Before dedicating the Church's new Utah Bishop's Central Storehouse on Jan. 26, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf stood and expressed gratitude for "acts of love" that, some 65 years earlier, resulted in a shipment of food and clothing from Salt Lake City to his home in East Germany.
"I can still smell the wonderful peaches we had and the wonderful wheat we cooked and the wonderful clothes we received," said President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency. "They had a special smell. They smelled of kindness."
President Uchtdorf dedicated the new 570,391-square-foot building, which is essential to help the bishops of the Church reach out to the poor and needy. (Please see article on page 4 for details about the new building.)
Also speaking at the dedication, which was conducted by Bishop Keith B. McMullin of the Presiding Bishopric, were Bishop H. David Burton, the Church's Presiding Bishop, and Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president.
During his remarks, President Uchtdorf said his association with the welfare program of the Church dates back to his childhood in East Germany.
"Because of the destruction and devastation of World War II, the city was destroyed, people were homeless and food was scarce," he said.
Church President George Albert Smith called the president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, telling him Latter-day Saints were prepared to ship food and clothing to Europe.
"They are our brothers and sisters and they are in distress. God has blessed us with a surplus and we will be glad to send it, if we can have the cooperation of the U.S. Government," President Smith told the U.S. president.
President Uchtdorf said President Truman's response was simple: "You are on the right track. We would be glad to help you in any way we can."
Incredibly, when President Truman asked the Church leader how long they would need to prepare the food and supplies, President Smith replied: "It is all ready."
The shipment represented a great act of "mercy to those who had been their enemy," said President Uchtdorf. "My dear friends, I was just 6 years old when this gesture of love affected my life."
He said he was grateful to participate in the dedication services so that "6-year-old boy who cherished that gift of food and clothing so much would, 65 years later, stand here today and have the opportunity to express gratitude for the acts of love."
He said the Church will continue to build storehouses because they are commanded by the Lord to take care of the poor and the needy.
"We don't do it to be seen by men or to receive their praise," he said. "We do this because it is what the Savior commanded us to do. As our Heavenly Father is merciful to His children, we try to be merciful to others."
He said the Church knows that God's children on Earth need to be their Heavenly Father's hands. "This building exists for the work and glory of God," he said. "Today we follow in the hallowed footsteps of those who have gone before us."
Bishop Burton said the new facility is "literally an answer to 30 years of prayer."
He noted that for the past 60 years, the Church's Bishops' Central Storehouse was housed in a building that has "outlived its useful life."
He said the new building is one of six central storehouses operated by the Church in the United States and Canada. The storehouses are essential because they are used to store and rotate food produced at Church farms, orchards and ranches and processed at Latter-day Saint processing facilities. The food is then sent through the Church's welfare system, finally reaching people in need.
The entire process is one example of how Church members are "on His errand," Bishop Burton said, noting that last year Latter-day Saints donated 193,000 hours of service at one of these facilities.
"Thank you, one and all, who have made this building possible," he said.
During her remarks, Sister Beck noted that as she looked at the great breadth of storage in the Bishops' Central Storehouse, she determined that it was no more important than what she saw under a table in a very small apartment in Hong Kong, where a faithful Latter-day Saint family had stored what they could and used all the storage space they had in their apartment. The most important resources we have in the Church are the members of the Church who have "a need to serve and a need to be served," Sister Beck said.
The Lord's storehouse, she said, "is in the wards and branches" of the Church.
Sister Beck spoke of visiting with a Relief Society president who had the responsibility to help a woman in need. The woman was cold and hungry and lonely and in pain. Through Relief Society, the Relief Society president identified others in the ward who could help. One family, for example, was poor but had more than the sister in need. They donated blankets and food.
"Our ability to be able to take care of one another is evidence that we are the Lord's people," she said.