Deseret Morning News Archives
President Thomas S. Monson, left, presents a statue to Erich Honecker, chairman of State Council of the German Democratic Republic, as Elder Russell M. Nelson; Henry J. Burkhardt, president of the Freiberg Temple; Manfred Schutze, president of the Leipzig Stake; and Frank Apel, Freiberg Stake president, look on in 1988.

Prior to World War II, (the area of East Germany) was the most productive area of the German-speaking world as pertained to missionary success ...."

Decades later, the church received permission from the communist government to build chapels in the country, and then a temple in Freiberg.

"A miracle of miracles had taken place. One more was needed. How can the church grow without missionaries? How can our numbers increase despite an aging population?

"Such was the dilemma uppermost on my mind as my plane landed in Berlin that October afternoon. We went forward with the vital assignment to visit with the leaders of the German Democratic Republic.... We were driven to the chambers of the chief representatives of the government.

"Beyond the exquisite entry to the building, we were greeted by Chairman (Erich) Honecker. We presented to him the statuette First Step, depicting a mother helping her child take its first step toward its father. He was highly pleased with the gift....

"Chairman Honecker began: 'We know members of your church believe in work; you've proven that. We know you believe in the family; you've demonstrated that. We know you are good citizens in whatever country you claim as home; we have observed that. The floor is yours. Make your desires known.'

"I began, 'Chairman Honecker, at the dedication and open house for the temple in Freiberg, 89,890 of your countrymen stood in line, at times up to four hours, frequently in the rain, that they might see a house of God. In the city of Leipzig, at the dedication of the stake center, 12,000 people attended the open house. In the city of Dresden there were 29,000 visitors; in the city of Zwickau, 5,300.... They want to know what we believe.

"'We would like to tell them that we believe in honoring and obeying and sustaining the law of the land. We would like to explain our desire to achieve strong family units. These are but two of our beliefs. We cannot answer questions, and we cannot convey our feelings, because we have no missionary representatives here as we do in other countries. The young men and young women whom we would like to have come to your country as missionary representatives would love your nation and your people.... Then we would like to see young men and young women from your nation who are members of our church serve as missionary representatives in many nations, such as in America, in Canada, and in a host of others. They will return better prepared to assume positions of responsibility in your land.'

"Chairman Honecker then spoke for perhaps 30 minutes, describing his objectives and viewpoints and detailing the progress made by his nation. At length, he smiled and addressed me and the group: 'We know you. We trust you. We have had experience with you. Your missionary request is approved."'

General Conference, April 1989