The Freiberg Temple : An Unexpected Legacy of a Communist State and a Faithful People
Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought
In June 1985, a temple was dedicated in Freiberg, Germany, the first to be built in a Communist country. J. Henry Burkhardt, president of the Dresden Germany Mission at the time, was a key figure in the event. Over the years, he had repeatedly made attempts to gain permission for East Germans to travel to the Swiss Temple. All failed. Officials from the central government made it clear that this was unrealistic and suggested building a temple within the German Democratic Republic. Reluctantly, Church headquarters agreed, but due to the uncertainty that the German officials would keep the agreement to not enter the temple after its dedication, plans were drawn up for a type of building that would serve as a meetinghouse to a local branch with a wing dedicated for the purpose of an Endowment House. (A building that would provide only living ordinances.) This would assure that the facility would still be useful to members in the event that it was desecrated. A formal application requesting permission to build was made to the central government in May of 1979. It was approved and the Church was told they would be allowed a site in the city of Karl-Marx-Stadt. However, the local city council refused to allow it so the government then directed that it be built in Freiberg. The First Presidency eventually abandoned the idea of an Endowment House and began making plans to build a fully functional temple, though short-cuts were taken in the building's construction to keep costs low because of the uncertainty of the temple's life expectancy within a Communist country. Kuehne speculates on the various reasons why a small, American-based church was given such a liberty in the officially atheistic German Democratic Republic.