Because leprosy is not ordinarily communicable by mere outward contact, the isolation of lepers required by the Mosaic law might be regarded as an object lesson and figure to illustrate spiritual uncleanness, Elder James E. Talmage asserted in Jesus the Christ. (See pp. 200-201.)
The law decreed: "And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean." (Lev. 13:45.)Elder Talmage quoted from the scholarly work by Dr. Richard C. Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord. In that work, Dr. Trench wrote that it is erroneous to say lepers were made visually and audibly distinguishable and were secluded by Mosaic law lest they might communicate the disease to others.
"So far from any danger of the kind existing, nearly all who have looked closest into the matter agree that the sickness was incommunicable by ordinary contact from one person to another," Dr. Trench wrote. "We have here something very much higher than a mere sanitary regulation. Thus, when the law of Moses was not observed, no such exclusion necessarily found place; Naaman the leper commanded the armies of Syria (2 Kings 5:1); Gehazi, with his leprosy that never should be cleansed (2 Kings 5:27), talked familiarly with the king of apostate Israel (2 Kings 8:5.) . . .
"How, moreover, should the Levitical priests, had the disease been this creeping infection, have ever themselves escaped it, obliged as they were by their very office to submit the leper to actual handling and closest examination? . . . Leprosy was nothing short of a living death, a corrupting of all the humors, a poisoning of the very springs, of life; a dissolution, little by little, of the whole body, so that one limb after another actually decayed and fell away. Aaron exactly describes the appearance which the leper presented to the eyes of the beholders, when, pleading for Miriam, he says, `Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb.' (Num. 12: 12.)
"The disease, moreover, was incurable by the art and skill of man; not that the leper might not return to health; for, however rare, such cases are contemplated . . . men being. . . taught that what here took place in a figure, should take place in the reality with every one who was found in the death of sin."