Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and his wife Harriet wave to the audience following the Saturday morning session of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 inside the Conference Center. Uchtdorf spoke Nov. 19 to the Rotary Club 24 Foundation Luncheon in Salt Lake City on the topics of gratitude and service.
Many of you — and I would say all of you here — are bridge builders between nations, cultures and religions. The world needs builders, not destroyers. —President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the LDS First Presidency

Referencing the Rotary International motto of "Service above Self," President Dieter F. Uchtdorf told members of the Salt Lake Rotary Club Tuesday that service and gratitude go hand in hand.

Gratitude, he said, is one of the most important human virtues and one of the most common human deficiencies.

And, "gratitude does not develop without effort," he said

President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said expressions of gratitude are urgently needed in a time of serious challenges and uncertainty worldwide.

"How can we pay our debt of gratitude for the heritage of faith and courage handed down to us by pioneers and pilgrims?" he asked.

In response, he said many have taught that gratitude is akin to humility and that gratitude like muscle must be exercised to be strengthened.

And, he said, much of that gratitude needs to be directed toward God.

Some today think Thanksgiving Day should not be connected to God, he said, but only to country and history. But, he said, George Washington's Oct. 3, 1789, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation specifically references gratitude to God.

"With all the busyness and business going on during this time of year, it is easy to focus on the feasting and not so much on prayer and praise!" he commented.

President Uchtdorf joined Rotary almost 40 years ago when he was in charge of the German Lufthansa Pilot School in Phoenix

“Back then, I learned to appreciate the purpose of Rotary International: to bring together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards, and build goodwill and peace in the world, regardless of race, religion, gender or political preference.”

"Many of you — and I would say all of you here — are bridge builders between nations, cultures and religions. The world needs builders, not destroyers."

He recalled his own childhood experience as a refugee at age 4 from Czechoslovakia to East Germany and then at age 11 escaping across the Cold War border to West Germany.

He spoke of blessings that came from the U.S. government’s Marshal Plan in helping stabilize Europe and especially Germany.

There were other voices in the United States and elsewhere that advocated harsher treatment of Germany in the wake of World War II, but under U.S. leadership, more moderate and compassionate voices prevailed, President Uchtdorf said.

“Blessed compromises were found; reason, common sense and reconciliation eventually made friends out of foes. Competitors became partners.”

Stemming from that, President Uchtdorf at age 18 joined the new German Air Force and was sent to the United States for pilot training, graduating first in his class.

“How grateful I am for all those moderate and wise voices that influenced far-reaching decisions and made my path in life possible,” he said. “I have seen reconciliation in action.”

Then, asking if "there still hope for integration and openness across different cultures, religions, societies and political interests?” he answered his own question.

"My dear friends, my dear Rotarians, my answer is a clear and resounding yes! ... But I am also convinced that the axiomatic and eternal principle of moral agency demands that there be 'an opposition in all things.' It ensures that meaningful choices can be made — choices not only between good and evil (that would be too easy), but also from among multiple righteous alternatives."