Dieter Friedrich Uchtdorf (born 6 November 1940) is a German aviator, airline executive and religious leader. He is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Called as an apostle in 2004, he served as Second Counselor to Thomas S. Monson in the church's First Presidency from 2008 until Monson's death on 2 January 2018. Currently, Uchtdorf is the sixth most senior apostle in the ranks of the church.
Uchtdorf was born to German parents Karl Albert Uchtdorf (1905–1967) and Hildegard Else Opelt (1908–1990) in Moravská Ostrava (German: Mährisch-Ostrau), which at the time was in the Nazi-occupied Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now Ostrava, Czech Republic). His father was a customs officer, who was conscripted into the German Army toward the end of World War II and sent to the western front. When a young child, Uchtdorf traveled with his mother and three siblings through areas being bombed in a move to Zwickau in eastern Germany. He later said of this period: "We were refugees with an uncertain future... I played in bombed-out houses and grew up with the ever-present consequences of a lost war and the awareness that my own country had inflicted terrible pain on many nations during the horrific World War II." As a result of his grandmother's encounter with a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a soup line, Uchtdorf's family joined the LDS Church when he was still young.
When Uchtdorf was about eleven, his father's political beliefs, incongruent with Soviet rule, earned him the label of "dissenter", thus putting their lives in danger. They fled East Germany and resettled in U.S.-occupied West Germany. His sisters accomplished this by jumping from a moving train that happened to pass through West Germany, while Dieter and his mother climbed a mountain to avoid GDR guard checkpoints.
Uchtdorf started studying mechanical engineering at age 18 but later continued in business administration in Cologne and graduated from Institut pour l'Etude des Methodes de Direction de l'Entreprise (today the International Institute for Management Development) in Lausanne, Switzerland, with an MBA. He received an honorary doctorate in international leadership from Brigham Young University during the April 2009 graduation ceremony.
When Uchtdorf was conscripted into the newly formed Bundeswehr in 1959, he volunteered for the air force, at age 19, to become a fighter pilot. Due to an agreement between the West German and US governments, Uchtdorf trained as a fighter pilot in Big Spring, Texas, where he excelled, earning the coveted Commander's Trophy (USAF) for being the best student pilot in his class. After earning wings from both the German and US air forces, he served for six years as a fighter pilot in West Germany, leaving in 1965 to join Lufthansa. By 1970, at 29 years of age, Uchtdorf had reached the rank of captain with Lufthansa. He was appointed in 1975 as head of Lufthansa's new Arizona Training School, and in 1980 he was made head chief pilot of cockpit crews, followed by appointment to senior vice president of flight operations in 1982. He left Lufthansa in 1996, two years after being called as an LDS Church general authority.
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