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Del Parsons
Good Shepherd painting by Del Parsons.

Over the years, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been plastered with more labels than a NASCAR jacket.

The latest label I’m seeing is “sheeple.”

Some are viewing Mormons as half-sheep, half-people. Mormons follow the leader. They go with the group. And in today’s world, that means they're mindless.

The truth is, playing “follow the leader” can be good or bad, depending on who's leading.

But more on that in a moment.

Let's start with this:

We live in an era that salutes the individual.

In movie theaters, for example, people can now flavor their drinks to their taste. No two of us ever need to drink the same drink again. What's more, we listen to our own batch of songs. We watch our own brand of news. We customize everything.

And the result is, like the people of Babel, we don't understand each other. We don't speak the same language. We don't get things done. We feel more and more alone.

Imagine if this “cult of the individual” spilled into our traffic laws. What if each of us decided how fast to drive, where to park and when to turn?

It won’t happen, of course, because we can see that the suffering would be very graphic and immediate.

What we can't see is that same suffering may be awaiting our self-absorbed society.

Today the Ten Commandments have become a “self-improvement” course. If we follow them, we'll be better, stronger and wiser. But there was a time the commandments were for the group. Just as no one expects to get a big reward for slowing down in a school zone, people once obeyed the commandments to keep society safe. Not lying, not stealing and honoring your parents kept people out of pile-ups and head-on collisions.

The commandments were “spiritual traffic laws.”

The concern was the safety of the community.

Perhaps the time will come when we will see things that way again.

And if we do, perhaps we'll go looking for a model for community living.

Perhaps we'll stumble across the Mormons.

Perhaps, then, being a “sheep” will not be mockery.

Both the plural and singular for “sheep” is “sheep.” The animals are of one mind and heart. Perhaps the time will come when people realize that thinking less of yourself doesn't make you less; it makes you more.

Like rain drops falling in a lake, maybe we’ll see that sacrificing individuality means becoming immense.

Perhaps the day's coming when we'll know that losing ourselves is how we find ourselves.