Reader Voices: Scriptures and sheep

By Virginia A. Terribilini

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, June 24 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Sometimes life's experiences can help us understand the scriptures better, and sometimes the scriptures can help us understand life better. The following are some of both that have helped my knowledge and understanding to grow. The scriptures will present a happening in the life of Jesus Christ. Then my story will present a happening with our sheep that helped me understand the scriptures better.

The birth of Jesus Christ is the greatest birth story of our world. It has many interesting facets. These scriptures tell of the birth of a very special lamb called the Lamb of God.

Matthew 1:16, 18, 25: "And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. … Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. … And (Joseph) knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son, and he called his name JESUS."

1 Nephi 13:40: "... and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away ... and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world."

One morning we received word that one of our ewes (mother sheep) was down.

It had been raining, so we put on proper clothing, including gloves, and took some towels and went to see what had happened. We found a newborn lamb standing in a puddle of water and baaing sadly. I picked it up and wrapped it in a towel and gave it to Joe to warm. Then I proceeded to help the mother, who was down on her side with a second lamb on its way. After helping the second lamb, I wrapped it in a towel to warm it. Then we proceeded to get the mother on her feet.

After she could move around, we put the lambs close to her. Then we witnessed the very interesting ceremony that made the lambs hers. By wearing gloves, none of our smell got on the lambs, so she accepted them as hers. She began to lick them and talk to them in her mother sheep voice. They learned her voice and her smell. It was our privilege to be part of these special bonding moments, and it was beautiful to behold. When a ewe is getting close to having her lamb, she will choose a place away from other sheep so that there is no interference from other sheep for this identifying process.

Mary's baby was born away from others, among the animals and placed in a manger rather than among the crowds of people in the inns.

John 10:14, 27: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. … My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."

When one sees a large flock of sheep together, one might wonder how a lamb knows its mother and a mother knows her lamb. The identifying smell and voice right after birth is the secret. If a lamb comes to a ewe to nurse, she will turn her head to smell if it is hers before she lets it proceed.

Isaiah 53:7: (also Mosiah 14:7) "... and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."

I have observed sheep at shearing time, and sheep are like this scripture. Sheep are very quiet and can be twisted and turned whatever way is necessary for shearing the wool off. This is a traumatic time for the lambs for when the mother's wool is gone so is her smell. The lambs will cry and run around until its mother lets the lamb know who she is again.

John 10:27: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."

Alma 5:38: "Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd."

John 10:14: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine."

Alma 5:57: "And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, come …"

Sometimes I would move the sheep from one pasture to another for more abundant feed. They knew my voice and would follow me. When lambs were new, they were sometimes inclined to not understand what to do and go the wrong way and get left behind because they did not listen to the right voice or were so busy baaing that they did not hear the right voice. It took some effort to get a wayward lamb into the right place.

Mosiah 26:21: "And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep ..."

One night I was awakened by the sheep. A ewe was baaing and her lamb would answer. I wondered why they did not get together. As I listened, I realized they were not close together. So I got up and put on jacket and boots and with a flashlight went in their direction. As I got closer, I realized what had happened. A hole had been dug to try to find the leak in a pond. A big board had been put over the hole, but the lamb was small enough to slip by the side of the board into the hole. I lifted the board off and picked up the lamb and put it on firm ground. It went baaing to its mother.

The scriptures have helped me understand sheep and sheep have helped me understand the scriptures.

Virginia A. Terribilini lives in Penngrove, Calif.

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