Title: The Gospel At 30,000 Feet
Author: Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Publisher: Deseret Book
Genre: Doctrinal/ Biographical
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 129
Reviewed by Trudy Thompson for the Association For Mormon Letters
One of my fondest memories growing up was of hearing my father speak often of his experiences as a private pilot,and his many stories as an employee of Lockheed Aircraft during World War II.
Dad earned his private pilot license before he was married, and had owned two different small planes in his lifetime. His experiences at Lockheed were many and varied, but they always included wonderful stories of being chosen to escort visiting dignitaries through the aircraft plant. He spoke of one unique experience of being selected to fly three British generals over the Grand Canyon. Just as this beautiful place came into view, without warning or explanation, there were the strains of a beautiful hymn coming over the radio in the plane they were riding in.
It was probably because of all the stories of flying I heard growing up that I had developed an instant and lifetime love of all things related to aircraft and flying.
It was a thrill when our young son was old enough to walk and talk, to see him rush outside at the sound of any airplane or helicopter flying overhead. He would look up into the sky until he found the aircraft, and then begin waving with both arms held high.
Our son grew up hearing me constantly say, “Learn to fly, Justin, so mommy can fly free!” He deviated a bit from his mother’s wishes — he chose to serve in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot. Just last year he completed nearly 12 years of active duty, and is now a commercial airline pilot(finally!).
With that background, it’s not hard to understand why I jumped at the chance to read The Gospel At 30,000 Feet!
President Uchtdorf has masterfully combined fascinating stories of flight experiences with gospel principles. His stories and analogies are meaningful, enlightening and uplifting. He uses the principles of flight and the many and varied challenges that pilots encounter that can throw a plane off course, such as tumultuous weather, real or imagined equipment failure, lack of clear visibility, and just plain human error — to draw wise and relevant comparisons to the challenges we face in life while trying to reach our goals and destinations.
We find here over 20 of his best loved talks, some from General Conference, and others that will be new to most readers. These beloved stories encompass five themes: Principles of Flight, Lift, Guidance On The Journey, Weathering the Turbulence, and Our Eternal Destination. Within these themes are motivating chapter titles such as: Patience With The Lord’s Timing, See The End From the Beginning, A Difference Of A Few Degrees, Avoid the Storms, Tools In The Hand Of God, and more.
Some of the gems of truth included in this beautiful volume include the following: Fly with the Eagles, don’t scratch with the chickens. The Latin source of the word “comforter” — com fortis — means “together strong.” As the Holy Ghost visits your spirit, you become stronger than you are by yourself. When you receive the Holy Ghost, you receive strength, power, peace, and comfort. Our motives and thoughts ultimately influence our actions.
I was deeply moved by the stories of airline mishaps and tragedies. All of these took place in my lifetime, and I remember them from television news stories of the time. President Uchtdorf gently instructs the reader of how simply focusing on what matters most in life, and how a matter of a few degrees can mean the difference between joy and misery, and hope and tragedy.
There is also a little known story that the author himself was deeply involved in. As the chief pilot of the B737 fleet of Lufthansa Airlines, Dieter Uchtdorf was called into immediate action when a plane was hijacked with passengers, crew members, and ground personnel on board. The story is told in the book of what took place and the outcome of the hijacking. I will refrain from telling the whole story here, leaving it to readers to study the first hand account for themselves. President Uchtdorf skillfully uses this story to teach this crucial doctrinal truth: “When we or those we love are afflicted by misfortune or the poor decisions of others, we may be tempted to become bitter. Being grateful in any circumstances — inlcuding in times of distress, does not mean that we are pleased in our circumstances. It does mean that, through the eyes of faith, we look beyond our present day challenges.”
This small but powerful volume contains beautiful illustrations and photos that perfectly complement the lessons and doctrines taught. It motivates and lifts the reader to a sense of peace, comfort and faith. The final sentence in the publisher’s preface sums this up eloquently: “His airplane stories teach powerful lessons, characterize his life of discipleship, and offer us guidance as we strive to soar to our highest potential, and navigate a life centered on and directed by Christ.”
This is a must have book in every LDS home library. These are short but relevant stories that can be used as reference material in talks, Home Evening lessons, personal study, and is an excellent gift idea for men, women and young adults. It is well written, and includes beautiful illustrations and photos that add to the meaning of the content. The author’s use of stories, lessons, and parables, along with his deep and abiding faith, helps us all to chart the proper course in our lives, and to make course corrections if necessary, to reach our ultimate and eternal destination.
This title is also available as an audio book.