Spiritual leader offers message of peace
By Master Sgt. Burke Baker, 151 ARW/PA
/ Published March 09, 2009
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- More than 400 members of the Utah Air National Guard assembled in the south hangar of the Air Guard base to hear President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, speak during an early-morning devotional on February 8.
President Uchtdorf was extended a special invite to convey a universal message of peace to the Guardsmen.
During the opening remarks, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Greg Clark of the 151st Air Refueling Wing's chaplain office said he hoped this event would be the start of series of annual devotionals bringing prominent members of the local religious community out to the base to speak to the members of the Utah ANG.
"The purpose of the devotional was to have a religious leader present a universal message that could benefit, in various ways, all members of the Utah Air National Guard," said Chaplain Clark. "I knew that President Uchtdorf's current membership in the LDS First Presidency would appeal to many of the LDS members of the Guard, but I also felt that his background as a German aviator who had trained with the U.S. Air Force would also appeal to people of all denominations and backgrounds."
President Uchtdorf's talk focused on peace being a worldwide desire.
"As we assemble this morning in such a peaceful congregation, we know that peace is not just absence of war," he said. "Peace is much more than that...you, as citizen soldiers, have a special peace in your hearts, even the peace of God. I think that is what the peace of a soldier is."
President Uchtdorf served six years in the German Air Force as a fighter pilot. He was senior vice president of Lufthansa German Airlines' flight operations and chief pilot at the time he was called as a General Authority of the LDS Church in 1994. As a pilot, he said, he traveled to almost all parts of the world, and completed his flying career behind the yoke of the Boeing 747. He attended undergraduate pilot training in 1959 at Webb Air Force base, Texas while serving with the Luftwaffe.
"There was an Air National Guard F-102 squadron there," he said. "I always thought, 'Boy, that is the best of two worlds. They work as civilians during the week and then on the weekend they have a chance to fly beautiful planes and do something great.'
"Of course, there is always a serious side. Perhaps in the past we might have thought of National Guard service as piling up sacks when a flood is coming or flying humanitarian help somewhere. It is really being called into war. The Utah National Guard has had a large share. Thousands of you have served and are serving overseas and are seeing the difference between peace and war. The anchor in our life -- especially for you who are serving your country and are ready and able to go any place in the world and have taken an oath to protect the liberty of your country --I believe, your strong faith and confidence that there is a living God, that he is there to be with you."
President Uchtdorf said peace of mind and heart comes in 'knowing our true identity as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Understanding these principles can help us to answer the often-asked question, 'How do we live with each others' deepest differences?"
He also spoke of having witnessed "democracy in action" at the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, where he saw the peaceful transfer of power.
"Even with great differences in political views, there was graciousness and a unity of peace there. I would like to congratulate you for your country, for the wonderful way this democracy is being practiced and is being shown to all throughout the world. That is what liberty is all about."
"I think his message was timely," said Master Sgt. Jeff Kennecott, a member of the 169th Intelligence Squadron who attended the event. "We have been at conflict for such a long time, that we are all a little war weary. However, in the midst of being at war, it was comforting to hear a message about peace and achieving inner peace in one's self."
During the service Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Bruce Brewer, 151st ARW Chaplain, offered the invocation and Tech. Sgt. Jack Sommer from the 151st Maintenance Group offered the benediction.
"I feel like the devotional was a phenomenal success," said Chaplain Clark. "President Uchtdorf's message was incredibly inspiring. Many people attended, but more importantly, individual Airmen were touched, excited, and motivated by the message--several of them talked with me afterward and provided a great deal of positive feedback. As a chaplain, I will always feel like any event, irrespective of numbers, is a success if somebody receives a spiritual or emotional boost."