There are a lot of different voices we have the option of listening to. Some are loud, others soft. There are words of truth, or “alternate facts.” There is no shortage of choices for us when it comes to deciding which of all the many voices we will listen to.
Jesus Christ is often referred to a shepherd, and those who follow Him are His flock. This isn’t meant as a derogatory term; on the contrary, sheep are highly intelligent animals.
They are also very choosy about who they listen to. Just in case you’ve never seen it in action, here’s a video of a flock of sheep. There are several different people who try to call the sheep to them, using the same words the shepherd uses. But it’s not the words they use that matter – the sheep are deaf to anyone else but their shepherd. They know the tone of his voice and the inflection of his words. They run to him because they trust him. Those other voices – sure, they’re the same words, but the sheep don’t have any experience of trust with those people. They go to who they trust.
“I have seen lambs lost in a moving herd of sheep. A great chorus of voices rises from the herd, but each lamb listens for the one voice that can guide it. The Savior used this ageless example in the allegory of the Good Shepherd. ‘The sheep hear his voice: … and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, … for they know not the voice of strangers.’ (John 10:3–5.) (Dallin H. Oaks, “Alternate Voices,” April 1989.)
Voice of the Shepherd
In Alma 5, Alma Jr. asks a series of introspective questions to church members. In it he asks whose voice they are listening to, and says that if they do not hear and/or recognize Jesus’ voice when He calls, then they are not listening to the correct voice. “And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold…” (Alma 5:39.)
Notice that Alma doesn’t say anything about the words that are used. And I don’t know about you, but I know whose side I want to be on. Just as in the video example, it’s the person doing the calling that matters, not the words. Satan is a master imitator, which is why it is imperative for us to distinguish the voice of the Savior, not just recognize the message.
Recognizing the Correct Voice
One major difference between the voice of Satan and that of Jesus is the tone. Jesus offers nothing less than comfort, rest, and promises of eternal life. Satan is absolutely unable to promise those things. The only thing following him gets you is a promise of eventually and ultimately being let down and disappointed. And he does it all by wrapping a cord around the neck of those who follow them, as though they were slaves to him. “…for he is the founder …of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.” (2 Nephi 26:22.)
Jesus’ tone, on the other hand, is gentle and encouraging. “The Savior’s compassion, love, and mercy draw us toward Him.” (Dale G. Renlund, “Our Good Shepherd,” April 2017 General Conference.)
And in perhaps the most famous Psalm of all (23) there is a list of some of the things Jesus can do for us when we choose to listen to His voice.
- Those who follow Him shall want for nothing.
- He leads us to restful places (green pastures).
- He restores the soul…
- Because He knows the path of righteousness in and through His name.
- We receive protection from evil, even in the most trying and difficult of times (valleys and shadows of death).
- He provides us with comfort through His word (rod and staff).
- He blesses us to capacity and then some.
- We receive blessings of goodness and mercy, which lead to eternal life.
Ears to Hear
There is great comfort in knowing we have access to a Shepherd, The Shepherd, who can see dangers we cannot, and knows how to protect us from those dangers. “In many places in the scriptures, the Lord has described Himself… as (a) shepherd. A shepherd watches over sheep. In the scriptural stories, the sheep are in danger; they need protection and nourishment. He gave His life for them. They are His.” (Henry B. Eyring, “Watch With Me,” April 2001 General Conference.)