Praised as a great community leader and aviator, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany during a short ceremony at the LDS Church's headquarters in Salt Lake City on Oct. 30.

The Order of Merit is the highest tribute that the Federal Republic of Germany can pay to individuals for service to the nation, recognizing exceptional charitable work as well as accomplishments in various other types of social, political and scientific endeavors.

German Consul General Dr. Bernd Fischer lauded President Uchtdorf for his lifetime of service and leadership, including his present work as the second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"For his service in the field of aviation and his selfless service to his worldwide community, it would be sufficient to qualify him for this special award," said Dr. Fischer. "But together, his service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his community service, and his service and leadership in the field of aviation, we are three-times pleased to present this award to President Uchtdorf."

In addition, "he has always shown the flag of Germany to the world," Dr. Fischer said to a gathering that included President Thomas S. Monson and President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency; Sister Harriet Uchtdorf and other members of President Uchtdorfs family; Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert and his wife, Jeanette; and German consular officials.

"Everywhere he goes, he is known as 'The German among us,' as he spreads good will and comfort to millions across the world. He is a marvelous ambassador of good will and hope to those with whom he speaks."

A former fighter pilot in the German Air Force, President Uchtdorf also served the church as a stake president in both the Frankfurt Germany Stake and the Mannheim Germany Stake. For 26 years President Uchtdorf was an airline captain for Lufthansa German Airlines. At the time of his call as a general authority, he was the senior vice president of flight operations and chief pilot for Lufthansa. He and his wife, Harriet, raised their two children in Germany.

President Uchtdorf said he was humbled to receive the "unexpected distinction."