Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shearing Sheep in New Zealand

Mosiah 14:7 (also Isaiah 53:7)

“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.”

After reading the title to this post you may say to yourself, “No, not Isaiah!  I can’t understand Isaiah.”  But I promise you can understand Isaiah if you take it a little at a time … a verse here and a verse there.  Just like I will explain. 

Isaiah and many of the other prophets have used sheep to describe the Savior.  (After all, He is the “Lamb of God.”)   Well, what better place to learn something about sheep than in New Zealand.  They say there are 4 million people in New Zealand and 16 million sheep.  That’s right – the sheep greatly outnumber the people in this beautiful country.   This is also where the story behind this scripture comes into focus for me.

I just returned from New Zealand where we were filming some profiles of Church members for the “I’m a Mormon” campaign on the mormon.org website.   One of the members we selected to highlight was the Stake President of the Kaikohe Stake, Pres. Butch Horsford.  President Horsford is a dairy farmer and a sheep rancher in the northern part of New Zealand’s north island.  We got up long before sunrise one morning to begin filming him milking his herd of dairy cows.  Later in the afternoon he volunteered to shear two sheep for us so we could film that interesting activity.   

President Horsford is a pro at shearing sheep.  As a teenager he began shearing sheep to earn money for his mission.  He continued after his mission and still shears occasionally today.  He can shear an entire sheep in less than a minute.  He told us it wasn’t unusual for him to shear nearly 300 sheep in a day during the shearing season when he was younger.  (I can’t believe how much work that must be.)

I always imagined that as a sheep was being sheared it would be making all kinds of noise as it was tossed back and forth.   In fact, I asked President Horsford, “Do the sheep make a lot of noise while being sheared?”  I’m sure that sounded like a city boy question to ask a rancher, but he patiently answered, “No.   Not much.”  Still, I thought they must make some noise. 

Then President Horsford brought the first sheep in for shearing.  He expertly grabbed the front legs and began lopping off the wool.  Each sheep is shorn in the exact same way and the shearers move with no wasted motion.  As President Horsford started going back and forth with the clippers I still expected to hear the sheep start to bellow and fight.  To my surprise the sheep willfully submitted to the motion of President Horsford’s shears.  Not once did it make a sound.  The sheep was perfectly quiet.

I didn’t think too much about this until the very next day when I was reading the Book of Mormon in my hotel room during a rare break in our schedule.  It was then I read Mosiah 14:7

“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.”

I have read that scripture each time I’ve read the Book of Mormon, but it has never hit me like it did at that moment.  There it was, recorded by Isaiah 700 years before the birth of Christ that when the Savior was taken to the “slaughter” that he “opened not his mouth.”   That prophesy was filled when Christ was brought before Pilate to be charged by the Pharisee’s – Pilate “questioned him with many words; but he answered him nothing (Luke 23:9) - just like the sheep I had seen was “dumb before her shearers.”

I’m grateful for the tender mercy of being able to read that scripture just a day after witnessing this phenomenon myself.  It truly impressed upon my mind the sacredness of the writing of the Prophet Isaiah and why Nephi quoted them so often.  (Remember in II Nephi 25:5 where Nephi writes, “Yea, and my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah.”)

I hope this has given you a small insight to the deep meaning that can be found in the scriptures.  I just love reading the Book of Mormon.  I hope you do too!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Nephi 18:9 - Rudeness Drives Away the Spirit

“ … They began to dance, and to sing, and to speak with much rudeness, yea, even that they did forget by what power they had been brought thither; yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness.”

Although I’ll never know exactly what happened when Nephi’s brethren began to be “rude,” I believe they probably started using words and language that drove away the spirit.  I don’t think any of us believe this type of behavior was limited to Nephi’s time.  It certainly happens around us all the time.  I’m sure that many of you have felt like Nephi did as you walk down the halls of your school and hear the “crude and rude” talk all around you.  I think the worst part of this behavior is that it drives the spirit away.  Often, those using the language, don’t care, or even worse, feel proud that they use such words.

I think that the “For the Strength of Youth” sums it up very well when it refers to “Language.”

How you speak says much about who you are. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind. Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others. Do not insult others or put them down, even in joking. Speak kindly and positively about others so you can fulfill the Lord’s commandment to love one another. When you use good language, you invite the Spirit to be with you.

Always use the names of God and Jesus Christ with reverence and respect. Misusing their names is a sin. Profane, vulgar, or crude language or gestures, as well as jokes about immoral actions, are offensive to the Lord and to others. Foul language harms your spirit and degrades you. Do not let others influence you to use it.

Choose friends who use good language. Help others around you use clean language by your example and by good-naturedly encouraging them to choose other words. Politely walk away or change the subject when others around you use bad language.

If you have developed the habit of swearing, you can break it. Begin by making a decision to change. Pray for help. If you start to use words you know are wrong, keep quiet or say what you have to say in a different way.

While I was on my mission I read a short list titled, “Ten Reasons Why I Swear.”  I thought it was so profound that I copied it, put it in my scriptures, and carried it with me for years.  I still have that very copy in the Bible I used on my mission.  Here’s the list:


It pleases mom so much.
It is a fine mark of manliness (or womanhood).
It proves I have self-control.
It indicates how clearly my mind operates.
It makes my conversation so pleasing to everybody.
It leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind as to my good upbringing.
It impresses people that I have more than ordinary education.
It is an unmistakable sign of culture and refinement.
It makes me a very desirable personality among women and children and in respectable society.
It is my way of honoring God, who said, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
I love how James feels about the use of our language, as recorded in the New Testament.  (By the way, the book of James is filled with great advice on how to live each day.  After all, it was James 1:5 that prompted Joseph Smith to go to the grove and ask Heavenly Father which was the true church.)  This is found in James 3:2-5

2For in many things we aoffend all. If any man boffend not in cword, the same is a dperfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

 3Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.

 4Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the agovernor listeth.

 5Even so the tongue is a little member, and aboasteth great things. Behold, how great a bmatter a little fire kindleth!

I know the temptation to use foul and vulgar language is one of the greatest temptations the youth of our stake may face.  Unfortunately, it can be easy to hide at home.  It may be easy to put away and not use in front of your church leaders.  It might be something you can “turn-on and turn-off” depending on the situation you’re in … but I know one thing for sure if you use it, you know.

Just today, I, like every other employee where I work, was required be aware of conduct in the work place.  The company policy reminded everyone that our conduct should measured by the following questions:

Would I engage in that conduct if my boss were present?
Would I engage in that conduct if someone with whom I have a close relationship (e.g., spouse, daughter, son, mother, father, sister, brother) were present?
Would I engage in that conduct if an audio or video recording were being made of me?
What would my reaction be if someone else acted this way toward my daughter, son, spouse, mother, father, sister or brother?
Would I want my conduct to be described in detail in the newspaper?

But I believe even more important than those questions is this:  Can you ever afford to be without the spirit?

If you use rude or vulgar language it will drive the spirit away and we all need the spirit to help us make decisions.  It would be so sad if the spirit couldn’t give you really important guidance just because you weren’t able to control your language.  I hope you can always be worthy of having the spirit give you guidance and direction in your life by using clean and appropriate language.  

Friday, March 11, 2011


“And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”

I think this is one of the great lessons in the Book of Mormon because it applies to so much that we each do every single day.

How many times in your life have you been going along, not knowing what to do next, but trusting in the Lord that he wouldn’t let you fail?  For me, that’s happened many, many times.  I think the secret here is to continue moving forward, just like Nephi did.  It would have been easy for Nephi to sit outside the walls of Jerusalem and ponder what he should do … to “wait” until he had a solid answer.  But what if he had waited?  Perhaps Laban wouldn’t have still been there.  Maybe there would have been others around if he had waited.  But the key is that Nephi kept moving forward and trusted in the Lord.  (Do you ever get the feeling that Nephi was a doer?  He didn’t sit around and murmur.  He didn’t give up when he was asked to build a boat strong enough to sail half-way around the world.  He didn’t go back before he got the brass plates.)  Nephi lived righteously, pressed forward, and then trusted the in the Spirit to guide him.

I’d like to share with you a time I felt this applied to my life when I was much younger.  I know you’ve heard about several of my missionary experiences in England years ago, but I’d like to share one with you where I felt this scripture was written for me.

It was a day in February or March (about this time of year) in 1976.  My companion and I were visiting a small branch in Eastbourne, East Sussex, which is on the English Channel on the South coast of England.  The branch was so small that a missionary was serving as the Branch President.  We were there to offer our support to the missionary companionship.  After early morning priesthood meeting (this was back in the day before the three-hour block) my companion and I decided we would go do some “tracting.”  (In other words, go and knock on doors.)  We weren’t very familiar with the area and we didn’t have an area book.  We just drove.  Well, there came a point when I asked myself, “Am I just driving so I don’t have to get out and work, or is there a reason we are driving to the outer parts of the town?”  But I knew we were doing the Lord’s work and I knew we were entitled to his guidance.   Finally, we came to what seemed to be the last street before the countryside took over.  We got out of our car and started knocking on the doors of this street.

Door after door we were rejected.  I remember it was cold and there was a wind coming off the English Channel that felt like it went right through you.  Needless to say, it would have been very easy to give up.  But for some reason we continued.  One man told us, in not too kind of language, that the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” had just been on the street 15 minutes before.  Now that really gave us a reason to go somewhere else … but we didn’t.  We didn’t feel we needed to.  We didn’t have any idea why, but we continued.

After many homes we knocked on the door of a home and a single woman, Mrs. Fergusson, answered.  We explained to her very briefly about the Lord having prophets on the earth today.  She was interested and invited us in.  As we sat down she introduced us to her 9 year-old daughter.  We continued to teach her about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  She gently took the Book of Mormon and told us she would read it.  She then shared with us a somber experience.  She told us that she and her daughter were facing so much sadness and so many challenges that it she felt it would be best to turn on the gas in their kitchen oven and end their lives.

We were able to tell her that we knew the Lord had sent us to her with this message of hope.  We told her we came because Heavenly Father loved her and her daughter.  We prayed with them.  We invited her to read the Book of Mormon and left, promising that our missionary friends in Eastbourne would visit her during the week.

Our friends reported to us later that week that when they visited the Fergusson’s she said, “You’re here to collect (take) the book back, aren’t you?”  The missionaries assured her that she could keep the book.  Mrs. Fergusson was so relieved because, she told them, “I’m only about half-way through and I want to finish it.  I know it’s the word of God.”

Within two weeks the Fergusson’s were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

I promise that we were “led by the spirit” to Mrs. Fergusson “not knowing beforehand the things which “we” should do.”  The Lord knew Mrs. Fergusson and her daughter needed the message of the restored gospel at that very moment.  He knew it would save their lives, both physically and spiritually.  He made it possible at that very moment, through two of his missionaries, to bring about a modern-day miracle and fulfillment of ancient scripture.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Nephi 16:23 – GETTING TO WORK

Most of us are familiar with the story in the 16th Chapter of First Nephi.  It’s the part of Nephi’s journey where he breaks his bow.  Here’s the background of the story:  Lehi and his family followed the pointers on the Liahona (did you know that it’s only called a “compass,” “director,” or “ball,” until the 37th Chapter of Alma where its referred to as the “Liahona.”  Just some Book of Mormon trivia for you) and found a place to pitch their tents long enough for them to rest and find more food for their families before continuing on their journey.  It was then that Nephi and his brothers went out to hunt for some food.  While hunting Nephi broke his steel bow.  The account in the Book of Mormon says when they returned to camp they were very tired and hungry.  Imagine how they felt … walking and stalking prey and returning with nothing. (I suppose it was like the worst possible Fast Sunday.)  We next read that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael start to murmur, or complain, about their lack of food and the sufferings they were experiencing.  (It also records that Laman and Lemuel’s bows had lost their spring and were unable to be used in hunting.)  Even Lehi, at this point, murmured against the Lord for the lack of food.  It must have been a terrible situation for all of them to complain about their circumstances.  But you’ll notice that Nephi didn’t murmur.  Instead, he went to work.

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow.” 

I believe this says so much about Nephi’s character.  He had such great faith in the Lord that he didn’t complain like everyone else, he just knew he would have to work harder than ever … and that’s just what he did.  He “did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow.”  Can you imagine how difficult it would have been to make a bow and find a stick straight enough to make an arrow?  But even though the odds were against Nephi he wouldn’t quit and he didn’t lose faith.  He knew the Lord would provide if he did his part.  After he crafted his new bow he went to the Liahona for direction and then headed into the wilderness to hunt.  While hunting “It came to pass that I did slay wild beasts, insomuch that I did obtain food for our families.” 

How often have you had something go wrong and all you want to do is to sit down and cry or complain about it?  I know I’ve had many experiences like that.  I believe this story is in the Book of Mormon because the Lord want us to learn an important lesson … hard work will allow the Lord to bless us.  I find it interesting that in Chapter 18 when Nephi and his brothers are building the boat that there is no murmuring mentioned.  I guess it’s always been true that “busy hands are happy hands.”  So next time you feel the world is against you and you want to quit, remember that Nephi could have felt this way, too.  But, instead he went to work and was able to provide for his entire family.  I hope that’s a lesson we can all learn from.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Nephi 15:34 – The Recipe to Enter God’s Kingdom

Have you ever wondered what the requirements are to get into the Kingdom of God?  Well, this is one place where it’s laid out for us.

“ … The kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God.” (I Nephi 15:34)

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?  No unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of God.  That also sounds like terrible news, doesn’t it?  I don’t know of any person in the world who can say they are perfectly clean.  In fact, in the Bible (I John 1:8) the Apostle John says;

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 

Again, this is not very good news if the requirement for living with God is to be perfectly clean and without sin … and then to know that we have all sinned L  Where is our hope in this life?
Well, I want to assure you that our hope is in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Because He loves us more than we can imagine He has promised to take our sins and uncleanness away through his atonement.  Amulek was very clear about the Savior’s mission when he taught this great principle in Alma 11:40

“And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.”

I believe and have a spiritual witness that Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to live with Heavenly Father and with our families because of his mission and atonement.  All he asks of us, in return, is that we repent, follow him, and endure to the end.  Now that sounds like a pretty good trade, doesn’t it?

I’m sure there may be times when you might say to yourself, “But I can’t overcome all the temptations I’m faced with.”  It’s true that we live in a world that is relentless.  It never ceases to cast temptations our way and to make matters worse;  Satan knows our weaknesses and is constantly trying to get us to follow him.  So, is there anything the Savior can do besides taking away our sins after we’ve faltered?  The answer there is a resounding, “Yes!”  Alma teaches in Alma 37:33;

“Teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

There it is, right there in the scriptures … not only does our loving Savior take upon Him our sins and mistakes, but if we strengthen our faith in Him, he will help us withstand every temptation of the devil.  So for my hint for the day, I’d like to leave with you a simple recipe for returning to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father:

1)  To be cleansed from our sins call upon the name of JESUS CHRIST.
2)  To be strengthened against temptation against sin increase your faith in JESUS CHRIST.
3)  To endure to the end and live with Heavenly Father as families follow JESUS CHRIST.

I promise you great happiness as you put this simple recipe to work in your life.