M. Russell Ballard

Some years ago I had a most unusual experience while flying in a four-seat, single-engine airplane.

We were flying toward Salt Lake City, and it was one of those days when the smog and fog had settled over the valley very quickly.

We were still flying above the fog at 3,000 feet when our pilot radioed to air traffic control at the Salt Lake tower for instructions for our approach and landing.

He was an expert flier, but the plane didn’t have radar or the other sophisticated equipment that larger planes have.

The controller told our pilot that although the runway was closing down because of poor ground visibility, he would talk us down through the fast-accumulating dense fog if we wanted him to.

Our pilot turned to us and said, “What do you want to do? We can either be talked down by the traffic controller, or we can go back to Nevada and land and wait for the weather to clear in a day or two.” We all agreed that we should land in Salt Lake if at all possible.

It was a very interesting experience to sit in our small plane and listen to the instructions from the control tower to the pilot. The controller, through radar, could see where we were. He told our pilot when to lower our altitude and when to turn either right or left. We were now in such dense fog that we could not see anything at all and were totally under directions from the tower.

I remember thinking how completely dependent the four of us were on the expertise and knowledge of the controller, who could see us on the radar scope.

It was a remarkable experience, for even though we kept lowering our altitude, we could not see the ground at all.

At about 500 feet our pilot said to my friend who was sitting in the right front seat, “Now you watch for the runway, and when you see it, tell me.” The pilot concentrated on watching the instruments and following exactly the instructions he received from the air traffic controller. I was watching the altimeter.

Soon we were down to 400 feet, 350 feet, 300 feet—still we could see nothing. Then all of a sudden my friend in the front seat shouted, “I see the runway!”

We were all relieved as we looked out the windshield of the airplane. There, directly in front of us, was the runway, and the nose of our airplane was right on the white line in the center of it as we approached for landing. How grateful I was that someone in the tower had the experience and knowledge to give us careful instructions so we could safely land the plane!

I have often thought since that experience how much all of our lives can be compared to the experience that we had on that foggy day. We cannot see or understand everything, so our Heavenly Father has placed a great prophet upon the earth who is like the air traffic controller. If we will listen very carefully to everything that the prophet tells us, and if we will follow his instructions, then, just like those in the airplane who were able to find the runway, we can find our way safely back to our Heavenly Father.

Other “instruments” our Heavenly Father uses to help us throughout our lives and sometimes through dense fog are the Holy Ghost, our stake presidents, bishops, home teachers, and our parents. If we listen and learn to follow the counsel we receive, we will have “safe landings” throughout our lives. And more importantly, when our lives here are over, we will safely arrive back home to live with our Heavenly Father again.

[photo] Photo by Eldon Linschoten