In a land replete with ancient Hindu temples and Buddhist and Islamic holy sites, LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson predicts his 188-year-old faith’s planned house of worship in Bengaluru, India, will have a positive impact throughout South Asia.
“The influence of the [Mormon] temple will be felt not only by the people here in this particular part of India, but it will bless the people of the entire nation and neighboring nations,” Nelson stated Thursday after arriving in the city of more than 12 million people.
He shared similar optimistic sentiments Friday in Bangkok, Thailand, site of another planned LDS temple, stating that the “future for the church is bright here in Asia.”
Nelson, who succeeded the late Thomas S. Monson as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January, announced Bengaluru as the site of India’s first Mormon temple during the church’s General Conference in Salt Lake City this month.
“It was a thrill for me to receive the real impression that I should announce that there will be a temple here in India,” Nelson said. “The temple is our ultimate destination here on planet Earth. All the blessings that God has in store for his faithful people come in the temple.”
In Thailand, he and his entourage visited the location for a temple that was announced three years ago.
“We had a very special feeling [there],” Nelson said at a meeting with several thousand members in the Thai capital. “Just think of how ancient the activities of the temple are. … We have temple work documented from the time of Adam ... in the Old Testament and New Testament times.”
Nelson, accompanied by his wife, Wendy, and apostle Jeffrey R. Holland and his spouse, Patricia, began their April 10-23 globe-trotting tour in London. From there, the group flew to Israel, Kenya, Zimbabwe, India and Thailand. The journey concludes with visits to Hong Kong and Hawaii.
Meeting with LDS leaders, missionaries and members Thursday, Nelson talked about the challenges of lifting India’s Mormons to a status worthy of taking part in temple rites, which include eternal marriages, proxy baptisms for deceased ancestors and other sacred ceremonies. Only Latter-day Saints in good standing are permitted in temples.
“In a way, it’s easier for us to build a temple than it is to build a people who are ready for the ordinances and covenants of the temple,” he said. “It’s going to take you a little while to get ready. It will take us a little while to build it as well. … Now, I’m 93 years old. You better hurry.”
Before the meeting, LDS leaders looked at potential building sites for the temple. No announcement on a specific location was made, but Holland pledged that the edifice will be a “national treasure.”
“It will be revered and admired and loved by these millions of people,” he said, “and bless them in a wonderful, wonderful way.”
For the thousands of Mormons in India, the planned temple and Nelson’s visit were dreams come true.
“Our church is growing fast in our country, and this will bring many blessings to our nation,” said Paul Vijayakumar, who served a Mormon mission in the area in 1988. “Those days here, very few people [were] able to bless the sacrament [communion] and pass the sacrament and partake [of] the sacrament. So today I’m happy that this hall was filled with a lot of members.”
The LDS Church, which began unofficial missionary outreach in India in the 1850s, dedicated its first meetinghouse in the nation of 1.3 billion in 2002. Today, the church lists more than 13,500 members in 43 congregations.
That is a small, but valued contingent of Latter-day Saints, but Nelson, formerly a renowned heart surgeon who has visited India twice in the past, proclaimed: “They love God, and I love them.”
The “prophet, seer and revelator” to 16 million Mormons worldwide said the church’s “approach is to take the poverty out of the people, not the people out of the poverty, as we teach them that God loves them and that if they’ll keep his commandments, they will have joy in life.”
On Friday, he urged Thailand’s Latter-day Saints to prepare themselves for temple worship. “I bless you with love at home, success in your work and joy in your hearts.”
The nation is home to 22,000-plus Latter-day Saints in 41 congregations.