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Angel statue added to Freiberg temple

Townspeople consider sacred edifice their own

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FREIBERG, Germany — As snow fell heavily throughout the night upon this charming village, the former temple president, Magnus R. Meiser, said to his wife, "Tomorrow when Moroni is set on the temple, the sun will shine."

Indeed, as the statue was placed on the highest point of the Freiberg Germany Temple towers Dec. 20, the heavy clouds parted, blue sky appeared, and streaks of sun shone brilliantly on Moroni. A quiet reverence was evident among the small body of saints who had gathered, as their dreams and prayers were finally realized.

The Freiberg Germany Temple was constructed from 1983-1985 in the German Democratic Republic. At that time, during the communist regime, quality building materials simply were not available, nor was the design permitted to include a statue of the Angel Moroni. Nonetheless, the results achieved were admirable. Temple President Gerhard Grunewald, said, "It was a special temple before, but the communist government did not allow an angel. I think they accepted the Church, but they did not really love it. It was a real privilege that they even allowed us to have our temple."

At the groundbreaking ceremony on April 23, 1983, officials from the communist government were invited and attended. They sat in the front row of chairs as Elder Thomas S. Monson, then of the Quorum of the Twelve and now first counselor in the First Presidency, conducted. Before the invocation was offered he addressed these government representatives. As he looked them straight in the eye, he said to them, "When we pray in our Church, we fold our arms, bow our heads and close our eyes."

As the prayer proceeded, the mission president, Henry Burkhardt, said he could not resist opening one eye. He saw a sight that lifted his heart; every one of those men had their arms folded, their heads bowed and their eyes closed.

When the temple was completed, the members came with unspeakable joy for the miracle of the temple. Even the Freiberg townspeople called it "our temple." The temple brought new hope to the little city. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the town has been renovated and stands as one of the beautiful communities in Germany.

When the current temple renovation began, local residents were dismayed. "What are you doing with our temple," they asked? "Where is the tower?"

Members of the community were invited to a meeting in which President Meiser explained, "It will be more beautiful. It will have more ground. It will be like a park." The community left satisfied and happy.

Today, anyone in the town knows the location of the "Mormon temple" and proudly points to the road and signs that lead to the site.

Through the years members here have longed for an Angel Moroni statue as well as all the amenities found in other temples. The temple is being reconstructed to the standards of modern-day temples. The addition will approximately double the 7,489 square feet of the original temple.

New features include redesign of the baptistry's font to be supported by twelve oxen, a non-patrons waiting area, a matron/brides room and an office for the temple president. It will also have upgraded facilities for patrons with disabilities, changing rooms and ordinance areas. Though the building will extend to the east, the integrity of the original design will be maintained. Construction will conclude during the summer of 2002.

Among those who gathered for the placement of the statue was Erick Dzierzon, who was baptized 76 years ago. Standing with his wife while watching proceedings, he expressed his exhilaration regarding the statue's placement.

"Finally the symbol we find all over the world is in place here," he said. "It was a miracle the temple was built. Now we will have this special symbol. Now we will have the oxen in our baptistry. You cannot realize how special this is for us."

President Grunewald spoke of the saints who come to Freiberg from as far away as Ukraine and parts of Russia. Some members travel 52 hours by bus each way. He said, "These are people who lived without God, without a Bible, and who are now strong enough in their faith to come to the temple."

Nine languages are offered in the temple. Workers with a broad variety of language skills serve there. President Grunewald, who speaks eight languages himself, said, "We are preparing temple workers who will be able to serve someday when temples are built in their own countries."

Indeed, the saints who work in the temple, like those who come to the temple, are devoted Latter-day Saints. Many have endured years of difficulty and privation.

Elder D. Lee Tobler of the Seventy, president of the Europe Central Area who presided at the placement ceremony, said, "I think the expansion and renovating of the temple and the setting of the Angel Moroni statue on the temple tower are magnificent symbols. They are symbols of the members' faith before the war, during the war, and for many years after the war when it was not easy to be faithful."