In this lesson, the Prophetess Huldah is the fulcrum of this story. I had no idea who Huldah was, which speaks to my neglect of Old Testament scripture reading. I will focus on the House of the Lord in this commentary and urge you not to follow my example of Old Testament reading.
Being an English graduate from BYU and having gone through the various literary courses, including Greek mythology, the first thing that came to mind as I filtered this commentary from a woman’s perspective, was the Greek goddess, Hestia and her Roman equivalent, Vesta. My mind automatically starts playing with the names and the sound effects of language. Huldah begins with “H” and has two syllables: Hestia is the same. I think the hearth may be similar to an altar, which we know is at the temple. And the burning of incense in the temple, on the altar, is addressed in Huldah’s revelations from God. Similarly, one of the duties of Hestia involved offering sacrifices to deity.
Admittedly, these kinds of random associations did not always pass muster with and probably annoyed some of my BYU Professors. So, please don’t take my creative meanderings for Gospel. I will note that Hugh Nibley was among the “diffusionist” theorists who explain religious similarities as an imitation of ancient religions and rites (think Adam and Abraham, etc.), which may explain similarities between Old Testament history and other religions or mythologies of the world, including Huldah, Hestia and Vesta.
2 Chronicles 34 describes the Prophetess Huldah’s role during young King Josiah’s time, including a call to repentance. A cursory research of Huldah revealed she is considered by Jewish scholars to be one of the “Seven” prophetesses in the Old Testament, along with Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail and Esther. She is a prominent prophetic figure and even the Huldah Gates of the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount are named for her.
Now let’s look at the roles of Hestia and Vesta:
Hestia’s, Goddess of hearth and home, “…name and functions show the hearth’s importance in the social, religious, and political life of ancient Greece. It was essential for warmth, food preparation, and the completion of sacrificial offerings to deities…The accidental or negligent extinction of a domestic hearth-fire represented a failure of domestic and religious care for the family; failure to maintain Hestia’s public fire in her temple or shrine was a breach of duty to the broad community. A hearth fire might be deliberately, ritually extinguished at need, and its lighting or relighting should be accompanied by rituals of completion, purification and renewal, comparable with the rituals and connotations of an eternal flame and of sanctuary lamps. At the level of the polis, the hearths of Greek colonies and their mother cities were allied and sanctified through Hestia’s cult.”
Vestas has similar functions as a divine personification of Rome’s “public”, domestic, and colonial hearths, and bound Romans together within a form of extended family.”
So, what does this have to do with this lesson in our Sunday school manual? These goddess’ functions could be compared to, and derivative of (according to “diffusionist” theory) of Huldah’s advice and reprimand from the Lord to the Kingdom of Judah in 2 Chronicles.
In verses 23-25, the burning of incense that Huldah refers to has reference to temple ordinances that are either neglected or corrupted.
As women, we often take the lead in Temple attendance, whether married, single, youth leaders, etc. Because of my reputation for family history work, there are so many names I’ve supplied baptisms for the youth’s summer temple excursions. I’ve been doing this for ten years or so and it happens that female ordinances on my temple list are done so much faster than the male ordinances. We could analyze the reasons and causal factors forever, but I truly don’t judge and I understand time constraints can be unbalanced between the genders. It just is. Consequently, we can be a major influence in this area as we strive to turn our hearts and our families to the fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles and 12th cousins 10x removed, in our ancestry. As such we keep the Hestian “home fires” burning.
The worth of souls is great to the Lord and that includes the deceased immediate and extended family members, just as Vesta’s duty was over the extended family. This is also turning ourselves and family members away from the worldly pursuits or Huldah’s “other gods,” and honoring our covenants with the Lord as we become his hands in this work of salvation. If you don’t have a temple recommend or aren’t a member of the LDS church, there is so much worth and fulfillment in researching family history as well as indexing records for deceased individuals. They are vital to this grand work.
Though we may not be commissioned to prophesy in an official capacity as Huldah was, it is clear that we are essential to the directive to come to the House of the Lord. It is a place of peace and divine direction. I believe women are or can be the cardinal peacemakers of this world.