The Lord Is My Shepherd
Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii
July 29, 2008
Elder Myron Richins
CES Missionary, Religion
I'd like to say thanks to my wife for that introduction. I love and appreciate her. She has stood by my side and helped me in many, many challenges that have come and many, many blessings that have come in our lives together. I love and appreciate her. And I want to say to you, Aloha! I had never ever used that introduction until I came over here. I have now learned what it means and I have also learned that the expression is one that we all ought to be able to show to our fellow men: our love for them and the breath of life that we have to increase their lives. It's an honor to be here at BYU-Hawaii. I'd like to give thanks to the administration for the privilege and opportunity of associating with them and with the faculty and a special thanks to Anna for the help that she has given to me as I have worked in the religion department. As my wife said, I taught in a one-man seminary for many years and didn't even have a secretary so I've relied pretty heavily on Anna to help me with many things. But I am most grateful for the students. What a blessing you have been in our lives, my wife and I, since we've been here. You've made us feel at home and certainly made us feel welcome.
My theme for today comes from the 23rd Psalm: "THE LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever" (Psalms 23:1-6). I know that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is my personal shepherd and if I follow him I will be lead back to my eternal father in heaven.
I have spent all of my life working with sheep. It was not until my wife and I had the opportunity of going over to Israel that I truly saw what a shepherd was. Our tour guide told, while we were in Israel, told us that there was going to be a sheep market at one of the corners of the old city of Jerusalem. I have always been interested in taking animals to market and so I told my wife that we were going to get up early that morning and go to that sheep market. As we went to the sheep market, I noticed something very different than I had seen in any market that I had ever been to before. There were no holding corrals to hold the sheep. As a man pulled up in his truck, his sheep merely jumped out of the back of the truck, followed him past the other the individuals that had sheep, and then he went over and stopped at a particular spot and all of his sheep stood there by him. And then he bartered by lifting the sides of his scarf and told whether those sheep were for sale. Once they were sold, the owner took them over to the new buyer and they were gone. I had never seen that before because all the time when we take the sheep to market we have to put them in a little pen and drive them from place to place. Those men were shepherds.
If you look at the references in the back of the topical guide of the Bible and you print them out you'll find three pages that refer to sheep. In the index of the Triple Combination, you'll find two and a half pages. In the books of Genesis and Moses, it says that Able was a keeper of sheep. Of all the animals, why was Able a keeper of sheep? I believe that it was because Able was a good follower and Able was a good follower and sheep are great followers.
In Moses 5:17 it says, "Abel hearkened unto the voice of the Lord." In Mosiah 26:21,"And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive." The use of one's voice in herding sheep and being a shepherd is very important.
One of my cousins, Denny, was trailing 2,000 head of sheep from Kamas, Utah down to Henefer, Utah one fall. We trail the sheep along the roads that are least traveled as much as we can and as he was trailing these sheep he got down to Hoytsville, Utah. As luck would have it, one of the herders there who had 25 sheep had a hole in his fence and those 25 sheep mixed with my cousin's 2,000 sheep as they were trailing along. The man's name was Vernon Judd. He came to my cousin and said, "Where are you going to put these sheep tonight?" Denny said, "I'm going to take them down to Coalville and put them in a corral at Coalville." Vernon said, "May I come in and get my sheep out?" and my cousin said "I would love to get them out, but the next day we'll be down to Henefer and there will be a cutting gate down there so that I can cut the sheep out and then I will put them in a truck and I'll haul them up to Hoytsville. I really don't want to chase my sheep around to catch 25 tonight." Vernon said, "Ok."
After a few minutes, he came to my cousin, Denny, and he said, "Would it be okay if I came in your corral and just see if my sheep would follow me out of the corral if I called them?" Denny said, "I laughed inside and thought, What will it hurt?" He said, "Go ahead. Give it a try."
After the sheep had been in the corral for about two hours Vernon came back. He brought his bucket and also his voice and he walked out in the corral and he began to call his sheep and to pound on his bucket. All 25 of those sheep got up from those 2,000 sheep, walked out of the corral, followed Vernon out, and he was able to load them up in his truck and take them back up to his place.
Vernon was a shepherd. Those sheep had been around him. They knew his voice. They knew his call. That's what our heavenly father expects us to be with those that we're called to lead, his shepherds, so that individuals will follow us like those sheep followed Vernon. We're not merely to be sheepherders and to drive people around. We are to lead them by our lives.
As a sheepherder, not as a shepherd, you must also use your voice. If sheep are feeding on a hill and you want to turn them back or in a different direction, you must learn where to position yourself and then yell or whistle and then they will come back off of the hill. The sheep learn to recognize the sheepherder's voice. If you go to get a bunch of cows off of a hill, you have to ride right over to them and then drive almost each individual cow unless you have a good dog to help you get them off. Sheep recognize a voice. Many animals do not.
One of the biggest challenges today in the sheep industry is predators. Lions, bears, coyotes, and eagles all take their toll. My dad use to always say to the sheepherders, "Bed the sheep on the tongue of the camp." That meant put them as close to the sheep camp as you can so that if you hear the sheep moving in the night you can get up and you can scare the coyotes away from them.
Today, we have Pyrenees dogs that have joined to help us to protect our sheep. It's an amazing thing because sheep are scared of dogs, but these Pyrenees dogs are dogs that have been reared around sheep and it took us a little while to get our sheep adjusted to them because whenever they saw a dog they would run but after a while our sheep adjusted and knew that those dogs were there to help to protect them, and so they've allow them to live with them.
Well, if anything strange comes into the sheep the Pyrenees dogs try to drive that animal out. But if the sheep get to scattered the Pyrenees dogs can't take care of them. Listen to what Abinadi told the priests of Noah: "And he said unto the priests of Noah that their seed should cause many to be put to death, in like manner as he was, and that they should be scattered abroad and slain, even as a sheep having no shepherd is driven and slain by wild beasts; and now behold, these words were verified, for they were driven by the Lamanites, and they were hunted, and they were smitten" (Alma 25:12).
Our Father in Heaven keeps his sheep from being scattered by giving us stake presidents, bishops, home teachers, mothers and fathers. If we get too far from their teachings, Satan leads us astray. Alma 5:59: "For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that wolves enter not and devour his flock? And behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he not drive him out? Yea, and at the last, if he can, he will destroy him."
Almost all of the sheep men in our area who had a few sections of ground - and they fenced those sections of ground out and then they turned their sheep loose in those sections of ground - are out of the business today. The reason is because when they turned the lambs and the ewes in there, they scattered throughout the whole section of ground, and the predators took their toll all summer long and so when fall came, there were not lambs to sell.
We cannot become too scattered to where those that are around us cannot protect us. Your bishops are your shepherds. Trust in them and follow their counsel. If they advise you to change directions with some of the things in your life, do it!
As a bishop I recall a young lady, one Sunday evening, coming in to visit with me. She brought with her boyfriend. She was a senior in High school. They had been involved in a moral problem. They confessed to that moral problem. As they got up to leave, she said to me, "Bishop, I'll never be able to face you tomorrow as I sit on the second row in seminary class." I said to her, "if I cannot look to you eye to eye tomorrow and you feel that I've represented the Lord, and that I've counseled with you as the Lord would have me counsel, then I've failed as your bishop."
I want you to know that I looked to her eye to eye that next day, and I have done throughout my life, and I've had the privilege of watching her and her husband and their children as they've gone to the temple of the Lord together. 1 Peter 2:25 says, "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."
Sheep adapt to change when they are led by some of their own. My grandfather and my father used to trail the sheep from Henefer, Utah, up over the Mormon Trail into Salt Lake City down 21st South, out past Grantsville and out to the desert every fall and every winter. Image that happening today. After they had done that for a few years then we began loading sheep on to railroad cars and the sheep adapted to going. You know, it wasn't too steep to get into a railroad car, and we unloaded them for lots of years off of railroad cars.
Now we haul those sheep on semi trucks with four decks. Sheep aren't used to going up a steep thing like that to get into a truck, but they've adapted, and they've been able to do the things that we, as their shepherds or sheepherders, have helped them to learn to do, and they've been able to follow one another. So now we take them places on semi trucks. If we are true followers of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we will adapt to change, change that takes place in the church, change that takes place at a university, change that takes place within our families, change that our Heavenly Father says that will be for our good and benefit and for the good and benefit of those that we are surrounded by and with.
In the Doctrine and covenants, section 112, verses 14 and 15, it says, "Now I say unto you, and what I say unto you, I say unto all the Twelve: Arise and gird up your loins, take up your cross, follow me, and feed my sheep. Exalt not yourselves; rebel not against my servant Joseph; for verily I say unto you, I am with him, and my hand shall be over him; and the keys which I have given unto him, and also to youward, shall not be taken from him till I come." Our apostles have been asked by this passage to feed God's sheep - that's us!
About 20 years ago, President Monson came to our stake to speak at a funeral of a missionary who had been gunned down by a machine gun, he and his companion, while they were on a mission in Bolivia. President Monson asked me, he said, "President Richins, I don't feel too comfortable right now before the service in mingling with the people. Could we just go somewhere where I can be at ease for little while? Can we go into the high council room?" I said, "We sure can."
The stake center at Coalville is quite a unique stake center. It has pictures at the back of the chapel - there are five of them - of the early leaders of the church. When we tore down the old stake center, they allowed us to put those pictures at the back wall before you go into the recreational hall, because those pictures were in the original stake center that looked like the assembly hall in Salt Lake City, Utah. So we put those pictures there, and our stake center is quite unique because a general conference in that old stake center was held there when there was a flu epidemic in the early 1900's.
So we looked at those pictures and then we went into the high council room. As we went into the high council room, President Monson looked over and he said, "President Richins, where did you get that picture of the Prophet Joseph Smith?" I told him that picture had come from the old high council room in the old stake center. He walked over to the picture, and he looked at it and he said, "I love that man and I am so grateful for what he has done for us." President Monson today is following our Savior, is following the Prophet Joseph Smith, and all of latter-day prophets, as well as the ancient prophets, in helping to lead us back to our Heavenly Father.
After we left the high council room and went out and President Monson gave his talk at the funeral, he looked down to Elder and Sister Ball, as well as to all the rest of us, and he said, "Brent and Joyce, I want you to know that your son, Elder Ball, and Elder Wilson" - who was the other missionary, who was also from Utah - "died as martyrs for the gospel of Jesus Christ." He said, "We have lost missionaries for many different causes, but these two young men died as martyrs and they will go on. Their spirits will teach in the spirit world, and missionary work will go forth in Bolivia."
If you read in the July 2008 New Era, you read an article about how missionary work has progressed in Bolivia. One year, after our sheep had come off of the forest up by the Whitney Reservoir up in the Mirror Lake area, we received a telephone call that said that there were several sheep that were still high above Bug Lake. My cousin Herold and I put our horses in the trailer and we went up past Oakley, Utah. When we got up there we unloaded our horses. As we got to the north side, almost to the top, the snow was almost to the chest of our horses. We could barely get them over the top. The sheep were on the south side of the hill. When we got to the sheep they were not our sheep. We looked at them, and it would have been impossible to get them off and get our horses off also. So, we rode down and called the owners and told the owners where they were. The owners then hired a helicopter to go back up to those sheep.
Why hadn't those sheep come off the hill? They had become separated from the flock and the sheepherders hadn't gathered them. Sheep always pull to the highest point when they are not herded. Matthew 18:12 says: "How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them go astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?" The Savior has asked us to seek after the one that is lost. What if the one that is lost is a part of your family? How much is it worth to you?
A man in our community had a son who when he was the age of 16 got involved with the wrong crowd, began to drink, and got involved in drugs. One day he came home high on drugs. His father and mother had talked to him several times. This time when he came home, the father called the sheriff. He asked the sheriff if he would come and pick his son and take him to a treatment center in Ogden, Utah.
As the sheriff got there, the father told him what they were going to do. The son was furious. He screamed and yelled and cursed at his mom and dad as the sheriff carried him out to the car, took him to Ogden, and put him in the treatment center. As he went through the treatment center, they said that he must have his parents come down and his family for counseling as well. He finally admitted and allowed them to come down, and got out of the treatment center.
He was married and then had one child. About three years later, he had a problem come up again. This time he called his brother and he said to his brother, "Will you take me back to the treatment center?" He said, "Do you think dad will come up with the money?" It had cost his father $10,000 for the first treatment. His brother said, "I'm sure we can come up with the money and I'll take you down." So he took him down to the treatment center.
Just before we came on our mission I met with him and he said to me, "If it had not been for a mom and dad that had cared enough for me to take me to a treatment center, I wouldn't have what I have today. I would not have a wife and four children that bless my life."
Brothers and sisters, there's nothing that's too expensive for us to do to help save our Heavenly Father's children from the temptations of Satan. Our father in heaven knows each one of us and desires all of us to return to him. Our example, our prayers, our teachings, and our interest in others that are lost can help the truths of the gospel go forth.
"And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture" (I Nephi 22:25). As I told you before, and as my wife said, I have spent all my life in Henefer, but I've always had an interest in other areas.
I had an uncle by the name of Orlando Fowler who was called on a mission in 1921 to go to Japan. He served about two years and became ill and then he passed away when he was in Japan. My grandfather dug his grave. It took them 30 days to bring him home on a boat. My grandmother was broken hearted. I've always wanted to follow after his example and to learn more about him. Well, whenever we as grandchildren or great grandchildren would receive mission calls, my grandmother would always say, "Not Japan!"
One day, one of her great grandsons whose name happened to be Londo received a mission call to Japan. Londo served his mission in Japan. While he was in Japan he met some individuals who had been taught by my uncle Orlando. Those people came over to Salt Lake City and my grandmother had the opportunity of meeting them. Oh! It just made her heart rejoice to know that the work that her son had done in Japan had brought people to the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Now it's my wife and my opportunity to rub shoulders with individuals from that part of the world. All of our sons have served missions and desired to go foreign. None of them had that opportunity. They enjoyed the missions they were called to. One of them went on a Spanish-speaking mission in the United States.
Our daughter was called to the San Pablo, Philippines Mission. At the conclusion of her mission my wife and I and our youngest daughter were able to go over and to pick her up. We got to love and appreciate those people that we met in the Philippines. On our way home, we had the opportunity of stopping in Hong Kong. In the Hong Kong temple there, we met many people from Mongolia and those wonderful people from the Hong Kong area learned to love and appreciate them. The people who shear our sheep come from Australia and New Zealand. The people who herd our sheep come from Peru. We're grateful that we now have the opportunity of meeting with more from all of these various countries.
If you are moving 2,000 head of sheep down a road or anywhere, you can't stay at the back of them because if you do, all they do is mill around and circle. They don't go anywhere. You have to take someone that will take somewhere to about 50 to 100 of them out in front and then they move those sheep along and then the rest follow.
All of you from these various countries are being called upon to be that person or those people that take a small group of sheep, followers of Jesus Christ, and then lead them to where there will be hundreds and where there will be thousands that follow after them.
In the book of Mosiah it says: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers, is dumb so he opened not his mouth" (Mosiah 14:7).
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave his life freely for us. Here Isaiah is comparing the Savior's dying to us as "a lamb going to slaughter." I have laid down many a lamb on their back and taken my knife and cut their throat to prepare them for meat. I have watched thousands of sheep as they have been sheared. As soon as the shearer places them on their back, those sheep never make a move if he turns them just right until all the wool is taken off of them. The Savior did not fight. He gave his life for you and I. How much are we willing to give for Him?
One day as I was teaching in my class, I received a phone call from my father and he said to me, "I was riding today and your horse, Nig, stumbled," and he said, "I had never in all the days that I've ridden Nig, I have never seen him stumble. So I swung off. I swung up hill and as his feet went straight in the air and then he came down and he never made another move. He was dead."
My father removed the saddle from Nig and drug it down to where there was a road. He said, "I'm sorry about that Myron," and I said, "Dad, Nig was pretty old." My dad was in his 70's at this time. And dad said to me, he said, "Myron, I've ridden Nig many miles. I want you to know that I want to be like him. I want to endure to the end."
In Doctrine & Covenants 53:7 it says, "And again, I would that ye should learn that he only is saved who endureth unto the end. Even so, Amen." Well, that was my father's desire. The last thing that my father had the opportunity to do as a patriarch was to give a patriarchal blessing to our son Jeffrey. My father said, "I really can't do that. I can't stand long enough. My legs won't let me stand. I said, "Dad, you can sit in your chair and Jeffery can sit at your feet if you can give that blessing." He gave that blessing to him. He truly endured to the end. That is my desire, to be able to follow the example of my father and the teachings of my father in heaven and to be able to be the type of shepherd that my Heavenly Father wants me to be in leading children back to him.
I know that Jesus Christ is my savior. I know that He made it possible for all of us to be resurrected and he made it possible for us to overcome sin and that we, with His help, can return to our Heavenly Father and I bare that testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.