DRESDEN, Germany — A bronze statue of Karl G. Maeser, president of the first branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Saxony, Germany, and church education pioneer, was dedicated over the weekend.
President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the church's First Presidency, dedicated the $40,000 statue Saturday in a ceremony on the grounds of the church's Dresden Stake Center.
After migrating to Utah, Maeser became the first principal of the Brigham Young Academy, the forerunner to Brigham Young University.
The statue, a replica of a monument on the BYU campus near the entrance of the building that bears Maeser's name, was placed on a stone base near a grassy slope behind the stake center.
More than 300 attended the ceremony. Also speaking were BYU President Merrill J. Bateman, Lord Mayor Thomas Pohlack of the city of Meissen and two Maeser descendants. Sculptor Ortho Fairbanks also attended.
"Karl G. Maeser was the first president of the Dresden Branch and was baptized in the beautiful Elbe river near this spot," President Monson said. "He was a pioneer in every sense of the word, where a pioneer is one who goes before, showing others where to follow."
Maeser, born about 25 miles northwest of Dresden in Meissen along the Elbe River, is considered in education circles to be among the most influential immigrants from Germany to the United States in the 19th century. He was commissioned by Brigham Young to go to Provo to establish an institution of higher learning where not even the "ABCs would be taught without the Spirit of the Lord."
The placement of the Maeser statue in Meissen began as an idea of one of Maeser's descendants, Earl Maeser, three years ago. The family offered to finance the $40,000 project.
The mayor was originally enthusiastic and suggested that a new vocational school under construction be named in his honor and the statue be placed in the plaza in front of the school.
But controversy surfaced when religious leaders in Meissen feared that the statue was a proselyting ploy and contended that it should not be placed on public grounds. Maeser's fame, they argued, was known only in America and that his contributions were not in Germany.
Fearing political repercussions during this election year, city leaders revoked permission to place the statue in the school plaza, forcing the Maeser family to find a new location before the dedication date.
In his comments at the unveiling, the Meissen mayor spoke of a sister city agreement signed earlier that day with officials from Provo, saying the exchange would pay economical, cultural and educational dividends.
He said the controversy over the statue was not a matter of religious prejudice but was a matter of the City Council wanting to conduct a two-year study to determine Maeser's pedagogical background.