Minimizing the Angles

My son broke his arm last weekend. We had to wait until Thursday to take him to the orthopedic to get a cast. (You have to wait a few days for the swelling to go down before you can cast.)

At the ortho, sandwiched between long periods of waiting, we were seen by a nurse and an intern, sent for new x-rays, and then back to the waiting room. Eventually the doctor came in and told us checked him out and made an observation:

“You arm is broken and it is bent. We need to align it so that it grows back correctly.”

He went on to explain that it was bent 15 degrees, which is visible in this x-ray.

Why this matters? 15 degrees is no good. He told us that if a child had a 15 degree displacement, they would probably grow out of it – but someone my son’s age does not have enough bone growth left to naturally fix itself.

The solution? Straighten it out. The doc wanted to minimize the angle from 15 to something less that 7-8 degrees. From there, the arm would heal and adjust for that smaller angle. Makes perfect sense, right?

The person in charge of casting the arm wrapped his wrapped it with cloth, then applied the fiberglass wraps to form the cast. While it was still wet, the doctor took hold of the arm with both hands, and began to push.

It was brutal. Pushing the bone back into alignment was crazy painful. I gotta admit, my son was far braver than I imagined that he, or I, would be. Not a tear, not a yell. Just some Lamaze-worthy breathing, and a heart that felt like would beat out of his chest.

The doctor pushed hard enough than his muscular arms were shaking. He maintained the pressure until the chemical reaction hardened the cast. Then it was done.

The new x-rays showed that the angle was now less than before: 8 degrees. Success!

Four weeks from now, he should be getting the cast off and putting this episode behind him. Had the doctor not corrected the alignment, it might have bothered him going forward.

While all of this was going on, I kept thinking back to one of the great talks that then President Uchtdorf gave to the priesthood brethren about flying, and how a few degrees can alter an destination:

“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.”

No one wants his life to end in tragedy. But all too often…we set out on what we hope will be an exciting journey only to realize too late that an error of a few degrees has set us on a course for spiritual disaster.” (“A Matter of a Few Degrees“)

As the destination can be altered by the mere error of a few degrees, the productivity and potential of an broken bone can be altered by a few degrees as well.

A small misalignment in our lives can impede our progress and destroy our peace and happiness.

Had my son’s arm not been adjusted, it would have “set” in the wrong position, which could have caused problems now, and down the road. Sure, it is possible that it could have been corrected later, but the more time that passed without being aligned, the more solidified – or intransigent – it would become.

Realigning requires that we notice that something is wrong, then figuring out how to fix it. I guarantee that sometimes the process of realignment can be painful. Sometimes we resist because we know that it can be painful. Yet, the longer we wait, the harder and more painful that realignment will eventually be.

President Uchtdorf offered this hope:

“Now, brethren, there are those who have neglected to make appropriate course corrections and now believe that they are too far from the Lord’s way to ever make it back. To them we proclaim the good news that is the gospel of redemption and salvation. No matter how terribly off course you are, no matter how far you have strayed, the way back is certain and clear. Come, learn of the Father; offer up a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Have faith, and believe in the cleansing power of the infinite Atonement of Jesus the Christ. If we confess and repent of our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (link)

Sometimes we are able to correct the misalignment through the Atonement with only the Savior’s help. Other times we need the guidance of a bishop who can help us, much as my son required a doctor to examine the situation apply the correct pressure.

I would like to add a personal testimony of this concept, as I have participated in it from both sides of the bishop’s desk. In my five years of serving as bishop, nothing amazed me as much as witnessing the power of the Atonement in people’s lives.

I would visit with people who were broken, misaligned and in great pain. I watched as (those who would allow) the Atonement healed those struggle souls from the pain of sin, misalignment and remorse. It was a non-stop experience of being a witness to the remarkable power of the Atonement. Anyone and everyone had the potential to be re-aligned if they were willing to follow the counsel and process of true repentance.

The preferred angle of deviation? Zero degrees. Straight and narrow.

Just this very morning, President Russel M. Nelson published an op-ed in the Arizona Republic. In it he said:

“But the most profound thing I’ve witnessed is the unrivaled difference that belief in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, has in a person’s life. There is simply nothing to compare with the refining, ennobling strength and meaning that come into the life of a devoted believer and servant.”

“But it is my conviction that our Savior can strengthen and enable us to reach our highest highs and be able to cope with our lowest lows. As an ordained Apostle of Jesus Christ, I invite you to seek to know for yourself that He is the Master Healer. He has the capacity to heal you from sin and sadness, from despair and heartache.”

If we find ourselves misaligned – for whatever reason – we can be healed. It might take some time, some help, some pressure, and maybe even some pain, but the promise is certain: We can be healed.

About the author


  1. Thanks for another insightful post. I have been reading your posts for several years and always find them either enjoyable or insightful (and often both) but I have never taken the moment to thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Please keep up the good work. It lifts and encourages many I believe.

  2. Two thoughts. My nephew Michael and his wife were ice skating last month and he took a bad fall that broke his wrist. The first adjustment wasn’t right. The second adjustment wasn’t right. The third time they put his bones in place they thought they got it right but it wasn’t so it required surgery. Because the surgery put the bones in their proper places, Michael was able just one week later to do his job, writing and typing, and driving with no pain. Until the bones were in place, sometimes pain was the only thing his brain could register. He’s so glad for the good surgeon that did it right. Second, today in church Sister Goodman talked about the light of Christ, saying it’s in all live things – the plants and the animals all follow their instructions and find joy in their dandelion-ness or their pig-ness. The butterflies know their migration, and so do the whales. We have the light of Christ that helps us also understand innately that our true migration is back to live with Heavenly Father, so teachings and inspiration that comes that helps us to align ourselves with that Light helps us find joy. And when we are out of alignment with that Light of Christ, when we are not in the proper migration, it brings pain and unhappiness. Being on the right path and being obedience brings peace and harmony. Alignment is key.

  3. I was in the US Marines in November, 1964 and our unit was on board a naval vessel headed for Southeast Asia. We were on a new LPD on it’s maiden voyage across the ocean. One night we experienced a steering failure which meant the cables from the wheel to the rudder was broken or quit working properly. The Captain ordered the ship to cut all power because we had another ship accompanying us and he wanted to avoid a collision. When a steering failure occurs the rudder whips to one side and the ship will go in circles until it is repaired and power restored. It was rather disconcerting for all aboard. It made me think of our lives. Sometimes we have steering failures and have to stop and fix what is broken in our lives in order to resume our course toward our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ. Your post reminded me of that event.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)

%d bloggers like this: