Hindus in the US have been shocked by reports of proxy baptism of Mahatma Gandhi by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In a statement from Nevada, USA, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed said on Wednesday it was appalling to note that Gandhi had been reportedly baptized by proxy by LDS. “It is insensitive and hurtful to the feelings of about one billion Hindus spread worldwide,” he said.
The matter came to light after Salt Lake City-based independent researcher Helen Radkey emailed Zed, also president of Universal Society of Hinduism, some pages from FamilySearch, an LDS service that showed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Person Identifier LHTR-62Z; born 2 October 1869 in Porbandar and died 30 January 1948 in New Delhi) as baptized on 27 March 1996 at Salt Lake City Utah Temple.
The subsequent procedure of ‘Confirmation’ of the baptism was completed 17 November 2007 at Sao Paulo Brazil Temple and “Initiatory” completed 4 February 2009 at Sao Paulo Brazil Temple. It also listed names of Gandhi’s siblings, parents and children.
Radkey said she looked up this record on February 16 but it had since disappeared and was no longer available in the database. Person Identifier LHTR-62Z pulled up as “Unknown Name”. It was unusual for a record to vanish, she added.
Emails sent by Zed to LDS officials carrying short letter addressed to LDS President Thomas S. Monson on February 24 have remained unanswered till now. In this “information request”, Zed asked whether it was a fact that Gandhi had been baptized by proxy by LDS; how many other deceased Hindus had been baptized by proxy without the will/request of their living relatives; was it the current/past LDS policy to baptize Hindu ancestors without the will/request of the living relatives and would this policy continue in future also.
“After the recent news of posthumous baptizing of Jewish rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal's parents, prominent Jewish victim Anne Frank (Diary of a Young Girl) and now Mahatma Gandhi reports, we are highly concerned and wonder how many of our ancestors had been baptized by LDS without our will,” Zed said.
Zed further said Monson should apologize for this and explain how this happened. “Monson should also come out with detailed report on how many Hindus had been baptized without the will or request of their living relatives. Proxy baptism of our ancestors, who lived and died as Hindus, is simply not acceptable,” he added.
Catholics too have objected such baptism of their members and even Republican American presidential front-runner Mitt Romney’s atheist father-in-law Edward Davies was posthumously baptized. FamilySearch claims to be the largest genealogy organization in the world and runs a Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
Official LDS website says that the foundation of the doctrine of baptism for the dead comes from latter-day revelation through Prophet Joseph Smith (1805-44). “By standing in as proxy for someone who has died — often one of his or her own ancestors — a Church member may be baptized on behalf of that deceased person… Lord does not damn those people who, through no fault of their own, never had the opportunity for baptism. He has therefore authorized baptisms to be performed by proxy for them... The validity of a baptism for the dead depends on the deceased person accepting it and choosing to accept and follow the Savior while residing in the spirit world”.
Baptisms for the dead are performed only in temples because of sacredness involved and the ceremony reportedly involves immersion in water while dressed in white clothing.
Jesus Christ is the head of LDS that was restored by God through Smith. One of the fastest growing churches, LDS is led by 15 apostles including president Monson, also considered a prophet, first and second counsellors Henry B Eyring and Dieter F Uchtdorf and president of the Quorum of the Twelve Boyd K Packer.
LDS, also known as Mormon Church that claims to be a Christian denomination, has 134 temples and a membership of more than 14 million. Republican Romney is a Mormon and so is US Senate majority leader Harry Reid.