FREIBERG, Germany — It's impossible to discuss the Freiberg Germany Temple without mentioning its singular history.
When dedicated in 1985, it was, perhaps, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' most improbable temple. Built behind the Iron Curtain in what was then communist East Germany, the temple has developed a legacy defined by a generation of German Latter-day Saints who remained faithful and united even as they endured the deep chill of the Cold War.
But for the many Mormons who call this temple their own, the Freiberg Germany Temple is far more than a historical monument. It is a dynamic and still evolving harbinger of bright days ahead for the church in Eastern Europe.
Hundreds of Latter-day Saints gathered Sunday for the rededication of the Freiberg Germany Temple. The 31-year-old temple was closed in February 2015 to accommodate an extensive renovation project.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS Church's First Presidency, presided over the day's three rededication sessions. On the eve of the rededication, the German-born church leader spoke to a large gathering of youths who formed the cast of a cultural celebration in nearby Dresden. He reminded the young people of the key role they can play inside the walls of the rededicated Freiberg Temple and beyond.
“You are truly the future of the world,” he said. “You are the hope of this world.”
Nothing about Sunday's assignment was routine for President Uchtdorf. He and his wife, Harriet Uchtdorf, both trace their ancestry, he said, “from this part of the Lord's vineyard.” He was baptized not far from the temple site and lived in the region until he was 11.
“Who would have thought at that time that a temple would be built here,” he said. “But it happened because the Lord takes the improbabilities of life and makes the impossible possible.”
The Ucthdorfs were accompanied at the rededication ceremonies by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Susan. The Mormon apostle is no stranger to Germany. In 1971, he reported for full-time missionary service in southern West Germany several years before the country was reunified.
“To come back now to what was, at that time, East Germany, and to be invited to participate in this rededication is a dream come true,” said Elder Bednar.
The rededication of the Freiberg Germany Temple is being celebrated far outside of eastern Germany. The temple district also includes church units from Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Moldova.
“It was hard when the temple was closed, we missed it very much,” said Romanian member Izabela Geambasu, who planned to spend the week working in the Freiberg Temple. “This rededication is a great blessing.”
Over 400 youths from the Freiberg Temple District sang and danced in the traditional Saturday evening cultural event. The young people came together from eastern Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. The event celebrated the region's Mormon pioneers and the rising generation that will determine the church's future here.
Sunday's rededication marked the second of such events for the Freiberg Germany Temple. President Gordon B. Hinckley presided over the temple's first rededication in 2002 following a large-scale renovation.