Happy Landing


It’s only a happy landing if you get where you wanted to go. So, who’s your navigator?

Happy Landing

In my profession as an airline captain one of my routes was from Frankfurt, Germany, to Miami, Florida. On one flight we had completed our departure out of Europe and were on our assigned route for an orderly and safe crossing of the North Atlantic. Our Boeing 747 was cruising smoothly at 33,000 feet. Behind us lay the green coast of Ireland, and only four hours ahead was Newfoundland on the east coast of the North American continent. The planned flight time from Frankfurt to Miami was 10 hours, 16 minutes, and we would cover 4,955 nautical miles. The weather forecast called for an uneventful flight. We had 386 passengers aboard.

While checking the instruments and communicating by shortwave radio with ground control, we saw the contrails of two other jetliners many miles ahead. Obviously, we were faster, and soon we were close enough to recognize the aircraft types and their markings. They were on the same North Atlantic crossing route. One was 2,000 feet above and the other was 2,000 feet below our cruising level. As we slowly overtook those beautiful aircraft, my copilot mentioned how remarkable it was that because of true and accurate information entered into the navigation units at the start of our flights, all three jets were precisely on the same track, separated only by altitude. And we would continue to be so if the crews used identical navigational points leading to the same destination.

As I have contemplated the truth of this statement and its application to our lives, I arrived at the question: Do we all know our destination, and are we on the right track? It is imperative for a pilot to know his destination before submitting his flight plan. Heavenly Father has prepared a flight plan for us that will lead us back to him. We read in the Pearl of Great Price, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). It is a plan for our happiness.

Before starting a flight, the crew has to be extremely careful and precise in entering the geographic coordinates of the point of departure into their navigational system. This information has to be true and accurate because it will be the basis for all future references and decisions. In 1979 a flight started with wrong coordinates from New Zealand to the South Pole and crashed into Mount Erebus, killing all 257 passengers.

The gospel of Jesus Christ provides the true and accurate information by which to direct our lives. If we let it enter into our system—into our hearts and minds—we will know who we are, where we came from, why we are here, and what our final destination will be. We can communicate with God daily through prayer to update and chart our course. If we have tuned ourselves to the voice of the Lord, we will feel in our heart who we are and that we are here to succeed: “… behold, thou art my son [daughter] … and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten” (Moses 1:4, 6).

I received great comfort and strength as a teenager from the counsel of a young, but wise, missionary. He said to me, “You will succeed as long as you are on the Lord’s side.” Isn’t it even more motivating to realize, and to know, that we are sons and daughters of God the Eternal Father? And through His plan, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we know how to get and to stay on the Lord’s side.

On a shortwave radio, frequencies are sometimes crowded. So it is in daily life. Many are competing to get their messages across. We have to train and condition ourselves to hear the still, small voice. We must not give up listening or be distracted because of static on the sacred frequency.

During cruise flight, passengers visiting the cockpit would often ask, “Are you on automatic now?” Well, there is nothing really automatic in a jumbo jet. You have to initiate an action, and then you supervise the results. Like using any computer or the cruise control in a car, giving the wrong input will never get you the desired result: “Garbage in, garbage out.”

To direct your personal flight toward the right destination, the navigational points you choose must comply with your goals. If a crew inserts the coordinates of the track to Chicago, it can’t expect to arrive in Miami. President David O. McKay said, “Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1950, p. 32). The gift of agency, however, does not release us from the consequences of our behavior. We all have to decide on our own to follow the righteous track in order to reach the great and marvelous destination Heavenly Father has prepared for us.

I found that one of the most important navigational points along this track is personal integrity. Webster defines integrity as an “uncompromising adherence to moral and ethical standards.” Integrity indicates wholeness or oneness. If we have integrity, we are sincere, truthful, fair, and honest. We are true to our covenants. Honesty again embraces many personal virtues: being open, without pretense, upright, frank, genuine, sincere; not disposed to lie, cheat, or steal. Integrity acts somehow like the tuner in that shortwave radio. It helps us hear that still, small voice and really feel that we are children of God.

How can we create integrity in our lives? By internalizing the moral and ethical standards we receive through guidance and clarification from the scriptures and prophets. President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “We must study the scriptures according to the Lord’s commandment … ; and we must let them govern our lives. … Access to those things means responsibility for them” (Ensign, Sept. 1976, p. 5).

If we read the scriptures daily, we receive the messages the Lord has given us through his prophets. Our Heavenly Father is updating the instructions to his children according to their needs and their readiness. From the Prophet Joseph Smith to President Howard W. Hunter, we are receiving guidance customized for our time and its special challenges. Seminary, institute, the booklet For the Strength of Youth, and general conference messages by our prophets are given to us for a purpose.

Once, before approaching Miami, we had to leave our predetermined track to avoid heavy thunderstorms north of our destination. It lengthened our flight a few minutes to keep us from harm. Entering a cumulonimbus cloud is dangerous and can destroy an aircraft. While the sun was setting we were amazed by the beauty of the towering clouds and lightning striking the sea, but we made certain to stay out of their way.

In the Book of Mormon Alma tried to help his son Corianton avoid unnecessary storms by explaining that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). Unfortunately, sin appears occasionally attractive but hides its destructive nature until it is too late and harm is already done. We need to understand how to recognize and avoid the evil and be prepared to detour around it in time. If we do fail, however, there is hope and relief made possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Sincere repentance brings us forgiveness and peace in this life and puts us back on course to live again with our Heavenly Father.

My dear young brothers and sisters, let us use our Heavenly Father’s flight plan. With it we will commence our journey based on the gospel of Jesus Christ. By using the scriptures and listening to the living prophets, we will establish integrity as a guiding way point in our lives. This will enable us to stay on the right track and safely reach our heavenly destination.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Steve Kropp