While Christ was visiting the Nephites and Lamanites, He told them they were the other sheep He mentioned to His disciples in Jerusalem. Those who were with Christ during His mortal ministry falsely assumed the other sheep to be the Gentiles.
Christ went on to explain there were yet other sheep He needed to visit and defined these as the remnants of the lost ten tribes. For, just like the Nephites and Lamanites, they too needed to hear the gospel preached in its purity.
But I am forced to wonder if there is any meaning to the term “other sheep” in our day. Clearly, the sheep Christ referred to were restricted to the House of Israel. But since Christ’s ascension we have been challenged to preach the gospel to all the world.
It makes sense that Christ’s personal ministry was to be restricted to the House of Israel, but I am convinced our definition of other sheep to bring to the fold of Christ must be more broad.
One obvious definition of other sheep is embedded in our responsibility to spread the gospel. We have been charged to preach unto all the world and baptize those who are willing to commit to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Our missionaries are on the front line of this gathering.
Beyond missionary work, I would expand the term other sheep to include those who have strayed from the gospel path. They, who were once of the fold of Christ, are still loved by Him as much as those who enjoy the full blessings of the gospel. So I feel the dissatisfied, discouraged, offended, and those angry at the Church or its leaders also qualify as other sheep.
What about those who attend with us each week yet feel shunted to the periphery. They feel ignored, rejected, and alone. I feel these who suffer silently, also fit under the term of other sheep. True, they may be in the fold, but they do not feel a part of the group. I am sure Christ wants each of us to reach out so they can be loved and contribute.
Finally, what about those who are so very different than we are. Whether that difference is skin color, political opinions, social status, gender issues, or any other attribute that challenges us, can they also be including in the term other sheep? Didn’t Christ spend time among those considered outside the norm when He walked the earth. Wasn’t he criticized by the religions leaders for being among the publicans, Samaritans, the poor, and the lepers.
I think we miss the mark when we simply equate the other sheep as possible missionary opportunities. I don’t think most of the world will be converted before Christ returns. So maybe our call to go out among the modern-day other sheep is really an invitation to us all to be compassionate and loving towards all. Even those whose lifestyles and choices make us uncomfortable.