An airplane can teach you a lot about obedience, revelation, and spiritual direction.
When I was 18, I became an airplane mechanic. It wasn’t something I dreamed of doing. It was the job assigned to me as a recruit in the Air National Guard. I finished basic training and entered technical training. There I discovered I knew next to nothing about the mechanics of flight. But I soon mastered the basics.
I learned that, to fly, an airplane requires two forces:
- Thrust, or forward momentum, at a speed sufficient to create lift. Thrust overcomes drag, the resistance to movement.
- Lift, which is created by the difference in the pressure of the air going over the wing and the air going under the wing. (In scientific terms, this is referred to as Bernoulli’s principle.) Lift overcomes gravity, which would otherwise pull the plane back to earth.
Of course, there’s a lot of other stuff going on when an airplane flies. But much of it can be boiled down to two additional principles.
- Navigational aids help the pilot to know what to do to keep the plane on course. These include gauges and dials in the cockpit, but also include radar beacons and voice contact with flight towers.
- Flight controls facilitate change of direction. They include rudders (a flap on the tail of the plane), ailerons and trim tabs (small flaps on wings), large flaps and spoilers, slats, and stabilizers. These enable the plane to roll, climb, dive, turn, and come gently back to earth when it’s time to land.
Finally, there’s one other thing I learned as a mechanic—pilots depend on the ground crew. The crew prepares the plane to fly, guides the aircraft to and from the runway, conducts preflight and postflight inspections, and performs or recommends maintenance at regular intervals. The crew is responsible for the upkeep and safety of the aircraft.
What This Has to Do with You
To paraphrase President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “Now, you might ask, what do these [airplane] experiences have to do with the [gospel]?”
Here’s my response.
Obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel builds momentum. It provides spiritual thrust that creates spiritual lift. Continued obedience gives us continual lift. It keeps us moving forward. It enables us to rise above the world, where we can see clearly how to return to our Heavenly Father.
After you were baptized, you received the Holy Ghost, the best of all spiritual navigation devices. As you continue in obedience, the still, small voice will provide constant promptings about what to do, where to go, and how to act. If you listen carefully, it will guide you.
But it is up to you to use the means the Lord has provided to correct your course. These include checkpoints—are you praying regularly, searching scriptures, attending meetings, preparing for and going to the temple? And they include repentance, which enables you to make both major and minor adjustments to spiritual attitude, altitude, and direction. Just as a pilot checks charts, maps, and gauges, you can regularly verify that you’re headed in the right way and, if you have drifted off course, make whatever changes are required to return to the correct spiritual flight plan.
Like a pilot, you must rely on your spiritual ground crew. Your crew includes your parents, Young Men or Young Women leaders, your bishop and his counselors, home teachers, seminary teachers, and righteous friends. Think of interviews with them as preflight and postflight inspections. Just as an airplane is checked at regular intervals, you will have opportunities to verify your readiness to fly during regularly scheduled interviews. Your spiritual ground crew will help you assess your abilities, prepare your flight plan, and counsel you about spiritual wind speed and potential turbulence. Certain activities, such as going to the temple, will require verification that you’re cleared for takeoff.
In flight, you’ll have your own spiritual flight tower. General conference talks, for example, are like hearing from a flight controller who can see all the planes at once and provide far-reaching navigational instructions. Obedience to the counsel provided will help you steer clear of potential danger. In fact, the scriptures refer to Church leaders as watchmen on the tower (see D&C 101:45).
Ready to Fly
Even though my experiences with airplanes mostly come from working on a ground crew, I have also had the opportunity to be on flights many times. It’s always exhilarating, always inspiring. In fact, that’s maybe one other lesson I’ve learned from being around airplanes—in a spiritual sense, we are meant to fly. We are children of our Heavenly Father, and He wants us to reach spiritual heights. As His children, we should reach for the sky, because with His help, we can always soar to new heights.
Share your experience
How has obedience to Heavenly Father’s commandments helped you soar to new heights? Share your experience below.