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President Thomas S. Monson and the East German Latter-day Saints

In journal entries, President Thomas S. Monson recounted his feelings, experiences, conversations and meetings that highlighted Germany and its people. In entries dating from July 12, 1968, to Aug. 27, 1995, he described everything from early obstacles that were overcome through faith to blessings such as the dedication of the Freiberg temple in East Germany in June 1985.

Five years after he was called as an apostle, Elder Monson received the assignment to oversee the work of the Lord in several missions in Europe. This assignment included work in Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from 1968 to 1995.

On July 12, 1968, Elder Monson and Elder Hartman Rector Jr. were given the assignment to supervise the work of a few missions for the Church in Europe and by the end of the month, Elder Monson was visiting members behind the Iron Curtain. As time passed, Elder Monson became better acquainted with the plight of the Saints there and his heart was touched.

In his journal on Nov. 10, 1968, he wrote, “My heart is filled with sorrow because they have no patriarch, they have no wards or stakes — just branches, they have few teaching materials. They cannot receive temple blessings, neither endowments nor sealings. They are forbidden to leave their country. Yet they trust in the Lord with all their hearts and lean not unto their own understanding.”

Inspired by the Spirit of God, he made a promise to the people of the German Democratic Republic: If they would remain true and faithful to the commandments of God, every blessing that members of the Church enjoy in other countries would be theirs.

It would be another nine years before the land would be dedicated to the work of the Lord. On Sunday, April 27, 1975, Elder Monson went into the woods near Dresden in East Germany with a handful of local leaders to give a dedicatory prayer. In his journal he described the prayer as the most enjoyable spiritual experience he had up to that point as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

In the prayer he made specific promises to the East Germans. He said, “Heavenly Father, wilt Thou open up the way that the faithful may be accorded the privilege of going to Thy holy temple, there to receive their holy endowments and to be sealed as families for time and all eternity. Heavenly Father, wilt Thou intervene in the governmental affairs. Cause that Thy Holy Spirit may dwell with those who preside, that their hearts may be touched and that they may make those decisions which would help in the advancement of Thy work.”

It was in May of 1980 that Elder Monson had an experience that confirmed to him the Lord’s work would move forward with faith. He had flown to Zurich, Switzerland, and spoke with Swiss Temple President Percy K. Fetzer. President Fetzer shared the conclusion of an experience he had previously as a patriarch. He had given blessings to a family in Poland before the borders were opened. He promised a temple marriage to a young woman, a mission call outside the country to a young man and the unification of the whole family in the temple.

Elder Monson and Brother Fetzer had even prayed together to petition the Lord for His help in fulfilling these promises. Brother Fetzer was proud to report that due to a recent treaty negotiated with Poland, all German nationals were allowed to leave. The family that had been given promises were free. They were sealed in the temple, the young woman was engaged to be married in the Swiss Temple and the young man had received a mission call beyond his native homeland. The Lord had fulfilled His promises when the mind of man had thought it impossible.

The next highlight of the work in Europe occurred in April of 1983. Elder Monson presided at the groundbreaking for a temple in Freiberg. He described the building of a temple in a communist country as “a miracle of miracles.” It all began when efforts were made to get permission from government officials for East German Saints to marry in the temple in Switzerland.

The minster in the government said, “Why not build a temple in our country?” The offer was accepted and the Freiberg temple was scheduled to be built, the first in a communist country.

Just over two years later, the Freiberg temple was dedicated on June 29, 1985, by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Elder Monson commented about the day in his journal: “Today marked one of the highlights of my life. To have the opportunity to be the first speaker at the first dedicatory session of the Freiberg Temple was not only a great honor but also the fulfillment of a deep and long-held desire for the wonderful Saints in the German Democratic Republic to have the blessing of a temple.”

With approval by the German Democratic Republic government to build 10 buildings without further permission, Elder Monson, soon to be called as a counselor in the First Presidency, felt compelled to help the work move forward quickly with the help of the Lord. Missionaries were called from the GDR and allowed to travel to the United States. Church buildings were built. Within a few years of the temple dedication, the Berlin wall crumbled and Germany was reunited.

President Monson was part of the miraculous growth of the gospel in one of the most impossible areas of the world. Summing up his experiences, he commented on the information from his journal that detailed the experiences he witnessed from 1968 to 1995: “It is my hope that as you read these leaves from my journal, you will gain greater love and appreciation for a people who remained faithful in adversity, prayed fervently for the full blessings of the gospel, and were eventually rewarded with miraculous answers to their humble prayers.”

• Information for this report was taken from the book, “Faith Rewarded: A Personal Account of Prophetic Promises to the East German Saints From the Journal of Thomas S. Monson,” Deseret Book, June 1996.

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