Latter-day Saint Video Vault celebrates decades of uplifting, funny, weird, and sometimes cringe-worthy Mormon-related videos, most of which are now found on YouTube. Join Jared Jones every other Friday as he breaks down one of these classics.
As approach Mother’s Day I wanted to recognize how fraught with peril it is to mark this day. Pandemic aside, this is a difficult time for many. Some want to be mothers but are not. Others don’t have the relationship with a mother that they want. Others are mothers but constantly feel inadequate. This is the second Mother’s Day I’ve written this column and for the second time I wasn’t sure what to write.
There are no shortage of modern church films focusing on Mothers. You can see many of them in the Gospel Media Library. These short films all contain excellent production values, strong story-telling and heartwarming portrayals of motherhood. As someone who is not a mother, picking those films apart didn’t seem appropriate or wise, so I looked for something else. Something Mother’s Day Adjacent, if you will.
Enter Feed My Lambs from 1990. This short (about 15 minutes) film has the feel of a training film made for parents and youth leaders. There aren’t any credits or logos and we only see a “Feed My Lambs” title card.
The film tells the story of young siblings caring for lambs on a family ranch over the course of a summer. The sister narrates the tale and we open on the Mom, the narrator and her brother drive down a country lane. Every summer their family would go to work on a ranch. She learned a lot about hard work, life, and death. The refrain that the only 2 things that were important were family and the church was also taught. I would have rather it said the gospel, or building a relationship with the savior, but we will just move on.
As the car arrives at the ranch, the film transitions from sepia tones to full color and the father—who usually went to the ranch first to get things ready—warmly greets the family. He takes the narrator and her brother to the lamb pen and offers a proposal. If they care for the 350 lambs all summer he would split the money with them when the lambs are sold.
The kids thought they would be rich for sure! Their father failed to mention none of the lambs had mothers. A storm came through and the newly shorn mothers died. The kids quickly learn that it’s really hard to feed 350 lambs. They bottle fed them and tried making a type of lamb baby food and coaxing the lambs to eat from a trough. But many of the lambs wouldn’t eat. Pushing them toward the food just caused them to run away and lead away many others. Despite the siblings’ efforts many lambs were starving. In addition to feeding them they had to worry about keeping them safe from coyotes.
The young girl regularly prayed for her lambs but the reality of caring for so many quickly confronted her and her brother. They soon forgot about being rich as every day they found 5, 7 or even 10 lambs that died from starvation or coyote attacks. The narrator made the mistake of naming one lamb who was always underfoot. It came when she called and she loved it. Sadly, one morning she couldn’t find Lamb. That’s what she named it. Lamb. She later finds it dead.
She carries it to her father and with tears in her eyes asks “Isn’t there anyone who can help us feed our lambs?”
She is expecting her father respond with the name of the actual person who can physically help her and her brother feed the lambs.
Her father takes a different approach and begins quoting the New Testament when the Savior asked Peter to “Feed my lambs.” She continues to cry as her father turns it into more of a moment than she wanted. She just wanted some lamb help.
Fast forward to the narrator pondering Moses 1:39 as an adult. She thought of the mission of Jesus Christ and the summer of the lambs. There are so many souls to save. So many lambs in need.
The narrator spends the balance of the film explaining how the lessons of the Summer of the Lambs (not to be confused with other “of the Lamb” themed films) apply to teaching and mentoring the youth of the church. Youth need a safe environment. They need to be nourished but can’t be forced. Like the lambs, some youth are without a mother, but many others have parents who can guide and support. Youth are the mothers and fathers of tomorrow and must be taught to prepare for the sacred temple. That’s a lot to unpack from a sheepfold.
The narrator concludes they were only able to save one third of the flock. What of the Savior’s flock? How many will we save? Feed my lambs, feed my sheep. The film ends as we see the father and daughter walking away from Lamb’s grave.
Reading a description, I had thought this to be a loving example of how someone steps in to be a mother for someone who had none. It ended up being a choppy parable on leading and mentoring youth. A true parable allows people to draw learning based upon their own understanding. At the end the narrator simply tells everyone what they were supposed to learn. Like any parable or symbol the less meaningful the comparison the longer you string it out. The lessons are good. It reminds us how the work is important, but I was just left with a feeling of “Okay, I guess so.”
So sorry, TWiM Nation. I feel I’ve failed you again to provide a meaningful Mother’s Day review. Hopefully you can draw your own lessons from Feed My Lambs. If you want uplifting mother-focused messages I encourage you to read or watch Sheri Dew’s “Are We Not All Mothers?”, and Jeffrey R. Holland’s “Because She Is a Mother.” These two talks always make me feel grateful for my mother and for people who helped to fill that role.