When I was in college I was one of very few Mormons on campus. Students who learned that I was LDS were mostly unimpressed, and one comment I got a lot was “You’re just a bunch of mindless sheep.” I was without a comeback for quite a while (probably because I’m mindless…) but then started responding, “It’s hard to be a sheep. It takes a lot of focus. It’s more natural to be a goat.”
Matthew 25 talks about sheep and goats:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…(Matt 25:32 – 34).
So sheep must have something going for them… Other than being so cute that someone I know slept with a lamb stuffed animal well into her teens. (Okay, fine! It was me! And I was in my 20’s!) What is it about them that so pleases the Lord that He uses them as examples in the scriptures? And how can we be good sheep?
1. Know the Master’s voice
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers (John 10:4, 5).
Sheep don’t follow blindly. They know that safety lies in following the shepherd they can trust. They’ve learned to trust their shepherd because they’ve seen that he cares for them enough to risk his life to protect them. Trust is faith, and we follow Jesus Christ because we know Him. And to truly know Him — to know of His goodness, purity, and love — is to trust Him implicitly.
2. Be willing to nudge that sheep who’s drifting away
Firstly, I’ve never felt more understood than I do by the main sheep in this picture. This is literally me with those buckets of ice cream. #noregrets
Secondly (and more importantly), once a sheep is lost, the Good Shepherd will go and find him. But there is strength in numbers, and flocking together and supporting each other is nurturing and protective. Has that sheep next to you temporarily lost sight of the shepherd. Can ministering in the moment help? When you are feeling lost or alone, what helps you to come back to or remain in the fold?
3. Be inclusive
When we lived in the Holy Land, we began to appreciate the diversity of the sheep we saw in pastures there. Of course, there were black sheep, but even in a flock of all white sheep, their various personalities became apparent in the way they bleated at each other. There was always that coarse blat among the little baas. But no one else seemed to mind.
And so it should be with us. We should be kind to and inclusive of all people, regardless of our differences. Doing so will add strength to our flock and joy to our lives as we experience the blessings that diversity offers.
4. Be vigilant
Satan is mounting an attack on faith from every angle, in any way possible. With all of the distractions around us, it can be easy to overlook him. To counter his attacks, we must be vigilant in living the gospel of Jesus Christ and following the Master’s teachings. When we do so, we will be able to see Satan’s enticing temptations and avoid them.
(Also, if you tell me you didn’t almost pee your pants in terror when you noticed that wolf among the sheep, YOU ARE A LIAR!!)
5. Be eager and attentive
Can you imagine how happy a shepherd would be if he looked at his flock of sheep and saw this? (Also, how happy it makes ME? Would it be weird for me to frame this picture and put it on my wall? LOL JK, I don’t care, doing it anyway!!)
In all seriousness, though, attitude is everything. If we are eager to learn more about the gospel and apply its teachings (rather than grudgingly going to church or rolling our eyes at every family prayer), we will not only find greater happiness, we will also be better sheep.