The Few Degrees Between Happiness And Misery


I don’t know if I am the only one who has ever thought this while driving the car down a single lane highway, but I suspect that many of us have at one time or another come to the realization that a quick turn of the wheel by me, or the other driver would result in a head-on collision that would vastly alter my life as I now know it. It seems so strange that a small turn of a wheel could have such a great impact on one’s life. Such a simple thing, and yet one that would alter the course of our life’s history.  A few years ago Dieter Uchtdorf spoke of this in an address entitled “A Matter of a Few Degrees.”  In it he told this story:

“In 1979 a large passenger jet with 257 people on board left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back. Unknown to the pilots, however, someone had modified the flight coordinates by a mere two degrees. This error placed the aircraft 28 miles (45 km) to the east of where the pilots assumed they were. As they approached Antarctica, the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better look at the landscape. Although both were experienced pilots, neither had made this particular flight before, and they had no way of knowing that the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus, an active volcano that rises from the frozen landscape to a height of more than 12,000 feet (3,700 m).

As the pilots flew onward, the white of the snow and ice covering the volcano blended with the white of the clouds above, making it appear as though they were flying over flat ground. By the time the instruments sounded the warning that the ground was rising fast toward them, it was too late. The airplane crashed into the side of the volcano, killing everyone on board.It was a terrible tragedy brought on by a minor error—a matter of only a few degrees.

Through years of serving the Lord and in countless interviews, I have learned that the difference between happiness and misery in individuals, in marriages, and families often comes down to an error of only a few degrees.”

He went on to say:

“Small errors and minor drifts away from the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring sorrowful consequences into our lives. It is therefore of critical importance that we become self-disciplined enough to make early and decisive corrections to get back on the right track and not wait or hope that errors will somehow correct themselves. The longer we delay corrective action, the larger the needed changes become, and the longer it takes to get back on the correct course—even to the point where a disaster might be looming.”(GC, 2008, April)

The long and winding road of life will require a few band aids here and there but these type of spiritual wounds are small and heal quickly. If there are small things in which we are drifting, let us correct them before they become major stumbling blocks in our road back to Heavenly Father. Through her experience as a nurse, my wife can attest to the fact that minor lesions left untreated soon turn to gaping wounds which can lead to amputation or death. Let us avoid such tragedy by being ‘exact’ in our obedience to the commandments of the Lord, lest by deviating in small ways, we end up causing large unwanted consequences in our lives.

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