I delivered this talk for Sacrament Meeting in Mebane, NC on July 17, 2016. I have removed the stories to protect privacy. I hope you enjoy this very special topic:
Jesus Christ said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”
Jesus Christ knows the names of all his sheep, and lovingly leads them. He walks by their side, and is completely aware of their needs. The sheep know their good shepherd will never leave them or turn away from them.
After Jesus Christ was resurrected, he ate with his disciples. He then proceeded to ask Peter three times, “lovest thou me?” Each time, Peter answered yes, and Christ’s three answers were: “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep, and feed my sheep.”
True disciples of Christ love Him, and will follow the same charge that He gave to Peter: Feed my sheep.
The Lord said, “He that will hear my voice shall be my sheep” (Mosiah 26:21).
Everybody on this earth has the ability to become one of Christ’s sheep. This is why we do missionary work. But missionary work is not just for nonmembers. It is for everyone. We all need spiritual nourishment. We all need to be fed.
President Monson lovingly declared, “Ours is the responsibility to care for the flock – for the precious sheep, these tender lambs, are everywhere to be found…May we each step up to serve.”
Those of us with strong testimonies of the Savior and who actively keep His commandments are not only Christ’s sheep, but shepherds ourselves.
One way we can be shepherds is by actively participating in the visiting and home teaching programs.
Silvia H. Allred said,
“We can and should be able to provide meaningful relief. We have the gospel perspective in our lives. We have divine promptings encouraging us to do good. We can provide temporal and spiritual nourishment. We can and should offer understanding and be able to teach doctrine. We can relieve spiritual hunger and feed the sheep. Feeding the sheep might mean strengthening and nourishing the new members, the less active, or even the fully active members.”
As a visiting teacher throughout the years, I have had the blessing of being assigned to women in many different circumstances, with a wide range of spiritual knowledge and activity in the church. have gained true and beautiful friendships, helped women with their testimonies, and have been able to relate to them in ways that have buoyed us both. I have fed women temporally, emotionally, and spiritually. This has also been done for me. I testify of the divinity of the home teaching and visiting teaching programs and the accompanying assignments. What perfect programs for feeding the Lord’s sheep.
This is one of many ways in which we can nourish others. When the Lord said, Feed my Lambs, he was likely referring to children and new converts.
Whether we are parents, teachers, friends or role models to children, this charge is for us.
The apostle Paul, in an epistle to the Ephesians, said: And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Enos, from the Book of Mormon, indicated that his father did just that. Because his father taught him well, Enos remembered his father’s words about eternal life and the joy of the saints. This made him want to repent of his sins. He cried for his soul all day and all night, and the Lord forgave him of his sins.
Our children must know why they are here, and what Heavenly Father would have them do.
King Benjamin also gave wise counsel about children: And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil…But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.
So, we must nourish our children temporally and spiritually. We must teach them to keep the commandments and to love and serve rather than fight and argue. We should do this by example.
I have been a member of the Primary presidency for a little over a year and a half now. Each week I am amazed at the gospel knowledge and testimonies that your children have. The stories they tell are so inspiring, and it is clear that they have parents that teach them to love the Lord and their neighbors.
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “With a shepherd’s loving care, our young people, our young lambs, will not be as inclined to wander. And if they do, the crook of the shepherd’s staff—a loving arm and an understanding heart—will help retrieve them.”
Yes, with love and understanding, they will be more likely to return.
Our new members are also in need of much nourishment.
Moroni spoke of new members of the church, saying that after they were baptized, confirmed, and numbered with the people of Christ that “their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.”
President Benson said, – “With a shepherd’s care, our new members, those newly born into the gospel, must be nurtured by attentive friendshipping as they increase in gospel knowledge and begin living new standards. Such attention will help ensure that they will not return to old habits.”
This is one of the reasons why the missionaries rely so heavily on the members. They will eventually leave, but we will remain. The new members need us. Let’s make sure we smile and speak to them. Let’s see how they are doing. Let’s sit next to them and sing the hymns with them. Let’s open our scriptures with them. Let’s love them.
Sometimes those who have come in the fold wander and are lost. Jesus told this parable in his earthly ministry:
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
Look around this room. Are there people missing? Who haven’t you seen in a while? Do you wonder where they are? What can you do for them?
In the past few years, I have had multiple experiences reaching out to struggling or less active members…
Though sheep may become lost, they should never be forgotten. Remember that with their reactivation, could be the reactivation of their family members, and the opportunity for them to bring nonmembers to the fold. Is there anyone you have been thinking of? Contact them. Pray for them. They are still people; they are still children of God even if they have left the fold.
Elder Ben B Banks said, “The challenge before us is great. It will require us to exercise increased faith, energy, and commitment if we are to reach these brothers and sisters. But we must do it. The Lord is counting on us to do it.
We must remember that change occurs slowly. We all need to have patience, offer fellowship and friendship, learn to listen and love, and be careful not to judge.”
We need to let these lost sheep know that the church needs them, that we need them.
President Uchtdorf, lovingly spoke to those who have wandered from the fold. He said:
“Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves us. He knows and loves you.
He knows when you are lost, and He knows where you are. He knows your grief. Your silent pleadings. Your fears. Your tears.
It matters not how you became lost—whether because of your own poor choices or because of circumstances beyond your control.
What matters is that you are His child. And He loves you. He loves His children.”
Yes, that is what matters, that we are God’s children and He loves us. He loves the young, the new, the lost, and the true. Those of us who are active disciples of Christ act as shepherds to the flock, but we are also His sheep.
We must not only feed His sheep, but we must allow ourselves to be fed by others, and also be mindful of what we feed ourselves.
Let us not forget that even the members who appear the strongest still need love, support, and spiritual upliftment… Everyone needs love and friendship to be reminded of their individual worth and divinity as children of God.
We can feed our active brothers and sisters not only through friendship, but also through accepting and fulfilling our callings, offering prayers and speaking in church, bearing our testimonies when prompted, sharing our talents, and teaching classes when asked.
Another reason why it is so important for us to feed the active members of the church is that none of us is exempt from wolves, who would harm the shepherd and the sheep. We must watch over each other, warn each other, and help each other defeat the wolves. If we see a wolf entering a person’s life through doubts, anger, temptations, addictions etc., we must reach out to each other in love and example.
President Eyring, speaking to the shepherds, said, “He who sees all things, whose love is endless, and who never sleeps—He watches with us. He knows what the sheep need at every moment. By the power of the Holy Ghost, He can tell us and send us to them… It is love that must motivate the shepherds of Israel. We pray for the sheep, every one for whom we are responsible. When we ask, “Please tell me who needs me,” answers will come. A face or a name will come into our minds. Or we may have a chance meeting that we feel isn’t chance. In those moments, we will feel the love of the Savior for them and for us. As you watch over His sheep, your love for Him will grow. And that will increase your confidence and your courage.”
If someone in your life is distant, ungrateful, angry, sad, or sinful, perhaps they need to be fed. Pray for discernment to know what nourishment they need. The Lord will trust you and guide you as you love Him and follow Him. I know that it isn’t easy. Not everyone is easy to deal with, and some of us are uncomfortable speaking to people we don’t know well. But, if we have a righteous desire to feed the sheep, the Lord will give us the skills and heart we need to do so.