiveness in our community about what to do next. These things can make us all feel unempowered.

 

But Naaman’s Little Maid had her testimony, and she had the prophet Elisha.[7] Likewise, we have our testimonies, and we have a modern prophet. Our prophet, President Nelson directed a worldwide fast,[8] and following the insights from that fast, encouraged us to wear masks and be vaccinated.

 

Back to the Little Maid.

 

The Little Maid is assigned to serve one of Naaman’s wives. Just like Abish in the Book of Mormon,[9] she retained her testimony while living amongst non-believers. Her testimony was so strong that she told her mistress that she wished Naaman would go to the prophet Elisha.

 

In an act of courage, possibly strengthened by the spirit, Naaman’s wife tells this to Naaman. Naaman then goes and has the Assyrian king write a letter to the king of Israel, in order to gain political amnesty so he could go and see Elisha. To be clear, the testimony of the Little Maid’s still small voice, was powerful enough to influence and move kings.

 

How does this, at least in my mind reflect all that we are going through right now?

 

  1. In some ways, Lockdowns make me feel like I am not free. I wonder if the Little Maid ever felt this way as well? Now, I am not a slave. But I can learn from the Little Maid that even if I was a slave, or even when I am in a self-imposed, or government lockdown, my situation can’t take away my testimony. If I give up or keep my testimony, it is not because of COVID, or any other situation, just as slavery did not take The Little Maid’s testimony from her. My imperfect, messy testimony is all my own.

 

  1. Nor can depression, COVID or lockdowns it take my missionary heart from me. The Little Maid was a missionary—she went through Naaman’s wife, but her words were so true that they carried the spirit to Naaman, and he was converted. Likewise, we may have to go through our computers or our phones, or means in which to relay the spirit. But the spirit is boundless and flexible; it WILL be relayed. We can all be missionaries.

 

  1. The Little Maid was… little. She may have been a child, or a teen, but she was small. She was a youth with a firm testimony. And she had a goal – a goal of serving her mistress, and thereby, serving her master. She probably had a lot of goals in addition to the things that she was commanded to do. But just like the new youth programs of the church, her personal goals were personally directed.[10]  The church youth program is intended to be personal, and driven by the children and youths themselves. What better time than now is there for all of us to explore ways in which we can become more like Christ in the ways that work best for us?[11]

 

  1. Naaman was a good guy. Yep. Military leader, killed bunches of people, including King Ahab.[12] Owned slaves and was okay with that. But he was a good enough man to be humbled and listen to one of his wives, the Little Maid and even Elisha’s servants. Yes, he had a moment of pride. We all do. We can get past it. It is not easy, but we can put down our pride.  Freeing ourselves from pride can brighten our days and helps us to stay connected to each other as well as the spirit.

 

6. Naaman was disappointed in the simplicity of Elisha’s instructions. Likewise, when we receive direction from the prophet for something as simple as being vaccinated or wearing masks, we might not like the simplicity of that answer. We might want a centuries old answer that has been studied and reviewed by men. But we can put aside our pride, have faith and follow the prophet.

 

To be sure, it has not been easy for me to not be able to see family or friends regularly for these past 18 months (we are now in our 7th lockdown in Victoria, Australia).  But I have combated some of my anxiety and impatience in follow a number of church podcasts and reading material (including Sunstone and Dialogue). I personally  love history and church history podcasts, so when the Church News Podcast came out with an episode on the history of the church and it’s position in regard to vaccination, I listened. In this, I felt more at peace, and had an even stronger testimony of the prophet.[13] That podcast worked for me, and I invite you to seek pacifist ways that work for you to feel peace.

 

In summary, I am grateful that Stake Conference reminded me of the power and testimony of the Little Maid.

 

I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

 

 

[1] https://deseretbook.com/about

[2] “Sheri L. Dew, Second Counselor, Relief Society General Presidency,” Ensign, May 1997, p. 109.

[3]  2 Kings 5:2-3

[4] Olsen, Camille Fronk, “Women of the Old Testament,” Deseret Book, 2009, p 255.

[5] Esther, Old Testament, especially Esther 2:8 “keeper of the women.”

[6] Mendelsohn, I. “The Family in the Ancient Near East.” The Biblical Archaeologist 11, no. 2 (1948): 24-40. Accessed August 27, 2021. doi:10.2307/3209201.

[7] 2 Kings 2-13 records the reign of Elisha

[8] Churchwide Fast

[9] Alma 19:16

[10] Fulfil all Righteousness

[11] Church Youth Program

[12] 1 Kings 22, 34-40

[13] Church News Podcast with Rick Turley

 

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