President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was called to the position of Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on February 3, 2008, upon the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley and the subsequent calling of Thomas S. Monson as president and prophet of the Church. Elder Uchtdorf was ordained an apostle on October 7, 2004, at age 63. He filled the vacancy created by the death of Elder Neal A. Maxwell on July 21, 2004. Also ordained the same day was Elder David A. Bednar, who filled the vacancy created by the death of Elder David B. Haight, who died just ten days after Elder Maxwell on July 31, 2004.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf was born in Czechoslovakia on November 6, 1940, in the midst of the horrors of World War II. While Elder Uchtdorf was very young, his father was forced to join the German army. His mother, Hildegard, afraid for her family's safety, moved the family to Zwickau, Germany. When the war ended, Elder Uchtdorf's father was able to return. However, the family was still in danger, because his father had been vocal in his opposition to both Nazism and Communism. They were able to move to safety in Frankfurt, West Germany. Elder Uchtdorf said of his childhood,
- We were refugees with an uncertain future.... I played in bombed-out houses and grew up with the ever-present consequences of a lost war and the awareness that my own country had inflicted terrible pain on many nations during the horrific World War II (“The Global Church Blessed by the Voice of the Prophets,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 10).
However, these hard times brought the Uchtdorf family a great gift, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Elder Uchtdorf related how his family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
- After World War II, my grandmother was standing in line for food when an elderly single sister with no family of her own invited her to sacrament meeting.... My grandmother and my parents accepted the invitation. They went to church, felt the Spirit, were uplifted by the kindness of the members, and were edified by the hymns of the Restoration.... How grateful I am for a spiritually sensitive grandmother, teachable parents, and a wise, white-haired, elderly single sister who had the sweet boldness to reach out and follow the Savior’s example by inviting us to ‘come and see’ (John 1:39) (“The Opportunity to Testify,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 74).
Elder Uchtdorf lives by the saying “you could be upset about it, but you are not obligated to be.” His son said he always knew that his father put his trust in the Lord.
At fourteen, Elder Uchtdorf dreamed of becoming a pilot. He pursued this dream as a career, and has become one of the most recognized and honored commercial pilots in Germany. "He joined the air force in his home country, Germany, in 1959. Half a century later, he looks back on a career in aviation that began with earning German and U.S. wings. He trained in the U.S. Air Force from 1960-62, graduating at the top of his class, and served six years as a fighter pilot in the German air force. After he left the military, he was a pilot for Lufthansa German Airlines" (LDS Church News, Sept. 26, 2009). "In 1975, President Uchtdorf became head of Pilot Lufthansa School in Goodyear, Ariz. He and Sister Uchtdorf bought a home in Glendale, where they lived until 1978, when they returned to Germany."
When he retired in 1996, he was senior vice president for flight operations and chief pilot for Lufthansa. He was also chairman of the Flight Operations Committee of the International Air Transport Association. He ended his career piloting a 747 on the Frankfurt to Dallas run. During the same time, he was gaining recognition and status as a pilot, Elder Uchtdorf also received calls within the Church which required great strength and dedication. He was first called as the President of the Frankfurt Germany Stake, then as President of the Mannheim Germany Stake, and in 1994, he was called as a General Authority in the Quorum of the Seventy (two years before his retirement from Lufthansa).
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in October 2004. He is the first apostle in more than fifty years who was not born in the United States, and the first ever from Germany.
- "Harriet and I had the dream that when I retired, we would go on a mission," he said. "The option Lufthansa offered me was that I could retire at age 55, so that was our plan. Then, when I was 53, I was called as a General Authority. Our plan didn't quite work out. I was still working full-time for Lufthansa and was serving full-time as a member of the Quorum of the Seventy. I retired at 55, and have continued on as a General Authority since then.
- "I took my last flight for Lufthsana in a 747 and came back to Frankfurt with Harriet in the cockpit with me. We docked at the airport in Frankfurt. The welcome team was there, and amidst them was our family and our children holding up a huge sign saying, 'On to new horizons.'"
To see a video of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf bearing testimony of Christ and the gospel, click here.
Quotes from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
- "Go to our Heavenly Father in prayer; communicate with Him daily. Draw close to Him, and He will draw close to you. Ask about your studies of the scriptures, about your feelings and your questions, and He will answer. He is waiting, He is real, and He is there. Use the gift of the Holy Ghost. Believe in the power of prayer. It takes effort and time. Be patient; it is worth it. You can do it. You are not alone in this; others went through this before. Remember, it is easy to doubt, but it is a sure sign of maturity and responsibility to question and then search prayerfully for answers."
- “Making Choices for Eternity,” Ensign, Oct. 2002
- "Faith in Jesus Christ and a testimony of Him and His universal Atonement is not just a doctrine with great theological value. Such faith is a universal gift, glorious for all cultural regions of this earth, irrespective of language, race, color, nationality, or socioeconomic circumstance. The powers of reason may be used to try to understand this gift, but those who feel its effects most deeply are those who are willing to accept its blessings, which come from a pure and clean life of following the path of true repentance and living the commandments of God."
- “The Fruits of the First Vision,” Ensign, May 2005