Thursday, 27 February 2014

True Shepherds

I had to laugh out loud when I was asked to give the following priesthood lesson after my Home Teaching outburst in January.

Apparently the lesson in January by the stake leaders was even based on the same "True Shepherds" talk from President Monson in Oct 2013.

I decided to try to focus on how how important being caring "shepherds" is and how Home Teaching provides a framework/opportunity for something we might eventually be able to do spontaneously.

I started with reference to the recent essay on religion on the church newsroom:
"To this point, Rabbi David Wolpe taught that religion “can go into a world in which there is a great deal of pain and suffering and loss and bring meaning and purpose and peace.”
I like the idea of religion being most useful when it eases pain through either hands or hope.

Healing through hands is not, of course, exclusive to religion. The irreligious also care for those in need.

But I think a religion should be partly evaluated by how much it motivates people to heal with hands.

Hope, eternal hope, is perhaps more exclusive to religion. Hope that the pain is not meaningless. Hope that pain is part of going through the refiner's fire.

President Monson spoke about being shepherds:
"Dad would drive about 35 miles an hour all the way up to Provo Canyon or until we would come around a bend in the road and our journey would be halted by a herd of sheep. We would watch as hundreds of sheep filed past us, seemingly without a shepherd, a few dogs yapping at their heels as they moved along. Way back in the rear we could see the sheepherder on his horse... He was occasionally slouched down in the saddle dozing, since the horse knew which way to go and the yapping dogs did the work. 
Contrast that to the scene which I viewed in Munich, Germany, many years ago. It was a Sunday morning, and we were en route to a missionary conference. As I looked out the window of the mission president’s automobile, I saw a shepherd with a staff in his hand, leading the sheep. They followed him wherever he went. If he moved to the left, they followed him to the left. If he moved to the right, they followed him in that direction. I made the comparison between the true shepherd who led his sheep and the sheepherder who rode casually behind his sheep. 
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep.” He provides for us the perfect example of what a true shepherd should be. 
Brethren, as the priesthood of God we have a shepherding responsibility. The wisdom of the Lord has provided guidelines whereby we might be shepherds to the families of the Church, where we can serve, we can teach, and we can testify to them. Such is called home teaching, and it is about this that I wish to speak to you tonight.
From the Book of Mormon we read that Alma “consecrated all their priests and all their teachers; and none were consecrated except they were just men. 
“Therefore they did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness.”
What does the word “Nourish” mean?

1. to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth.
2. to cherish, foster, keep alive, etc.
3. to strengthen, build up, or promote

I especially like: "supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth."

Definition of Necessary: "1. being essential, indispensable, or requisite"

What is necessary for each of your families? What is, right now, the most important, essential, indispensable thing? Are they always the same?
"In performing our home teaching responsibilities, we are wise if we learn and understand the challenges of the members of each family, that we might be effective in teaching and in providing needed assistance."
Without mentioning any names, what are the different needs of some of your families?

(Write down in two lists, which at the end I'll label "Healing with hands" and "Healing with hope.")

Focus on three main themes (group needs if possible):

Practical help
Spiritual uplift

Discuss each:

Practical Help
"I do not worry about members of the Church being unresponsive when they learn of the needy as much as I worry about our being unaware of such needs. … Please, priesthood leaders, do not get so busy trying to manage Church programs that you forget about basic duties in what the Apostle James described as ‘pure religion, undefiled’ (James 1:27)." Spencer W. Kimball. at a seminar for Regional Representatives in 1979
Read James 1:27, then read excerpts from Matthew 25:31-46:

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory… before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. 
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:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee...?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me… Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
When considering these verses, why is the structure of Home Teaching a gift to us? (Because it gives us a structured opportunity to feed the hungry, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. In today's world we may have few locked away in actual prisons but plenty who feel shackled and imprisoned by debt, unemployment, disability or mental illness.

"To assist in our efforts, I share this wise counsel which surely applies to home teachers. It comes from Abraham Lincoln, who said, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” President Ezra Taft Benson urged: “Above all, be a genuine friend to the individuals and families you teach. … A friend makes more than a dutiful visit each month. A friend is more concerned about helping people than getting credit. A friend cares. A friend [shows love]. A friend listens, and a friend reaches out."
Spiritual Uplift

President Monson spoke of visiting those no longer active or strong in faith.
"Home teaching is more than a mechanical visit once per month. Ours is the responsibility to teach, to inspire, to motivate, and where we visit those who are not active, to bring to activity and to eventual exaltation the sons and daughters of God."
If we are to know our sheep we should first seek to understand their concerns before we seek to be understood.

Elder Uchtdorf said:
"The search for truth has led millions of people to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, there are some who leave the Church they once loved. 
One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?” 
Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations. 
Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church. 
In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves."
Elder Uchtdorf extended an invite which we could also take to our families or when we visit those not attending with the Elders:
"To those who have separated themselves from the Church, I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here. 
Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result."
The reason for sharing our invite is to offer hope and healing:
"Those who follow this path faithfully avoid many of the pitfalls, sorrows, and regrets of life.
The poor in spirit and honest of heart find great treasures of knowledge here.
Those who suffer or grieve find healing here."
President Monson said:
"Brethren, our efforts in home teaching are ongoing. The work will never be concluded until our Lord and Master says, “It is enough.” There are lives to brighten. There are hearts to touch. There are souls to save. Ours is the sacred privilege to brighten, to touch, and to save those precious souls entrusted to our care. We should do so faithfully and with hearts filled with gladness."
"In closing I turn to one particular example to describe the type of home teachers we should be. There is one Teacher whose life overshadows all others. He taught of life and death, of duty and destiny. He lived not to be served but to serve, not to receive but to give, not to save His life but to sacrifice it for others. He described a love more beautiful than lust, a poverty richer than treasure. It was said of this Teacher that He taught with authority and not as did the scribes. His laws were not inscribed upon stone but upon human hearts. 
I speak of the Master Teacher, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. The biblical account says of Him, He “went about doing good.”

Perhaps one day we won't need Home Teaching as a structured program. Perhaps one day we will spontaneously care for the needy around us and spiritually uplift each other. Until that time, Home Teaching is a gift and a framework. One way, among many others, of fulfilling the Lord's directive to to serve and care for each other.

1 comment:

  1. Love This. Fantastic. Keep up the wonderful work. Thank your family, too.