Those of us that celebrate Christmas have been accused of focusing more on the material than the spiritual. Images of people trampling others at Black Friday sales come to mind. Fortunately, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we understand that this is a season of giving true gifts rather than material gifts, of focusing on others rather than on ourselves, and of acting as Christ would act as he gave His gifts.
In his most recent book entitled The Gospel At 30,000 Feet, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf speaks of the impact the difference of a few degrees can make. He points out “the difference between happiness and misery … often comes down to an error of only a few degrees.” He illustrates this point with a lesson he taught to young pilots:
“Suppose you were to take off from an airport at the equator, intending to circumnavigate the globe. But your course was off by just one degree. By the time you returned to the same longitude, how far off course would you be? An error of only one degree would put you almost 500 miles off course, or one hour of flight for a jet plane!”
I have found this to be a very profound aspect of life. Elder Uchtdorf explains that “small errors or minor drifts … can bring sorrowful consequences into our lives.” I have also found the opposite to be true: A few degrees of correction or affirmative choice can produce incredible positive results! We have all experienced turning points in our lives that have resulted in fantastic outcomes. Often those turning points are as thin as the tin of a cupboard hinge, but the outcomes are as strong as the steel of an aircraft carrier deck hatch.
What impact on the life of a Priest-aged young man would visiting and performing saving ordinances in all six Arizona Temples in a 24-hour period have? How many more Family Home Evenings would be held by a family who took a few moments to download an app on their mobile device that would guide them in preparing lessons and activities, and what eternal impact would those Family Home Evenings have on the souls of the participants? How much warmth and comfort would be given by the simple decision to help sew quilts for people working on beginning again with the help of a charitable organization?
One of my most favorite cartoon clips is a “Far Side” panel of a herd of sheep, with one member of the herd standing up, exclaiming, “Wait! Wait! We don’t have to be just sheep!” The message I’ve taken from this is that we do not need to expend massive effort to make a huge difference.
(Alma 37:6). This one sheep simply made a decision to stand up and become much more than his counterparts. We can do the same thing. Through simple positive course changes, “A matter of a few degrees…”