Once there was a flock of sheep in a fertile valley next to a cool clear stream. The sheep loved grazing on the lush green grass and drinking the soothing water that flowed along the stony bed of the stream. A gentle wind blew through the valley, carrying with it the sweet scent of wildflowers.
The sheep felt safe in their beautiful valley under the protection of a small number of sheepdogs. The large protectors would periodically venture up the slopes of the high hills that surrounded their valley and then return to the sheep.
As time past, the sheep began to feel increasingly comfortable in their pasture. In the absence of other concerns, some of the sheep spent their time questioning the function of the sheepdogs. After all, there were nearly unlimited resources, and there had been no dangers to expose. Some of these clever sheep even climbed the hills and peered out into the neighboring areas beyond their valley paradise. These sheep discovered the hills concealed a dusty and arid waste with no water and only sparse patches of sagebrush that danced in the wind. The sheepdogs seemed to have been looking at nothing the entire time.
After many days, the sheepdogs came down from the hilltops and instructed the sheep that it was time for the flock to move. The sheepdogs explained that they had received instructions from the shepherd to head beyond the hills.
The clever sheep spoke up in defiance of the sheepdogs.
“There is nothing beyond the hills!” they protested. “Here we have delicious and plentiful grass and sweet clear water… Beyond the hills, there is no water and only dry sage! These sheepdogs seek only to control us!”
“Stay if you wish, we cannot carry you over the hills… but know that it is the shepherd who wants you to move,” admonished the sheepdogs. “He would not ask you to go beyond the hills unless it was for your own good.”
“There was no sign of the shepherd at the tops of the hills,” countered the clever sheep. “But if you cannot think for yourself, follow the sheepdogs.”
There was a division in the flock. Some of the sheep insisted on staying in their beautiful valley, while the other sheep followed the sheepdogs, trusting in their protection. After each sheep had made their choice, the sheepdogs accompanied the sheep who followed them beyond the hills and into the wastes.
As days past, the sheep who had remained grew more confident in their defiance. There was now even more grazing for them to enjoy and they were free of the nettling of those useless sheepdogs. They reveled in their new, liberated society, and decided that the terrifying barking and running around that they had endured would be prohibited from that time.
About a week after the other sheep had left, the clever sheep noted that the footprints of their former flock-mates had been swept away by the breeze, erasing any sign that they had ever been there. The clever sheep celebrated their independence with dancing and frolicking and merriment.
The joyful bleating of the sheep attracted the attention of an army of orcs, who appeared on the hilltops brandishing long blades and licked their lips. Drool dripped off their sharp fangs as they peered down at the noisy and helpless sheep.
The clever sheep looked up and realized their peril. They could not fight and they were not fast enough to escape. They bleated in terror as they scampered on their short legs, wishing they had not tried to be so clever.
The orc leader raised his sword and shouted, “Looks like meat’s back on the menu boys!”
Some people think themselves clever for demanding complete explanations before following trustworthy counsel. They accuse followers who do not have a perfect understanding of the big picture of being “blindly obedient” (or some other antonym of clever), but in the end, following a trusted source without knowing all the details is not blind… it is based on trust.
Jesus describes himself as a good shepherd, not for his history of explaining every detail of his plan, but for his willingness to lay down his life for his sheep. He differentiates His sheep by their ability to recognize his voice, and follow him in spite of other voices.
Ultimately, none of us are as clever as we think we are. We would do well to follow the Good Shepherd and his servants who bring us his counsel.
Come Follow Me – For Individuals and Families, April 29-May 5
“Finding Safety in Counsel” -Elder Henry B. Eyring, April 1997