From the time President Dieter F. Uchtdorf first took the pulpit at general conference, members around the world have loved his stories about airplanes and the poignant gospel lessons he draws from them. In fact, his history of sharing tales of flight has led many listeners to find themselves internally asking a question as soon as he gets up to speak—the same question President Uchtdorf voiced one memorable conference: “What does it have to do with flying an airplane?” Here are a couple of those aerodynamic analogies.
Being Lifted Up on "Wings as Eagles"
I spent many years in the cockpit of airplanes. During my commercial pilot career it was my task to safely get a big jet to our desired destination from any part of the world. To accomplish that I needed to keep in mind the big picture. It is so easy to be distracted often by unnecessary details. I knew with certainty that if I wanted to travel the most direct course from New York to Rome, I needed to fly east. If someone were to tell me that I should fly south, I knew there was no truth in his words. No amount of persuasion, no amount of flattery, bribery, or threats could convince me that flying south would get me to my destination, because I knew for myself.
We all search for happiness, and we all try to find our own “happily ever after.” The truth is, God knows how to get there! And He has created a map for us; He knows the way.
He is our beloved Heavenly Father, who seeks our good, our happiness. He desires with all the love of a perfect and pure Father that we reach our supernal destination. The map is available to all. It gives explicit directions of what to do and where to go to everyone who is striving to come unto Christ and “stand as [a witness] of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9). All you have to do is trust your Heavenly Father. Trust Him enough to follow His plan.
Nevertheless, not all will follow the map. Some may look at it. Some may think it is reasonable, perhaps even true. But they do not follow the divine directions. Many believe that any road will take them to a “happily ever after.” Some may even become angry when others who know the way try to help and assist them. They suppose that such advice is outdated, irrelevant, out of touch with modern life.
They suppose wrong.
I understand that, at times, some may wonder why they attend Church meetings or why it is so important to read the scriptures regularly or pray to our Heavenly Father daily. Here is my answer: we do these things because they are part of God’s path for us. And that path will take us to our “happily ever after” destination.
We must also recognize that God has prepared a way that we can correct any misdirected navigation in this life and get back on course to Him and His Son. If we have chosen to fly south on our way to Rome, Heavenly Father, through His love and grace, has prepared a way that we still can reach our desired destination, if we only accept His guidance and follow it faithfully.
My dear friends—yes, all who stand for truth and righteousness, you who seek goodness and walk in the ways of the Lord—our Father in Heaven has promised that you will “mount up with wings as eagles; [you] shall run, and not be weary; and [you] shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31). You “shall not be deceived” (JS—M 1:37). God will bless and prosper you (see Mosiah 2:22–24). “The gates of hell shall not prevail against you; . . . and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory” (D&C 21:6).
As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I leave you my blessing and give you a promise that as you accept and live the values and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the day will come when you turn the final pages of your own glorious story; there you will read and experience the fulfillment of those blessed and wonderful words: “And they lived happily ever after.”
The Worth of a Soul to God
The more we learn about the universe, the more we understand—at least in a small part—what Moses knew. The universe is so large, mysterious, and glorious that it is incomprehensible to the human mind. “Worlds without number have I created,” God said to Moses (Moses 1:33). The wonders of the night sky are a beautiful testimony of that truth.
There are few things that have filled me with such breathless awe as flying in the black of night across oceans and continents and looking out my cockpit window upon the infinite glory of millions of stars.
Astronomers have attempted to count the number of stars in the universe. One group of scientists estimates that the number of stars within range of our telescopes is ten times greater than all the grains of sand on the world’s beaches and deserts. This conclusion has a striking similarity to the declaration of the ancient prophet Enoch: “Were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations” (Moses 7:30).
Given the vastness of God’s creations, it’s no wonder the great King Benjamin counseled his people to “always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness” (Mosiah 4:11).
But even though man is nothing, it fills me with wonder and awe to think that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10).
And while we may look at the vast expanse of the universe and say, “What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?” God Himself said we are the reason He created the universe! His work and glory—the purpose for this magnificent universe—is to save and exalt mankind (see Moses 1:38–39). In other words, the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters.
This is a paradox of man: COMPARED TO GOD, MAN IS NOTHING; YET WE ARE EVERYTHING TO GOD. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.
Point of Safe Return
During my training to become an airline captain, I had to learn how to navigate an airplane over long distances. Flights over huge oceans, crossing extensive deserts, and connecting continents need careful planning to ensure a safe arrival at the planned destination. Some of these nonstop flights can last beyond fourteen hours and cover more than 9,000 miles.
There is an important decision point during such long flights commonly known as the point of safe return. Up to this point, the aircraft has enough fuel to turn around and return safely to the airport of departure. Having passed the point of safe return, the captain has lost this option and has to continue on. That is why this point is often referred to as the point of no return.
Satan, “the father of all lies” (2 Ne. 2:18), “the father of contention” (3 Ne. 11:29), “the author of all sin” (Hel. 6:30), and the “enemy unto God” (Moro. 7:12), uses the forces of evil to convince us that this concept applies whenever we have sinned. The scriptures call him the “accuser” because he wants us to feel that we are beyond forgiveness (see Rev. 12:10).
Satan wants us to think that when we have sinned we have gone past a “point of safe return”—that it is too late to change our course.
In our beautiful but also troubled world, it is a sad reality that this attitude is the source of great sorrow, grief, and distress to families, marriages, and individuals.
Satan tries to counterfeit the work of God, and by doing this he may deceive many. To make us lose hope, feel miserable like himself, and believe that we are beyond forgiveness, Satan might even misuse words from the scriptures that emphasize the justice of God, in order to imply that there is no mercy.
The gift and sacrifice of our Savior guarantees that there never needs to be a “point of no return” in our spiritual life. Our loving Heavenly Father offered His Son to always keep open the gate for a safe return if we only walk through it by using true repentance and receiving the miracle of forgiveness.
Lead image found in The Gospel at 30,000 Feet
Find more insightful and uplifting aerodynamic analogies from President Uchtdorf in The Gospel at 30,000 Feet.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has earned a reputation among members of the Church for using his decades of experience as a pilot to draw gospel metaphors. he has even joked about the frequency of the phenomenon from the pulpit, once noting that a congregation may be asking, "What does this have to do with an airplane?" President Uchtdorf's ability to draw on real-life experience and share easily interpreted analogies has endeared him to Church members the world over.
This new book brings together many of those stories of flight that President Uchtdorf has used in his ministry. In this colorful, inviting format, more than 20 of his best-loved stories come together under five major themes: Principles of Flight, Lift, Guidance on the Journey, Weathering the Turbulence, and Our Eternal Destination.
Great for personal edification, lesson preparation, family home evenings, or meaningful gift-giving, this book brings the lessons from 30,000 feet in the air into the home, teaching us about this journey of life and the joy we'll find in reaching our ultimate destination.