Following the highly successful Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 excursions to the moon and back, Apollo 13 blasted off with equally great expectations in April 1970.
The launch went well but two days into the mission and 200,000 miles from home the crew heard a loud “bang.” During an oxygen check a circuit breaker had malfunctioned, causing an explosion that compromised the oxygen the crew would need to return home.
It was only by maintaining constant communication with Flight Control in Houston and carefully following all instructions and procedures that the astronauts were able to safely splash down in the Pacific Ocean.
In sharing the above scenario during the campus devotional at Brigham Young University on Tuesday, Oct. 12, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell compared the Apollo 13 space mission to each individual’s journey back to Heavenly Father.
Just like that famous space mission, “ours is a journey of great potential, full of excitement, as well as unexpected occurrences along the way,” Bishop Waddell, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, explained to students.
As children of God they were sent from His presence with a specific objective — to return home. “In the process, we would be tried and tested. We would have physical, emotional and spiritual challenges that would help us grow and progress. We would be given agency and the right to choose … but with the caveat that our choices have associated consequences.”
Although individuals might not be trapped in a small spacecraft, in their mortal experiences they must deal with their own set of challenges and choices, Bishop Waddell said.
And unlike the crew of the Apollo 13, individuals today have many sources of information vying for attention. “Fortunately, there is one source that will guide us safely through life, providing a filter that allows us to separate fact from fiction and truth from error, on those issues of greatest importance. It is the source that we can always trust, that will never let us down, that will always be on our side, and that will love and respect us enough to always tell us what we need to hear, not necessarily what we want to hear.”
The key to a successful mortal journey — to return home to the presence of God — is to stay connected to that source, Bishop Waddell declared.
There are not sufficient words to describe the Savior and what He has done on behalf of all of God’s children. “He is our primary confidant, our most avid fan/supporter, and the perfect example for us to follow in all things.”
Jesus Christ alone is the source to whom all must stay connected in order to arrive safely home back to the presence of God, Bishop Waddell said.
The challenge is staying connected to the source.
For the Apollo 13 crew, equipment in their spacecraft and Flight Control allowed them to receive the guidance they needed to return home. For His children on Earth, “our Father in Heaven has provided a variety of resources to assist us in our effort to stay connected to the Savior,” Bishop Waddell explained and highlighted three: the scriptures, the sacrament and prophets.
Just as the crew of Apollo 13 heard Flight Control, “we have the same opportunity as we intentionally and regularly study the scriptures, feasting upon the words of Christ,” he said.
In President Thomas S. Monson’s last general conference address after 50 years as an Apostle of the Lord, and of all the messages he could have shared, he implored Latter-day Saints to study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day.
The purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince all people that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God and the Savior of the world. Daily study of the Book of Mormon will help readers keep connected to Jesus Christ, Bishop Waddell promised.
“Stay connected with the Savior through your study of the Book of Mormon.”
The ordinance of the sacrament allows participants to renew covenants, be cleansed and sanctified by the Spirit and helps them always remember Him, making it possible to stay connected to Him, Bishop Waddell said.
He then shared the words of Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who taught, “We are connected securely to and with the Savior as we worthily receive ordinances and enter into covenants, faithfully remember and honor those sacred commitments, and do our best to live in accordance with the obligations we have accepted. And that bond is the source of spiritual strength and stability in all of the seasons of our lives.”
The sacramental emblems are a weekly reminder of individual’s total dependence upon the Savior’s Atonement and the responsibility to keep the covenants made with Him.
“It is this same remembering, as we worthily participate in a sacred ordinance each week, which can strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ, deepen our conversion and make it possible for us to keep our covenants and maintain our connection to the source that will bring us safely home,” Bishop Waddell declared.
“Stay connected with the Savior through the ordinance of the sacrament.”
Like the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi, whose sons found his words difficult to hear, living prophets speak on behalf of the Lord, whether it is popular or controversial.
“Their role is not to please the world according to which way the winds of ‘political correctness’ are blowing … their role is to stay in line with ‘eternal correctness,’ declaring the Lords will, not man’s,” Bishop Waddell said.
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the role of the prophets when he said, “A prophet does not stand between you and the Savior. Rather, he stands beside you and points the way to the Savior. The most important role of the Lord’s prophet is to teach us of the Savior and lead us to Him.”
Teaching and declaring doctrine, not creating it, is how prophets help individuals stay connected to the source of truth, Bishop Waddell said.
“Some might use the excuse of agency to ignore the counsel of prophets. I would suggest to you that our use of agency, a gift from God, is not to determine whether the prophet is right, but rather, to choose whether or not to follow the counsel of the Lord as directed by the prophet.”
Individuals choose the Savior when they choose to follow the counsel of those He has chosen, Bishop Waddell said.
He then invited listeners to prayerfully consider how they can better stay connected to the one true source, “who has all power to lead you home as you spend time in the scriptures, worthily partake of the sacrament each week, and give heed to the counsel from the Lord’s anointed.”
Bishop Waddell concluded by sharing “a brief but essential truth” — “we will all be disconnected at times, due to our choices, as none of us are perfect. However, our Savior, Jesus Christ, will always be there for us with an invitation to reconnect. There is nothing you have or will do, that is beyond the reach of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His constantly outstretched arms.”