Popular Latter-day Saint apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf holds dual German and American citizenships but he pointed Sunday to a third “cherished” citizenship — one separate from any birthplace — as the key to fostering world peace.
“Citizenship in the kingdom of Almighty God is open to all. It makes all of us better citizens in our own nation,” he told a crowd assembled at Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center on the eve of Independence Day for a Patriotic Service as part of America’s Freedom Festival. “It makes us better neighbors and friends. It fosters peace, understanding and cooperation.”
Twice a refugee in postwar Europe — once while fleeing Czechoslovakia, where he was born, and again when journeying from then-East Germany to West Germany — Uchtdorf, a longtime member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talked about playing as a child in bombed buildings and shell craters in Germany.
He and his wife, Harriet, returned in April to an Eastern Europe scarred by yet another war, where he assured Ukrainian refugees in Poland that “good things will happen” for them if they keep their hope centered on Christ.
“I understand, to a degree, the fear, desperation and uncertainty those displaced families feel. It was a feeling that connected with a deep ache inside me. Their sorrow felt fresh, immediate and personal,” Uchtdorf said Sunday, according to a news release. “... I will tell you today what I told them: Our beloved Heavenly Father holds the nations of the world in his hands. No earthly threat is beyond his power to overcome. No outcome takes him by surprise. He has foreseen all.”
The 81-year-old church leader expressed thanks for an “inspired” U.S. Constitution but warned that “without personal virtue, it isn’t enough.”
“I hold three citizenships,” Uchtdorf said. “I am a citizen of the United States of America. I am also a citizen of Germany. And I hold a third cherished citizenship. I am a citizen in the kingdom of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
He said ultimate citizenship in the Almighty’s realm — where “it’s not about who you are but rather who you are willing to become” — can bring an end to hatred, suffering and polarization across the globe.
“It is my prayer today, that this Fourth of July, our Independence Day, we will declare our independence from the division and bitterness of our day,” Uchtdorf said, “and embrace the independent light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
In that, he said, rests the “brightest hope for humanity.”