The Collin’s Dictionary defines a shepherd as (1) a person employed to tend sheep (ii) a person such as a clergy man, who watches over a group of people (iii) to guide or watch over in the manner of a shepherd.
The principal activities of a shepherd from these definitions are to watch over and to guide.
In the book of Ezekiel Chapter 3:17-21, we learn that the Lord has called watchmen unto the house of Israel and that those watchmen are to receive words from the Lord’s mouth and warn the children of Israel. If the watchmen fulfill this assignment, they will receive the blessings of saving the lives of God’s children and also saving our own souls. Not fulfilling this responsibility will lead to the death of the wicked and having the blood of the wicked required at the hands of the watchmen.
Every adult member of the Church is called by God to be a watchman. We are either home teachers or visiting teachers and as such we are to receive the words of God from the First Presidency to deliver to the homes of those we have been appointed to watch over and guide. Our Area Presidency has invited each of us to be a watchman: we are to make sure that one who is strong in the Spirit takes with him another who needs help, to receive the ordinances of the priesthood and keep the associated covenants. We are to remember the principle of “one take one,” and to decide in our councils “who will take who.”
In Ezekiel 34:2-4, the Lord frowned at the shepherds of Israel who fed themselves and did not feed the flock. In verse 4, He chastised the shepherds who did not heal the sick among the flock, did not bind up that which was broken, did not bring again that which was driven away and did not seek that which was lost.
When the Lord Jesus Christ talked to Peter after his resurrection by the seaside in John 21:15–18, He charged Peter to feed His lambs as a means of manifesting his love for the Savior. To emphasize the importance of this responsibility, He repeated this instruction three times.
We read in John 14:23–26: “Jesus answered and said unto him, if a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
In our responsibility as shepherds, as in other responsibilities in the church, the role and help of the Holy Ghost is vital. We must be at alert and spiritually sensitive to know when and who to attend to, and how to take him or her with us on the gospel path. It is not enough to make the once a month visit. The Spirit will direct us on whom to reach out to if only we prepare ourselves enough to be receptive to his promptings.
I have always enjoyed teaching in the Institute of Religion. I was actively teaching in the Institute of Religion when I was serving as a Bishop in Aba, and as a stake president in Port Harcourt. These opportunities helped me to assist the young singles in both stakes in a critical period of their lives when vital decisions that would shape their lives were taken. I became their coach and mentor and was greatly assisted in my responsibilities as a shepherd. Because of my close association with them, I became their friend, not just their bishop or stake president.
One day I had an impression to call a particular brother who was a student in a distant university, who actively participated in my class each time he was home. I wanted to know how he was doing. We had a good discussion and I wished him well, and reminded him of few things I’ve been teaching them. He thanked me and hung up.
After some months, he came home for a vacation and visited me. He asked what prompted that call. I told him that I had an impression to call him. He confided in me that my call came in the middle of a situation and saved him from doing something that could have affected his membership in the church. He said he felt I was seeing him and called at the right time to warn him. He thanked me immensely for being an angel to him on that day.
This situation humbled me and strengthened my resolve to always be prepared and willing to hearken to the still small voice.
I know that the Holy Ghost will assist us in our responsibility to watch over and guide one another especially those that the Lord has entrusted to our care. My prayer is that we will always be prepared to hear his voice and act upon his promptings.