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German Joins Inner-Most Mormon Circle

Deutsche Welle

Fol­low­ing the recent death of the Mor­mon’s spir­i­tu­al leader, a Ger­man pilot has joined the high­est lead­er­ship of the Church of Jesus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints by becom­ing one of two coun­selors to the new Mor­mon head.

Dieter Ucht­dor­f’s appear­ance does­n’t imme­di­ate­ly hint at any­thing unusu­al. This 64-year old, who worked as chief pilot for Ger­many’s Lufthansa air­line dress­es con­ser­v­a­tive­ly but smart­ly. His coun­te­nance is one of open accep­tance.

He could be any ex-pro­fes­sion­al retiree. But Ucht­dorf is some­thing a lit­tle out of the ordi­nary. He is Ger­many’s first mem­ber of the Mor­mon’s so-called First Pres­i­den­cy, which is made up of a pres­i­dent, of prophet and two coun­selors.

Accord­ing to the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints (LDS) — the offi­cial title of the Mor­mons — God choos­es “apos­tles” to lead the church in mod­ern times as he did in the time of the bible.

After the death of long-time leader Gor­don B. Hinck­ley on Jan. 27, Thomas S. Mon­son was cho­sen as his suc­ces­sor on Mon­day, Feb.4. He appoint­ed Ucht­dorf as one of this advi­sors, lift­ing the Ger­man — already part of the Mor­mons’ inner cir­cle as one of the so-called 12 apos­tels — to the high­est author­i­ty of the church.

It was the late Hinck­ley and the 12th lead­er­ship com­mit­tee who decid­ed that Ucht­dorf would be one of the 12 “apos­tles” who act under the pres­i­den­cy of the church. A new appoint­ment to this posi­tion comes after the death of a pre­vi­ous mem­ber and so it was with Ucht­dor­f’s appoint­ment.

Refugee who rose through the Mor­mon ranks

Ucht­dor­f’s rise to the upper ech­e­lons of the LDS Church is one marked by great upheaval in his life. He was twice a refugee as a child; first­ly as an expellee from the for­mer Czecho­slo­va­kia at the end of World War II and again in 1951 when his fam­i­ly had to flee East Ger­many because of his father’s polit­i­cal lean­ings.

Brought up in a Luther­an set­ting, Ucht­dorf was con­vert­ed to the Mor­mons by a fam­i­ly friend. Dur­ing his youth, he expe­ri­enced the usu­al teas­ing and iso­la­tion although his beliefs helped him dur­ing his com­pul­so­ry mil­i­tary ser­vice.

“The army was just very glad to have dri­ver who did­n’t drink alco­hol,” he told DPA news ser­vice.

In lat­er life and dur­ing his pro­fes­sion­al career, Ucht­dorf said he expe­ri­enced mild curios­i­ty and respect from his peers.

A Mor­mon mis­sion­ary in Rus­si­a­Bil­dun­ter­schrift: Großan­sicht des Bildes mit der Bil­dun­ter­schrift: A Mor­mon mis­sion­ary in Rus­siaThere are just 40,000 mem­bers of the LDS Church in Ger­many and the church has found itself labeled a sect by many, a title that Ucht­dorf rejects.

“A sect would be some­thing which has split from the church,” Ucht­dorf said. “We want to reunite the church.”

The mod­ern day Mor­mons grew from the cre­ation of the LDS Church in 1830 when it was found­ed by the first “prophet” Joseph Smith, who trans­lat­ed the Book of Mor­mon — an alter­na­tive account of the life of Jesus writ­ten by ancient prophets — and set-up the basis for the world­wide orga­ni­za­tion which now boasts 12 mil­lion mem­bers.

Mor­mons strict­ly adhere to the Ten Com­mand­ments.

“For us, these 10 orders are God’s real­i­ty,” Ucht­dorf said, adding that the fam­i­ly is sacred. Mor­mons also oppose gam­bling, abor­tions, sex before mar­riage and drugs of any kind, includ­ing alco­hol and cig­a­rettes and even cof­fee and tea.

Mor­mons under crit­i­cism from oth­er church­es

Cer­tain aspects of the LDS Church repeat­ed­ly come under crit­i­cism main­ly from the Protes­tant and Catholic church­es, some­thing that Ucht­dorf said he finds hyp­o­crit­i­cal.

“If you want to know the truth about the SPD (Ger­many’s Social Democ­rats), you don’t ask the CDU (the con­ser­v­a­tive oppo­si­tion),” he said.

A fam­i­ly attend Sun­day mass at the 6th ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints in Tay­lorsville, a sub­urb of Salt Lake City.Bildunterschrift: Großan­sicht des Bildes mit der Bil­dun­ter­schrift: A fam­i­ly attend Sun­day mass at the 6th ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints in Tay­lorsville, a sub­urb of Salt Lake City.Uchtdorf added that he believes that it is much eas­i­er to be a Mor­mon in the Unit­ed States than it is in Ger­many and the rest of Europe. The free­dom to wor­ship is more accept­ed in the US due to Europe’s his­to­ry of the state abus­ing the pow­er of reli­gion, accord­ing to Ucht­dorf.

He also said he believes that Ger­many could learn a lot from the Mor­mons, in par­tic­u­lar the redis­cov­ery of the sanc­ti­ty of mar­riage and the impor­tance of the fam­i­ly. But the Unit­ed States, he added, could also learn how to be more sup­port­ive and how to reduce its ego­ism.


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