Tuesday, August 26, 2008
LDS Church in India
I had a visitor from India last week to my blog and it spurred me to look into The LDS Church in India. I was amazed at the presence there is in India and the preparation that is occurring for future growth as branches, missions, converts and leaders are established and trained. (I had a similar reaction as I learned of the progress in Christianity in general in the other most populous country on the planet, China. You can find a link in my past blog posts on the right hand side.).
As early as 1851, missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were sent to India to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. These early missionaries (Joseph Richards, William Willes sent by Italian Mission President Lorenzo Snow, nine others were sent in 1852 etc) faced many difficulties inherent to missionary work such as cultural and political differences, learning a foreign language, adapting to climate and food, opposition from other churches etc These early missionaries had varying degrees of success in bringing people into the church in such places as Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Hyderabad, Rangoon, Poona, New Delhi etc
20th Century Efforts
Missionary work continued throughout the 20th century and was mainly carried forward by stalwart early saints. These pioneers included such notable names as: Gordon B. Hinckley (Pres. Hinckley played a large role in all of Asia), Marion D. Hanks, Richard L. Evans, S. Paul Thiruthuvadoss (AKA Brother Paul. He came across church tracts in the 1950s and wrote Salt Lake City for more information. He eventually was baptized and became one of the most important people in modern history of the LDS Church in India. He helped establish the Coimbatore branch which still exists today.), Edwin and Elsie Dharmaraju, (natives of India from Western Samoa who helped establish the church in Hyderabad in the late 1970’s), and Michael Anthony was also an early stalwart that continues to play a role. These are but a few of the early pioneers of The LDS Church in India.
Senior missionaries also played a large role in establishing a presence in India. These senior missionaries were sent to various locations including: New Delhi, Hyderabad, Goa, Bombay and Bangalore to help strengthen the converts and provide leadership as there were restrictions on open proselytizing and visa issues. (My wife’s grandparents actually served a mission to India!)
Further progress was made as The Book of Mormon was published in Hindi, India’s official language, in 1982. Selections of The BOM were also published in the early 1980s in Telugu and Tamil. Districts began to be formed in the 1980s, one in North India with headquarters in Delhi, the Hyderabad District and the India Bangalore District in the South. Native Indian missionaries started to be called to foreign missions and also were called to serve in their own country in the 1980s.
One very interesting note: In June 1992, Elders Neal A. Maxwell and Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve were in Bangalore, “prophecies were given (conditional upon member sharing [the term used by Elder Maxwell to mean fellowshipping and teaching friends about the gospel]) that Delhi would have a [Latter-day Saint) temple and great expansion of the work.” (The footnote in the “From the East” references an interview with John. K. Carmack by the author, R. Lanier Britcsch.)
In 1993 the India Bangalore Mission was created and G.S. Gill a native Indian was called to be its president. The number of missionaries in the mission, converts, branches, and districts all started to slowly but steadily grow under President Gill’s leadership. The first meetinghouse in India was dedicated on 2 February 2002, housing the Rajahmundry Branch. Other chapel groundbreaking ceremonies and dedications in 1992 included those of Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, and Semmedu.
Presently there are almost 7000 members in 24 branches in India. These members are scattered across the country in such places as: New Delhi in the North (which accounts for a smaller percentage of the 7000), Bangalore in the South (accounts for a larger percentage of the membership), Goa, Hyderabad, Vishakapatnam, Mumbai, etc The faith of these few members is shown by the fact that of the few hundred who have gone through the temple, 93% hold current temple recommends.
In addition to the persistent growth there are now two missions. The aforementioned India Bangalore Mission which covers the southern portion of India and Sri Lanka while the India New Delhi mission (created November 1 2007) covers the Northern portion of India, in addition to Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Clearly the Lord is setting in place a foundation on which The Church will be built in this country where so many of His children reside. It truly is a marvelous work and a wonder and fascinating to watch unfold in these latter days.
May the work roll forth!