Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Country information: India

Published: Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 1,166,079,000; Members, 7,576; Missions, 2; Districts, 3;Branches, 28; percent LDS, .0006, or one in 153,918; Asia Area.

Occupying the Indian subcontinent in south Asia, India is a federal republic with a population that speaks 16 languages including the official language, Hindi, and associate official, English, and is 83 percent Hindu; 11 percent Muslim; 3 percent Christian; and 2 percent Sikh.

In 1849, two British, Thomas Metcalf and William A. Sheppard, wrote to the British Mission from India requesting information about the Church. At about the same time two recently baptized Mormon sailors, George Barber and Benjamin Richey, arrived in Calcutta, where they shared their limited gospel knowledge. Upon returning to England, Barber and Richey asked that missionaries be sent to Calcutta to teach and baptize several interested people.

Missionary Joseph Richards arrived in Calcutta in June 1851. He performed the first Latter-day Saint baptisms in India and organized a branch. William Willes replaced Richards in Calcutta later that year and Hugh Findlay began missionary work in Bombay. By May 1852, there were 189 baptized members in Calcutta, comprised of a few European converts and many local farmers. A short time later in August, James P. Meik was installed as branch president in Calcutta. Over the next several months Meik built a small chapel, the first Church building in Asia. Findlay had little success in Bombay, but by September, had established a small branch of 12 members in Poona, where he also built a small chapel.

In a special conference held August 1852 in Salt Lake City, Brigham Young called 108 missionaries to serve throughout the world, nine of them in India: Richard Ballantyne, William F. Carter, William Fotheringham, Nathaniel V. Jones, Truman Leonard, A. Milton Musser, Robert Owens, Robert Skelton, and Samuel A. Woolley. They arrived in Calcutta on 25 April 1853 and found that the branch had largely disintegrated, with no more than eight members still active. On 29 April, they held a Church conference and appointed Nathaniel V. Jones as president of the East India Mission and the Calcutta Branch. The other elders were assigned to labor in Calcutta, Chinsura, Dinapore, and Madras. Other missionaries who had accompanied the group to India, departed for Burma, Siam, and Ceylon.

The missionaries quickly discovered that the British and Europeans who lived in India "were aristocratic and cared little for spiritual things," and the Indians, influenced by proselyting tactics of other Christian faiths, anticipated some economic reward for joining the Church. Few people were baptized and the number of missionaries dropped after July 1854. Robert Skelton, who in May 1856 was the last missionary to leave, estimated that there were 61 members in India and Burma at the time of his departure. James P. Meik presided over the Church in India from the time the missionaries left until 1869, when he immigrated to Utah.

William Willes, Henry F. McCune, Milson R. Pratt, and George H. Booth arrived in Calcutta on 1 August 1884 to re-establish the East India Mission. They had little success. Willes, Pratt, and Booth subsequently labored in Rangoon, Burma, where they organized a branch. They returned to Calcutta for a short time and left India in June 1885.

John H. Cooper, who was baptized in Burma in 1884 and later emigrated to Utah, returned as a missionary in 1902-03. He labored in Rangoon, Calcutta, and Karachi, where he baptized members of the Robert Marshall family and a few others and organized a branch of 17 people. Marshall had received Church literature from Truman Leonard, one of the 1850s missionaries, and requested that the Church send someone to baptize him. Cooper returned again to India in 1914. He baptized Nazam Khan, a former preacher, in Lahore, who accompanied him to preach in several villages. Cooper baptized more than 40 people and established a branch in the Punjab.

David O. McKay became the first General Authority to visit India when he passed through Delhi and Bombay in 1921. Between 1944 and 1946, several Latter-day Saints were stationed in India with the U.S. military and met together in small groups to hold religious services.

In 1954, Paul Thiruthuvadoss of Madukkarai read a Church tract and began corresponding with presidents of the Southern Far East Mission and other Church leaders. He also started teaching the gospel in Coimbatore. In 1957, he requested baptism. He and three others were baptized on 7 February 1965. At that time Jay A. Quealy, president of the Southern Far East Mission, assigned two missionaries, Gilbert Montano and John Aki Jr., to teach and baptize Paul's contacts in the vicinity of Coimbatore. The missionaries remained until August. During that time they baptized six people.

A few Church members on work assignments from other countries moved to New Delhi, Bombay, and Madras in the early 1960s and started to hold worship services. They also taught and baptized some of their Indian friends. In 1972, one of these converts, Maureen Das, became the first person called from India to serve a full-time mission when she was assigned to service in the Philippines Mission.

The group in Coimbatore continued to grow. Paul Thiruthuvadoss baptized 18 people on 7 March 1970 and full-time missionaries were again assigned to work in Coimbatore during 1973 and 1974. There were 115 known Church members in India in 1974, most of them in Coimbatore.

Beginning in December 1978, Edwin and Elsie Dharmaraju, who had joined the Church in Western Samoa, served a short-term mission to India. They taught the gospel to several of their relatives and interested friends and organized Church groups in Hyderabad and Vijayawada. Another family, Tagg and Maria Hundrup and their daughter Helen, were assigned to Goa as special representatives for the Church in 1978, primarily to make friends for the Church and nurture local members. During the next 15 years, 120 or more couples served as Church representatives in India.

Missionary work in India was administered by the Southern Far East Mission, 1955-1969; Southeast Asia Mission, 1969-1974; Singapore Mission, 1974-1978 and 1980-1993; International Mission, 1978-1980; and India Bangalore Mission beginning in 1993. The first branches were officially organized in Hyderabad and Coimbatore in 1980, and New Delhi in 1981. During 1984, branches were also formed in Bangalore, Goa, Madras, Manado, and Rajahmundry. The India District was organized in 1981, followed by the India North District in 1985.

Several important Church events transpired in India in 1982. The Church was incorporated as a legal entity, the Book of Mormon was printed in Hindi, Book of Mormon selections were printed in Tamil and Telugu, the Genealogical Society of Utah began microfilming Indian records, and a BYU performing group, the Young Ambassadors, toured the country and gave a special performance for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Book of Mormon selections were printed in Bengali in 1985. The complete Book of Mormon was printed in Telugu in 2000.

In 1986, the first Indian missionaries were called to serve in their own country. Natives were allowed to actively proselyte, where foreigners were required to take a passive approach. The Singapore Mission sent six young full-time missionaries to India in January 1992: Ryan Escher, Karl Kirby, Todd Lloyd, Shawn Cook, Bart Sorenson, and Timmy Satot. In January 1993, the Church created the India Bangalore Mission. The first president was Gurcharan S. Gill, a native of Moga, Punjab, who was baptized in California in 1956. Gill was a professor of mathematics at BYU, where he had also served as a stake president. Under his leadership the number of branches in India grew from nine in early 1993 to 21 by mid-1995, with approximately 1,500 members.

In December 1995, the Indian government requested that all of the Church's missionaries who were in the country on tourist visas, leave the country. The Church complied and reassigned 52 missionaries to other missions. The government once more allowed a small number of non-Indian missionaries to enter the country in 1998.

The Diwaliben Mohanlal Mehta Charitable Trust presented the Progress in Religion award to Latter-day Saint Charities in January 2001 in recognition of the Church's work with over 50 organizations in India to provide volunteers, educational materials, clothing, food, equipment, medical supplies, and grants, to organizations in need.

The first Church-built meetinghouse in India was dedicated in Rajahmundry on 2 February 2002. Before the year was over ground was broken for meetinghouses in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Coimbatore.

In 2003, there were 4,632 members.

On 3 August 2005, President Hinckley met in the Maurya Sheraton Hotel in Delhi with some 600 members of the Church as part of an seven-nation tour of Asia. He left a powerful testimony of the work and a blessing that the members would the necessities of life.

In 2005, membership reached 5,951.

On Nov. 1, 2007, the India New Delhi Mission was organized, the second in the country. It included Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Sources: R. Lanier Britsch, From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851- 1996, 1998; East India Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Thomas E. Brown, The Church in India, 2003, Church Archives; Southern Far East Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Jerry C. Garlock, A history of the Church in India, circa 1955, Church Archives; Dianna J. Greer, "Young Ambassadors 'Unlock Hearts' During Tour of India," Church News, 24 April 1982; Lyn R. Jacobs, Mormon Non- English Scriptures, Hymnals, and Periodicals, 1830-1986: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1986; Singapore Mission. Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; India Bangalore Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; "India Honors LDS Charities," Church News, 27 January 2001.

Missions — 2

(As of Oct. 1, 2009; shown with historical number.)

(277) INDIA BANGALORE MISSION

Anjali Plaza, 2nd Floor

493 C.M.H. Road Indiranagar

Bangalore 560 038

India

(348) INDIA NEW DELHI MISSION

B 4/53 ground floor

Safdarjung Enclave

110029 New Delhi

India