Feed His Sheep by Gil Bradshaw
Updated: Aug 27, 2022
We moved in about a month ago from Costa Mesa. We live in a neighborhood called “Merideth Gardens” which is along the Santa Ana river trail. See, we lived in Costa Mesa along the river trail. I
ride a couple thousand miles a year. And my wife runs a lot. We would
always see that neighborhood from the river trail and my wife and I kept exploring the area and really fell in love with it.
The biggest obstacle to moving to that neighborhood was that I was in the bishopric, and a substitute seminary teacher, and the unofficial head of the activities committee, and Marin was in the relief society presidency, primary pianist, and the ward organist. They have hardly noticed our absence. Just kidding… In fact, I haven’t had the nerve to tell them we moved so after this I still need to go to bishopric meeting this morning…. ZING!
Let me introduce my family: Marin was the beautiful woman I sang with last week. We have Cici, age 11, Charles, age 16, and we’ve adopted a 25 year-old Samoan named Donavan Leuta, who I had the pleasure of baptizing. He’s family. Because he’s family it’s a little weird that he started dating our nanny, but that’s a different talk for a different meeting.
The reason we moved was because ever since our kids started growing up, our house in Costa Mesa felt really small. Then they announced the Yorba Linda temple. That scared me to death. Why? Because we don’t need a Yorba Linda temple! The only explanation is that the second coming is right around the corner and the only thing I could think about was the whole family being twinkled and stuck in the tiny house for the entire millennium.
So, we moved forward and made the offer on the HB house. Because we felt so guilty about moving, before we made the final counteroffer on the house, we decided to come to church in this ward. Making it to Sunday morning church was extremely difficult because of bishopric and ward council but since the roads were totally closed on the
OC marathon day meetings were canceled. That was my chance. But because of the traffic I came late. And I also had to leave early. It happened to be Mother’s Day. I kept praying / repenting that we were leaving the other ward in a bad spot. I asked Heavenly Father to give me a sign that it was OK to move to this ward.
There was only two young women in our Costa Mesa ward. When we came on Mother’s Day the young women sang a musical number to their mother’s and there must have been 15 young women. I thought that was my sign. It was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe the strength of this ward. Then after Sacrament meeting, there was a brother who was walking their little toddler around. I was looking in the windows of the young men to see if they had some numbers in young men, but I really had to go and I had a
million questions so I cornered the brother (Judd Cahoon) in the hallway with his kid and started asking questions about the ward like, “was that musical number by the young women just your ward or was it a stake musical number?” Then I told him we made an offer on a house nearby and he was like “which house?” I told him and he said, “I know that house! In fact, some of my best friends are the sellers.” He put in a good word,
and they picked us, and everything went perfectly. I had my sign. I couldn’t believe that the one person I met in the ward knew the person who lived there. I’m so glad he has a hyperactive toddler and was forced to wander the hallway during sacrament meeting.
Since then, I’ve met a bunch of people and this ward is awesome. I have to say, the favorite person I’ve met in this ward is the teacher Lafe Fisher. He’s so funny and I hope the rest of you are just as cool as he is.
I was asked to speak on …. Let me look at the text message from Colton Porter. “Brother Bradshaw, if you could go ahead and address the elephant in the room and explain to the curious minds of the ward how you married such a smoking hot woman. That’s really what we of the bishopric want to know. And if you have any time leftover, I suppose you could talk about sharing the gospel.” Let’s just say that the best thing I could say is that I married her because I was a modern-day “Ammon” on my mission. Lafe, did you hear me? You should be taking notes right now. Make every single day count on your mission and you too will marry beyond your means.
The perfect talk about bringing souls to Christ that I know is from a random sister’s sacrament meeting talk in the 1980s. I’ve tried to tell the story in preparing for this talk but she tells it better than I can. It's called, "The Summer of the Lambs" by Jayne B. Malan. "The day school was out at the beginning of each summer, our family went
to our ranch in Wyoming. One year my father was waiting for us as we arrived. He said he had a big job for my brother Clay and me to do that summer. I was about twelve at
the time, and my brother was two years older. Pointing to the field by the side of the house, my father said, 'Do you see all of these lambs in that field? I’ll share the money we get for the ones you raise when we sell them in the fall.' Well, we were excited. Not only did we have a significant job to do, but we were going to be rich! There were a lot of lambs in that field—about 350 of them. And all we had to do was feed them. However, there was one thing that my father hadn’t mentioned. None of the lambs had mothers."
"Just after shearing, there was a violent storm that chilled the newly shorn sheep. Dad lost a thousand ewes that year. The mothers of our lambs were among them. To feed one or two baby animals is one thing, but to feed 350 is something else! It was hard. There was plenty of grass, but the lambs couldn’t eat the grass. They didn’t have teeth. They needed milk. So we made some long, V-shaped feeding troughs out of some boards. Then we got a great big tin washtub, ground up some grain, and added milk to make a thin mash. While my brother poured the mash into the troughs, I rounded up the lambs, herded them to the troughs, and said, 'Eat!' Well, they just stood there looking at me. Although they were hungry and there was food in front of them, they still wouldn’t eat. No one had taught them to drink milk out of a trough. So I tried pushing them toward the troughs. Do you know what happens when you try to push sheep? They run the other way. And when you lose one, you could lose them all because others will follow. That’s the way with sheep."
"We tried lining up the lambs along the troughs and pushing their noses down in the milk, hoping they’d get a taste and want some more. We tried wiggling our fingers in the milk to get them to suck on our fingers. Some of them would drink, but most of them ran away. Many of the lambs were slowly starving to death. The only way we could be
sure they were being fed was to pick them up in our arms, two at a time, and feed them like babies. And then there were the coyotes. At night, the coyotes would sit up on the
hill, and they’d howl. The next morning, we would see the results of their night’s work, and we would have two or three more lambs to bury. The coyotes would sneak up on the lambs, scatter the herd, and then pick out the ones they wanted and go after them. The first were those that were weak or separated from the flock. Often in the night when the coyotes came and the lambs were restless, my dad would take out his rifle and shoot in the air to scare them away. We felt secure when my dad was home because we knew our lambs were safe when he was there to watch over them."
"Clay and I soon forgot about being rich. All we wanted to do was save our lambs. The hardest part was seeing them die. Every morning we would find five, seven, ten lambs that had died during the night. Some the coyotes got, and others starved to death surrounded by food they couldn’t or wouldn’t eat. Part of our job was to gather up the dead lambs and help dispose of them. I got used to that, and it really wasn’t so bad until I named one of the lambs. It was an awkward little thing with a black spot on its nose. It was always under my feet, and it knew my voice. I loved my lamb. It was one I held in
my arms and fed with a bottle like a baby. One morning my lamb didn’t come when I called. I found it later that day under the willows by the creek. It was dead. With tears streaming down my face, I picked up my lamb and went to find my father. Looking up at him, I said, 'Dad, isn’t there someone who can help us feed our lambs?' After a long moment he said,' 'Jayne, once a long, long time ago, someone else said almost those same words.' He said, ‘Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep. … Feed my sheep.' (John 21:15–17.) Dad put his arms around me and let me cry for a time, then went with me to bury my lamb."
"It wasn’t until many years later that I fully realized the meaning of my father’s words. I was pondering the scripture in Moses that says, 'For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of [all mankind].' (Moses 1:39) As I thought about the mission of the Savior, I remembered the summer of the lambs, and, for a few brief moments, I thought I could sense how the Savior must feel with so many
lambs to feed, so many souls to save. And I knew in my heart that He needed my help.
It would have been far easier to save our lambs if the mothers had been there to feed them. Of our little flock, we saved only one-third. And what of the Savior’s flock? He has said, 'Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep.'"
When Donavan was learning about the gospel, he was like a lamb. And we had to sometimes pick him up and feed him. He was hungry for the gospel but didn’t always know how to nourish himself. Also, there were and still are coyotes. We know that they need someone to love them, someone to listen and understand. Within the gospel, we have what our neighbors and friends need, but they need to reach out and accept it. We can’t push them into the Chapel—believe me, it doesn’t work. That is why the very best thing we can do is the simple act of making friends with them without any expectation of anything in return. We need to love people. We need to develop ourselves into the kind of people who emanate love and make people want to be around us. That means winning friends and influencing people.
We aren’t asked to flaunt our peculiarity and act self-righteously. We are supposed to love everyone. Even our neighbors who are of a different political party. All you need to do is be a friend to people. Reach out with loving arms and understanding hearts to everyone—not just to those people who we think we can share the gospel with. You’ve got to practice being a friend all the time to everyone. And choose carefully the paths you walk, for others will follow. That’s the way with sheep. God needs our help. With more people to help, more lambs will be saved. A simple fact, but true. Of this I can bear testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.