In what he sees as another sign of the maturity of the Church, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was among Christian leaders from throughout the nation welcomed by U.S. President Barack Obama to the White House in Washington, D.C. for the fifth annual Easter prayer breakfast April 14, marking the beginning of Holy Week.
The next day, President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, was among six religious leaders invited to the Oval Office for a discussion with President Obama on the subject of immigration reform.
President Uchtdorf represented the First Presidency at the Easter prayer breakfast by assignment of President Thomas S. Monson. He described the breakfast as an “intimate” gathering involving fewer than 100 religious leaders.
It was remarkable to see the U.S. chief executive “preach to the preachers and quote scriptures,” President Uchtdorf said. “You could see he knows the scriptures and he uses them wisely.”
In his remarks at the breakfast, President Obama said, “This Easter Week, of course we recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God. We’re reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave His only begotten Son so that we might live through Him. And in these Holy Days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us — the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion, in our Christian religious tradition we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection — all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.”
The meeting on immigration marked the second time President Uchtdorf has been to the White House to discuss the topic. On March 8, 2013, he and 13 other faith leaders met with President Obama at the White House. This time, there were only six invitees.
“It’s a credit to the Church, definitely,” said President Uchtdorf during an interview in his office after his return from Washington. “The Church is well recognized by this administration as a power for good and a group with moral values. These things are so important for the nation. I think it’s a wonderful thing that a Church representative was invited.”
After the meeting, the Church issued this statement:
“In 2011 the Church publicly endorsed the principles of the Utah Compact as a responsible approach to dealing with the complex issue of immigration reform. The foundational principles on which the Church’s position is based are:
“We follow Jesus Christ by loving our neighbors. The meaning of ‘neighbor’ includes all of God’s children in all places at all times.
“We recognize an ever-present need to strengthen families. Families are meant to be together. Forced separation of working parents from their children weakens families and damages society.
“We acknowledge that every nation has the right to enforce its laws and secure its borders. All persons subject to a nation’s laws are accountable for their acts in relation to them.”
“It’s great that the president is doing this,” President Uchtdorf said of the meeting. “We don’t agree with him on every topic, but the Church supports a responsible and common-sense approach to immigration reform based on Christian values.”
President Uchtdorf acknowledged that the occasion has significance for him, given his background. He was a refugee twice, first from Czechoslovakia to East Germany, then from East Germany to West Germany.
“I can relate to people who come from other countries to a new nation, and who are in the process of finding a new home,” he said.
He would have been content, he said, to remain in his homeland of Germany and to help build the kingdom of God there, but his call from the Lord brought him to the United States. He now has dual citizenship in the United States and Germany.
“In the process, I learned how difficult it is,” he said of obtaining citizenship.
Besides President Uchtdorf, invitees at the meeting on immigration were Dr. Russell Moore, Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tenn.; JoAnne Lyon, general superintendent, the Wesleyan Church; Dr. Noel Castellanos, CEO, CCDA, Chicago, Ill.; Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Atlanta, Ga.; and Luis Cortes, president, Esperanza.