“The more we treasure the words of the prophets and apply them, the better we will recognize when we are drifting off course—even if only by a matter of a few degrees.”
“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”*
(*This story and all following quotes are from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2008, “A Matter of a Few Degrees”)
Last week, as I continued on my journey of living as the Good Samaritan, I stumbled across the importance of awareness. Too often, as we journey, we drift a few degrees off course without even realizing it.
I stood in the hallway listening as a few women were chatting about this and that. One of the women is a leader in our youth organization. She shared about the stress of running upcoming activities. Another woman asked about the role of one of her advisers. The leader paused and with a weighty tone in her voice, significantly lowered her voice and said, “Well, she does TRY, but I really can’t count on her, you know?” Everyone glanced knowingly at another and nodded in agreement.
I was furious.
What is my religion about exactly? Gossip or love? Acceptance or dominance due to a role of leadership?
Because the one woman is in a temporary leadership position, she has the right to cast aspersions on another?
Here’s what they didn’t take the time to think about. The woman they were so easily dismissing and gossiping about? She’s a convert to the church, willingly changing everything about her life. Still so insecure in her role in the youth program that it causes anxiety. Often she doesn’t come to the activities because she is scared to death she’ll make a mistake. I don’t blame her.
What if she does make a mistake as she learns? She’s already being gossiped about instead of encouraged. She’s already being treated as a lesser follower of Christ’s gospel, even when she is giving her absolute best. She knows that this leader looks down on her and doesn’t see her as an equal part of the team.
This is wrong. This is not you-killed-someone-now-you-need-to-repent wrong, but it is still wrong by a degree or two.
“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.”*
This week, we threw together a last-minute dinner for friends that came in town. We haven’t seen them in years! Once dinner was eaten, we sat enjoying the sounds of our children screaming with joy and laughter as they played. Our friends shared that they recently sold their home and are relocating because of the pain of gossip in their congregation.
Young men ostracizing and mocking their son’s slight Asperger’s Syndrome.
Women’s gossip about my friend’s parenting of her 5 children. To the point that these women felt comfortable enough in their self-righteousness to confront my friend about her short-comings … my friend had just given birth to twins and her mother-in-law was dying of cancer. She felt overwhelmed.
My friend was asked to lead the teen girls in the congregation. Every decision she made was undermined by the women she had been asked to lead. Did they want to print lettering across the backside of the girl’s clothing? My friend felt strongly against this, yet these women did it anyway. Did they want to spend the entire budget on an expensive activity? My friend felt the youth needed to serve the less fortunate and the monies could be better spent elsewhere. The women coordinated the activity through texts and phone calls behind my friend’s back.
When the leadership of the congregation was brought into the fray, she was told to “Learn to work together. Your counselor is my wife and she has a lot of experience you could learn from.”
The breaking point came when their son returned from a scouting activity with the other youth in this congregation and, in tears, told his parents he never wanted to go back because of the teasing he had experienced.
They are moving away from these individuals. Selling their home and relocating a family of 7, all because of unkindness and self-righteousness.
What kind of Christians behave in this way? As followers of our Savior, we have a responsibility to rise above such behavior, to seek a better way. We are COMMANDED to love one another and to serve as He did.
These small acts of unkindness have led to a larger consequences than were intended. I am sure that the involved individuals didn’t set out to hurt someone to the point that they would relocate their entire family rather than interact with such unkind individuals.
We need to listen to the better side of ourselves when we find ourselves around someone who, for their own purposes/insecurities, attempts to belittle another person. We need to rise above such behavior and behave as a follower of Christ should behave—with love.
We need to stop even thoughts of unkindness towards others and focus on love and service. What a mighty people we could be. The Lord cannot be pleased with such self-serving behavior and He asks us to be better.
If you find yourself, a degree or two off course, now is the time to change. Be the person who speaks up on another’s behalf. Be the person who reaches out to those standing on the sidelines. Learn about their journey. The most humble, quiet individuals often hold inspirational stories of overcoming adversity.
“Our Heavenly Father knew before we came to this mortal existence that negative forces would tempt us to drift from our course, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” That is why He prepared a way for us to make corrections. Through the merciful process of true repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our sins can be forgiven and we will “not perish, but have everlasting life.
Remember: the heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways to get back in the light of gospel truth.”*
This world celebrates and rewards behavior that is unacceptable to our Lord. We have to learn to distinguish between what He wants and what is easy. Then we choose for ourselves which road to take. For myself, I am re-committed to watching my thoughts, my words, and my actions that they might be pleasing to the Lord.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.