SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time, a German chancellor has met with a senior LDS Church leader.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, invited Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to join him in Berlin on Friday for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Hatch, a member of the board of directors for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Elder Uchtdorf also visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, where they laid a wreath to honor Holocaust victims.
Hatch and Merkel discussed trade, intelligence matters, strengthening the U.S.-Germany relationship and the impasse on tariffs.
"I am grateful to Chancellor Merkel for inviting me to Germany and giving me the personal honor to mark our shared history and partnership together," Hatch said.
"I am one of the few who have seen Germany rise up from the ashes of World War II and grow to become one of America's closest allies during the heady days of the Cold War. This week, I am reminded that we can build a better future together only by protecting our shared history and values."
Hatch also delivered an address at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation on religious freedom, a subject he discussed with Merkel and Elder Uchtdorf, a German native.
"Freedom of religion is inseparable from the fundamental right of all — whether religious or not — to think, express and act upon what you are deeply convinced of," Elder Uchtdorf said, according to a news release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Uchtdorf said church members try to foster goodwill among people of all faiths.
"The chancellor welcomed us warmly and expressed her thoughts on religious freedom with consideration and great clarity," Elder Uchtdorf said.
The group also discussed the church's contributions to helping people affected by the world's refugee crisis.
Elder Uchtdorf said Hatch's invitation was an honor. Elder Uchtdorf met in May with former German President Joachim Gauck. In 2002, when he was a General Authority Seventy, he met with the German president at the time, Johannes Rau.
Hatch is the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history. He will retire in January.
Merkel has been Germany's chancellor since 2005. Forbes has ranked her as the world's most influential woman in 11 of the past 12 years.
Elder Uchtdorf, a former German military pilot and Lufthansa pilot, has been an LDS general authority since 1994 and an apostle since 2004.
The LDS Church has 40,000 members in Germany.8 comments on this story
Before traveling to Germany, Hatch spent the Fourth of July with U.S. troops in Portugal, where also met with the country’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and toured the LDS temple under construction in Lisbon.
Hatch and de Sousa, who met with President Donald Trump in Washington last week, talked about deepening military, cultural and commercial cooperation between the U.S. and Portugal.
Local LDS Church leaders gave Hatch and George Glass, the U.S. ambassador to Portugal, a tour of the temple, for which ground was broken in December 2015. There are 44,500 Mormons in Portugal.
Contributing: Dennis Romboy