Dieter F. Uchtdorf: 2013 Mormon of the Year

Approaching Justice is pleased to announce President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the 2013 Approaching Justice Mormon of the Year.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency (Source: LDS Newsroom)

President Uchtdorf, a native of Germany, stands as a symbol of many of the developments within Mormon culture during 2013.

Following grand discussions about the “Mormon Moment” surrounding the 2012 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, the question became “What is next for Mormonism?”

As we begin 2014, the answer to that question is still part of an on-going discussion about the Mormon narrative.

However, in 2013 we saw a move towards a more general openness by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In particular, there was a move towards more openness about Church History. This openness was especially highlighted by new entries on the official Church website about race and the priesthood and the practice of polygamy appearing near the conclusion of 2013.

This broader spirit of openness has been exemplified by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

President Uchtdorf addressing the meeting of faith leaders with President Obama in March, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In March, Uchtdorf attended a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House and offered support for efforts to bring about a more humane immigration policy in the United States.

“He just said in this value process we need to stand together and make sure the United States is still a place where people can come and once they come can feel not at fear. And do it, of course, in a lawful way,” Uchtdorf told The Salt Lake Tribune in a brief interview as he left the White House. “He was talking about his principles and what he said was totally in line with our values.”

In October, President Uchtdorf gave one of the more memorable General Conference talks of recent times. In the talk titled “Come, Join with Us,” Uchtdorf addressed reasons that people might struggle with the Church.

A few highlights of the talk:

On those that have left the LDS Church:

The search for truth has led millions of people to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, there are some who leave the Church they once loved.

One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?”

Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.

On unanswered questions about the Church history:

Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.

Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.

Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.

On members and leaders making mistakes:

And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.

In the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”6

This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth.

It is unfortunate that some have stumbled because of mistakes made by men. But in spite of this, the eternal truth of the restored gospel found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not tarnished, diminished, or destroyed.

On being a fit with the Church:

Some might say, “I just don’t fit in with you people in the Church.”

If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. You might be surprised to find that we have yearnings and struggles and hopes similar to yours. Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church.

Some might say, “I don’t think I could live up to your standards.”

All the more reason to come! The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet.

Some might say, “I know a member of your Church who is a hypocrite. I could never join a church that had someone like him as a member.”

If you define hypocrite as someone who fails to live up perfectly to what he or she believes, then we are all hypocrites. None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be. But we earnestly desire to overcome our faults and the tendency to sin. With our heart and soul we yearn to become better with the help of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

If these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us!

It is this spirit of openness that has made President Dieter F. Uchtdorf a favorite LDS figure to Mormons of all sorts.

Here is the entire talk:

President Uchtdorf has served as second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since February 3, 2008. He was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 2004 and has been General Authority since April 1994.

President Uchtdorf was a pilot for Lufthansa German Airlines from 1965 to 1996. Prior to flying for Lufthansa, he was a fighter pilot for the German Air Force  for six years.

Pres. Uchtdorf is the first Approaching Justice Mormon of the Year. Each January, Approaching Justice will acknowledge a Mormon who stood out the previous year.

Who would you have chosen as the Mormon of the year for 2013? Any guesses on who the contenders with be in 2014? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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