Thursday, January 28, 2016

Malta Branch Conference - Talk

Sorella Waddoups
Wife of Italy Rome Mission President

Feed My Sheep
Malta Branch Conference
January 24, 2016

I would like to talk to you today about sheep.  Let me begin by talking about shepherds.  A shepherd takes care of his sheep.  The sheep know his voice and follow where he leads them.  A good shepherd does not herd the sheep from behind but walks in front of them to show them where they should go.  A good shepherd leads his sheep to green pastures where they find good grass to eat and water to drink.  At night he leads them back to the sheepfold where the sheep are safe from wild animals and thieves.  A good shepherd stands guard at the entrance to the sheepfold and protects his sheep.  He counts his sheep to make sure that not one is lost.  In the morning he calls to his sheep.  They recognize his voice and follow him.

John 10:14-15

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. …

I lay down my life for my sheep.

How do we become the Savior’s sheep?  The Lord said,

Mosiah 26:21

“He that will hear my voice shall be my sheep.”

A few months ago we were driving down the road in Sardegna.  I saw a flock of sheep in a pasture along the side of the road.  They were spread all over the field with a shepherd nearby.  I asked President Waddoups to stop the car so I could take a picture.  He pulled to the side of the road and I jumped out of the car ready to snap a picture.  As soon as I jumped out of the car, the shepherd must have thought I presented some sort of danger because he suddenly issued a one word command and every lamb in that field immediately stopped grazing and lined up in a single file line next to the shepherd.  It was amazing.  I have never seen anything like it.  Realizing I was responsible for the commotion, I called to the shepherd and asked if I could take a photo.  He must have sensed I was no threat at that point and told me I could take a picture.  Every lamb in that field had recognized the call of the shepherd, and every lamb followed the command to get in line so they could be protected by their shepherd.  The shepherd wasted no time calling them to safety.  He was protecting his sheep.

After Christ was crucified, he reappeared to his disciples who were fishing and having no luck at all.  He instructed them to cast their net on the other side of the boat.  When they did as he instructed, the net was full of fish.  Jesus then sat down and had a meal of fish with the disciples.  When they were through eating, Jesus had a very poignant conversation with Peter.

John 21:15-17

15  So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16  He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17  He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Christ told Peter to feed his sheep, specifically those who would hear his voice.  The missionaries are always talking about finding the” golden contact” or  “the person who is so prepared to receive the gospel”.   I believe there are many of those individuals who are waiting to be found.  We just aren’t looking hard enough for them.  Many of them are our friends and neighbors, our co-workers, or even family members who are not members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or those who joined the church but are no longer active.

We need to follow the example of the Good Shepherd.  We need to go in search of the lost lambs. 

In a speech given during the October 1999 General Conference, Elder Ben B. Banks Of the Presidency of the Seventy said the following:

I believe that every active member of the Church knows a lost sheep that needs the attention and love of a caring shepherd.  Several years ago my wife, Susan, and I had the opportunity to tour the New Zealand Christchurch Mission with President and Sister Melvin Tagg. President Tagg suggested as part of the mission tour we include a preparation day and take a bus trip to see the beautiful Milford Sound. Part of the trip involved stopping at several beautiful scenic sites along the way. At one of those stops, as we walked back to the bus, I became curious about a group of passengers standing in a circle on the road taking photographs. As I peered over the people, I saw in the circle a frightened little baby lamb on wobbly legs. It appeared to be no more than a few hours old. I have seen a lot of sheep in my life since my father-in-law was in the sheep business. Consequently, I had no interest in taking a photograph of a solitary lamb, so I boarded the bus and waited. 

After all the passengers finally boarded the bus, the driver picked up the frightened little lamb in his arms, held it tenderly against his chest, and brought it on the bus. He sat down, closed the door, picked up his microphone, and said to us: "Undoubtedly a band of sheep has gone through here this morning, and this little lamb has strayed. Perhaps if we take it with us, we might find the band of sheep farther up the road and return this baby lamb to its mother." 

We drove through several kilometers of beautiful forests and finally came to a beautiful meadow of tall, flowing grass. Sure enough, there in the meadow was a band of sheep feeding. The bus driver stopped the bus and excused himself. We all thought he would put the lamb down on the side of the road and come back, but he didn't. With the lamb in his arms, he carefully and quietly walked out through the grass toward the band of sheep. When he got as close as he could without disturbing them, he gently put the lamb down and then remained in the field to make sure the baby lamb returned to the fold.  As he returned to the bus, he once again picked up his microphone and said, "Oh, can't you hear that mother sheep saying, 'Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing my lost lamb back home to me!'" 

As I think of this wonderful teaching moment provided by the bus driver, my thoughts turn to the parable the Lord gave us of the lost sheep: 

Luke 15:1-7

1  Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

2  And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

3  ¶ And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

4  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?

5  And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

6  And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

7  I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Elder Banks continued, “Our prophet today, President Gordon B. Hinckley, likewise shares with us his concern about lost sheep:

 "There are so many young people who wander aimlessly and walk the tragic trail of drugs, gangs, immorality, and the whole brood of ills that accompany these things. There are widows who long for friendly voices and that spirit of anxious concern which speaks of love. There are those who were once warm in the faith, but whose faith has grown cold. Many of them wish to come back but do not know quite how to do it. They need friendly hands reaching out to them. With a little effort, many of them can be brought back to feast again at the table of the Lord.  "My brethren and sisters, I would hope, I would pray, that each of us . . . would resolve to seek those who need help, who are in desperate and difficult circumstances, and lift them in the spirit of love into the embrace of the Church, where strong hands and loving hearts will warm them, comfort them, sustain them, and put them on the way of happy and productive lives" ("Reach with a Rescuing Hand," ENSIGN, Nov. 1996, 86). 1999 October General Conference, "Feed My Sheep"

Who is there that would not leave his flock to search after the one?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

 “Anyone serving in any capacity in the Church in which he {or she} is responsible for the spiritual or temporal well-being of any of the Lord’s children is a shepherd to those sheep.  The Lord holds his shepherds accountable for the safety {salvation} of his sheep”  (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., [1966], 710).

When the lamb was found, Christ carried it on His shoulders back to the flock.  He rejoiced because it was found.  That is still true today.  Christ rejoices when his sheep are found whether they are those who are not of the fold or those who have been part of the flock and have gone astray.

Ezekiel 34:12

As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

Once Christ’s sheep are safe and recognize His voice, there is still more to do.  We are told in the scriptures that “blessed is he that endureth to the end”.   Part of that enduring to the end is going to the temple and being sealed not just for time but also for all eternity.

In Malta it is difficult to go to the temple because you have to travel long distances, but it is important to have a current recommend at all times whether you are able to use it or not.

My prayer is that you will follow the Good Shepherd, that you will help Feed His Sheep, that you will seek out the lost lambs, and that you will always be found safe in the sheepfold where you will recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and He will lead you to safe pastures.

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