When I was a boy, we would go out to see sheep shearing on my grandfather’s ranch located in a dry and remote area Northeast of Promontory Point on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. One year I brought my trumpet and my sister and I decided we would climb a nearby hill overlooking the camp where I could wind my trumpet long and loud. I was naïve to think it would carry clearly over the long distance to the camp in the open air. Even at full volume, it sounded empty and hollow.
Promontory bordering the Great Salt Lake
After we were done, we climbed higher. This being spring, the normally hot and dry desert peak was pleasantly green and refreshing. After some distance we heard a faint bleating sound and soon found it came from a little lamb that had been abandoned on the hillside. Our priorities suddenly changed from a vain show to a rescue mission. We looked for signs of a mother sheep somewhere nearby and finding none we carried the lamb down the hill and ended up taking it home with us. It was one of quite a few bum lambs my grandfather gave us that I would clumsily help nourish with bottles of milk as I grew up in a small town in Northern Utah. We saved many of them and raised them in our back pasture.
One lamb wouldn’t take the milk, despite my best effort to open its mouth to give it a taste of the life saving liquid. It was getting very weak just before we had to leave it in the care of our neighbor for a week while we out of town. When we got back, I was overjoyed to see the lamb had not only recovered, it was full of vitality, now excitedly wriggling its tail in anticipation of feeding. I wondered how I could learn to nurture like my neighbor. I was grateful to him.
When the Savior taught us to leave the 99 safely enfolded sheep to find the one that was lost, he didn’t explain why the sheep was lost or justify why it should be saved. In his love for his sheep, he was simply concerned that the sheep be found and nourished.
A dear friend of mine reminded me that sheep don’t typically wander because they are rebellious or spiteful. They wander because they are hungry. The further we wander from God, family and the warm hands of friends the more hungry we become. Let us remember to feed the flock close at hand, but also to remember that the very people who are hardest to love, especially those who struggle with addiction or wonder if they belong, need love the most.
So, perhaps if I am not too busy making a vain display of how good I am… I will have time to seek out brothers and sisters who need healing and hope. This is the Lord’s work. It is our work.