I once heard President Hugh B. Brown relate this inspiring story: Some time ago a great actor in the city of New York gave a wonderful performance in a large theater, at the close of which there were rounds of applause. He was called back again and again. Finally someone called to him, “Would you read for us the twenty-third Psalm?”
“Why, yes,” he replied. “I know the words of the twenty-third Psalm.”
He recited it as an actor would, perfectly, with nothing left to be desired as far as a performance was concerned. When he was finished, again there was thunderous applause. Then the actor came to the front of the stage and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, there is an elderly man sitting on the front row with whom I am acquainted. I am going to ask him, without notice, to come to the stage and really read the twenty-third Psalm.”
The elderly gentleman, of course, was frightened. Trembling, he came to the stage. Fearfully he looked out over the vast audience. Then, as though he were at home in prayer, he closed his eyes, bowed his head, and talked to God:
“The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want. …”
When the old man finished, there was no applause, but there was not a dry eye in the theater. The actor came to the front of the stage and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I know the words of the twenty-third Psalm, but this man knows the Shepherd” (adapted from Hugh B. Brown, Continuing the Quest, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1961, pages 335–36).
President Benson has given us a key so that we might become as one who knows the Shepherd. He has told us: “To learn of Christ necessitates the study of the scriptures and the [study of the] testimonies of those who know him. We come to know him through prayer and the inspiration and revelation that God has promised to those who keep his commandments” (God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974, page 156).
There is a silver-haired Argentine sister who knows the Shepherd. She has given a long life of service to the Lord, his Church, and her fellowman.
The first time Sister Herta Mellor attended a Latter-day Saint church service, she was brought by the missionaries. They felt that she was the most sophisticated, cultured, and best-educated investigator they had ever met. They held a few meetings in her lovely home, and when they invited her to accompany them to a Sunday church meeting, she readily agreed. The service was being held in an old building. The members attending were of somewhat humble circumstances compared with the new investigator.
The service did not go well by the standards of the two missionaries hoping to impress their guest. The branch leaders had just been recently called, and they were still learning their duties. There was some confusion at the pulpit. There was an interruption at the sacrament table at the most sacred moment. The sermons seemed to be less interesting than those desired by the eager missionaries. The reverence was threatened from time to time by children moving or crying. There was no organ to provide deep, religious sounds. The missionaries agonizingly thought of the negative impressions their elegant investigator must be receiving. They knew she normally worshiped in a very fashionable cathedral where everything would have been highly professional and the congregation would have been of the highest level of local society.
On the way home, one of the missionaries began to reflect his embarrassment. He explained: “Please excuse our present building. Some day we will build a lovely new chapel.” Then he added: “Please excuse our new leaders. We have a lay priesthood, so we take turns conducting, and the new leaders are still learning how to conduct services.” He was just about to give another excuse when Sister Mellor turned to him and said somewhat sternly: “Elder, don’t you apologize! It must have been like this at the time of Christ!”
With her spiritual eyes and her knowledge of the Shepherd, acquired through studying the holy scriptures, she saw through centuries of tradition. She saw past cathedrals and organs. She saw back through the corridors of time to the Shepherd meeting with his humble fishermen-Apostles, with some sinners, and even with leper outcasts. She saw the early Saints meeting in a small, rented, upstairs room. She saw children, with the Savior smiling at them lovingly. Because she knew the Shepherd, she could say with profound and deep insight, “It must have been like this at the time of Christ.”
She exemplifies to me the admonition which many have followed: “Fill your mind with thoughts of Christ, your heart with love of Christ, and your life with service to Christ.”
There is one man above all other men who I feel truly knew the Shepherd. He was the first living prophet on the earth after many centuries. He wrote an account of the first time he saw the Savior in vision: “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. … When the light rested upon me, I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:16–17).
Subsequently, the Prophet had other mighty visions of the Master, the resurrected Redeemer. He describes one such manifestation as follows:
“The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.
“We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.
“His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, … saying:
“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:1–4). The Prophet who wrote that description knew the Shepherd.
The Prophet Joseph Smith met a martyr’s death. He died for his testimony, sealing his witness with his blood. We honor Joseph Smith as a prophet who knew the Shepherd intimately.
We should each ask, “Am I loving enough, am I studying enough, am I serving enough to know the Shepherd?” May we all come to know the Savior through obeying his commandments, so that when we meet him face to face, we each can say, “I know thee; thou art my Shepherd.”