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“Return with honor” is a call that has become familiar to every Latter-day Saint. For Elder Robert D. Hales, this stirring directive was his unit's motto when he served as a jet fighter pilot in the United States Air Force, and he uses it often in his teaching. During his military days, the motto was a constant and powerful reminder to complete each mission honorably — and now it reminds us, the Lord's children, that what we do on earth can make it possible to return with honor to our heavenly home.
A beloved member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Hales writes with keen insight and compassion about the orderly preparations we need to make as we travel through mortality. Our journey of life has four vital stages:
- Decades of Preparation
- Decade of Decision
- Decades of Serving and Pressing Forward
- Decades of Serving and Enduring to the End
Elder Hales considers each of these essential periods using vivid stories from his own life, compelling scriptural insights, and the wisdom he has gained through a tender relationship with the Savior.
Whatever your stage in life, the message Elder Hales offers in Return: Four Phases of Our Moral Journey Home is clear: Keeping sacred covenants, prayerfully making life's important decisions, and embracing the Savior and His Atonement can prepare you for eternal life — the greatest gift of God. This volume is an inspired guide to your journey home.
Table of Contents
1. Our Journey Home
DECADES OF PREPARATION
2. Always Preparing
3. Remember Who You Are
4. Faith unto Salvation
5. Forgetting Those Things That Are Left Behind
6. The Gate of Baptism
7. The Gift of the Holy Ghost
8. Personal Revelation
9. Choosing Friends Wisely
10. The Preparatory Priesthood
11. Daughters of God
12. Lacing Up Your Boots
13. Overcoming the Adversary
DECADE OF DECISION
14. Making Life's Most Important Decisions
15. Becoming Fishers of Men
16. Moving On
17. Avoiding Spiritual Shortcuts
18. Education for Life
19. Choosing an Eternal Companion
20. The House of the Lord
DECADES OF SERVING AND PRESSING FORWARD
21. One Church Fits All
22. Fearless Love
23. Building a Sound Financial Foundation
24. True to Ourselves and Our Mission
25. Strengthening Families
26.Feed My Lambs, Feed My Sheep
27. Feasting upon the Words of Christ
28. Following God's Prophets
29. The Journey of Lifelong Learning
DECADES OF SERVING AND ENDURING TO THE END
30. Learning from Life's Trials
31. Like Simeon and Anna
32. Facing Death
33. The Atonement
- Size: 6" x 9"
- Pages: 456
- Published: 2010
About the Author
Elder Robert D. Hales was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April 1994. He had begun his service as a General Authority nearly twenty years earlier, in 1975, as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and later as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and as Presiding Bishop. He had previously served in a variety of Church leadership positions, including president of the England London Mission and first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency.
Elder Hales grew up in New York City and spent most of his summers with relatives in Utah. He is a graduate of the University of Utah and holds a master of business administration degree from Harvard. Before his call to full-time Church service, he had a distinguished business career, filling executive positions with several major national companies.
He and his wife, Mary Elene Crandall Hales, are the parents of two sons.
This earth is literally a proving ground. Each of us chose to come here to experience mortality and to prove ourselves in a test of trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows. Our goal is to endure faithfully to the end in righteousness and return to the presence of God, our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). How will we make our journey back to them?
As a young man, I had the opportunity to serve in the United States Air Force as a jet fighter pilot. Each unit in our squadron had a motto that would inspire its efforts. Our unit motto—displayed on the side of our aircraft—was “Return with Honor.” This motto was a constant reminder to us of our goal: to return to our home base with honor after expending all efforts necessary to complete our mission successfully.
Having left Heavenly Father’s presence to come to earth, we too must determine to return with honor to our heavenly home. Our aim is to receive eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7). To do this we must remember where we came from, why we are here, and where we desire to go when we leave this life.
When I think of the four stages of life, I am reminded that one of the most difficult missions I flew as a jet fighter pilot occurred while I was stationed in Albany, Georgia. I was selected for a special mission called High Flight. Our task was to ferry some of our older models of the F-100 jets to Spain. We were basically giving jet hand-me-downs to one of our NATO allies. I asked the squadron leader why he chose me to be his wingman, especially since I was younger than most other crew members. He replied, “Because I know you are always sober.”
These jets had limited range, so flying them across the Atlantic Ocean was not easy. We first flew to Newfoundland, where we waited for a shift in the weather, after which we headed on to the Azores, beautiful little islands that could serve as a way station en route to Spain. We had just enough fuel to make the flight from Newfoundland to the Azores. The winds were against us, so in this case we waited about thirty days for favorable conditions.
During those thirty days, we were supposed to prepare for our trip. We got up every morning at 6:00 for drills. If we had to eject over the North Atlantic, we would probably survive the frigid water just long enough to inflate and climb into the life raft attached to our seat. So we prepared by jumping off a diving board into a pool of freezing water and cinching our flight suits tight around our necks and ankles. As we hit the water, we would pull a cord to inflate the raft and then climb in. We could not simulate the swells of ten to fifteen feet we would probably have experienced in the North Atlantic, but at least the test helped us know how to inflate our rafts and climb into them in freezing water.
We would then study the Dash-1, a manual that explained practically everything about our airplane—every part, every function, every emergency procedure. Exceptional pilots knew the essential chapters and pages by memory. These pages had the answers that could save us in an emergency. With these answers in our minds, Dash-1 could relieve us of the anxiety we would otherwise have had.
The training got old fast. It was hard to prepare so much when what we really wanted to do was fly. But in time the day for our departure came. The weather was still marginal; however, because of the demands of our assignment, we could not wait any longer. We took off for the Azores, flying our single-seat fighters in two formations of four planes each. Like the Holy Ghost, Navy ships below provided navigational direction for us as we crossed the Atlantic Ocean.
It wasn’t until we reached No Man’s Land—about halfway between Newfoundland and the Azores—that one of the pilots first started having problems. “Something’s wrong with my fuel pump,” the lieutenant said over the radio. “My fuel isn’t feeding properly. My gauges are not giving me the right information.” Our squadron leader got on the airwaves to talk him through the problem, but the lieutenant became more and more worried. “I’m losing a lot of fuel out of one tank. I don’t understand what’s going on.”
So our squadron leader said, “Hales, will you get up there and see if you can see any loss of fuel outside the plane?” I flew up six to eight feet beneath the troubled plane, bouncing around in the turbulence of the North Atlantic air, but I couldn’t see any signs of a leak. Back in formation, I reported my findings.
At this point the lieutenant said, “My fuel warning light is on.” We were still a long way from the Azores, but we were past the point of no return. Then he started to panic. The rest of us became fairly excited, and we all started giving him advice at once over the radio.
Our more experienced squadron leader—who had been an ace in the Korea conflict—took control of the situation and calmly began reviewing our options. He asked some of the other pilots to review their Dash-1 manuals to see what they could learn about the fuel pumps. This leader, who had done his homework and was well prepared, told us how we could determine whether the problem was a broken gas gauge or a faulty fuel pump not drawing fuel from one of the tanks. We soon determined that the problem was the failure of one of the pumps. The engines were not getting any fuel from one of the tanks.
Our leader, based on the Dash-1 and his own experience, came up with a plan. It nearly scared the lieutenant to death, but frankly, it was his only chance. Our leader told him to turn off both his pumps, including the one that was working, to try to determine whether he could get the fuel to flow using gravity by “porpoising,” or rapidly changing altitude. The idea was to use gravity to get the fuel flowing naturally—the aeronautical equivalent of siphoning.
Of course, we barely had enough fuel to make it to the Azores as it was, so using precious fuel to fly up and down seemed like the last thing a pilot would want to do. The poor lieutenant about lost it. He said, “I’m not gonna win either way. I’ll go in, one way or the other. I’ll just chance it.” He had convinced himself he was not going to make it and that he would have to bail out.
Then the squadron leader ordered him to porpoise. “The temperature of that water, Lieutenant, is a lot better where the Azores are than where you are right now. Will you please do what I say?” It came down to whether the lieutenant was going to listen, despite his fear. Finally, he decided to follow the orders from the seasoned veteran who was leading us. That may have been one of the most important decisions of his life.
But making the decision wasn’t enough. This pilot was understandably rattled, yet he still had to fly in formation and carry out the order. Together we all flew up one or two thousand feet, came down, became weightless and then pulled back up to increase gravitational forces, forcing the fuel to flow. It worked, and our squadron leader had the lieutenant turn on his good pump again. Because of the lieutenant’s emergency training, he had pulled himself together and pressed forward.
When we finally reached the Azores, we were ready to be back on the ground safely. But we still faced an obstacle—a huge cumulonimbus cloud rising from the islands thirty thousand or forty thousand feet into the atmosphere, with lightning coming out on all sides. The thunderstorm was right over the Azores, and it wasn’t going anywhere. We didn’t have any reserve fuel, so we could not circle and wait for the storm to pass or dissipate. However, with determination we found a little clearing in the middle, and we went in.
Our fuel was low, so we landed in formation, two at a time. We were landing in the wind and rain; we could barely see the runway. We came in hot—faster than our normal speed. The pilot on my wing was inexperienced, so he pulled the chute on his plane early. It came out and went right off the plane, and he shot past me. Panicking, he slammed on the brakes, his tires blew, and he skidded in front of me on his rims. I had to decide quickly whether to pull up and come around again for a clean landing alone or try to finish. But there just wasn’t enough fuel to risk going around again. This was my one chance. So I deployed my chute and somehow kept from hitting the plane. He crashed into the cable barrier at the end of the runway and his plane caught fire, but he got out without getting hurt. Of course, he had to fly back on a commercial flight—something no pilot ever wants to do. But we had arrived safely, despite all the challenges we had faced.
Can we see the parallels to our own experience on the earth? Our squadron had had thirty days to do nothing but get ready for our mission—a preparatory period. We practiced in a pool to prepare us to face real-life crises, and we were supposed to carefully study flight manuals. Certainly it would have been more relaxing to play rather than to prepare; some of us used this time better than others. In our lives, we begin with a season I call the Decades of Preparation. This is the time when we first experience agency, enter into our baptismal covenant, study God’s word, learn about His commandments and standards for us, and learn how to use the great navigational gift of the Holy Ghost—as essential to our well-being as the Navy ships that guided us across the ocean. Those who use this period best are always most prepared for the challenges that follow.
When my fellow pilot discovered the problem with his fuel, we had some critical decisions to make. Turning to the flight manual enabled us to diagnose the problem. Our seasoned leader then had an inspired solution, but acting on his direction took real faith. The lieutenant had to overcome his feelings of despair and his fear that he was going to have to bail out. Ultimately, he had to choose whether to do what came naturally—trying to save his fuel by flying level—or to trust our squadron leader and follow his directions. My pilot buddy saved his life by making the right decision and following his leader.
In our lives it is not just one decision but many that will determine whether we make our journey home and inherit eternal life. We face an unusual number of these critical choices in the Decade of Decision, when we determine the direction we will take the rest of our lives and throughout eternity. We decide whether to serve missions, whom to marry, and what educational and career goals to pursue. For those who marry, we begin to establish patterns that will determine what kinds of marriages and families we will have. As we study and learn the words of Christ and hearken to the counsel of His prophets, we will find the wisdom and strength to chart the right course home.
On our mission to the Azores, once we diagnosed the problem and decided on a solution, we still needed to carry out our plan. In our mortal journey, as we emerge from our Decade of Decision, most of us still have decades of the journey ahead of us. During this time most of us become parents or mentors to help others stay on the course that leads home to Heavenly Father. Inevitably we encounter obstacles but discover that even life’s ups and downs can serve an important purpose. We may feel overwhelmed and full of despair at times, doubting that we really can complete our journey. But as we exercise faith and obey our leaders, we gain the strength to carry on. I call this season of life the Decades of Serving and Pressing Forward.
After all the stress we had had on our flight to the Azores, we might have hoped for an easy landing, but it was not to be. Instead, we were faced with one of the most difficult landings I have ever had to make. Even after preparing, making good decisions, and carrying out our squadron leader’s plan, had we lost our focus after finally reaching the Azores, we would not have successfully executed the landing—and our journey would have been in vain. That’s how it is in life. Even after preparing well, making good decisions, and serving faithfully during the Decades of Serving and Pressing Forward, to return to Heavenly Father with honor we must endure well to the end. The storms we face at the end of our lives include the deterioration of our bodies and sometimes even our minds. Many suffer from loneliness as loved ones pass on before them. And some struggle to find the will to continue to serve as their physical or mental capacity is diminished or as the opportunities for service move from center stage to behind the scenes. This stage of life, the Decades of Serving and Enduring to the End, is the time when seasoned Saints shine.
A single book about all the decades of life may be unusual in a day of finely targeted marketing geared to narrowly defined demographic groups. Yet stepping back and seeing our entire mortal journey in the context of our Heavenly Father’s plan may be just what we need, wherever we are on life’s path. My hope is that this book will be of value to inquisitive youth, concerned parents, those in the sunset of their lives, wise Church leaders, and earnest truth seekers of any age or faith.
What makes this book different from other books about the journey of life? The restored gospel of Jesus Christ helps us understand all the dimensions of our journey: We have a loving Father in Heaven who provided the opportunity for each of us to come to earth and experience mortality as a part of our eternal progression. His plan enables us to become like Him and return to His presence. As part of that plan and out of His pure love for us, He sent His Only Begotten Son to earth to voluntarily atone for the sins of every one of us. Even with diligent preparation, the best of decisions, and faithful obedience, we would never be able to return with honor were it not for that atoning sacrifice.
Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ provided the way
back. More literally, He is the way back, “and there is none other
way . . . whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God”
(2 Nephi 31:21). He is also “the truth, and the life”—even eternal life (John 14:6).
Without Him, it would be impossible for us to complete our journey home. I know He lives. In Him I have unwavering faith that all of us can return to our Heavenly Father with honor and live with Him forever.
A must-have book for Everyone
by LynnEl - reviewed on June 15, 2010
This book is incredible! I pre-ordered it and it came just before I had to speak at a Sunday Evening Discussion. It was PERFECT. It helped me so much with my discussion to the youth. This book is for every age, for every leader in any capacity in the church, for the youth, for parents, for you! It gives you questions to ponder at the end of each short chapter, and it is such an easy read. It makes you feel good and helps you want to do better all at the same time. Thank you Elder Hales for this wonderful book!
by Cherilyn - reviewed on August 04, 2010
This is one of the most inspiring books I have read in a long time. As I read, the Spirit showed me ways principles Elder Hales shared applied to my life even if they were in sections that I didn't fit into. It reminded me of the open canon of scripture: the Spirit helps us learn exactly what we need most right now from particular messages, even if it's not the same as what others need. I don't generally mark books, but I certainly did this one, making sure I could find messages that struck me again, and gave a copy immediately to someone very close to me. This has messages valuable to everyone. Thank you, Elder Hales!
A Unique and Enlightening Book
by Customer - reviewed on June 09, 2010
Part of what appeals to me is Elder Hales’ breadth of experience—as a jet fighter pilot, an athlete, a business executive, and a Church leader. He shares vivid and memorable stores from his life--many I'd never heard before--as well as fresh insights into the scriptures. There are photographs and other graphics that make the read even more interesting. This is a unique and enlightening book. I was drawn in by the warmth and the stories in the book. It almost feels as if I am in a private conversation with Elder Hales where he is sharing his experiences and insights. I recommend it to everyone.
by Bobbie J - reviewed on May 05, 2011
I read alot of doctrinal books and highlight what stands out to be helping me in the experiences in my life. Return has helped me in so many ways and I have also shared some of his ideas in Relief Society.
Intimately written conveying a warm sincere knowledge, direction & truthfulness.
by Customer - reviewed on July 02, 2010
Thank you Brother Hales & Family. My wife & I are reading the book together and getting additional copies for un-expecting recipients to enjoy & encourage. Refreshing & Rejuvenating! ... We have had Family members serve both World War I and II Infantry, Railroad, Fighter Pilot and Bombers one plane inscribed The "Upstairs Maid" returning from a bombing mission over Europe badly damaged crippled Home ... "With Honor"... Thank you.
Excellent source of direction, encouragement and comfort
by Jean - reviewed on July 31, 2012
Elder Hales' clear and insightful message is valuable to people of every age and stage of life. I've shared this book with a struggling missionary, a mother of young children and a newly married couple who have all found encouragement and direction that strengthened them in their challenges. As an empty nester who recently lost my father to cancer, this book has also been a comfort and motivatior for me. I highly recommend this book!
by Eunice & Ed - reviewed on September 06, 2010
Well written with so much for us to ponder and helps for us to make our own course corrections if necessary. I am really happy Elder Hales wrote this. I don't think it was an easy read. I found myself rereading the same paragraph sometimes up to three times before moving on. Also as I read, other thoughts would come to mind and I would take time to consider them so it isn't an easy, highly entertaining, quick read. However, it was well worth reading and I highly recommend it. I was happy to find an index in the back and will be placing this book on my gospel reference shelf.
Simple, Yet Profound!
by Pam - reviewed on September 02, 2010
I loved this book! I don't normally read doctrinal books, because they are usually a little deep for me and don't keep me engaged! However, "Return" isn't like that at all! I was "hooked" from the first pages, and read it from cover to cover. The language is so simple, yet the stories and doctrine are so profound. Much like his conference talks, Elder Hales' book is easy to read and understand. It is intertwined with personal stories, scriptures, and quotes from other General Authorities. Each chapter is thought-provoking, with a list of "checkpoints" at the end, for the reader to evaluate his/her progress. I think it's a "MUST-READ" for late-teens to the elderly! (My 17-year-old daughter loved the sections I had her read!)
by Rick - reviewed on June 09, 2010
I was deeply moved. It is well written and engaging.
A Joy to Read
by Customer - reviewed on June 14, 2010
For me, it's always a joy to discover fun insights into the lives of the Apostles. I enjoyed reading about the lessons he has learned throughout his life and that it has been quite exciting! Throughout this book, it's easy to feel the love Elder Hales has for us and how much he wants us to return to our Heavenly Father.
by Robert - reviewed on December 12, 2011
This is just a fantastic book. I havent completed it yet. But just those few chapters I have read just edified me. The book is contantly in the back of my mind. I cant wait to go home and start continuing to read ! Elder Hales recent General Conference talk was so touching (Oct 2011), in backdrop of that this work becomes even more inspiring. I hope I had this book during the first phase of Preparation itself. I could have prepared better for the subsequent phases. Surely I will be teaching the principles to my dear Children- Caren and Chelsea.
I love this book
by Breanne - reviewed on May 24, 2011
This book is a great read if you want to start from the beginning and read through in order or if you want to focus and study on a specific topic. I love this book and am sooooo grateful for its words. It is a fantastic add to any gospel library.
Return by Elder Hales
by Connor - reviewed on February 18, 2012
Robert D Hales writes this book to help our journey through life. He talks about many things that can help us focus and realign our lives. He uses great examples that apply to a wide variety of readers. He never puts us down for the decisions we make or the circumstances that we are in, he only focuses on lifting up our spirits and confidence in his text. Robert D Hales is an apostle of the Lord and gives us divine guidance to all of our problems, he also relates the scriptures in his book and uses examples on how to be more Christ like. He lets us know that we are loved by Heavenly Father and that we should be striving to make our journey back to him as enjoyable as possible. He gives advice in many different areas, such as finance, religion, family, activities, righteousness and many others. I would recommend this book to anyone that needs direction in their life for any circumstance that they are in. This book can only help. It is a little bit lengthy but focusing on one chapter at a time and trying to get the most out of each chapter will make the book fly by and help you with more then you can imagine. Overall I though it was an amazing book.
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