Chapter 20: “Feed My Sheep”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 252–61

During 2015, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson

As followers of the Lord, part of our mission is to reach out to our brothers and sisters who have separated themselves from the Church.

The purpose of the Lord’s church is to further the progress of every son and daughter of God toward the ultimate blessings of eternal life. …

When I read this introduction to the doctrinal context of the chapter, I immediately thought of this exchange in John 21 between the resurrected Jesus and the disciple Peter–obviously meant by Benson and the editors of this manual:

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

The title of this chapter is “Feed my sheep.” Consider the job of a shepherd who is in charge of his sheep. (You can still spot shepherds with their flocks throughout the Holy Land when traveling in Israel!) He was expected to:

  • Feed and water the animals, guiding them to green pastures
  • Protect the animals from harm at the paws of predators
  • Ensure their well-being, regardless of the circumstances.

According to Benson, the “mission” is to guide lost souls (either formerly in the church or living as “Jack Mormons”) back to Mormonism. The goal “is to further the progress of every son and daughter of God toward the ultimate blessings of eternal life. …”

We must ask, what is eternal life in Mormonism? It is synonymous with exaltation, or godhood. Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland explained,

We are charged with the responsibility of getting people out of their ruts and routines, out of their problems and their pain, out of their little arguments and ignorance and sins, and take them to the Gods – to the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost – ulti­mately we are to take them toward their own Godhood (“Divine Companion: Teaching by the Spirit,” Church News, July 4, 2009, p. 15).

Apparently most Latter-day Saints shouldn’t expect to get the very best this religion has to offer. Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith explained,

NOT HALF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS TO BE SAVED. Those who receive the fulness will be privileged to view the face of our Father. There will not be such an overwhelming number of the Latter-day Saints who will get there. President Francis M. Lyman many times has declared, and he had reason to declare, I believe, that if we save one-half of the Latter-day Saints, that is, with an exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God, we will be doing well. Not that the Lord is partial, not that he will draw the line as some will say, to keep people out. He would have every one of us go in if we would; but there are laws and ordinances that we must keep; if we do not observe the law we cannot enter (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:15. Italics in original).

He also said,

To enter the celestial and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept . . . . Do you desire to enter into the celestial Kingdom and receive eternal life? Then be willing to keep all of the commandments the Lord may give you (The Way to Perfection, p. 206).

Can you imagine the shepherd of a flock of sheep telling his boss, “Sir, you gave me 100 sheep and I was able to get some of them back to the pen. I just lost most of them.” Would the boss be happy? I doubt it. Instead, he would surely scream, “Didn’t I put you in charge of one hundred? How could you lose so many?” Imagine if the shepherd rresponded, “It’s all the sheep’s fault. They should have obeyed every rule I gave them and then they wouldn’t have starved or had the wolves get to them!” Such a shepherd should (and would) be fired!

In Mormonism, the onus is placed squarely on the backs of those who buy into the philosophy that salvation is based on their good works. It is such a different message given in biblical Christianity! Instead, the onus is placed on Christ’s back, who paid for the believer’s sins once and for all. Jesus taught the Pharisees in John 10,

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all;no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

Notice, “I [Jesus] give them eternal life.” It’s not something that can be earned. And they will never perish. No wolf will get them. In Mormonism, the greatest danger for the individual is when this person is unable to keep the commandments and thus fails to qualify for the celestial kingdom.

If you don’t know what it means to have a relationship with the true Shepherd, I invite you to come into His arms today.

I wish to discuss our mission to perfect the Saints, particularly the challenge of activating those who have separated themselves from full activity in the Church. These members, who are our brothers and sisters, at present live apart from the Church and the influence of the gospel.

LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks told a general conference audience,

As part of  His great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The purpose of this teaching and the purpose of following our Savior is to come to the Father, whom our Savior referred to as ‘my Father, and your Father, and . . . my God, and your God” (John 20:17). From modern revelation, unique to the restored gospel, we know that the commandment to seek perfection is part of God the Father’s plan for the salvation of His children (“Followers of Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2013, p. 98. Ellipsis in original).

Seventy Jorge F. Zeballos taught,

Even when, from a purely human perspective, perfection can appear an impossible challenge to achieve, I testify that our Father and our Savior have made known to us that it is possible to achieve the impossible. Yes, it is possible to achieve eternal life. Yes, it is possible to be happy now and forever (Jorge F. Zeballos, “Attempting the Impossible,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2009, p. 35).

A church manual reports,

Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Because it is very difficult to become perfect, our Father helps us. He has established the Church; called leaders; and given us commandments, principles, and ordinances. In our Church meetings we receive instructions concerning these things. We must obey and live according to God’s laws to become perfect (The Latter-day Saint Woman Part A, p. 122).

Another church manual quotes fifth President Lorenzo Snow as saying, “With diligence, patience, and divine aid, we can obey the Lord’s command to be perfect” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, p. 95).

Many times leaders and manuals have made it appear that perfection can be achieved in this lifetime. However, some recognize how impossible this goal–no matter how hard a person tries–really is. The temptation is then to minimize the commandment. Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith taught,

The Savior’s words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” evidently have been by many misapplied or limited in their application. The Savior knew that mortal man could not reach the great goal of perfection like his Heavenly Father, but here in mortality is the place where that foundation should be laid. Then we should continue on from grace to grace, not only in this life but also in the eternities to come, and it is within the possibility of any faithful soul eventually to attain to that perfection” (Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions: A Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorum 1972-73, p. 291).

According to Smith and others, perfection may not be reached in this lifetime but work can somehow be completed “in the eternities.” (Imagine the surprise of an LDS bishop who is told in a temple recommend interview, “Bishop, it’s true I’m not keeping the Word of Wisdom because I like an occasional beer and coffee, but heck, I’ve got the eternities to work on this”! I doubt the person would get the recommend.) The idea that work toward perfection can happen into the “eternities” contradicts the Book of Mormon. Alma 34:32ff explains:

32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

 33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

 34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

 35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

The idea that perfection could be completed at a later time certainly isn’t what twelfth LDS President Spencer W. Kimball taught:

This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfec­tion. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us. In his Sermon on the Mount he made the command to all men: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.) Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgive­ness, pp. 208-209).

In Kimball’s mind, the idea was simple: Overcome sin and you will achieve perfection. Though it is a simple idea, it certainly wouldn’t be easy, as he elsewhere described the process:

In the context of the spirit of forgiveness, one good brother asked me, “Yes, that is what ought to be done, but how do you do it? Doesn’t that take a superman?” “Yes,” I said, “but we are com­manded to be supermen. Said the Lord, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.) We are gods in embryo, and the Lord demands perfection of us (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 286).

And he also said this:

I would emphasize that the teachings of Christ that we should be­come perfect were not mere rhetoric. He meant literally that it is the right of mankind to become like the Father and like the Son, having overcome human weaknesses and developed attributes of divinity (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 26).

A Mormon is free to rationalize Matthew 5:48 any way he or she wishes. However, the idea most Mormons with whom I have spoken have is the requirements are on us in this lifetime. Ask Latter-day Saints what happens if they were to die right now, and typically they have no clue whether or not they would qualify for the celestial kingdom. Most readily admit they are nothing more than “telestial” world material, thus fulfilling Joseph Fielding Smith’s comment from above where he said that half of the Latter-day Saints won’t qualify for celestial glory.

In this group of less-active members are many non-attenders who may be indifferent and non-caring. Also included are those who are temporarily lost because we do not know their whereabouts. Some of these are new converts who apparently did not receive the nurturing attention and teachings that would have caused them to be “fellow citizens with the Saints.” (See Eph. 2:19.) Many are single adults.

I find Benson’s last comment interesting. “Many are single adults,” he said.  What could he have meant by this comment? Latter-day Saints are instructed that the only way to entering the celestial kingdom is through marriage for “time and eternity.” Quoted in a church manual, second President Brigham Young taught:

We find quite a large number of young people who have arrived at a marriageable age and still they remain single. . . . Our young men and women should consider their obligations to each other, to God, the earth, their parents, and to future generations for their salvation and exaltation among the Gods and for the glory of Him whom we serve (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, p. 164. Ellipses in original).

Another manual quotes sixth President Joseph F. Smith:

Marriage is . . . a principle or ordinance of the gospel, most vital to the happiness of mankind, however unimportant it may seem, or lightly regarded by many. There is no superfluous or unnecessary principle in the plan of life, but there is no principle of greater importance or more essential to the happiness of man—not only here, but especially hereafter, than that of marriage (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 176. Ellipses in original).

Warning those who don’t get married, tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith stated:

Unless young people who marry outside the temple speedily repent, they cut themselves off from exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God. If they should prove themselves worthy, notwithstanding that great error, to enter into the celestial kingdom, they go in that kingdom as servants. What does that mean? The revelation tells us they go into that kingdom to be servants to those who are worthy of a more highly exalted position—something with greater glory. They are servants to them. They are not joint heirs with Jesus Christ. They do not obtain the kingdom that is, the crown and the glory of the kingdom of God. When they come forth in the resurrection, they have no claim upon each other, or their children upon them, and there will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (Joseph Fielding Smith, Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions: A Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorum 1972-73, p. 265).

He also said,

Delayed marriage . . . is not fully acceptable. All normal people should plan their lives to include a proper temple marriage in their early life and to multiply and have their families in the years of their early maturity (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 195. Ellipses in original)

All of the above quotes are requoted in church manuals from the past forty years. And current leaders teach the same. For example, consider Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

To qualify for eternal life, we must make an eternal and everlasting covenant with our Heavenly Father. This means that a temple marriage is not only between husband and wife; it embraces a partnership with God (“Celestial Marriage,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2008, p. 93).

On occasion, I read in a newspaper obituary of an expectation that a recent death has reunited that person with a deceased spouse, when, in fact, they did not choose the eternal option. Instead, they opted for a marriage that was valid only as long as they both should live. Heavenly Father has offered them a supernal gift, but they refused it. And in rejecting the gift, they rejected the Giver of the gift (“Celestial Marriage,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2008, p. 93).

Celestial marriage is a pivotal part of preparation for eternal life. It requires one to be married to the right person, in the right place, by the right authority, and to obey that sacred covenant faithfully. Then one may be assured of exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God (“Celestial Marriage,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2008, p. 94).

And Apostle Dallin H. Oaks stated in 2011:

Under the great plan of the living Creator, the mission of His Church is to help us achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom, and that can be accomplished only through an eternal marriage between a man and a woman (see D&C 131:1-3) (Dallin H. Oaks, “Fundamental to Our Faith,” Ensign, January 2011, pp. 25-26).

And just for good measure, here are teachings from other church manuals:

The ordinance of temple marriage is also necessary for us to become like our Father in Heaven. Temple marriage makes it possible for us to have eternal families. When we receive this ordinance worthily and keep the covenants we make, our families will be blessed to live together throughout eternity (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, p. 33).

He has revealed that one of the purposes of marriage is to provide mortal bodies for His spirit children. Parents are partners with our Heavenly Father. He wants each of His spirit children to receive a physical body and to experience earth life. When a man and a woman bring children into this world, they help our Heavenly Father carry out His plan (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 207).

Families can be together forever. To enjoy this blessing we must be married in the temple. When people are married outside the temple, the marriage ends when one of the partners dies. When we are married in the temple by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, we are married for time and eternity. If we keep our covenants with the Lord, our families will be united eternally as husband, wife, and children. Death cannot separate us (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 209).

Our exaltation depends on marriage, along with other principles and ordinances, such as faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We believe that marriage is the most sacred relationship that can exist between a man and a woman. This sacred relationship affects our happiness now and in the eternities (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 219).

Without each other, men and women cannot fulfill the purposes for which they were created (see 1 Corinthians 11:11; Moses 3:18, 24). Only through temple marriage can men and women receive every eternal blessing (see D&C 131:1–4; 132:15–18) (Preparing for an Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual Religion 234, p. 54).

What the Latter-day Saint needs to understand is that support for this teaching can be found in neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon, for that matter. It can only be found in the Doctrine and Covenants. Ths fact is confirmed by BYU professor Charles Harrell:

. . . the concept of eternal marriage isn’t found anywhere in the Book of Mormon or other Latter-day scripture prior to 1843. It was in Nauvoo, in the summer of 1843, that Joseph Smith formally introduced the ‘new and everlasting covenant of marriage’ (D&C 132), which initially entailed plural marriage (“This is my Doctrine’: The Development of Mormon Theology, p. 318).

If getting married for “time and eternity” is so important, then shouldn’t the dcotrine be supported in ancient scripture, whether it’s the Bible or even Mormonism’s unique Book of Mormon. Ancient Jews and Nephites had no idea that getting married was required for godhood and the celestial kingdom!

No matter how it is put, the pressure on single people is great. Imagine if you are into your thirties and, for whatever the reason, you have not yet found a partner. In the Mormon Church, the pickings will be sparse, as most eligible Latter-day Saints seem to be married by the time they are 25. Hearing what the leaders and the manuals say, it sure seems pretty clear that marriage is a requirement for the celestial kindgom. Life for a single person would not seem so abundant and full, as Jesus promised in John 10:10b. But why should being single be a curse? After all, what if a person chooses to be single? This certainly seemed to be a realistic possibility for the Christian believer, according to Paul. First Corinthians 7:7-9 says,

 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

First of all, Paul says that he wished that they were as he was (single). If they are unmarried, they shouldn’t look to get married. They should marry, however, if they don’t have the ability and would only burn with lust. Explaining what he meant, Paul then goes on to say,

32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

He added,

37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.[c]

39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.40 In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

As he stated in verse 17,

17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.

If you are single, then the command is to live for Him. If you are maried, then He desired to have you live for Him! Despite all of the LDS quotes listed above, a church manual confused the issue by making it appear that getting married might not have to be done in this life. It reads:

Some members of the Church remain single through no fault of their own, even though they want to marry. If you find yourself in this situation, be assured that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). As you remain worthy, you will someday, in this life or the next, be given all the blessings of an eternal family relationship. The Lord has made this promise repeatedly through His latter-day prophets (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, p. 99).

How can the manual suggest that getting married in the next life is a possibility? (Can you imagine the look of shock on a faithful Mormon parent’s face when junior announces he plans to remain single because, “through no fault of” his own, he can’t find a marriage partner? Would they accept his excuse that, after all, “there is the next life”?) These words are confusing. Recognizing the sensitivity some single Latter-day Saints have, one teacher manual instructs,

As you discuss this topic of eternal marriage, be aware that there are many righteous people, particularly sisters, who have not yet had the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of marriage. Some of your students may be suffering from the effects of a failed marriage or may be struggling in a current marriage. Although marriage is a requirement of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, please be considerate of the feelings of your students (The Gospel and the Productive Life Teacher Manual Religion 150, p. 48).

Notice how this quote admits that “marriage is a requirement of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.” However, rather than saying that marriage can happen in the next life, it tells the instructor to “be considerate of the feelings of your students.” Based on Alma 34 as quoted above, it seems pretty clear that there can be no work “performed” after this life. Even insinuating that marriage can take place in the next life lends no sympathy for the single person’s plight if it must be performed in this life. It is rather cruel to suggest such a thing. Again, chapter and verse are needed to support the notion that there are possibilities of getting married after this life.

To all such individuals, we, as members of the Church and followers of the Lord, must extend and renew our love and heartfelt invitation to come back. “Come back. Come back and feast at the table of the Lord, and taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints.” (Ensign, March 1986, p. 88.) The challenge before us is great. … We must exercise great faith, energy, and commitment if we are to reach these brothers and sisters. But we must do it. The Lord expects us to do it. And we will!

It seems that Benson is begging people to come back to a place (Mormonism) where there is no hope. For many who have gone inactive or even left the church, this appeal will probably fall on deaf ears.

As we seek to nurture those who have gone astray, we are to apply the Savior’s teaching of the good shepherd.

Now is the time to apply the Savior’s teaching of the good shepherd to the challenge before us of retrieving lost sheep and wayward lambs.

“How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

“And if [it] so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” (Matt. 18:12–13.)

In Jesus’ time, the Palestinian shepherd knew each of his sheep. The sheep knew his voice and trusted him. They would not follow a stranger. Thus, when called, the sheep would come to him. (See John 10:1–5, 14.)

At night, the shepherds would lead their sheep to a corral or a sheepfold. High walls surrounded the sheepfold, and thorns were placed on top of the walls to prevent wild animals and thieves from climbing over. Sometimes, however, a wild animal driven by hunger would leap over the walls into the midst of the sheep, frightening and threatening them.

Such a situation separated the true shepherd—one who loved his sheep—from the hireling who worked only for pay out of duty. The true shepherd was willing to give his life for the sheep. He would go in among the sheep and fight for their welfare. The hireling, on the other hand, valued his own personal safety above the sheep and would usually flee from the danger.

Jesus used this common illustration of His day to declare that He was the Good Shepherd, the True Shepherd. Because of His love for His brothers and sisters, He would willingly and voluntarily lay down His life for them. (See John 10:11–18.)

Jesus told a story about a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is what he said in Matthew 7:

 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

How can we tell the true sheep from the wolf? John explains in 1 John 4:1:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

We are to “test everything” (1 Thess. 5:21). The fruit will be evident. When the hireling runs away—according to Benson’s story above—we can know that he had never sold out as a shepherd. How can we know if the Mormon leaders are teaching the truth? We look at the fruit. When it is understood that Mormonism denies or distorts every fundamental teaching of the historic Christian church as what is taught in the Bible, including the understanding of the Godhead, authority, and salvation, then we have a problem. If you are a faithful Latter-day Saint, could it be that you have been deceived?

Eventually the Good Shepherd did give His life for the sheep—for you and me, for us all.

Yes, the Good Shepherd (Jesus) did give His life for those who would believe in Him. It is only through this act that a person can know what it means to have eternal life.

The symbolism of the good shepherd is not without significant parallel in the Church today. The sheep need to be led by watchful shepherds. Too many are wandering. Some are being enticed away by momentary distractions. Others have become completely lost.

But if those shepherds are charlatans, then they ought to be avoided at all costs.

We realize, as in times past, that some of the sheep will rebel and are “as a wild flock which fleeth from the shepherd.” (Mosiah 8:21.) But most of our problems stem from lack of loving and attentive shepherding, and more shepherds must be developed.

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.

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.

With a shepherd’s care, many of those who are now independent of the flock can still be reclaimed. Many who have married outside the Church and have assumed the life-styles of the world may respond to an invitation to return to the fold.

As we nurture friendships in our wards and branches, we help each other stay in the fold of the Good Shepherd.

Again, the assumption made is that the Mormon Church is the true “fold of the Good Shepherd.” But what if it’s not?