Why Elder Uchtdorf says the rededicated Frankfurt Germany Temple is ‘a symbol of unity’

FRIEDRICHSDORF, Germany — When the Frankfurt Germany Temple was first dedicated in 1987, it became the Church’s second German temple — but yet still the first in its own nation. The mayor who supported the temple’s location and construction on an old noodle factory site near the town’s center later lost his position due to the divided opinion among residents in a municipality that ironically traces its roots back to asylum given to the late-17th century Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France.

Much has changed in the three decades since.

The 1990 reunification of East Germany and West Germany resulted into one Germany and a two-temple nation. Friedrichsdorf has long been awash in not just a renewed sense of tolerance but recognition and appreciation for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its hometown temple.

And after an extensive renovation requiring a four-year closure, a rededicated Frankfurt temple is helping local Latter-day Saints to recommit themselves to the Savior Jesus Christ and His gospel and return to performing ordinances in a nearby temple for the living as well as the deceased.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — who presided at the Sunday, Oct. 20, rededication back in his German homeland — summed up the overriding theme in a simple phrase.

Latter-day Saints gather in front of the Frankfurt Germany Temple between rededication sessions on Oct. 20, 2019.
Latter-day Saints gather in front of the Frankfurt Germany Temple between rededication sessions on Oct. 20, 2019. Credit: Scott Taylor

And he didn’t use any “re-” prefixes.

“I think the temple is a symbol of unity,” he said. “It is a unity between people of different opinions, feelings, even religions, because we reach out to everyone. And it is a place of unity for those who are members of the Church, in that they come and unite again with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“So for Germany to have this temple in its heart, in this location, is a marvelous and wonderful thing.”

New roles after renovation

Some roles were changed from the Frankfurt temple’s original dedication and its recent rededication. President Ezra Taft Benson dedicated the temple in 11 sessions held Aug. 28-30, 1987, being accompanied by three apostles — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin. Then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Frankfurt Germany Stake chaired the committee organizing the new temple’s open house and dedication. Fifteen-year-old Michael Cziesla was placing plastic protective coverings on the shoes of members as they entered the temple. And Hanno Luschin seemed as the building’s proud parent, having served as the temple’s project manager for construction.

The spire, front and entrance plaza of the Frankfurt Germany Temple at dusk on Oct. 18, 2019. A reflection of the Christus statue inside the annex is visible int he lower-right window.
The spire, front and entrance plaza of the Frankfurt Germany Temple at dusk on Oct. 18, 2019. A reflection of the Christus statue inside the annex is visible int he lower-right window. Credit: Scott Taylor

Fast forward to today: President Benson and Elder Maxwell and Elder Wirthlin have long since passed away. Elder Uchtdorf is now an apostle, having presided at the rededication services at the assignment of now-President Nelson, the Church’s 17th and current president. And Elder Cziesla  — a former Frankfurt stake president who currently serves as a Europe Area Seventy — chaired the Frankfurt rededication and open house committee.

Luschin is a rare holdover, repeating his role as project manager in overseeing the renovation.

German Church members were enthusiastic in welcoming the 78-year-old apostle back to his hometown.

“It is a very special gift from God to us that we are able to hear and listen to the words of an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ in our native language,” said President Mark Harth of the Friedrichsdorf Germany Stake, who was set apart and released as a young full-time missionary by Elder Uchtdorf when the latter served as stake president.

Added President Manuel Metzner of the Frankfurt Germany Stake: “Of course, these special feelings also include his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, and all his other family members who were, still are and will always be a part of the Saints in this area.”

A woman takes a photo of the spire between the Frankfurt Germany Temple and the temple annex prior to a rededication session on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019.
A woman takes a photo of the spire between the Frankfurt Germany Temple and the temple annex prior to a rededication session on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Credit: Scott Taylor

Elder Uchtdorf underscored his purpose in coming to Frankfurt. “I am here as an apostle of the Lord, representing and testifying of the Savior Jesus Christ — that He lives; that He is indeed what He claims to be, the Son of God; and that His Church, the Church of Jesus Christ, is again on the earth.”

Joining the Uchtdorfs for the weekend rededication assignment were Elder Patrick Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Jennifer Kearon, and the three Frankfurt-based General Authority Seventies who comprise the Europe Area presidency and their wives; Elder Gary B. Sabin, area president; Sister Valerie Sabin; Elder Massimo De Feo, first counselor in the area presidency; Sister Loredana De Feo; Elder Erich W. Kopischke, second counselor in the area presidency; and Sister Christiane Kopischke.

A rededication in German

Other than the translating of an occasional talk by a non-German-speaker, the three rededication sessions — broadcast by closed-circuit to meetinghouses throughout the temple district — were done in the local language, including Elder Uchtdorf offering the dedicatory prayer.

When he offered a similar prayer at the Freiberg Germany Temple rededication in 2016 as a member of the First Presidency, he became the first Church leader to give such a temple prayer not in English but in the native language of the local Latter-day Saints. All previous prayers of dedication and rededication had been done in English — and translated to a different local language, if necessary.

Similar native-language dedicatory prayers have been offered since by apostles in non-English languages — Elder Dale G. Renlund in French in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Elder Ulisses Soares in Portuguese in Brazil, Elder Neil L. Andersen last month in Portuguese in Portugal, and now Elder Uchtdorf once again in German.

The Frankfurt Germany Temple on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, the day of its rededication.
The Frankfurt Germany Temple on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, the day of its rededication. Credit: Scott Taylor

German-speaking Latter-day Saints first flocked to the Swiss Temple (since renamed the Bern Switzerland Temple), with its 1955 dedication resulting in becoming the Church’s first such sacred edifice in Europe. Then came the Freiberg temple behind the Iron Curtain in 1985 and the Frankfurt temple two years later.

While local Saints needed to travel to temples in Frieberg and Bern or to others in Netherlands and France during the recent four-year closure in Frankfurt, it was a turning of the tables from the early 1990s, when both the Freiberg and Switzerland temples were closed for renovations, and many other of the 13 currently operating temples in Europe were yet to be built.

“So members from Portugal to Ukraine and from Italy to Holland came to the Frankfurt temple to receive their ordinances and perform service for their ancestors,” said Elder Helmut Wondra, an Area Seventy serving in the Europe Area. “You can meet members anywhere in Europe who have been blessed by the Frankfurt temple and who hold it dear to their hearts.”

Reunification

Many Church leaders and members joined Elder Uchtdorf in underscoring the impact of having two temples — both since renovated and rededicated by a native-son apostle — in a reunified Germany.

“Our country was still divided into two states with very different political and ideological systems and a wall as well as a border that was guarded by soldiers with weapons and where people lost lives,” said President Metzner. “So there is a special meaning that the rededication takes place in a united Germany with Saints from all over the country and other German-speaking parts participating ‘unitedly.’ ”

With its 1990 reunification, Germany became the second country outside the United States to have two temples within its boundaries, the reunification coming only several weeks after a second temple in Canada was dedicated. Also, the recent closures of the Frankfurt and Freiberg temples for renovations overlapped for a year, leaving a country home to multiple temples actually without an operating temple between September 2015 and September 2016.

Individuals waiting outside the Frankfurt Germany Temple between rededication sessions on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, find cover under umbrellas from the drizzle.
Individuals waiting outside the Frankfurt Germany Temple between rededication sessions on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, find cover under umbrellas from the drizzle. Credit: Scott Taylor

The hesitancy in Friedrichsdorf in 1987 toward a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has evolved into a full embrace.

Said Elder Sabin: “This fulfilled a promise that President Gordon B. Hinckley gave the city officials when he said they would not regret their decision to grant a building permit and that ‘it will be a source of pride to local residents, who will come to speak of it as “our temple.” ’ ”

He cited last month’s open house  — drawing nearly 29,000 to a temple located in a town of about 25,000 residents — as representative of that change of attitude and full-blown appreciation. “Over 600 neighbors, dozens of media and thousands of others — including hundreds of government, educational, religious and business officials — visited the temple during the open house,” Elder Sabin said. “The comments were overwhelmingly positive.”

Returning after renovation

The Frankfurt Germany Temple features the six-spire, sloping-roof architectural design common to 14 Church temples dedicated between 1984 and 1985, including ones in Boise, Dallas and Chicago. However, the Frankfurt temple has only one sole spire near the front entrance — officials were uncertain about getting permission for six spires, since there was pushback on the first spire to make sure it didn’t rise above other prominent Church steeples in Friedrichsdorf.

For the renovation, only the exterior granite walls and copper roof remain from the original single-level temple. The interior expansion and remodel was aided by eliminating the smallish baptistry that existed previously and excavating a subterranean level for a larger, more elaborate baptismal area under the temple.

From left: Elder Erich W. Koplischke, Elder Gary B. Sabin, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder Patrick Kearon and Elder Massimo De Feo gather for a photo outside the Frankfurt Germany Temple between rededication sessions on Oct. 20, 2019.
From left: Elder Erich W. Koplischke, Elder Gary B. Sabin, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder Patrick Kearon and Elder Massimo De Feo gather for a photo outside the Frankfurt Germany Temple between rededication sessions on Oct. 20, 2019. Credit: Scott Taylor

During the lengthy renovation closure, President Harth reflected of when temples were built in Kirtland and Nauvoo and their becoming “the center and overarching event in the lives of the early Saints.”

“We are not called to actively help with the building itself,” he said of the Frankfurt temple. “But the Lord showed us ways in what we can do to give of ourselves, to sacrifice in order to sanctify ourselves in preparation for the rededication, just like our brothers and sisters of the early days.”

Latter-day Saints in the Frankfurt temple district in and around Germany are looking forward to the reopening on Oct. 29 of the renovated and rededicated building.

“There is a general excitement among all the members that the temple will finally be reopened,” said Juleen Metzner of the Frankfurt stake. “We have been longing for it — especially for our youth, as we know it can bring them added protection from temptation.”

Read more about what Elder Uchtdorf said at the youth devotional before the Frankfurt Germany Temple rededication

Ronja Harth of the Friedrichsdorf stake agreed. “Since we have not been able to go to the temple so often during these past four years, I think the newly rededicated temple will bless families and local members abundantly. Especially with the new baptism and witness guidelines, it makes it much easier to go to a [temple] baptismal session as a family where all family members can participate in different ways.”

Elder Uchtdorf summarized the rededication as a time of joy.

“It is a time of gratitude for the plan of salvation that we teach here in the house of the Lord — that God lives, that He loves us, that His Son Jesus Christ lives and that He died for us,” he said.

“We reach out to every human being around us and try to show them our love for them and to help them receive the message of Jesus Christ — to ‘come and see’ and ‘come and help’ — and to help spread this gospel message throughout the world, especially here in Germany and in Europe.”