“Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 125–26
In an interview with the Friend magazine several years ago, Elder Dieter Friedrich Uchtdorf reminisced about his 35 years as an airline pilot. He never tired of gazing at the clouds, the stars, and the landscapes spread out below him, he said. As he traveled throughout the world, his appreciation for the differences in countries and cultures increased, but as a Church member he recognized that the gospel could unite all people, regardless of culture or ethnicity. “I know from going to those different places and seeing the people and the Church in those different places that the gospel is for everyone, no matter what nation you live in or what your traditions are,” he said. “The word of God … is for every culture, in every nation” (“Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Seventy,” Liahona, Apr. 1999, F4; see Friend, June 1998, 7).
After becoming one of the two newest members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Uchtdorf again emphasized that conviction. Although cultures and backgrounds may be different, “the challenges are the same,” he said at a press conference. And the answer to those challenges can be found in the application of gospel principles. “This gospel has so much to offer.”
Born to Karl A. and Hildegard Opelt Uchtdorf in Mährisch-Ostrau, Czechoslovakia, on 6 November 1940, and raised in Germany, Elder Uchtdorf is the first Apostle born outside the United States to be called in more than 50 years. But he affirms that he has not been called to represent any particular group. The Apostles, he says, are “here to represent Jesus Christ, the Savior.”
Elder Uchtdorf has a firm testimony of the Atonement and of its power to heal. As a child growing up after World War II, he remembers playing in bombed-out houses and living “with the ever-present consequences of a lost war and the awareness that my own country had inflicted terrible pain on many nations. … The good news that Jesus Christ has made the perfect Atonement for mankind, redeeming all from the grave and rewarding each individual according to his or her works, was the healing power which brought hope and peace back into my life” (“The Global Church Blessed by the Voice of the Prophets,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 11).
In addresses to Church members, Elder Uchtdorf has stressed the importance of knowing one’s eternal destination and always seeking to be on the right path. He recalled one flight when, as an airline captain, he was crossing the Atlantic in a Boeing 747 with 386 passengers on board. At one point he saw the contrails of two other jetliners ahead. Soon he was flying directly between the two jetliners, with one 2,000 feet (600 meters) above him and the other 2,000 feet below. “As we slowly overtook those beautiful aircraft,” he recalled, “my copilot mentioned how remarkable it was that because of true and accurate information entered into the navigation units at the start of our flights, all three jets were precisely on the same track, separated only by altitude. And we would continue to be so if the crews used identical navigational points leading to the same destination.
“As I have contemplated the truth of this statement and its application to our lives,” he continued, “I arrived at the question: Do we all know our destination, and are we on the right track? … Heavenly Father has prepared a flight plan for us that will lead us back to him” (“Happy Landing,” New Era, Mar. 1995, 4).
Elder Uchtdorf received an education in engineering and later studied business administration and international management. During the last seven years of his professional career, he was senior vice president of flight operations and chief pilot of Lufthansa German Airlines.
In December 1962 Elder Uchtdorf married Harriet Reich and was sealed to her in the Bern Switzerland Temple. They are the parents of two children and have five grandchildren. Elder Uchtdorf has served as a stake president, member of several Area Presidencies, member of the Quorums of the Seventy, and member of the Presidency of the Seventy.
Elder and Sister Uchtdorf know that his new calling can come only from the Lord. “Our hearts are joyous to receive such a great responsibility,” he says. “If we [didn’t] know that the Church was true and that we have a living prophet at this time, then we would doubt this. But we know the Church is true, and we know that Gordon B. Hinckley is the true prophet today. So we know that the call to serve in this holy apostleship is right.”