This is a copy of Wyatt’s High Council talk that he’s been giving on the circuit this year. I like it a lot, so I stole it when he had it open on his google docs. He doesn’t know that I’m publishing it here. Mwah-ha-ha <Insert sneaky emoticon!>
Trust in the Lord and Remember Your Training
Introduce myself: My name is Wyatt Christensen, I live in the 4th ward, and we have been there for about 12 years. Andrea and I are coming up on 15 years of marriage, we have 5 kids, our oldest daughter and 4 boys. About half of us are brand new to the high council including myself and I really love working with members in other wards. Of course, I bring the love of our Stake Presidency, and I’ll let you know that I see firsthand their love and concern for each of you.
Today, I want to speak about an experience I had where I learned to Trust in the Lord and to Remember the Training we receive in our lives as members of the church. That’s the take away I want you to remember: Trust in the Lord and Remember Your Training
Our experience throughout our lives requires us to: Act in Faith, Experience and Overcome Adversity, Learn Patience, Remember our Training and Trust in the Lord. We have been given all the tools to successfully navigate our lives.
As a 19 year old college freshman, I was looking for an elective credit at BYU. A friend suggested I consider military science taught and sponsored by the ROTC program on campus. The course was fascinating to me consisting of both classroom work and outside drills, maneuvers, and physical fitness. I excelled in this class and I ended up receiving a 3 week airborne training course at Fort Benning Ga.
Airborne school consists of classroom instruction, physical fitness, and low level jumps, starting as early as 4:30 am and finishing late. The training teaches soldiers how to approach the open doorway of a C-130 airplane, properly jump out, control your fall, deal with adverse falling conditions, approach the earth and land without breaking your head, shoulders, knees or toes.
Really, you spend almost the full 3 weeks learning theory and practicing how to jump and land and the actual jumping occurs over a few short days. That is often how our lives work. We spend years training in school or learning in church but most often the defining moments of our lives can be very short.
In Sept, 1999, in a talk entitled, The Quest for Excellence, Pres. Hinckley said,
On such small hinges turn the gates of our lives. Little mistakes, which seem so unimportant in their beginnings, determine the eternal courses we follow.”
The idea of a door moving is that while the door moves out and far, the hinges barely move at all. In other words, the smallest movements or decisions can move our lives wide and far, either for good or for bad. After hearing many lessons on morality over the course of years as a young man or young woman, it can take but only a few moments to choose to live it or not live it. The same can be said for the word of wisdom, honesty, kindness, or any other positive attribute. Sometimes we tire of all the training, but it is that exact training that we will need in those defining short, brief moments that can save us spiritually.
In a literal sense, it was a few brief moments of training that I believe saved my life while attending airborne school. While I will elaborate a little more on my qualifying jumps, I first would like to share some analogies I like between the plan of salvation and a paratroopers gear.
First, a Parachute is like the Atonement, it’s attached to us. It may not be deployed but rather tucked on our backs, ready whenever needed to assist us. It allows us to make jumps in our lives by exercising our agency. It is the Atonement that saves us in much the same way that a parachute literally saves a paratrooper. Ignoring the Atonement in our lives would be like skydiving without a parachute. (which some idiot just did)
Next, a paratrooper is given a reserve chute. This is to be used in real emergencies, when there is a high likelihood that something is wrong or failing and you need extra help in addition to the main parachute. In my analogy, this reserve chute plays a role like the Bishop. While the reserve chute will never be the same as the main parachute, when used correctly, is a wonderful tool to help us and it may save your life. A bishop is there to ensure that we can slow down and regain our composure long enough for the main chute or the Atonement to take effect. There are times when we need a reserve chute.
There are stringers, long cords, that are attached to the parachute and then down to the harness. These lines are used to maneuver while falling by pulling on them in different ways. I will liken these cords to the gospel tools we have been given: prayer, scriptures especially the Book of Mormon, fasting, tithing, callings, service are just a few examples.
Finally, a paratrooper wears a harness that is sealed tightly to the body and when properly fitted, is impossible to fall out of. This is like the covenants we make in the temple. It completely holds us like the sealing power.
You can see that they system is fairly straight-forward, All these tools are attached and designed for our own good and when we are trained to use them, they keep us from injury as we jump from the plane. The plane is like our pre-earth life. A safe environment but one that provides no literal experience. Once the decision has been made to jump from the plane, the training has been completed and the paratrooper has all the necessary gear, in theory, there is very little that should go wrong, But that doesn’t mean that things can’t go wrong.
There are 5 qualifying jumps to become a US paratrooper. First, this isn’t skydiving. Skydiving jumps occur at much higher elevations, usually 9-12k feet or higher. In the last few years, skydivers have broken the sound barrier jumping from the edge of space. A paratrooper jumps from low altitudes, around 1500 feet, and does not pull their own cord, but rather has a static line connected to the plain. When you jump, the parachute automatically opens for you. You fall about 400-600 feet in just a few seconds before the chute is fully deployed. I wanted to share today the experience I had with my 5 jumps and draw some analogies to the gospel that I have pondered as I have looked back over the years.
JUMP ONE: Jump one was my Faith jump. It was terrifying because it’s the first. I had never done it before. They packed us all into a huge hangar, like a giant warehouse. Our gear was checked and rechecked, and more instruction given to trust our gear and remember our training. As a final reminder, we were shown videos of what not to do as soldiers disregarded their training and panicked, breaking limbs, and sustaining serious injuries. There’s something about doing things for the first time. Our C-130 airplane took off and began to circle the drop zone. There are not traditional airplane seats, but rather long benches like the pews your on that face each other, close enough for knees to touch. At the proper time, sergeant airborne commands a line of 10 soldiers to stand in a line known as a chalk. One by one, the soldiers advance towards the rear of the plane, position their footing and jump out the side door. My heart was pounding, as pure adrenaline seemed to overtake me. It was not unlike the simulated planes we trained in when we jumped from about 10 feet, but knowing we were now higher than the empire state building made the moment very different. As I came to my turn at the door, my training kicked in and I took the leap. I remember that I didn’t have that falling feeling but rather a feeling like a fast roller coaster because you are going so fast, you fall sideways rather than straight down. Within seconds, my chute was open, my cords were straight and not tangled and I floated softly to the ground, landed on 5 different body points, released my chute from the harness and just like that, it was over.
In 2 Nephi 32:9
But Behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
I was certainly doing some praying and luckily did not faint.
I like how Nephi states, “ in the first place” and “consecrate thy performance”. There are many firsts in our lives that frankly can be a little intimidating. When we Trust in the lord, he will help us to rise to the occasion. While my first jump was literal, some examples in our lives might be going on a mission, getting married, accepting a new calling, moving away from home, a health challenge, becoming a parent, starting a business, going to college, a first date, a big sports event, or any other “FIRST” These are all good things…. Sometimes scary things, but good things nonetheless. Let’s do them! Take a leap of faith, Trust the lord, move forward with faith. He will consecrate thy performance for the welfare of thy soul. In my life, most of these firsts were just as serious and often scary as jumping from an airplane. The major difference is these things last much longer. Ask yourself, am I holding back from any of these good things, these firsts because of fear? If so, you can overcome it through preparation and faith. Before you know it, it will be over.
JUMP TWO: I like to call Jump Two, my Adversity jump. I did not experience adversity, but I was a witness to someone else going through what had to be one of the most challenging moments in their lives. I was lined up at the fourth position. In the second position, a young woman approached the doorway and while trying to time her footing, tripped and fell forward towards the open door. She instinctively clung onto the side of the plane, but her legs were sucked out of the plane backwards. She didn’t do anything intentionally wrong, but sometimes mistakes happen. She found herself completely out of her comfort zone. While I’m sure it was worse for her, I certainly was scared watching her scream for help. Even worse than that, there wasn’t anything I could do to help her. Although we had spent weeks training together, using teamwork to accomplish our learning, once you’re up there, there wasn’t much I could do. Sometimes, our trials are borne alone. Sergeant airborne got down on his hands and knees and yelled loudly, “just let go”. Fearful, she clung onto the perceived safety of the plane. She was trying to climb back into the plane, a feat that was surely impossible and one that was not really her choice. I watched helplessly as the sergeant put his boot on her hands and pressed down, forcing her to fall out the door. While that may sound horrible, it was the best thing for her in this unpleasant situation she found herself in. Once outside the plane, she remembered her training, and landed on her feet, safe and sound. I know it’s easy to say, Do not fear, but I’ve learned that adversity comes to all. Sometimes, you just have to let go, trust in the Lord, and fall knowing you are attached to the right gear and have the right training to survive very tough situations. In Isaiah 41:10, it reads:
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
And in 2nephi 2:11
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.
We can’t help everyone, we can’t take away others challenges and learning opportunites, though it may pain us to watch, we have to allow others to make their own way sometimes
Little did I know that what just happened to her, in my opinion, was nothing compared to what awaited me.
JUMP THREE: Jump three is my patience jump. Due to high winds, only half were able to jump before our plane missed the landing zone. As I approached the door, I thought I knew exactly what I should be doing. However, right before my turn to jump, I was signaled to hold. Every part of me was ready to move forward, I had plans, I was prepared, but I was told no. Instead, I stood in the open doorway of that plane looking down for about 15 minutes. I learned something about myself. I was ok to stay on the ground and ok to jump, but I never was asked before to go so slowly. I had a patience problem. I wanted to get it over with. I had worked myself up to do what I had been trained to do but was then told to wait. Isn’t that a lot like life? Sometimes the Lord asks us to wait or to be patient. It requires concentration not to act.
I love this quote by Elder Uchtdorf, In his talk entitled, “Continue in Patience”, from April 2010, He said:
“Waiting can be hard. Children know it, and so do adults. We live in a world offering fast food, instant messaging, on-demand movies, and immediate answers to the most trivial or profound questions. We don’t like to wait. Some even feel their blood pressure rise when their line at the grocery store moves slower than those around them.
Patience—the ability to put our desires on hold for a time—is a precious and rare virtue. We want what we want, and we want it now. Therefore, the very idea of patience may seem unpleasant and, at times, bitter.Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect.
Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace.”
JUMP FOUR: Jump four was my “trust in the Lord” Jump or the , “are you kidding me?” jump where my parachute malfunctioned.
Once outside the plane, you don’t just hang there waiting for the ground to find you. There is a lot to do including a visual inspection of the equipment, determining where you are at relative to your team, surveying your surroundings and aiming for the right spot on the drop zone.
Remember, it doesn’t take long from jumping to impact, so we are constantly busy with our to do list. As I was taught, I Iooked up to inspect my cords. They were tangled like a swing where a child twists them around, and when you can’t twist anymore, they spin around and around. In this instance, I was taught to stay calm, but I realized that my chute also was not fully deployed. In fact, when I looked up, the trooper behind me in line was walking on top of my parachute. They are taught to lift their legs high to their chest and run as fast as they can in order to get off my chute. At this moment, I froze. Instead of doing as I had been trained, I focused on someone else and what they were supposed to be doing. ( Mote and Beam
Once they were no longer on my chute, my training kicked in. I was falling faster than others in my line with a partially deployed chute. Just before it was almost too late, I regained my focus on using my lines to open my chute. If you’ll remember, the cords/lines represent the tools we have to help us solve problems and use the Atonement in our lives. When we focus on our own tools and the Atonement, we can slow our destructive descent
When your lines are tangled, you make a bicycle pedaling motion while pulling up on all your cords. Like the swing example, I spun around and around, but my cords were still tangled and my chute wasn’t fully open. I was doing everything I could but I was now the closest trooper to the ground although I jumped towards the end of the line. I was also way off course
I reached for my reserve chute, knowing that using that chute could save my life but also knowing that it would be very hard to accomplish the task. Often, the reserve chute at the beginning creates more work as it can also tangle with the main lines. However, as a precaution, it can slow you down just enough that when you hit the ground, it can prevent death or serious injury. The main chute still is what keeps you from free falling, but as a tool, working in conjunction with the reserve chute, the two are designed to literally save your life.
Well, my main chute suddenly filled with air, and I remember being lifted up and carried in a whole other direction. Instead of that fast falling feeling, it suddenly felt like I wasn’t falling at all. I was actually being lifted despite all the forces combined against me not the least of which was gravity. Instead of falling, It was like I was in a time out from falling and flailing. I was more or less drifting off to the side. It was a calming sensation, one that gave me time to work through the tangles I was connected too. And I did. I remembered my training, used my gear to get right and then began my descent.
In fact, so merciful was this extra help that I was one of the last to land on the drop zone albeit very far from my intended target.
As I packed up my chute, another sergeant airborne came running up to me and got really close to my face, looked me in the eyes and said, “ you’re a dead man”. Instead of responding with the required, “yes sergeant airborne” I started to ramble saying, “I know, I don’t know what went wrong, I’m sorry, I couldn’t remember what to do… etc, etc.” At any time during my training, that answer would have gotten me a couple sets of 10 pushups, but this older, wiser, authority figure I’m sure was looking at the scared face of a 19 year old, and he simply said, “son, you did everything right, I don’t know what happened up there, but usually that kind of tangle doesn’t end well for troopers. You are one lucky man!” I knew better, I knew that for all my work, training, and trial, I was spared through my small efforts, the giant force of a large parachute, and I’m sure the pleading prayers of my mother who wasn’t really loving the idea of me going to airborne school in the first place.
The Lord is no respecter of persons. The sun rises and falls on all, both sinner and saint alike. In these moments when difficulty arrives on our door, REMEMBER YOUR TRAINING, specific training, do not to give up, take action. My literal solution came from above as your literal solution will to. Look up at the Atonement that encompasses you. If you find yourself in a problem, you probably already know what to do. DO IT. Remember the lines to the chute? Get on your knees, search for answers in scripture, go see your bishop, pull that reserve chute, it’s never too late, I testify that the Atonement will save you. It’s ultimately not the stringers, (tools), the harness (temple), the reserve chute (the bishop) or the training that are designed specifically to save you, but it’s the parachute, or the Atonement that saves. It’s a force much larger than us.
To the Prophet Joseph Smith’s cry for relief, from his undeserved imprisonment in Liberty Jail, the Lord replied:
“How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints. The Lord is in charge, no matter the efforts of our Puny Arms.
JUMP FIVE: Jump Five was my “I finally know what I’m doing jump”. It was just right, had the right experience, nothing out of the ordinary though it’s usually a night time jump.
I’ve noticed that in my life, just as soon as I have something figured out, that thing comes to an end for me. As soon as I knew how to parachute from a plane, I went home, never to do it again. As soon as I learned my mission language, how to teach, love the people and my companion, and became an effective missionary, my time was up and I was heading home. As soon as I mastered the subject matter in college, and felt truly knowledgable, I left school to start working. I’m sure that when I get a handle on parenting, my young children will be leaving for their missions, school, and starting their own families. Jump five represents to me the jump back to whatever is next. For me, I landed in the MTC about 30 days later for my mission to Argentina. I had a lot of confidence that if I could survive Jump School, I could accomplish other tasks, perhaps more difficult tasks. In the Lord’s time we will make our final jump back to Him.
We recently had in stake conference a favorite scripture of mine.
41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
I want to leave you with one final thought:
The greatest injury, the greatest risk often happens to a paratrooper after they have safely landed. When you land, it’s not like you see on TV where a skydiver walks right onto the soft grass with a thumbs up. In low altitude jumps, a paratrooper is trained to hold one’s body with the knees up, arms in, head down position and to hit the ground sideways, backwards, or straight on. When you hit the earth, the first point of contact is your ankles, then the sides of your knees, then your hip, then your mid back/side area, then your upper back/shoulder area. If you keep your head tucked in, your won’t smack your helmet on the ground. The momentum, flips your body over until you are sitting in the situp position. That’s when you know that it’s over and you are safe.
But there is one critical thing left. With your two hands, you extend your thumbs and reach up to the buckles just below your shoulders. With a jerking motion, you pull the buckles which releases you from being attached to all the gear. You can’t pack up your gear and take it with you if you are still attached to it the wrong way. In fact, many troopers are dragged needlessly in the wind, still attached to the chute, trying to keep from falling, when you are no longer in immediate danger.
I have likened this danger to the danger of not accepting the Atonement in our lives. Often, after we have committed sin and taken the necessary steps to be forgiven, we struggle to forgive ourselves. The Lord has forgiven us, but we continue to cling to the Atonement as if we needed a parachute on the ground. This unwillingness to forgive ourselves and often others, is dangerous.
The adversary would have us believe that we can never be worthy again and that we must forever be worried. Again, the parachute is a tool that can be carried on our backs, tucked neatly into its bag, right there always with us, ready for those moments when we fall, and it gets deployed to save us. It operates wonderfully when its not deployed as well, giving us confidence. We must be willing to let go of the buckles so we are not dragged around by discouragement. The Atonement has already brought us safely to the ground, there is a time to unhook from the chute, pack it up and carry it with us always, ready to be used again as needed.
Repentance: let it go, or it will drag you down and cause unnecessary injury, just simply let it go, the hard part is done, you’ve done everything right and landed in a safe zone, but if you don’t pull your attachment cord, a very simple movement with your thumbs, you can’t really get up and move on.
Remember at the beginning I shared my takeaway from this message: Trust in the Lord and Remember Your Training.
This is His church. I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior. How grateful I am to be here with you today. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.