21 And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd….
24 But behold, ye have both heard my voice, and seen me; and ye are my sheep, and ye are numbered among those whom the Father hath given me.
(3 Nephi 15:21, 24)
During His mortal ministry, the Savior used an analogy of a shepherd to teach several related principles to his disciples. He referred to Himself as “the good shepherd,” who was willing to give his life for the sheep. He warned them about false teachers–“strangers” or “hirelings”–who did not have the same loyalty to them. Then He made it clear that there were other people whom He also considered His sheep: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
Who were these other sheep? In the passage above, He tells the Nephites and the Lamanites–some of the inhabitants of the American continent–that they are those sheep. He also tells them in the same chapter that there are other groups of people elsewhere in the world whom He will also visit (3 Nephi 15:20. See also 3 Nephi 16:1-3, 3 Nephi 17:4.)
Heavenly Father knows His children. They live in diverse cultures, have different backgrounds, speak different languages, and have different customs, but He knows and loves them all. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught:
While the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold—that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different from his brother, every son different from his father. Even identical twins are not identical in their personalities and spiritual identities.
It also contradicts the intent and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ, which acknowledges and protects the moral agency—with all its far-reaching consequences—of each and every one of God’s children. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.
The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples.
(“Four Titles,” General Conference, April 2013)
Today, as I interact with other people, I will be grateful for our diversity. I will remember that our Heavenly Father loves all of His children, and that the differences between us can make us stronger if we can learn to love one another as He loves us. I will be grateful for the Good Shepherd, who was willing to give His life for all of His sheep and will remember that cultural differences need not divide us from one another.