The heart of the Shepherd

To what lengths will the shepherd go for his sheep?

May 11, 2015

Context: In referring to Shepherds and their sheep I am hinting at the relationship between quorum leaders, home teachers and the families they minister to.

Two contrasting scenarios

Consider the differences between the following scenarios:

  1. The parable of the Lost Sheep
  2. Ammon at the Waters of Sebus

1. The parable of the Lost Sheep

Luke 15:4-6

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.

This video provides a good visual representation.

Imagine how satisfying it would be to confidently state that 99 of 100 sheep are safely gathered in--that you're only missing a single sheep out of one hundred. I can imagine it being very easy to rationalize that having saved 99 from danger, losing a single sheep at that point isn't a big deal. But the shepherd described in this parable leaves previous accomplishment behind and shows love and concern for the missing one.

Clearly the bigger message is that the worth of one soul is immeasurably great. But let's visualize a situation that more closely parallels a more common situation in our priesthood quorums.

2. Ammon at the Waters of Sebus

Alma 17:25-33

25 ...Therefore Ammon became a servant to king Lamoni. And it came to pass that he was set among other servants to watch the flocks of Lamoni, according to the custom of the Lamanites.

26 And after he had been in the service of the king three days, as he was with the Lamanitish servants going forth with their flocks to the place of water, which was called the water of Sebus, and all the Lamanites drive their flocks hither, that they may have water—

27 Therefore, as Ammon and the servants of the king were driving forth their flocks to this place of water, behold, a certain number of the Lamanites, who had been with their flocks to water, stood and scattered the flocks of Ammon and the servants of the king, and they scattered them insomuch that they fled many ways.

28 Now the servants of the king began to murmur, saying: Now the king will slay us, as he has our brethren because their flocks were scattered by the wickedness of these men. And they began to weep exceedingly, saying: Behold, our flocks are scattered already.

29 Now they wept because of the fear of being slain. Now when Ammon saw this his heart was swollen within him with joy; for, said he, I will show forth my power unto these my fellow-servants, or the power which is in me, in restoring these flocks unto the king, that I may win the hearts of these my fellow-servants, that I may lead them to believe in my words.

30 And now, these were the thoughts of Ammon, when he saw the afflictions of those whom he termed to be his brethren.

31 And it came to pass that he flattered them by his words, saying: My brethren, be of good cheer and let us go in search of the flocks, and we will gather them together and bring them back unto the place of water; and thus we will preserve the flocks unto the king and he will not slay us.

32 And it came to pass that they went in search of the flocks, and they did follow Ammon, and they rushed forth with much swiftness and did head the flocks of the king, and did gather them together again to the place of water.

33 And those men again stood to scatter their flocks; but Ammon said unto his brethren: Encircle the flocks round about that they flee not; and I go and contend with these men who do scatter our flocks.

In contrast with the fictional, yet instructive parable from the Savior, this historical account is much more "high-stakes". There are aggressive enemies vying for possession of the sheep and the lives of the shepherds. The only solution was to employ adaptations to their shepherding style. Specifically, they (1) rushed forth with much swittness, (2) encircled the flocks, and (3) contended agressively with the assailants.

These adaptations were probably not sustainable for the long-term, but were actually doable and absolutely required for the short-term preservation of their flocks and their own lives.

Ammon was obviously performing more of the "hard work" in this situation. He was making split-second decisions and acting couragously in the face of mortal peril. For whatever reasons, he obviously had a lot of experience with slings and swords. But the other shepherds deserve credit for overcoming their fear and following Ammon's directions. They performed an important role as well. This was a team effort.

Have our sheep been scattered by worldly influences? Do we know the status of everyone, as reported by home teachers? Do those reports make it back to ward leaders in a timely fashion? If not, short-term adaptations may need to be made so that the most effective home teachers are assigned with the familes that need them most (see Handbook 2, Section 7.4.2, Paragraph 4).

-Michael Whatcott