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President Uchtdorf: 1950s

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 29 2009 12:15 a.m. MDT

Being on the Lord's side"In 1951 and 1952, I attended the Frankfurt branch, which was not as big as the one in Zwickau. The Frankfurt meetinghouse was small, and we had classes in the basement."The (Mormon) missionaries taught us important gospel principles. One missionary, Elder Stringham, impressed me very much with his lessons on the Pearl of Great Price, especially where Moses is being taught that he is a Son of God. Elder Stringham also taught me the scripture that says, 'If God be for us, who can be against us?' (Romans 8:31)."This gave me comfort and courage, because at that time, the future looked bleak in Germany. The city of Frankfurt was in ruins with bombed-out buildings. That teaching has stayed with me throughout my life. It taught me that I need to be on the Lord's side. I cannot afford not to be on the Lord's side."Friend, June 1998Strong motives"(A)s a 10-year-old boy, I attended fourth grade and had to learn Russian as my first foreign language. Initially it was quite difficult because of the Cyrillic alphabet, but as time went on I seemed to manage all right."When I turned 11, we had to leave East Germany overnight because of the political orientation of my father.... We were refugees again and had lost everything for the second time."Now I was going to school in West Germany, and the Russian language was not appreciated there at all. We were in the American-occupied part of Germany, and in school I had to learn English. Somehow I could not learn it. To learn Russian was difficult, but English was impossible. I even thought my mouth was not made for speaking English. My teachers had a hard time. My parents were desperate. And I knew English was not my language."I agonized through those school years, helped and encouraged by kind and understanding English teachers, but I just couldn't do it. It wasn't my thing!"At this time, my dream in life was to become a pilot. Almost daily I rode my bicycle to the airport. I could picture myself in the cockpit of an airliner or even in a military jet fighter. This was definitely my thing!"I eventually learned that to become a pilot, I needed to speak English. Suddenly, the resisting condition of my mouth changed. I was able to learn the language. Why? Because of a strong motive!"Our motives and thoughts ultimately influence our actions. Jesus repeatedly emphasized the power of good thoughts and proper motives: 'Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.'" (Doctine and Covenants 6:36)Ensign, October 2002'See the end from the beginning'"When I was 11 years old, my family had to leave East Germany and begin a new life in West Germany overnight. Until my father could get back into his original profession as a government employee, my parents operated a small laundry business in our little town. I became the laundry delivery boy. To be able to do that effectively, I needed a bicycle to pull the heavy laundry cart. I had always dreamed of owning a nice, sleek, shiny, sporty red bicycle. But there had never been enough money to fulfill this dream. What I got instead was a heavy, ugly, black, sturdy workhorse of a bicycle. I delivered laundry on that bike before and after school for quite a few years."Most of the time, I was not overly excited about the bike, the cart, or my job. Sometimes the cart seemed so heavy and the work so tiring that I thought my lungs would burst, and I often had to stop to catch my breath. Nevertheless, I did my part because I knew we desperately needed the income as a family, and it was my way to contribute."If I had only known back then what I learned many years later — if I had only been able to see the end from the beginning — I would have had a better appreciation of these experiences, and it would have made my job so much easier."Many years later, when I was about to be drafted into the military, I decided to volunteer instead and join the Air Force to become a pilot. I loved flying and thought being a pilot would be my thing."To be accepted for the program I had to pass a number of tests, including a strict physical exam. The doctors were slightly concerned by the results and did some additional medical tests. Then they announced, 'You have scars on your lung which are an indication of a lung disease in your early teenage years, but obviously you are fine now.' The doctors wondered what kind of treatment I had gone through to heal the disease. Until the day of that examination I had never known that I had any kind of lung disease. Then it became clear to me that my regular exercise in fresh air as a laundry boy had been a key factor in my healing from this illness. Without the extra effort of pedaling that heavy bicycle day in and day out, pulling the laundry cart up and down the streets of our town, I might never have become a jet fighter pilot and later a 747 airline captain."Ensign, May 2006Meeting his future wife"Into this branch ... came a young widow with her two daughters. The missionaries had found this beautiful family, which included my future wife, Harriet."When I saw Harriet for the first time, with her dark brown eyes, I thought, 'These missionaries are really doing a great job!' Even as a teenager I liked Harriet quite a lot."My bold advances, however, showed only marginal success. I tried, for instance, to influence the seating at the sacrament table so I could pass the sacrament to her. This did not impress her very much. On my way to church activities during the week, I usually rode my nice bicycle and often stopped at their home to ask if Harriet would want to have a ride to church on my bicycle. Harriet always declined."Sometimes, however, her mother was there and would say, 'Harriet will walk, but I will gladly ride with you on your bike to church.' This wasn't really what I was hoping for at the time, but I later realized it is an advantage to be on good terms with the mother of the girl of your dreams!"New Era, June 2006Sustaining the prophet"President David O. McKay was the prophet during my teenage years. I seemed to know him personally: I could feel his love, kindness and dignity; he gave me confidence and courage in my young life."Even though I grew up thousands of miles away in Europe, I felt he trusted me, and I did not want to disappoint him."Ensign, November 2002

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