Raphael-feed-my-sheep

Raphael, Christ’s Charge to Peter, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

DAILY READING

Alma 29:1–9

For Younger Missionaries

CONSIDER AS YOU READ

  • How do we develop Alma’s attitude of “glorying” in that which the Lord asks us to do? Are your glory and joy found in bringing a soul to repentance?
  • Is it possible that our eternal lives hinge on how we respond to the exhortation to “Feed my sheep”?

The Summer of the Lambs

The day school was out at the beginning of each summer, our family went to our ranch in Wyoming…. One year my father was waiting for us as we arrived. He said he had a big job for my brother Clay and me to do that summer. I was about twelve at the time, and my brother was two years older. Pointing to the field by the side of the house, my father said, “Do you see all of these lambs in that field? I’ll share the money we get for the ones you raise when we sell them in the fall.” Well, we were excited. Not only did we have a significant job to do, but we were going to be rich! There were a lot of lambs in that field—about 350 of them. And all we had to do was feed them.

However, there was one thing that my father hadn’t mentioned. None of the lambs had mothers. Just after shearing, there was a violent storm that chilled the newly shorn sheep. Dad lost a thousand ewes that year. The mothers of our lambs were among them.

To feed one or two baby animals is one thing, but to feed 350 is something else! It was hard. There was plenty of grass, but the lambs couldn’t eat the grass. They didn’t have teeth. They needed milk. So we made some long, V-shaped feeding troughs out of some boards. Then we got a great big tin washtub, ground up some grain, and added milk to make a thin mash. While my brother poured the mash into the troughs, I rounded up the lambs, herded them to the troughs, and said, “Eat!” Well, they just stood there looking at me. Although they were hungry and there was food in front of them, they still wouldn’t eat. No one had taught them to drink milk out of a trough. So I tried pushing them toward the troughs. Do you know what happens when you try to push sheep? They run the other way. And when you lose one, you could lose them all because others will follow. That’s the way with sheep.

We tried lining up the lambs along the troughs and pushing their noses down in the milk, hoping they’d get a taste and want some more. We tried wiggling our fingers in the milk to get them to suck on our fingers. Some of them would drink, but most of them ran away.

Many of the lambs were slowly starving to death. The only way we could be sure they were being fed was to pick them up in our arms, two at a time, and feed them like babies.

And then there were the coyotes. At night the coyotes would sit up on the hill, and they’d howl. The next morning we would see the results of their night’s work, and we would have two or three more lambs to bury. The coyotes would sneak up on the lambs, scatter the herd, and then pick out the ones they wanted and go after them. The first were those that were weak or separated from the flock. Often in the night when the coyotes came and the lambs were restless, my dad would take out his rifle and shoot in the air to scare them away. We felt secure when my dad was home because we knew our lambs were safe when he was there to watch over them.

Clay and I soon forgot about being rich. All we wanted to do was save our lambs. The hardest part was seeing them die. Every morning we would find five, seven, ten lambs that had died during the night. Some the coyotes got, and others starved to death surrounded by food they couldn’t or wouldn’t eat.

Part of our job was to gather up the dead lambs and help dispose of them. I got used to that, and it really wasn’t so bad until I named one of the lambs. It was an awkward little thing with a black spot on its nose. It was always under my feet, and it knew my voice. I loved my lamb. It was one I held in my arms and fed with a bottle like a baby.

One morning my lamb didn’t come when I called. I found it later that day under the willows by the creek. It was dead. With tears streaming down my face, I picked up my lamb and went to find my father. Looking up at him, I said, “Dad, isn’t there someone who can help us feed our lambs?”

After a long moment he said, “Jayne, once a long, long time ago, someone else said almost those same words. He said, ‘Feed my lambs…. Feed my sheep…. Feed my sheep’” (John 21:15–17). Dad put his arms around me and let me cry for a time, then went with me to bury my lamb.

It wasn’t until many years later that I fully realized the meaning of my father’s words. I was pondering the scripture in Moses that says, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of [all mankind]” (Moses 1:39). As I thought about the mission of the Savior, I remembered the summer of the lambs, and … I thought I could sense how the Savior must feel with so many lambs to feed, so many souls to save. And I knew in my heart that he needed my help (Jayne B. Malan, “The Summer of the Lambs,” Ensign, Oct. 1989).

ADDITIONAL MEDIA

Lovest Thou Me?

FOR YOUNGER MISSIONARIES


Ye Have Done It unto Me

QUESTIONS FOR YOUNGER MISSIONARIES

  • When you serve others, do you feel you are serving God?
  • Can you think of people who need you? How can you bless their lives?

 

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