“President Monson Visits Sweden and Germany,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 112
In a week of activities that included meeting the king and queen of Sweden, President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances Johnson Monson, were welcomed “home.” The two both have Swedish ancestry.
President Monson greeted the king and queen of Sweden during Their Majesties’ first visit to the grounds of the Stockholm Sweden Temple on Wednesday, August 23. President and Sister Monson were joined by several thousand people who welcomed the royalty, who were visiting various sites in Haninge, located about twenty miles south of Stockholm.
A group of Primary children sang “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, 1985, no. 306), then an adult chorus sang a hymn. President Monson presented the queen with an extensive history of her family on behalf of the Church. The history was gathered from the Church’s archives.
Then President Monson turned to the king and expressed his appreciation for His Majesty’s strong support of Scouting. He also mentioned the royal couple’s interest in families. As he spoke, two Boy Scouts presented a bronze casting of Dennis Smith’s sculpture, The First Step, showing a mother helping a young daughter take her first step toward her father.
Several days earlier, President Monson created the third stake in Sweden and the second stake in Stockholm. The next day President and Sister Monson spoke at a meeting held for members in the area. President Monson noted that he loved all countries. “However,” he added, “there is something about coming home, something about coming to this land of the North that has been touched with the finger of beauty and where the gospel has been taught for so long a time.”
President Monson talked of historic moments in Church history in Sweden he had witnessed personally, including creating the first stake in Stockholm twenty years before. He talked of the temple ground breaking, the temple dedication, and the dedication of the country for preaching the gospel. Also attending was Elder John E. Fowler of the Seventy, first counselor in the Europe North Area presidency.
On Monday, August 21, President Monson’s sixty-eighth birthday, the couple met with missionaries in the Sweden Stockholm Mission.
After their visit to Sweden, President and Sister Monson traveled to Germany, where they visited several Church historical sites and where President Monson dedicated a meetinghouse in fulfillment of a promise made twenty-seven years ago.
In 1968 President Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, visited with members of the Church in Görlitz, Germany. “Under the inspiration of the Lord, I promised those worthy Saints who had nothing—nothing—that if they were faithful to the Lord, He, in His kindness and fairness, would provide them with all the blessings any other member of the Church in a free country received,” he said.
On August 27 President Monson returned to Görlitz to dedicate a meetinghouse. At the dedication, he reflected upon his earlier visit in 1968. “I looked at the condition under which the church met in those days,” he said. “They had no ability to get Church materials, no visitors from Church headquarters, no patriarchs to give patriarchal blessings, no permission to hold a youth conference, no temple, no missionaries.”
But the members were faithful. “Here were a relatively small number of our Church members, but completely unified. I remembered that the Lord said where two or more are gathered in my name, there will I [the Lord] be also” (see D&C 6:32).
Through the years, patriarchs have been called, missionaries have preached the gospel, stakes in eastern Germany have been created, members have received permission to attend conferences in Salt Lake City, and a temple has been built. “Every promise came true but one,” President Monson observed. “We had nice buildings in Leipzig, in Dresden, and in other places, but not in little Görlitz, where the promise was made. … I am [here] fulfilling that one unfulfilled element of the promise.”
President and Sister Monson also visited the grave site of Joseph A. Ott, a missionary who died in 1896 shortly after he arrived in Dresden. The Monsons then visited a hillside overlooking Dresden where, in April 1975, President Monson offered a dedicatory prayer on the people in the German Democratic Republic.