When President Russell M. Nelson selected Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Henry B. Eyring as his counselors in the new First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some voiced concerns that Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf had, in some fashion, been demoted.
Uchtdorf had served as second counselor to President Thomas S. Monson for about 10 years. Most young members of the church don’t remember him in any other calling. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook had messages of sadness that he was no longer in the First Presidency.
Uchtdorf’s popularityUchtdorf’s ability to connect with the youth and millennials of the church is one of his and his wife Harriet’s greatest joys. In a recent devotional held Jan. 14, the day he was also released from the First Presidency, he explained how he feels young.
“Older generations have much more in common with yours than you might suppose,” Uchtdorf said. “For instance, many of you have questions about God and about yourself — deep, fundamental questions that are similar to those asked by people much older than you,” he said. “Despite my current age, I still feel young inside. In fact, most of us older people consider ourselves to be young people who have just been living a very long time.”
After that devotional, the Uchtdorfs mingled with the crowd and invited the young adults to enjoy the activities on Temple Square, which included refreshments and discussion tables in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The Christmas lights, normally turned off on Jan. 2, were turned back on for the special event. An estimated 28,000 people attended the devotional at the Conference Center and overflow facilities and activities on Temple Square.
To say Uchtdorf is popular is an understatement.
As an apostle, Uchtdorf, like any other apostle, serves in the Quorum of the Twelve and in any callings to which he may be asked to serve, including being called to the First Presidency. When that calling was done, Uchtdorf took his place back with the Quorum of the Twelve and waited for new assignments.
An apostle serves until his death.
At the announcement of a new First Presidency on Jan. 16, Nelson, the 17th president of the church, thanked Uchtdorf for his “totally capable, devoted, and inspired [service].” Nelson said Uchtdorf “has resumed his place in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and has already received major assignments for which he is uniquely qualified … and where he is needed most.”
The assignments came quickly and with heavy responsibility.
According to a church statement, “The assignments given to Elder Uchtdorf include chair of the Missionary Executive Council, chair of the Correlation Executive Council and the primary contact for the Europe and Europe East Areas.
“Additionally, Elder Uchtdorf will represent the Office of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in his capacity as chair of the Missionary Executive Council, where he will direct the global operation of all missionary activities of the Church.”
The Correlation Executive Council reviews and approves all church materials and products.
Prior to his calling as an apostle in 2004, Uchtdorf spent much of his life working and serving in various church leadership positions in Europe. He was born in Czechoslovakia and lived in Germany, where he and his family joined the church.
His vast experience in his work in the church and his life’s work as a pilot have given him important tools for his current assignments.
Uchtdorf was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on Oct. 2, 2004. He was called as second counselor in the church’s First Presidency on Feb. 3, 2008. He has served as a general authority since April 1994.
Uchtdorf was born on Nov. 6, 1940 in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, to Karl Albert and Hildegard Opelt Uchtdorf. In 1947, his family became members of the church in Zwickau, Germany. They fled to Frankfurt in 1952 where he received an education in engineering. In 1959, he joined the German Air Force and served for six years as a fighter pilot.
In 1965, Uchtdorf began working for Deutsche Lufthansa as a pilot. From 1970 until 1996, he flew as captain of a Boeing 737, Airbus DC-10, and Boeing 747. While also working as training and check captain, he received several management responsibilities. These positions included Section Chief Pilot B737, head of Lufthansa pilot school in Arizona, head of all cockpit crews, and finally Senior Vice President Flight Operations and Lufthansa Chief Pilot. He was also chairman of the Flight Operations Committee of the International Air Transport Association.
Uchtdorf and Harriet Reich married in 1962. They have two children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
With his call as an apostle, the Uchtdorfs left their homeland and now live permanently in the United States.