Someday soon, a few prospective missionaries will open letters from Salt Lake City to find that they have been called to serve in the German Democratic Republic (DDR). And in the DDR, young people will begin receiving mission calls—some for missions outside their own country.
Both of those momentous changes will come about as the result of meetings between President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and top officials of the government of the DDR held late in October.
The principles of the agreement that will permit the exchange of missionaries were agreed upon during meetings with German officials, including Erich Honecker, chairman of the State Council for the DDR, and Kurt Loeffler, state secretary for Religious Affairs. Details of the agreement are being worked out in discussions between Secretary Loeffler and leaders of the Church’s Europe Area.
President Monson was accompanied at the meetings by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Hans B. Ringger, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and a counselor in the Europe Area presidency; and local Church officers.
During the meetings, President Monson said, “Both Chairman Honecker and Mr. Loeffler agreed that allowing missionaries from other countries to serve in the DDR and permitting Latter-day Saints from the DDR to serve as missionaries in other countries will strengthen friendships among nations.”
President Monson added: “Mr. Loeffler expressed his belief that Latter-day Saint missionaries traditionally become goodwill ambassadors, not only for their native countries, but for the countries in which they serve missions. The experiences of thousands of missionaries who have served throughout the world convince us he is correct in his assessment.”
Mr. Loeffler said that Latter-day Saints in the DDR have the government’s respect because they are law-abiding, loyal citizens who believe in strong families, have a strong work ethic, and desire world peace.
“Obviously, there are differences of belief that separate us,” President Monson said, “but there are many more things that unite us, including those items Mr. Loeffler mentioned.”
Speaking at Brigham Young University a few days after the meetings in Germany, President Monson called the last week in October 1988 “one of the greatest weeks in my life.
“It was a week of wonder. I confess the hand of God in the events of the week.”
President Monson recalled that many years ago, on a visit to the DDR, he had felt moved to promise faithful members that they would one day enjoy all the blessings enjoyed by Church members elsewhere. At the time, that promise gave him pause to think, he said, but now it is coming true.
While in the DDR, President Monson presided over the dedication of a new stake center in Dresden; nearly thirty thousand people had attended an open house in advance of the dedication. A meetinghouse was also dedicated in Zwickau. The Church has had a temple operating in Freiberg since 1985.
Along with announcing the agreement on missionaries, President Monson announced that the government of the DDR will allow Church members to use various facilities for youth conferences and other Church meetings.
It was also announced that a BYU performing group, the Lamanite Generation, has been invited to perform in the German Democratic Republic in 1989.