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Dresden rich in LDS history

Illustrious scholar, Karl G. Maeser, was city's first convert

First mentioned in official documents in 1206, this city of culture was nearly 650 years old when the first missionary, Elder William Budge, arrived here on Sept. 28, 1855.

Situated on the Elbe River, Dresden presented a scene of beauty to Elder Budge. The Dresden Zwinger, a famous museum of art, stood as a crowning example of baroque architecture and already housed many royal collections. The Wall Pavilion, one of Europe's great architectural monuments, reflected the atmosphere of 19th century royalty. Dresden was a center of education, science and culture.Elder Budge came to open a new territory for missionary work, and to meet with Karl G. Maeser. Maeser, a gifted scholar who had become assistant director of the Budich Institute at age 26, was also socially prominent. His interest in the Church began when he came across an anti-Mormon pamphlet whose illogical conclusions piqued his interest and prompted him to correspond with Church leaders.

The correspondence led to Elder Budge's visit. In their meeting, he and Maeser communicated by pointing to scriptures in English and German Bibles. The scholar and his wife were later converted, and before the year was over, Karl G. Maeser was president of the new Dresden Branch. The branch was discontinued in 1857 when opposition led to the emigration of most members, including its president.

Growth was sporadic after that time and many active converts immigrated to the American West. However, the branch continued during the latter half of the 19th century. World War I disrupted missionary work from 1914-18, but after the war ended, the branch was reorganized and missionary work resumed. A second branch in Dresden was organized June 21, 1921, but was soon united with the original. By 1929 the first local member became branch president, Pres. P.A. Winterlich. More than 500 people attended district conference in May 1931. Regular baptism services were held in the Elbe River.

Prior to World War II, the missionaries again were removed and the disruptions of war interferred with the work of the Church.

But war and destruction were not new to Dresden. The city was ravaged by fire in 1491, bombarded in 1760 during the Seven Year's War. Napoleon's last victory brought him to Dresden where he set up headquarters in 1813. Again the city suffered severely in the revolution of 1849. It was occupied by the Prussians in 1866, and fighting in the streets occurred in 1919 at the end of World War I.

Following each destruction, Dresden was rebuilt. But after the devastating effect of World War II in 1945, the city was "declared dead" when bombs reduced the city to rubble and claimed 35,000 lives.

Following the war the Church sent food and clothing to be distributed, and the people began to rebuild and restore, but now under the control of Soviets.

The Church continued to grow despite many restrictions. In 1982, the Freiberg stake was organized with Frank H. Apel as president. The Freiberg Temple was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency on June 29, 1985.

A rapid chain of events brought a change of government in 1990, and on Oct. 23, the Freiberg stake became the Dresden stake.

With freedom, a new heart and new vitality is today making this nearly eight-centuries-old city yet more beautiful. Historic buildings are being restored. And the Church has built a new meetinghouse. Once again missionaries, 140 strong, are teaching the gospel to the people of this once-again beautiful city.

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