Asia/Pacific - India
The Mormons in India
By Sonya Fatah ("GlobalPost," July 24, 2009)
New Delhi, India - Their voices rang out, echoing in the nearby passageway. “Count your many blessings,” they sang. “Name them one by one. Count your many blessings. See what God hath done.” And so, the women, some 25 of them, members of the Sisters Committee at one of the six churches of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in New Delhi, closed their Sunday post-service meeting.
“Let us all work together so we can have a temple here,” urged the chair of the meeting, eliciting head nods and verbal assents all round.
There are almost 7,500 Mormons in India, according to the LDS Church, one of the most organized religious bodies in the world. Like all religious groups keen on increasing their numbers, the church is now looking eastward, toward India to share Joseph Smith’s message.
On numbers alone, conversion in India hasn’t happened as quickly as in Latin America, but that isn’t holding back the missionary fervor of those who have already embraced the church’s teachings. Ever since elders from the Quorum of the Twelve, while visiting Bangalore in 1992, announced a "prophecy" that New Delhi would have a temple, serious efforts are underway to get there.
Anuradha Yadav, 24, is one new Mormon who is dedicated to seeing a temple in New Delhi. Born into a traditional Hindu family of the Yadav caste, Anuradha recalls questioning her faith early on, when she was 14 years old.
“I kept asking questions, and I started visiting churches. In all I visited 30 churches.” One year of church shopping later, Anuradha was even more confused. Then in 2006 she bumped into two young elders on the street who shared the Book of Mormon with her.
She read it cover to cover and felt renewed. “I knelt down and prayed. That was such a wonderful moment. I felt as if somebody had just made me calm," she said, tearing up at the memory.
Two of the women in the front row at the Sister’s Committee meeting were from Anuradha’s family: her mother, Saraswati, and her sister-in-law, Hema. Dressed traditionally in a blue sari, her hair tied up in a neat bun with a bindi on her forehead, Saraswati came to the church after she saw a miraculous change in her daughter.
“The church changed Anuradha and taught her so much patience and kindness. I was attracted to Christianity myself as a child because I had a Christian friend and I always wanted to go to church with her but my father never let me.”
Most of the people gathered here were either recent converts or those interested in joining the church. Of the five elders in the room, two were young Americans on the 18-month mission that is part of every young Mormon’s coming of age in the church.
Elder Dyck, 20, from Sacramento, Calif., had just completed the first year of his mission. “We speak a lot to people on the road as we’re walking around our delegated areas. It’s hard here to attract people,” he admitted, “but the positives really outweigh the negatives.”
To Indian converts, one of Mormonism’s greatest attractions is the existence of the living prophet. “We have a living prophet who is leading and guiding us right now,” an Indian elder told the Bible Study group.
Like Elder Dyck, Anuradha, also went on a conversion mission to Andhra Pradesh in the country’s south, where Mormons have had the most success in attracting Indians. “My father was not happy that I was going away for 18 months but I went anyway.” Once dismissive of idol worship and reincarnation, Anuradha employed patience and understanding in reaching out to others instead of mocking her birth religion.
Over the course of that mission, Anuradha converted 30 people. Outside her mission, she’s converted at least 10 other people, including her mother, two brothers, a sister, a sister-in-law and three close friends. For her, as for many of those who attend church at the several New Delhi missions, Mormonism is a no-brainer.
“I learned how to be a good daughter, a good sister, to respect everyone and be kind to everyone," Anuradha said. "I really know that this is the true gospel of Jesus Christ and my life really has changed.”