Becoming a Good Shepherd

Principles of Leadership Teachers Manual Religion 180R, (2001), 14–19

“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14–15).

Principle of Leadership

Leaders should demonstrate love and concern for those they lead.

Lesson Concepts

  1. 1.

    Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd.

  2. 2.

    Family and Church leaders should strive to follow the pattern of leadership set by the Lord.

Concept 1. Jesus Christ Is the Good Shepherd.


In the Bible, shepherds are used to represent leaders of God’s people (see Isaiah 63:11; Jeremiah 23:2). Shepherds watch for enemies who might attack the sheep, and they defend them when necessary. They tend to sick or wounded sheep and search for and rescue lost or trapped ones. In Christ’s teachings, shepherds love their sheep and try to earn their trust. The sheep know, love, and trust the shepherd above all others. A good shepherd will even die for his sheep. Christ contrasts the shepherd with the hireling, who deserts the sheep in times of danger because he does not love them (see John 10:11–13; The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles [Religion 211 and 212 student manual, 1979], pp. 108–9).

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. In John 10:14–15, Jesus explains that He and His sheep know each other, just as He and His Father know each other. This kind of relationship develops over time and requires personal experience. (For other references to Christ as a shepherd, see Genesis 49:24; Psalm 23; 80:1; John 10:1–30; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4; Alma 5:37–38, 58–60; Helaman 7:18; 15:13; Mormon 5:17; D&C 50:44.)

Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve commented: “A shepherd watches over sheep. In the scriptural stories the sheep are in danger; they need protection and nourishment. The Savior warns us that we must watch the sheep as He does. He gave His life for them. They are His. We cannot approach His standard if, like a hired servant, we watch only when it is convenient and only for a reward. …

“The members of the Church are the sheep. They are His, and we are called by Him to watch over them. We are to do more than warn them against danger. We are to feed them” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 2001, 49; or Ensign, May 2001, 38).

Teaching Idea

Have several students read to the class the scriptures cited in the second paragraph of the commentary, paying attention to the titles of Jesus Christ in these passages.

Ask questions like the following. Use information in the commentary to help your discussion.

  • Why are shepherds so important?

  • What do shepherds do?

  • How are hirelings different from shepherds?

  • How might sheep react differently under the care of a shepherd than under a hireling?

  • What did Jesus do during His mortal ministry that teaches us what it means to be a shepherd?

Concept 2. Family and Church Leaders Should Strive to Follow the Pattern of Leadership Set By the Lord.


The Lord tells Church and family leaders to be shepherds. President James E. Faust taught: “Tonight I would like to speak to the priesthood of God in their capacity as the Lord’s shepherds. Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated: ‘Anyone serving in any capacity in the Church in which he is responsible for the spiritual or temporal well-being of any of the Lord’s children is a shepherd to those sheep. The Lord holds his shepherds accountable for the safety [meaning the salvation] of his sheep’ [Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (1966), 710]. The bearers of the priesthood have this great responsibility, whether it is father, grandfather, home teacher, elders quorum president, bishop, stake president, or other Church calling” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 62; or Ensign, May 1995, 45–46).

We can only become good shepherds as we grow close to the Lord. Elder Henry B. Eyring explained: “He who sees all things, whose love is endless, and who never sleeps—He watches with us. He knows what the sheep need at every moment. By the power of the Holy Ghost, He can tell us and send us to them. …

“It is love that must motivate the shepherds of Israel. That may seem difficult at the start, because we may not even know the Lord well. But if we begin with even a little grain of faith in Him, our service to the sheep will increase our love for Him and for them. It comes from simple things that every shepherd must do. We pray for the sheep, every one for whom we are responsible. When we ask, ‘Please tell me who needs me,’ answers will come. A face or a name will come into our minds. Or we may have a chance meeting that we feel isn’t chance. In those moments we will feel the love of the Savior for them and for us. As you watch over His sheep, your love for Him will grow. And that will increase your confidence and your courage” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 2001, 51; or Ensign, May 2001, 39–40).

Teaching Idea

Display the pictures at the end of this lesson. Which one did the Savior exemplify? Why?

Read Moroni 7:47 as a class. Discuss charity, and point out that, since charity is the pure love of Christ, when we have charity for others, we love them as He loves us. Discuss why this attitude is important to family and Church leaders.

Discuss why family and Church leaders should be shepherds to those they lead (see the commentary).

Read the statement by Elder Eyring from the commentary. Discuss questions such as:

  • According to Elder Eyring, what can increase our confidence and courage as leaders?

  • How does service relate to love?

  • What conditions in the world call for our leaders to be good shepherds?

  • How can we determine what expressions of love and concern are appropriate in our role as leaders?

Have students read Alma 56:3–11, 17, 43–49, 55–56, and discuss these verses as a class. Ask questions such as:

  • Do you think Helaman was a good shepherd? Why?

  • How did the two thousand young men led by Helaman respond to his leadership?

  • Do you think these two thousand young men would have been less successful under a different style of leadership? Why?

Encourage students to develop Christlike love for everyone so that they will be prepared to be good shepherds when the opportunity comes.

Teacher Resources

James E. Faust