Home / Testimonies / Don L. Lind

There are a number of things that I take so much for granted that I don’t even think about questioning them. For example:

  • My own existence. I’m here. I’m alive. I don’t worry about it.
  • There is a real world around me. I see it. I take it absolutely for granted.
  • The sun will come up in the morning. I’m really sure that it will. It has never failed to do so.

With equal confidence, I also believe:

  • Our Father in Heaven exists and loves us and watches over us.
  • Jesus lived on this earth, performed His great atonement for us, and is our Savior and Redeemer.
  • The church that we belong to—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—is the Lord’s true and restored church.

Much of this confidence comes from the inner whisperings of the Holy Spirit. But some of it comes from the experiences that I have had. For example, I have studied about the Prophet Joseph Smith, and he did things that, to my mind, prove that he was a true prophet of the Lord. Consider the following example:

In the early 1830s, shortly after the Church was organized, Joseph Smith reported that Moses had appeared to him in a vision and had given him authority for the Jews to return to Palestine, their promised land. The Jews had been claiming for many years that they were about to go back to the Promised Land. Even to this day, every time they celebrate the Seder supper at the Passover, they pray, “Tonight we eat the supper in Bremerhaven (or wherever they happen to be), but next year in Jerusalem.” They had said this for two thousand years, and yet almost none of them went to Jerusalem until Joseph Smith, under the authority that he said he had received when Moses appeared to him in a vision, sent Orson Hyde to dedicate that land for the return of the Jews. This he did without television cameras, without the press corps, and without telling the Jews. But after two thousand years something inspired this branch of the house of Israel to “go home.” They started gradually, but by the late 1940’s they were willing to buck the entire British Navy, which had formed a blockade around un-partitioned Israel. Every Jew that the British caught was sent to one of the detention camps in Cyprus instead of to Jerusalem, but these people were willing to take that risk. I am convinced that the Lord was inspiring those Jewish people because of the action taken by the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was an Aaronic priesthood youth when the Jews were struggling to get back, and I remember reading about it and being thrilled that I was seeing a prophecy fulfilled. And, even at that age, I clearly understood that, if the Lord was fulfilling a prophecy, this was undeniable evidence that the person who made the prophecy had truly been speaking with the authority of the Lord.

Let me share another example of a more personal nature:

Several years ago I was flying a NASA T-38 jet aircraft from the Houston area to Utah in order to fulfill two church commitments that I had made. As I recall, they were a youth conference talk in the afternoon and a missionary fireside in the evening. The weather had been good until I reached the northern Utah area. A very heavy snowstorm was completely covering the Hill Air Force Base area when I arrived. The control tower reported that the ground level visibility was less than a quarter of a mile and that they were experiencing heavy snow. I was in no physical danger from the storm, because I could easily land at the Salt Lake airport and proceed to the National Guard area where I could get the proper support. Since I was flying a T-38 military jet aircraft I would need the proper type of jet fuel and would need the correct type of a starter available for the return flight. However, my sister Charlene was waiting at Hill Field to pick me up and take me to these assignments. If I landed somewhere else, by the time we could make contact and she could come to the new location we would certainly miss the first speaking assignment. When I saw what the weather situation was, I said a silent prayer to the Lord: “Heavenly Father, I’m on your errand but the weather is causing a problem. If I’m going to be able to make my commitments I need Thy help.” Then, the dark and foreboding storm clouds that had been so threatening began acting like great theatrical curtains. The clouds divided in the middle like a huge stage curtain, opening slightly to reveal the runway, “center stage,” in the narrow opening. The tower cleared me to land immediately and in a few quick moments I had touched down and was rolling down the runway. Before I got to the end of the runway, it was snowing with blizzard intensity and the visibility was only a few feet. I had to watch carefully to see where I was to turn off the runway. I murmured, “Thank you, Heavenly Father.” The visibility was so restricted that the control tower personnel could not see me land and were surprised when I reported that I had turned off the runway. Later, I was told that no one was able to land at Hill Field for the next two hours.

Before my flight into space on the space shuttle Challenger, I was given a beautiful priesthood blessing. Don Reeves, a dear friend of ours, pronounced the blessing. In that blessing he said two things that really stood out. The most significant one was that he promised, “in the name of the Lord,” that I would “go and come in safety.” It was not until nine months after our flight that we learned how significant that promise was. When Challenger took off on a flight at that time with a different crew, there was a terrible explosion and all of the astronauts were killed. During the investigation of that accident it was learned that, on our flight, we had come very close to the identical explosion. And by “very close” I mean within three tenths of a second. The giant 14½ -story-tall boosters under each wing of the space shuttle are so large that they are built in segments, which must be securely joined before flight. In the joint between two of the segments of the booster under the right wing of the shuttle, there was a breakdown of the combination of three concentric seals that should have contained the incredibly hot gases within the booster. The gases that escaped through the broken seals on the fatal flight ignited the liquid oxygen in the giant brown tank to which the shuttle was attached, and, as a result, the crew were killed in a terrible explosion. On our flight almost the same thing happened. The same seals were damaged in the same way, except that, in our case, a remaining sliver of one of the damaged seals slipped into the crack through which the gases were escaping, sealed the crack, stopped the flow of gases, and, thus, prevented an identical explosion. You may well imagine our gratitude for the Lord’s protection.

The other element in Don Reeves’s blessing that was significant was far less dramatic but was still meaningful to Kathleen and me. Our flight had experienced a number of delays. The launch date had been changed a number of times due to technical problems of one sort or another. This was a problem for Kathleen because we had a number of our friends who were planning to travel to the Cape to see our liftoff. Each time the schedule was changed, Kathleen had to call everyone and tell them about the delay. This was getting to be quite a burden. In Don’s blessing he also stated the date on which the launch would actually occur. Kathleen contacted our friends and said, “NASA may not know when Don’s flight will take off. But we do. You can make firm reservations. He will launch on April 29th of this year. The Lord has told us.” And, of course, that is exactly when we did launch.

Events such as these (and I’ve had many more similar experiences) change a casual beginning testimony into an unshakable certainty that the Lord exists and watches over us individually. I am as convinced of His reality and of His protecting care as I am of my own existence. He lives. He is the Father of our spirits. He watches over us. Of these realities, I am certain. And I am grateful for this knowledge and for His love and protecting care. This is my testimony.

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Born in Midvale, Utah, Don Leslie Lind graduated with a B.S. in physics from the University of Utah and a Ph.D. in high energy nuclear physics from the University of California at Berkeley, eventually doing postdoctoral study at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska.

Dr. Lind worked at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley, California, doing research in pion-nucleon scattering, a basic type of high-energy particle interaction, and joined the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as a space physicist. There, he was involved in experiments to determine the properties of particles in the earth’s magnetosphere and in interplanetary space. He also holds the rank of Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on active duty as a jet pilot in San Diego and aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hancock, and has logged more than 4500 hours as a pilot—mostly in high performance jet aircraft.

Dr. Lind was selected as an astronaut in 1966. He had a major role in developing the equipment and procedures to be used on the Apollo missions to the moon, and served as the backup science pilot for the Skylab 3 and Skylab 4 missions and as a member of the rescue crew for all of the Skylab missions. He flew into space as the payload commander aboard the space shuttle Challenger on the Spacelab 3 mission, which launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on 29 April 1985. Among a variety of scientific experiments on this mission was one developed by Dr. Lind to take unique three-dimensional video recordings of the earth’s aurora. After completing 110 orbits of the earth and traveling just under three million miles, the space shuttle landed on 6 May 1985.

At the close of his twenty-two-year career with NASA, during which he was awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, Dr. Lind joined the faculty of Utah State University. At Utah State, he taught physics and astrophysics until his retirement in 1995. He also conducted an experiment aboard the LDEF satellite, called the Interstellar Gas Experiment. Collectors in this experiment entrapped one of the first samples of matter from outside the solar system, particles of the interstellar medium moving between the stars.

As a young man, Dr. Lind served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New England. Since then, he has worked in almost all aspects of the Church’s youth programs, including service as a scoutmaster and Explorer advisor. He has also served as a bishop, a bishop’s counselor, a singles branch president, a member of a high council, a counselor in two mission presidencies, and a temple sealer. He and his wife, the former Kathleen Maughan, have served as public affairs missionaries in the Europe West Area of the Church, as temple missionaries in the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, and, respectively, as a counselor and an assistant matron in the presidency of the Portland Oregon Temple. They are the parents of three sons and four daughters.

Posted January 2010