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The Smallest of Errors

We live in a world of compromise. The pressure to go along can be overwhelming. Those in the Kingdom who resist innovation are frequently attacked as being intolerant, backward, Pharisaical, legalistic, unreasonable, unloving, and generally wrong-headed.

On November 28, 1979, Air New Zealand Flight 901 took off from Auckland with 257 people on board for a popular sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back. When the plane took off, there was a tiny error — about 2 degrees — in the navigation equipment. This error was so small that the pilots detected nothing unusual in their route as they left New Zealand and headed out over the water on their way to Antartica. It was a long trip to Antartica. Over time, that tiny 2 degree error shifted the plane about 28 miles to the east of where it should have been — a path that led them directly toward Mount Erebus, a 12,448 foot high active volcano. As they approached Antartica, the pilots made their planned descent to provide the sightseers with a better view of the majesty of Antartica.

As they flew on their path with the tiniest of error, the endless, unvarying 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 Mount Erebus, killing everyone on board.

The crash site is difficult to access and makes recovery of the aircraft impractical. Each summer, as the ice recedes on the sides of Mount Erebus, it reveals the ghostly wreckage.

Tragedy can be brought on by the tiniest of error—a matter of only a few degrees. So it is with God’s people: the tiniest deviation from the path of God’s Word will certainly lead us far astray.

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1 Comment »

  1. One of the Twelve Apostles Peter F Uchtdorf was a pilot. He has used this same story in one of his talks. It is one of my favorite.


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