When you drive a boat, you are always in drift. You are attached to nothing. Stuff happens in the water beneath you that does not make any intuitive sense. Sometimes your stern (your tail) moves faster than your bow (your nose), and in a different direction. Sometimes both stern and bow are moving in the same direction at the same speed, but it’s not the direction the bow is pointed. On a boat, you don’t always go where you’re pointed.


One thing I found surprising when I was young and a stake executive secretary was that calling bishops had two key features I was completely unaware of.

First, did they actually have the time to serve?

Second, how did their foibles correct for the drift of the last bishop?

Wards never seemed pointed in the direction that they were intended to go. Instead they were always in a process of drifting back and forth across that line (so to speak).

Callings being considered expressly acknowledged that process of drift. Much like sailing a ship acknowledges the effect of the wind.

It was only after that process (availability and drift correction) that things like ward boundaries and similar issues came up. I still remember when an exemplary guy, Steve Gray, was almost called as a bishop for a ward he didn’t live in.

The point is that with a ship there are many types of drift that result in ships being pointed in a direction other than their destination.

There are great circle routes (the shortest path is an arc, not a line—the key to air travel). Winds. Currents. Other ships. Consideration of intermediate locations (and upcoming weather) and issues.

With a flotilla of ships (think of a collection of wards and stakes) there are always ships on either edge of the main group. With any heading, one that is right for a group, it will be wrong for some.

The same is true in life. Any guidance or approach will have exceptions and those it doesn’t work for (not to mention excesses and misapplications). Which is why Dallin H. Oaks is famous for his comment that general authorities are general, not specific authorities.

I’ve found this a useful concept in looking at the church and at church history.

What do you get out of the approach of looking at the church like a boat or a flotilla of boats?