“Church Leaders Share Goodwill with Various Nations,” Ensign, June 2003, 77–78
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Presidency of the Seventy met with German president Johannes Rau in December to honor a commitment made by the First Presidency during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Meeting in Bellevue Palace, the residence of the president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Elder Uchtdorf presented a three-volume history of President Rau’s family and also his wife’s family.
“President Rau is a religious man,” says Elder Uchtdorf, who was accompanied by his wife, Harriet, and Elder Holger D. Rakow, an Area Authority Seventy. “He has teenage children and values the family. He believes the majority of people are looking for successful marriages with happy, secure families.”
The commitment to perform family history research came last year during the 2002 Winter Olympics when President Rau and his wife, Christina, met with President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors in the First Presidency. After learning of President Rau’s interest in family history, the Church leaders made a promise to research the Raus’ family history.
Missionaries serving in the Family History Library found 400 names in President Rau’s ancestry and another 800 names in his wife’s family.
Elder and Sister Uchtdorf, who have hosted President Rau at various events including a Tabernacle Choir broadcast during the Olympics, presented the findings in a private meeting on behalf of the Europe Central Area Presidency.
“It was a politically busy day when an important ruling was announced by the German courts,” Elder Uchtdorf says. “Because of the announcement, we expected a short visit. But it did not deter President Rau. We spent half an hour with him.”
“He thumbed through the pages, examining names,” Elder Uchtdorf says. “He was impressed that original copies of birth and death and marriage certificates were included in the old German handwriting, along with a more easily read copy in modern German.”
Elder Uchtdorf later received a letter expressing gratitude for the family history. “The joy and gratitude of receiving these volumes were immense,” President Rau wrote. “Many generations [in our families] are grateful for the effort of your Church.”
The First Presidency welcomed the ambassador of Bulgaria and her family during a February visit to Utah. Elena Borislavova Poptodorova was in Utah for a speaking engagement at Brigham Young University’s Kennedy Center for International Studies. Ambassador Poptodorova, along with her husband, Georgi Petrov, and her son, Georgi, met with Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, then president of Brigham Young University. They also enjoyed a performance of the university’s International Folk Dance Ensemble and a tour of the Missionary Training Center.
While in Salt Lake City, the ambassador and her family met with the First Presidency. Ambassador Poptodorova noted that Latter-day Saints are “people who lead wholesome lives.” She expressed her support of missionaries working in her country, and President Hinckley thanked her for her efforts to help missionaries enter Bulgaria.
The ambassador and her family also toured Welfare Square, Temple Square, and the Family History Library and met with Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Presidency of the Seventy.
During her visit, the ambassador expressed great appreciation for the hospitality she had been shown, saying that she has never seen such a concentrated expression of love, warmth, and appreciation for her country. Expressing her desire to continue a positive relationship between the Church and Bulgaria, Ambassador Poptodorova said, “We would like to have you always in our lives, no matter where we are.”
In Tahiti, M. Gaston Flosse, president of French Polynesia, and several of his cabinet members paid a courtesy visit to Church leaders at the Faaa Tahiti Stake Center in January.
“We thanked him for the government efforts on cleaning up the environment, reducing road accidents, and providing health programs for people in Tahiti,” says Elder Jean A. Tefan, an Area Authority Seventy. “We also expressed appreciation for his approval of our request to extend a land lease from 9 to 25 years for the construction of the institute building.”
President Flosse thanked the Church for the institute program and for the continuing efforts to support families and develop high moral and ethical standards for youth.
Yolande Bennett, Tahiti director of public affairs, presented information on families and family home evening, including the Liahona magazine and the proclamation on the family, to each of the government officials.
Church News contributed to this report.