Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 82,330,000; Members, 37,539; Stakes, 14; Wards, 90; Branches, 82; Missions, 4; Districts, 3; Temples, 2; Percent LDS, .05 or one in 2,193; Europe Area.
A central European nation divided following World War II and united in October 1990, Germany is predominantly Catholic in the south and Protestant in the north. Prior to the unification of Germany in 1870 under Prussian Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, there were a multitude of smaller Germanic states in what comprises the Germany of today.
Probably the first German convert was Jacob Zundel who joined the Church in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. The first Latter-day Saint to go to Germany was James Howard, a British convert working there in 1840. He tried to preach but was unsuccessful due to local restrictions. Elder Orson Hyde spent 10 months in Germany in 1841-42, but was unsuccessful in preaching, although he did study German and oversaw the translation of a tract into German. In Nauvoo prior to the death of Joseph Smith, there were sufficient German converts to justify the creation of a German Branch with Daniel Carn (later changed to Garn) as president.
Several other short-lived and poorly documented attempts to preach the gospel were probably made in Germany before George P. Dykes arrived in 1851. He went from the Scandinavian mission to Schleswig-Holstein, an area then under Danish rule. He baptized what were likely the first two converts in Germany on 15 September 1851. Elder John Taylor, assigned to France, went to Hamburg in October 1851, where he joined Dykes and supervised translation of the Book of Mormon into German. It was published in May 1852.
The first mission president, Daniel Carn arrived in Hamburg on 3 April 1852. By August he had baptized 12 and organized the Hamburg Branch. Pres. Carn was exiled by the Hamburg government without any legal cause, but continued to supervise the German Saints from Denmark. Five additional missionaries from the United States arrived on 25 May 1852, the same day as Pres. Carn’s exile. Within four months, however, they went to England, discouraged by being constantly harassed by the police.
Orson Spencer and Jacob Houtz were sent to Prussia after King Frederick William IV sought information about the Church through intermediaries in Washington. Houtz and Spencer arrived on 27 January 1853 to learn that Prussian officials had taken sufficient interest in the Church to have monitored their trek nearly the entire way from Salt Lake City. They did not meet with the king, but did gain the audience of the minister of religion. Discouraged by the meeting, they reported that conditions in Prussia were even more adverse to missionary work than in the Hamburg area.
The first converts to emigrate left Germany on 13 August 1852. In 1854, apostates and police halted missionary work by imprisoning and exiling the elders. Most of the local faithful converts emigrated and the branch in Hamburg was dissolved.
The most prominent convert of this period was Karl G. Maeser, who was attracted to the Church by an anti-Mormon tract. He wrote to Church leaders with questions about the gospel and in response, William Budge was sent to Maeser’s home in Dresden. Maeser and several relatives and associates were baptized. On 21 October 1855, the Dresden Branch was established with Maeser as president. The branch lasted until 1857, when public opposition prompted many members to emigrate, including Maeser. He later became president of Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah.
Southern Germany’s first branch was organized in Karlsruhe in 1860, under the jurisdiction of the Swiss, Italian and German Mission. Active missionary work was also begun in that region, in part, because of greater religious tolerance found there compared to many other German states. The mission was boosted in 1867 by the return of Karl G. Maeser as a missionary. The mission was renamed the Swiss and German mission on 1 January 1868. Elder Maeser became president of the mission in June of that year. More than 600 people joined the Church in the next three years. The first issue of Der Stern was published 1 January 1869, with Maeser as editor.
In 1871 with the unification of the German states under Bismark, religious freedom was guaranteed. However, officials used the Church’s practice of plural marriage as a reason to continue persecution and arrest of missionaries even after the Church discontinued the practice in 1890. This persecution continued until the end of World War I.
Nevertheless, work had progressed sufficiently in Germany that by 1898 branches had been established in Saargemuend, Frankfurt-am-Main, Leipzig, Hamburg, and Cologne, and the German Mission was created with headquarters in Hamburg. Persecution, however, increased to the extent that in 1904 the mission was recombined with the Swiss Mission to recreate the Swiss and German Mission with mission headquarters in Switzerland.
The first Church president to visit Germany was Joseph F. Smith who spoke at a meeting in the Berlin Branch on 12 August 1906. After World War I began in August 1914, nearly 200 missionaries left some 60 branches in Switzerland and Germany. Despite the war, most branches remained intact and the mission was never closed. Hyrum W. Valentine and his successor, Angus J. Cannon presided over the mission from its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. In August 1919, Cannon was able to visit the members living in Germany and found them in need of hunger relief. As a result, he was commissioned by the First Presidency to purchase $200,000 worth of supplies from the United States military in France for the German members.
The first missionaries to return after World War I arrived on 15 April 1921. They found a government considerably more tolerant of religious freedom and a people more receptive to the gospel message. The years 1921-1925 marked the greatest growth the Church has ever experienced in Germany. In 1925, the mission was divided with 6,125 members in the newly created German-Austrian Mission and 5,305 members in the Swiss-German Mission. In 1928, the first meetinghouse constructed in Germany was dedicated in Selbongen.
The advent of National Socialism (Nazism) brought new restrictions to the Church including limitations on missionary work, prohibition of the Boy Scout program and restrictions on the use of certain curriculum. The Church, however, progressed during the Nazi era and the East German Mission, Germany’s third, was formed 31 December 1937.
In light of Germany’s contention with its neighbors over the Czech Sudetenlands, on 16 September 1938, the First Presidency directed all missionaries to be evacuated from Germany and move to neutral countries Missionaries returned after the crisis subsided, but were evacuated for the duration of World War II beginning on 24 August 1939.
By the end of World War II, more than 600 German Saints had been killed, 2,500 were missing, and 80 percent were homeless. Relief efforts by the Church, first supervised by Elder Ezra Taft Benson, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, helped sustain German members for several years. Management of the relief effort was transferred from Elder Benson to mission president Walter Stover, who arrived in Berlin on 26 November 1946. Late in 1949, Pres. Stover wrote to the First Presidency stating that the more serious part of the crisis was over and no more welfare relief would be needed for the German Saints.
Missionaries returned in 1947 to find Germany divided between West Germany and East Germany. A primary motive in the first half of the 20th century for Latter-day Saints to emigrate to the United States was their desire to enjoy the full blessings of Church membership. With the dedication of the Swiss Temple on 11 September 1955, those blessings became available to Latter-day Saints in Europe. In the fall of 1961 three stakes were created in Berlin, Stuttgart and Hamburg.
The Freiburg Germany Temple is the 33rd operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the 3rd temple completed in Europe, the first 1st temple in Germany and the first temple completed in a communist country. It stands in the northwest section of beautiful and historic Freiberg. Citizens of all faiths feel an owernship and pride in the building, which they refer to as "our" temple. Distribution Services and housing for the temple president, missionaries, and patrons are located west of the temple while a meetinghouse stands to the north. The attractive grounds are lovingly maintained and open to the public.
A large proportion of Latter-day Saints found themselves living behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany and isolated from their fellow Church members. However, in the late 1960s, more regular visits began from Church Authorities, particularly Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve. On 14 June 1969, a mission was created with headquarters in Dresden, East Germany, with Henry Burkhardt as president. On 29 August 1982, the Freiberg German Democratic Republic Stake was created, and on 19 June 1985, the Freiberg Germany Temple was dedicated, the only temple constructed in a communist bloc country.
A temple in Frankfurt, West Germany, was dedicated 28 August 1987. Following the publicity of the dedication, missionary work increased in the late 1980s.
Missionaries were given permission from the government both to leave and enter East Germany on 28 October 1988. On 30 March 1989, the first missionaries called to serve in East Germany entered that country. Their East German counterparts arrived on 28 May 1989 at the Provo Missionary Training Center.
Barriers separating East and West Germany fell 9 November 1989, and the two countries were reunified on 3 October 1990. With the end of the Cold War, many American military personnel were withdrawn in the early 1990s and the military stakes were reduced from four to one, with the Nuremberg Germany Servicemen’s Stake being converted to a German-speaking stake.
The Freiberg Germany Temple was renovated and enlarged to roughly double the size of the original temple. It was rededicated 7 September 2002.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Presidency of the Seventy presented German President Johannes Rau with a three-volume history of his family and his wife’s family in the Palace Bellevue in Berlin. The half-hour presentation was made in a private meeting 18 December 2002.
In 2003, membership reached 36,721. In 2005, membership reached 37,149.
Sources: Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; Gilbert Scharffs, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany Between 1840 and 1968, Thesis, 1969; “Elder Uchtdorf meets with German president,” Church News, 14 September 2002, 2004 Church Almanac; Jeffery L. Anderson, Mormons and Germany, 1914-1913: A history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany and its relationship with the German Governments from World War I to the Rise of Hitler, Thesis, 1991; Justus Ernst, Highlights from the German-speaking L.D.S. Missions, 1836-1940, Church Archives; Albert Riedel, Geschichte der deutschsprachigen Missionen der Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der Letzten Tage, 1971; Thomas S. Monson, Faith Rewarded, 1996; “Dedicatory Prayer Excerpts, ‘Thou Hast Reached Down in Mercy,” Church News, 14 September 2002.