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Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

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Germany awards top honor to one of its own: a high Mormon leader

Mormons love the tanned, compassionate, affable, quotable German in their church’s governing First Presidency — and now it’s clear that his home country appreciates him, too.

On Oct. 30, the Federal Republic of Germany awarded Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor to LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, the "Medal of Distinguished Service."

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German General Consul Dr. Bernd Fischer gave Uchtdorf the award during a brief ceremony at LDS Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, according to a news release, "for his exceptional service to the community and as a pilot."

The medal, also called the "Federal Merit Cross," is Germany’s highest honor for such service, which is meant to recognize "distinguished voluntary service or exceptional achievements in social, political or scientific fields."

Uchtdorf "has always been an exceptional representative of his country, Germany," Fischer told the ceremony’s participants, including the other members of the governing First Presidency, members of Uchtdorf’s family and civil servants of the German consulate, according to the release. "He has made exceptional achievements in his leadership callings in the church, and he has added in a remarkable way to the respect for and standing of Germany in the world."

Uchtdorf — who served in the German air force during times of peace, was a flight captain for Lufthansa Airlines for 26 years and then director of flight services and a member of top management for the carrier before accepting full-time church service — said he felt humbled to receive this "unexpected honor."

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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