Tag Archives: Leadership

Hymn #221: Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd

My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earthIn this hymn version of the parable of the lost sheep (see Luke 15) we seem to have a few different types of “sheep”. The most frequently mentioned group is “the sheep that have wandered.”

They are also called “lambs that are lost” or “straying”, and I think we can assume that at one point these sheep were with the rest of the flock. They knew their shepherd and followed him…until they didn’t. Something distracted them, or delayed them, or they got bored and wandered off to find some new adventure. It’s a clear metaphor for anyone who was a member of the church but has since left, although it could represent anyone who has broken a commandment and strayed from the path even just a little.

(That’s all of us, in case you had forgotten.)

As verse two says, these sheep were “saved at such infinite cost.” The Atonement and repentance is what enables these lost sheep to return to the Good Shepherd’s presence, and He rejoices when they do so.

The second group is the “‘other’ lost sheep” mentioned in the first verse. Being “other”, they have never been and are not yet part of the fold. But they will be. Rather, they can be if found and “rescued.” These are the people who don’t yet know Jesus Christ or his restored gospel. Once taught and baptized, they are part of the fold, and like their fellow Saints, they follow where their Shepherd leads.

Which leaves us with the third group: the “ninety and nine.” Verse three reminds us that these sheep are also dear to the shepherd. He doesn’t leave his flock to rescue a lost sheep because he doesn’t care about them as much as the one; rather he hastens to rescue it because he knows the remaining flock is going to be okay.

But just because they are safe and happy in their little enclosure doesn’t mean they should stay there and shut everyone else out. If we know the shepherd, we have a responsibility to help him out:

Hark! he is earnestly calling,
Tenderly pleading today:
“Will you not seek for my lost ones,
Off from my shelter astray?”

 

There are so many lost sheep. Those who have strayed need to know they have a place in the fold, no matter where they have been or what they have done. Those who have never seen the green pastures need to be led there, “not,” as Peter teaches us, “by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).

I wrote this a few years ago; it’s definitely relevant here. This is what it doesn’t say in Luke 15:

4) What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not grudgingly leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

5) And when he hath found it, he chastiseth it for having gotten itself lost, then layeth it on his shoulders and bring it back to the fold, where the other sheep turn away from it and judge it as a lesser sheep than they which remained with the shepherd all along.

6) And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice because of what I have done; for I have found my foolish sheep which was lost. Am I not clever and righteous?

Because if that’s what it said in Luke 15, and I happened to be that proverbial sheep, I’d up and get myself lost again. Who wants to hang with a holier-than-thou shepherd and his judgmental herd?

Jesus loves us. All of us. Those of us in the church, those who have left it or struggle to feel they belong there, and those who have never even heard of it. We all belong to him. And so when he calls us, we should answer him gladly: “Yes, blessed Master, we will!”

Hymn #281: Help Me Teach with Inspiration

I hope the other Beesley Project contributors will forgive me for speaking for them in this post, but this hymn? This is what our little project is all about. It’s our aim and our prayer with every post we write.

Help me teach with inspiration;
Grant this blessing, Lord, I pray.
Help me lift a soul’s ambition
To a higher, nobler way.

Until a few months ago, I was a gospel doctrine teacher in my ward. During my tenure in that calling, I gained a very strong testimony that all the lesson plans and teaching methods in the world are worthless when it comes to things of God unless His Spirit is present. Generally speaking, my lessons were dramatically better when I moved away from my meticulous notes and just went where the Holy Ghost prompted me.

Sometimes our posts require some research about a hymn or its author. Other times we delve into the scriptural references included in the hymn book. We put thought and effort into our posts, but at the end of the day we hope the Spirit will help us write something true and meaningful. We pray to teach with inspiration.

Help me reach a friend in darkness;
Help me guide him thru the night.
Help me show thy path to glory
By the Spirit’s holy light.

One of the perks of contributing to this project is reading all the posts somebody else wrote. In less than two months, my co-contributors have shared thoughts that have led me to a change of heart, or shed new light on gospel principles, or strengthened my resolve to be better, or brought me comfort when I needed it.

Even if I am the only one who has been affected in this way, their efforts have been worthwhile. As we are taught in the Doctrine and Covenants, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” (D&C 18:15) That said, I pray that I am not the only one benefiting from these posts, and that we are reaching other friends who could use a little extra light in their lives.

Fill my mind with understanding;
Tune my voice to echo thine.
Touch my hand with gentle friendship;
Warm my heart with love divine.

As much as we want to teach others about the hymns we love, we also appreciate an opportunity to become more familiar with them ourselves. It’s like everyone says: when you have to teach about something, you end up learning a lot. We are gaining greater understanding and a deeper love of our brothers and sisters. God is blessing us for our efforts, for which we are enormously grateful.

Help me find thy lambs who wander;
Help me bring them to thy keep.
Teach me, Lord, to be a shepherd;
Father, help me feed thy sheep.

Ultimately our goal–in this project as in our lives–is to become more like the Good Shepherd. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Exemplar; we want to be like him and help others draw near to him. These hymns and this website are one small way for us to obey his commandment to feed our Father’s sheep.

And now I turn it to you, dear readers. How are we doing? Has the Beesley Project inspired you in any way? Has a particular post been a blessing in your life? We’d love to hear your feedback.

Hymn #20: God of Power, God of Right

After spending some time with this hymn, I think it’s a pity that it isn’t sung more often. It’s of a handful that takes up less than a page in the hymnbook, but it contains a profound lesson about God’s process of turning ordinary people like you and me into celestial beings.

The hymn begins with an image of God’s strength:

God of power, God of right,
Guide us with thy priesthood’s might.
Forge our souls in living fire;
Shape them to thy great desire.

It’s not difficult to picture the Creator of all things sweating and pounding diligently to produce something useful and worthwhile out of raw material. Great effort, constant vigilance, and perfect timing are vital to this process; one misstep and the metal can be ruined. Lucky for us, the One forging our souls is a master blacksmith.

Likening souls to metal naturally brings to mind the ubiquitous metaphor of the refiner’s fire. I especially like this verse in Proverbs: “Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer” (25:4). Once the impurities are removed, the precious metal is not just left as a shiny lump, but it is shaped into a vessel–through “priesthood might”, as the verse says–to be filled as its Maker sees fit.

And with what does He fill us? With knowledge.

God of wisdom, God of truth,
Take us in our eager youth;
Lift us step by step to thee
Thru an endless ministry.

When we are ready and willing, He will teach us what we need to know to be like Him. We learn from the scriptures, the words of living prophets, our patriarchal blessings, instruction in the temple, Sunday School classes, personal revelation…as I’ve mentioned before, this is a gospel of learning. And, as the goal is to progress eternally, it will be an eternal process for us to gain the wisdom our Father has.

With all that earlier talk of power and might, though, it would be easy to see this as a forceful process. Fortunately for us this is not the case. God does not pound us into shape and cram us full of whatever is necessary for us to be saved. He doesn’t work like that, as the third verse reminds us.

God of mercy, God of love,
Let thy Spirit, like the dove,
Touch and humble, teach and bless,
As we serve in holiness.

His mercy and love are the reason He blessed us with the ability to choose for ourselves. If we will accept His mercy and allow the Holy Ghost to “touch and humble, teach and bless” us, we can be “shape[d] to [His] great desire”.

God is omnipotent; He can perfect even the most flawed among us. God is omniscient; He knows exactly what we need to be sanctified. God loves us; He lets us choose whether or not to let Him make us something great. It is our decisions that will ultimately determine our destiny (see this talk by President Monson).

Notice that the hymn is written as a prayer, though. We are acknowledging His attributes and asking Him to use them to guide us and lift us. We’ve already made our choice: to “serve in holiness.”