Latter-day Saint Life

A new take on the parable of the lost sheep may change how you see yourself in the Church


Oftentimes in our anxiety to live God’s commandments, we focus on everything we should avoid to remain righteous.

But this tendency can become dangerous when we start to look at life like the Pharisees, who fixated so much on staying uncontaminated from the world that they quantified everything, focused on outward obedience, and turned commandments into a measuring stick.

We should never look at the gospel as a series of limitations or rules.

Instead, we should see the gospel how Christ sees it, looking for all the good we can do through it and all the change we can make by it.

Of course we will fail. And often, our falls will be more painful because we’ve been reaching for a greater height. But we were all put here on this earth to be broken at times. Even Jesus Christ was broken. But that’s what made His Atonement and His triumph over death so utterly remarkable.

This reaching for something more reminds me of the parable of the lost sheep, but a version I heard when the parable got entirely flipped on its head.

Think, for one moment, about that one lost sheep and the 99 safe in their pasture.

Now reverse their roles. There are 99 lost sheep oblivious and content in their pasture and only one sheep who went off searching for the shepherd, for something more.

Sure, when the good shepherd finally found that one sheep it was probably cut and frightened and cold. It had fallen into pits, wandered, and forgotten its purpose at times. But again and again, the sheep searched and stretched itself, wanting to follow the shepherd.

But here’s the thing—while all those other sheep were complacently in their fields saying, “Boy, aren’t you glad we’re not lost right now?” the one struggling sheep is the only one to be lifted up on the shepherd’s shoulders.

He’s the only one to be carried home.

He’s the only one to be celebrated over.

So, while the rest of us are in church thinking, “Boy, I’m glad I didn’t mess up that bad,” we miss the whole point. No, we don't need to sin to realize our dependence on our Savior, but one way or another, we need to realize we are all lost. We may see glimpses of the Good Shepherd from time to time in our lives, but we haven’t returned home yet. We’re still on our pathway to being found.

And that means we need to constantly stretch ourselves. We need to search for more we can do and more we can become, without fear of failure. We need Christ’s power, love, and grace at every moment. 

And we need to recognize all of us are lost, just in different ways. Judgment or well-intentioned course corrections by the other sheep won't help the one that is lost. Only the guiding and personal touch of the Shepherd can truly help all who are lost become found. Those who don't recognize they are lost are the most lost of all because they do not learn to rely on Christ. 

So instead of worrying and fixating on all we can’t do or all we have to do in the Church, focus on the good you can create. Focus on finding the Savior, but realize, in the end, we are always the ones to be found. He is the one who lifts us, who makes more of us than we ever could of ourselves, and who carries us home to be once again with our Heavenly Parents.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on in May 2019.

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