In the New Testament, the Savior asks a question that David Butler says seems “ridiculous” on the first read. Jesus asks, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” (Luke 15:4). It wasn’t until Butler found himself separated from his son at Disneyland that he began to understand what the Savior meant.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
MJ: I have another question that relates to names of Christ. And this one comes from my little brother Benson. He said, "In your life, have there been certain experiences that have caused you to have the bells ring, and you have understood a name of Christ you may not have understood completely before that point?" And I love that he said it that way.
DB: So good. That's the raddest question.
MJ: So is there a name of Christ that maybe there was some point in your life where it was like, “Oh, that's what it means by that?”
DB: You know, when I read scripture, I said this in the beginning already, I see it happening. The people who edit my books at Deseret Book always have to fix my tense. They're like, “This happened in the past, and you write about it as if it's happening in the present.”
MJ: You're like, “It is happening in my mind.”
DB: Yeah and I see . . . I don't think Jesus healed a leper. Like, I see a name and I see a face of someone that I know, or even myself in this story, and that's where it really comes alive for me. And one of the names I do love so much is “The Shepherd” actually. Because, do you remember that talk from Elder Renlund, when he says [Jesus] never recoils at His dirty broken sheep? And we think that He would, or that He should. He even gives that ridiculous question in Luke 15, the best chapter in all of scripture, when He says, “What shepherd wouldn't leave 99 sheep and go after one that was lost?” like that's normal. And you're like, "Me, I wouldn't.” He says it like, “Duh, who wouldn't go out?” And I read it and I'm like, “Well, I wouldn't. Like, it's cold and dark. And it's one!” If you have 99 . . . if I get a 99 on a test, I am not going to fight for the last point. I'm so happy about the 99. If the government wanted to take one percent taxes from me, I would not fight over it. I would let them have it. Like, this is fine and good. I would be happy with 82 you know, 82 of the sheep would be, like, just perfect for me. So He says, “What shepherd wouldn't go out?” And because I'm not a shepherd, I read it, I'm like, “Me, duh.” Until you know, like, the character and the nature of shepherds and the way that they adore their sheep and that they know them by name and that they know their personalities and they are committed to them. The parable says “And wouldn't search until it is found,” not until they got tired or until it was boring or whatever, but until they actually found them. And I've had a lot of experiences as a dad like that, that have taught me about that kind of shepherd. Like, I remember Jack getting lost one time and trying to find him. I can't remember if I wrote this in the book or not? In Disneyland?
MJ: Oh, you did!
DB: Okay, I'm trying and, like, frantically trying to find him, and start yelling in public places, like, “Do I call the police?” You know, trying to find him. And never once as I tried to find him did I think, “Oh, but I have 99 others, like, I'm fine. In fact, I'll be richer, have more time and all these benefits in my life if I don't find this one.” Never did that thought come into my mind because he's mine and I know him.
So I've had a lot of experiences like that. But more recently was another one actually, as a bishop, when I sat in the office with somebody that I love very dearly, and he was just talking about some of the struggles and mistakes that he made and everything. And I felt, like, in that moment, God gave me a piece of His heart to see him the way that He sees him. And I was like, “I feel like you're the boy in the prodigal son parable is what I feel like. Like, I see you, you know, as a grown man, but I see you the way a shepherd sees those sheep. It was so neat to have that experience and to see him maybe in just a fraction of the way that God sees him. But I was like, “Oh, this is how He cares for [us], this is what an advocate looks like.” You know, because I had zero disgust and zero feelings of recoiling, or zero feelings of hopelessness about it. And he felt all those things. He felt gross. He felt like running. And he felt like, “No one would take my case.” And I didn't feel any of those. Like, “All I feel is a surge of hope and to fight on your side. And it would be weird for me to, like, just bring you in like a little sheep, but I want to.” So, it's in moments like that where those names really do come alive, you know?