There's a very simple principle I am going to describe using three examples:
1. Planes. Our favorite pilot, then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, said in his talk, "A Matter of a Few Degrees":
"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? A few miles? A hundred miles? The answer might surprise you. An error of only one degree would put you almost 500 miles (800 km) off course, or one hour of flight for a jet."
(Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "A Matter of a Few Degrees," April 2008 General Conference.)
2. Trains. Now I turn to President Gordon B. Hinckley, who gave a talk called "Watch the Switches in Your Life" in 1972:
"Many years ago I worked in the head office of one of our railroads. One day I received a telephone call from my counterpart in Newark, New Jersey, who said that a passenger train had arrived without its baggage car. The patrons were angry.
"We discovered that the train had been properly made up in Oakland, California, and properly delivered to St. Louis, from which station it was to be carried to its destination on the east coast. But in the St. Louis yards, a thoughtless switchman had moved a piece of steel just three inches.
"That piece of steel was a switch point, and the car that should have been in Newark, New Jersey, was in New Orleans, Louisiana, thirteen hundred miles away."
(Gordon B. Hinckley, "Watch the Switches in Your Life," October 1972 General Conference.)
3.Automobiles. Actually, this one is about gates. President Hinckley taught the same idea in his talk "Keep the Faith" in 1985:
"I approached a large farm gate one day. I lifted the latch and opened the gate. The movement at the hinges was so slight as to be scarcely discernible. But the other end of the gate cut a great arc sixteen feet in radius. Looking at the movement of the hinges alone, one would never dream of the magnified action that came as a result of that tiny movement."
(Gordon B. Hinckley, "Keep the Faith," Ensign, September 1985.)
- What's the point of these illustrations? What are we supposed to learn from them?
The Butterfly Effect
If you've studied Chaos Theory, you've heard the saying, "Something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world."
To put it another way, a small localized change can cause large effects to ripple throughout a complex system.
According to Alma, the Lord leverages small and simple things to produce momentous and miraculous outcomes.
I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
And . . . by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
By the way, what is the context for this verse? Alma is talking to his son Helaman about . . . preserving the word of God.
So, if we want to be technical, the small and simple things the Lord uses to bring about our salvation are . . . his words.
How small is a spiritual seed? How simple is a word like "love."
The Lord doesn't just use small and simple things. He also works through small and simple people.
I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit.
Now the big question: how does Satan leverage the butterfly effect?
Satan's Butterfly Effect
Satan's not messing around. He came to play. For keeps.
Joseph Smith warned us in the King Follett Discourse:
"If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong we may go wrong, and it will be a hard matter to get right."
(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 343.)
1. Planes. What teachings of the Church remove our eye from being single to God's glory and away from the "only and true doctrine of the Father," sort of like the one-degree that leads us off course by 500 miles, as President Uchtdorf mentioned?
2.Trains. What teachings of the Church draw us away from Christ into carnal security, acting like switch points that take us someplace we weren't intending to go, as President Hinckley said?
3. Gates. What teachings of the Church act like small hinges that, when taken to their logical conclusion, swing us wide toward the great and spacious building?
For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.
We Are All Gone Astray
Perhaps the most alarming verse in the Book of Mormon is this:
They have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.
(2 Nephi 28:14)
Did we catch that?
We err because . . . why? What is the reason we have gone astray?
** Drum Roll, please **
Even the sincere, humble followers of Christ do err because "they are led" . . . by "men."
That's it. That's the point. That's the problem.
What's wrong with that, you ask? Well, we're supposed to be led by God.
Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
(2 Nephi 28:31)
Textbook Example: Switch Point/Hinge
At some point in our past, someone, somewhere, flipped a switch point for the Church, turned a hinge, altered our course by one degree, which has resulted in the Church finding itself in New Rome instead of in the New Jerusalem, bowing to a Pope instead of walking with a Prince of Peace.
I think the most devastating doctrine that has ever been taught to God's children, which has replaced with "only and true doctrine of the Father" (2 Nephi 31:21) is this:
Follow the Prophet
Follow Jesus Christ
Sure, God can speak through prophets. Just as Nephi said, anyone can speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.
But some people think those two things are the same, quoting the verse that says, "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" (D&C 1:38).
They view the prophet and Christ as interchangeable. And thus they fail to actually come unto Christ because they're busy following their prophet.
But remember what happens when we turn the airplane by just one degree? What actually happens when we transform "following Jesus Christ" into "following the Prophet?"
- One requires discernment, one does not.
- One requires connection to God, one does not.
- One requires obedience to God, one does not.
- One requires faith in God, one does not.
How To Tell a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
1. Do they tell you to trust them, instead of trusting God?
2. Do they tell you to do as they say, rather than as they do?
3. Do they ask you for money?
4. Do they make promises that they don't keep?
5. Do they hide their councils, finances, and meeting minutes from you?
6. Do they punish you for having a different viewpoint? Do they suppress dissent?
Elder Rasband said recently at a fireside broadcast on November 16, 2021:
"And as I have met with youth and young single adults all over the world, if they cause me to narrow down to one thing of my soul that they would like me to comment, my one thing, kind of first and foremost in my mind, is follow God’s living prophet."
Result: We become a Church of idolaters who practice the forms of godliness without the power thereof (see JS-H 1:19). In other words, we have become part of the "abomination" God described when he appeared to Joseph Smith.
And we end up with things like:
1. "The Lord loves effort, because effort brings rewards."
[One Degree. "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).]
2. "We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders."
[One Degree. "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me" (Psalm 56:3-4).]
3. "Attendance and activity in a church help us become better people."
[One Degree. "But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them" (Mark 13:9). "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides . . . . But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (Matt. 23:15-16, 13).]
4. "The name of the Church is not negotiable. . . . For years we had hoped to purchase the internet domain sites for ChurchofJesusChrist.org and ChurchofJesusChrist.com. Neither was for sale. About the time of President Nelson's announcement, both were suddenly available. It was a miracle."
[One Degree. If the name of the Church is not negotiable, then why is the URL not the name of the Church?]
. . . Drifting away from God one flutter of the butterfly wing at a time.