Trust the Instruments
While serving as a missionary in Mexico City some years ago, I was taught a valuable lesson by my mission president, President Tom R. Tervort. It was during a mission conference that he relayed to myself and the rest of the missionaries the following story:
“About 30 years ago, I was approached by a man who asked if I would be interested in going in on buying a plane with him. He told me that if I agreed to help purchase the plane, he would provide free flying lessons. This had always been a dream of mine so I jumped at the opportunity to do so. At my first flying lesson, the instructor took me around the plane. He showed me the wings, how they provided lift to the plane, he showed me the landing gear, he showed me the cockpit, and he showed me all of the instruments inside, including the directional gyro which shows you which direction the plane is flying in. After thorough review, the pilot asked me if I was ready to fly, which I told him I was. The instructor then took two fingers and tapped me on the thigh, ‘Always believe in the instruments.’ He repeated it two more times, ‘Always believe in the instruments’ – ‘Always believe in the instruments.” After the third time I asked, ‘Why do you keep saying that?’ and he responded, ‘I wondered when you might ask. There will come a time in your life when you are flying and you will experience vertigo. A sensation of dizziness or abnormal motion resulting from the disorder of the sense of balance. When that happens, you’ll have two choices, you can believe the instruments and live or choose not to believe in them and die. Always believe the instruments!’.”
“Seven years later I had to make a flight from my home in Mesa, Arizona, to Farmington, New Mexico, for work. Myself, my daughter and a business partner headed to Farmington in the morning and planned to return that night. When it came time for our return, the sun had already gone down and despite not wanting to fly in the dark, my desire to return home was even greater. We called the tower to make sure that the weather was clear and that we would not encounter any problems on our trip home. Everything looked great and we took off. After 30 minutes of flight time, we received a call from the tower asking if we had run into any snowstorms because others had reported them in that area. Shortly after hanging up the phone we found ourselves in the middle of a snowstorm.”
“Between Mesa and Farmington lay the Lukachukai Mountains. I was concerned about flying near the mountains, in the dark and in the middle of a snowstorm. I decided it was best for us to turn around back to Farmington. I made a nice, coordinated 180-degree-turn back to Farmington, but as I looked down at the instruments, my heart dropped. I knew that I had made a perfect turn, but the instruments were telling me that I was, in fact, in a dead man’s spiral, headed straight towards the ground. According to the instruments, I needed to make a change quickly or there would not be enough time to pull out of the spiral. It was in this moment that the words of the flight instructor entered my mind, ‘Always believe the instruments!’ It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but against my better judgement, I did as the instruments said and turned the plane so that the instruments showed it was flying correctly. After making the turn, I felt like my body was sideways and I figured I was most likely experiencing vertigo. I knew that if I had indeed made the right turn, we should come out of the snowstorm soon but if I hadn’t, we might be headed straight into the side of a mountain. After a few minutes, we emerged outside of the snowstorm just above Farmington and landed the plane safely. The instruments had saved our lives.”
The past year has certainly been unprecedented. As we consider all the circumstances we find ourselves in, a global pandemic, changing political and social environments, not to mention the stresses of daily life, it could certainly feel like we are experiencing vertigo in the middle of a snowstorm. I’m sure there are many of you, like me, that have found yourselves in need of direction and guidance. While all of these things might contribute to a sense of dizziness or imbalance, our Father in Heaven has not left us to our own devices. Just like a pilot, we have the instruments and tools to make our way out of any situation.
Heavenly Father has always offered instruments to help guide us. When the Israelites were plagued by fiery serpents, they could look to the serpent of brass and live. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9). If only all of the Israelites could have remembered the advice of the flight instructor, “Always believe the instruments!”
To Lehi and his family, the Lord provided the Liahona that “…pointed the way wither we should go in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:10). “And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day” (Alma 37:40). Not only did the Liahona direct Lehi’s family in the wilderness, but it is what was used by Nephi to locate food for his family after his bow had been broken.
Just like with the prophets of old, the Lord provided to Joseph Smith the Urim and Thumim to assist in the translation of the Book of Mormon. The Lord had prepared the instrument to be stored with the plates until the time they were to be brought forth. It was with the assistance of this instrument that we have the Book of Mormon, the cornerstone of our religion.
All of these are examples of physical tools, much like those inside the cockpit of an airplane, that the Lord has provided his people to assist them in turbulent times and to bring to pass his work. While we may not need look towards a brass serpent or make use of a Urim and Thumim to translate ancient scripture, we have no shortage of tools today that have been provided to guide and direct us. The scriptures, modern day revelation as revealed to us by our prophet and apostles, prayer and our education are all instruments that can guide us, especially when we find ourselves experiencing some level of spiritual vertigo.
First, the scriptures are a valuable instrument provided to us by a loving Heavenly Father. How many times have each of us said a prayer, silently or otherwise, opened our scriptures, and found an immediate answer? How often can we find themes in the scripture stories that apply to what we might be currently facing? In a talk given in the April 1993 General Conference, Elder L. Lionel Kendrick taught the following, “Scriptures reveal the divine desires of the Lord in our behalf. Each of us should have a burning desire to search the scriptures diligently and daily to seek the will of the Lord in our life.” Elder Kendrick continued “Our spiritual survival during the stresses of our society and the temptations of our time is greatly dependent upon the strength that we will receive from searching the scriptures and listening to the words of the prophets, seers, and revelators...The scriptures are spiritual food for our Spirit, which is just as important as physical food for our body.” If we take Elder Kendrick’s words to heart, how could we go even a day without nourishing our
Spirit with the words of the scriptures? Just like reading the instrument from inside the cockpit, the blessings of the scriptures will only come when we read them. Opening the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, for just a few minutes each day goes a long way. I promise brothers and sisters, as we make scripture study a priority in our life, we will find guidance, strength and direction throughout all that life throws at us.
Modern day revelation as given by the prophets and apostles is a valuable instrument as we face the uncertainties of life. Perhaps the most recent and relevant example to this would be the Church’s move to a home-centered, Church-supported method of instruction, including “Come Follow Me.” What a blessing it has been to have this in place before a global pandemic that would push all of us to remain in our homes. Our Heavenly Father truly is aware of us and our needs and communicates direction and help through our leaders on a continual basis. Just a month or so away from General Conference, the opportunity to know what the Lord would have us know for the coming months and years is truly a blessing. As we heed the words of the prophets, it will provide strength and assurance to handle even the greatest obstacles. Listen to the words of the prophet and apostles, like Joseph Smith said, they will be like a key that will never rust, a guide for all we must know and do.
Perhaps the greatest of all of God’s instruments to his children, prayer offers personal guidance and direction to each of us. At each critical junction of my life, I have found myself on my knees beside my bed offering a heartfelt prayer to my Father in Heaven. In his talk, “The Lifeline of Prayer,” James E. Faust taught, “When God placed man on the earth, prayer became the lifeline between mankind and God. Thus, in Adam’s generation, men began ‘to call upon the name of the Lord.’ Through all generations since that time, prayer has filled a very important human need. Each of us has problems that we cannot solve and weaknesses that we cannot conquer without reaching out through prayer to a higher source of strength.” As we find ourselves in perplexing moments, times of imbalance or dizziness, we can find clarity through sincere prayer to our Father in Heaven. I know that as we reach out to Him, we will be able to feel his hand in ours throughout life’s most difficult circumstances. This instrument is available at all times, in all places, and to all of God’s children making it the most useful and powerful tool for all those who stand in need of assistance.
Finally, I would be remiss in not including education as an instrument the Lord has provided us as we wade through life. The scriptures teach that “the glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36) and that “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (D&C 130:18). Each student at Ensign College is seeking just that, greater intelligence. All of us, faculty, staff and students at the College are seeking not only to obtain greater knowledge but to become more capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ. As we all continue in our education, both formal and otherwise, we can truly enrich our lives and find guidance to questions in our personal and professional endeavors. Trust in the instruction of your teachers and classmates, seek truth in all disciplines and be sure to seek confirmation from the Spirit when questions arise. We all should seek out greater knowledge and learning even beyond our time here at Ensign College. Take advantage of this opportunity to study at one of the Lord’s institutions of higher education, it will always be one of life’s greatest blessings.
Trials, confusion and imbalance may be inevitable. Each one of us may find a time where we are experiencing vertigo inside of a snowstorm, and at that time, we must remember as the flight instructor said, “Always believe the instruments!” Remember, just like the Liahona only guided Lehi and his family in the wilderness when they believed that it could, the instruments the Lord has provided are only useful when we apply them! Search the scriptures, listen to modern revelation from the prophets and apostles, pray each and every day and continue to learn and you will quickly find your way out of those difficult situations and back on the path you wish to follow. I testify that these instruments, and so many others, are provided to us by a loving Heavenly Father. He and our Savior Jesus Christ want to help us. They wish to guide us through the thick-and-thin of life so that one day, we can return to live with Them. Remember that it is through the gospel of Jesus Christ that true happiness is obtained. I know these things are true and I leave them with you in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.