President Monson in His Beloved Germany
On 2nd October The Salt Lake Tribune first reported that President Thomas S. Monson would be visiting his beloved Germany on 13 Oct. – 20 Oct. speaking in four German cities — Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt.
Germany, as most Latter-day Saints know, was the geographic area over which then Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve held responsibilities of leadership and growth during the 1960’s and 70’s.
Beginning in 1949 the German Democratic Republic (Soviet controlled East Germany) government strictly prohibited Latter-day Saints from bringing printed materials across the border. Church leaders improvised by producing manuals and other literature on a typewriter with several pages of carbon paper. These copies were then distributed to class instructors. Later, the teachers were directed to leave their lesson manuals at home and bring only their scriptures. This policy motivated the teachers to be better prepared. When the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, visits to West Germany almost ceased. Due to emigration, Church membership in this area had shrunk to about four thousand people. Members seized any legitimate opportunity to make contact with Saints from outside the country.
Tensions were high when first called to assist in building Zion in that part of the world. After World War II communication between church members and church leaders had been scant at best during times due to political issues. In 1968 when Elder Monson made his first visit to the East Germany he met with a group of faithful Saints in Górlitz, reporting: “My heart was filled with sorrow when I realized the members had no patriarch, no wards or stakes—just branches. They could not receive temple blessings—either endowment or sealing. No official visitor had come from Church headquarters in a long time. The members could not leave their country. Yet they trusted in the Lord with all their hearts.” With great feeling he promised them: “If you will remain true and faithful to the commandments of God, every blessing any member of the Church enjoys in any other country will be yours.”
That night he knelt in prayer, pleading that the Lord would honor this astounding promise made in His name.
Another memorable event for President Monson was the dedication of that country for the development of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Early on the morning of 27 April 1975, on a mountainside near Dresden, he offered a dedicatory prayer. He expressed gratitude for the Church in the land, described the faith of the members, and pleaded for a way for the faithful to attend the temple. At this time, the closest temple was located in Switzerland, on the other side of the iron curtain.
Over the coming years he would travel countless times to Germany to build up the Kingdom there, eventually seeing stakes, missions, and even temples dot the land. Over those many visits many strong friendships have been formed.
Planned unexpectedly in late September, the Salt Lake Tribune quotes a German member of the Church as saying of this trip,
“The rooms they have rented for those meetings are big, but they are far too small for receiving members from four stakes at a time, so limited-entry tickets are distributed to the stakes.”
Volker Molthan, second counselor in the Pforzheim Branch of the Stuttgart Stake continued in an email,
“My branch has received only 11 tickets (for 40 members who would have liked to go).”
Because of the short notice, Molthan writes that church officials in Germany “could not rent any larger facilities.”
At the end of the prophet’s first meeting in Hamburg with members of the Church he said enthusiastically and with a smile, “Deutschland, ich liebe dich!” (“Germany, I love you!”).
The Church News reported of the visits,
Those who feel the influence of the Savior, experience a change in their lives and have a desire to serve others, [President Monson] explained in Berlin. [He] reminded the audience in Munich that Jesus called fishermen to leave their nets and declared that he would make them fishers of men. All followers of Christ could be fishers of men and women, he said. To the faithful gathered in Frankfurt am Main, he said that Jesus taught by example. He taught forgiveness by forgiving and compassion by being compassionate, President Monson added.
– Church News Sunday, 21 Oct. 2012
Aside from the four public meetings President Monson spent significant time visiting dear friends and former coworkers in the ministry.
“For many weeks I have been eagerly anticipating this visit to a land and people I dearly love,” President Monson said during the final meeting at the Jahrhunderthalle in Frankfurt am Main yesterday. This final meeting, which was broadcast to Church meetinghouses throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland, was a moving time for many local saints who gloried in seeing their beloved prophet in person again. With more than 38,000 Latter-day Saints throughout Deutschland, President Monson touched a nation of Saints with his week worth of visits. According to the Church News more than 10,000 Latter-day Saints gathered at the four venues, and thousands more attended the satellite broadcast.