“And [they] that will hear my voice shall be my sheep;”
Last spring, I went on a study abroad in Spain. One of my favorite places that we visited was San Sebastian, a coastal city found in Basque Country. The cathedral there was called the Catedral del Buen Pastor, or the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. Instead of having the crucified cross above the altar, this cathedral had a statue of Christ with a sheep (see picture above). This was such a refreshing change to the many crucifixes that we saw in the past and would continue to see. Christ not only died for us, but He also lives to lead and guide us.
The title of Good Shepherd gives such a good example of the character of Christ. As shepherd, He leads His flock to the best places for them. He provides everything that His sheep might need (see Psalm 23:1-3). And when one is lost, He goes to find it and rejoices when He has (see Luke 15:4-7).
Two important things stand out in the Book of Mormon when talking about Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd: (1) the importance of hearing His voice and (2) the numbering of His sheep.
First, the Good Shepherd calls to us in His own voice. Alma tells us that He calls us by His name (Alma 5:38). This makes sense because when we’re baptized and when we partake of the sacrament, we promise take His name upon us. If we are the sheep of the Good Shepherd, then we will hearken to His voice. Why? Because we know who the Good Shepherd is and what He has done for us. We also know how He speaks to us through the Holy Ghost. And even if we cannot understand everything at this moment, we can at least recognize the voice well enough to know what is right and what is wrong.
Second, the Good Shepherd numbers His sheep (1 Nephi 22:25). He knows exactly who we are and where we are. Sometimes, we get so hung up on not focusing too much on the numbers because we do not want to “forget” the people who the numbers represent. I am fairly certain that Christ does not forget the people He numbers, but I am also certain that He is ok with reporting 100% home teaching or the one baptism that a missionary had that week. Because He loves us, we do not feel like we are just numbers in the numberless sea of God’s children. Perhaps, if we continue to develop and express Christlike love, then those who we serve will not feel like a number but will feel like a fellow sheep in the fold of God.