A lifetime of experiences has taught Elder Jörg Klebingat that when the Spirit speaks, one needs to follow. “It’s very simple,” said Elder Klebingat, who was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy on April 5. “You just listen and do it. Don’t second-guess the Spirit.” In matters of the Spirit, Elder Klebingat has learned over time to believe that “it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5).
Born in Zweibrücken, Germany, to Klaus-Peter and Doris Elke Klebingat, Elder Klebingat was raised without the influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ in his home. With an interest in music as a teenager, he decided to attend a music concert in a nearby city where he met a life-changing friend, Jeff Abbott.
“We became friends,” said Elder Klebingat. “I went to his home and felt a special spirit there. It was different. I asked him about his Church and told him I wanted to go.”
Even though his friend forgot to pick him up for Church twice, Elder Klebingat was persistent. On his first visit, he was impressed with the friendliness of the members who welcomed him with open arms. It was at that first Church meeting that he heard of the Book of Mormon. His friend gave him a copy with his testimony that it was true.
“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, you want me to read and pray about it? Don’t you want to convince me it’s true or preach to me?’ My friend left it up to me and trusted in Moroni’s promise.” Elder Klebingat left that day determined to find out for himself.
As he read the Book of Mormon, it was somewhere in First Nephi when he got his witness. “I knew that the Book of Mormon was true,” said Elder Klebingat. “However, I did struggle with knowing the boy Joseph Smith was truly a prophet of God. It was at first hard for me to get my arms around. In the early part of my mission to Denver, Colo., I received my sure testimony of Joseph Smith. It was a defining moment for me. Thereafter I usually asked my mission companions to let me tell the Joseph Smith story.”
During his full-time missionary service, Elder Klebingat developed a love for teaching. He followed it up by accepting opportunities to teach youth in seminary and institute in many locations around the world in the years following his mission. “What the gospel comes down to is application in daily life,” said Elder Klebingat. “It’s not just a bunch of theories. It can and should be applied practically to life every day.”
As a student at Ricks college, Elder Klebingat focused on Russian language studies. A musical group from Latvia came to perform on campus and a professor arranged for some Russian language studies students to meet the performers. Among the performers was a translator named Julia Poltorak. The two met and hit things off wonderfully. They spent as much time together as possible during the next few days. Through some powerful confirmations of the Spirit, Elder Klebingat knew that Julia was to be his wife.
The final stopover for the performing group before leaving the country was New York City. Following another prompting that he needed to get to New York, Elder Klebingat realized that he really had no money to go anywhere. Thinking fast, he quickly sold his Camaro and bought a plane ticket. He then flew to New York and proposed to Julia. She accepted and within six months they were married in Germany. (They were later sealed in the Salt Lake Temple.)
Shortly after the Klebingats were married, Sister Klebingat began taking the discussions from the Sister missionaries. Preparing for the second discussion, she planned to politely tell them she was not interested in being baptized. However, when the missionaries told the story of Christ’s baptism, the Spirit came over her so strongly she had to leave the room. “When I came back to the room, I was determined to tell them no but out of my mouth came the words, ‘I want to be baptized’,” said Sister Klebingat.
Starting a marriage and family together in the gospel was challenging. The Klebingats were both converts. Elder Klebingat said, “We didn’t know a thing about running an LDS family. We had to look at what the prophets and apostles were teaching about it and then simply do it. We started right off the bat with family home evening, scripture study and family prayers and followed through with persistence throughout the years.”
The Klebingats have three children and enjoy spending time together skiing, walking and being in nature. While raising their children, the Klebingats taught them how to speak three languages. To accomplish this, the family rotated a two-week schedule that included speaking only English in the home during week one and only German from Elder Klebingat and only Russian from Sister Klebingat during week two. Now all three of their children speak these three languages fluently.
“I had a wonderful experience just after I was baptized in the Church,” said Elder Klebingat. “I felt prompted to make a trip to the site of the undedicated temple in Friedrichsdorf, Germany. It wasn’t open yet, but I really wanted to see it. As I explored the site, I found out someone was watching me from a neighboring building. Soon a tall, white-haired man in a suit approached me and said, ‘I’ve been watching you, and you’re different. You want to see the temple, don’t you?’
“I told him, ‘Yes. I’m a new member, and this is the first time I have come to a temple.’ The old man drew out some keys and asked me to take off my shoes. He then took me on a private, twenty-minute tour of the undedicated but finished temple. It was an amazing experience, and I knew God was aware of me. Just after that, I went to a nearby distribution center and bought two bags full of framed pictures, books and other things but doing so spent all my money. I didn’t have money to get home. It was late and the store was closing, but just before closing a member from my ward, which was hours away, “by chance” dropped in to buy some things and was able to give me a ride home. I learned from that experience that the Lord was aware of me and that you should always put your trust in Him, He will lead you and everything will work out.”
A favorite scripture of the Klebingat family comes from a sermon of King Benjamin as it captures perfectly the surprising simplicity of gospel living: “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness …” (Mosiah 2:41).
Family: Born Dec. 19, 1967, in Zweibrücken, Germany, to Klaus-Peter and Doris Elke Klebingat. Married Julia Poltorak on Aug. 9, 1991, and later sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on Dec. 21, 1992. Three children: Katja, Daniel and Alexander.
Education: Earned a degree in Russian language studies from Brigham Young University, which included a one-year study abroad experience at Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia. Later earned a master's degree in organizational behavior from the BYU Marriott School of Management.
Career: Business management consultant for Price Waterhouse and Arthur Andersen. Temporal affairs director, service center manager and manager of distribution services for the Church.
Military Service: Served 18 months in the German army.
Church Service: Stake young single adult representative, Sunbeam teacher, elders quorum president, Young Men president, high councilor, branch president, bishop, president of the Ukraine Kyiv Mission from 2011 to present.