Hindus are appalled by the reports of proxy baptism of peace icon Mahatma Gandhi by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) headquartered in Salt Lake City (Utah, USA).
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that it was appalling to note that Gandhi, who lived his life as a Hindu and was cremated by Hindu traditions, had been reportedly baptized by proxy by LDS. It was insensitive and hurtful to the feelings of about one billion Hindus spread worldwide.
Independent researcher Helen Radkey of Salt Lake City, in an email to Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, sent pages from FamilySearch, an LDS service, which showed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Person Identifier LHTR-62Z; born October 2, 1869 in Porbandar & died January 30, 1948 in New Delhi) as baptized on March 27, 1996 at Salt Lake City Utah Temple; with “Confirmation” completed November 17, 2007 at Sao Paulo Brazil Temple; “Initiatory” completed February four, 2009 at Sao Paulo Brazil Temple; and “Endowment” completed October two, 1996 at Salt Lake City Utah Temple. It also lists names of Gandhi’s siblings, parents and children.
In this email to Rajan Zed, Radkey said that 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 were highly concerned and wonder how many of our ancestors had been baptized by LDS without our will, Rajan Zed argued.
Zed further said that President Monson should himself 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, was simply not acceptable.
If it was just an “accident”, then LDS needed to come-up with a mechanism and some “effective” safeguards so that mistakes, errors, breaches and misunderstandings did not happen in the future in the area of proxy baptisms involving non-LDS ancestors, Rajan Zed stated.
Zed noted that Hindus and most probably other faith communities worldwide would be willing to work with LDS to build bridges of understanding. He pointed out that they would gladly support the LDS endeavors if they made a good-faith effort and organized a meeting of various religious groups to help them set up such a mechanism.
Rajan Zed explained that Hindus did not mark death as the end of existence. Ancient Hindu scripture Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord) referred to death as abandoning of worn-out clothes and acquiring new ones. Hindus believed in reincarnation with moksha (liberation) as a goal; which brought end to rebirth, embodiment and death.
Zed stressed that ancestors had always been highly important in Hinduism since ancient times. Hindus followed sraddha, pitryajna, pinda, etc., rituals for their ancestors. It would be really painful for Hindus if they came to know that somebody unrelated performed some rites on their ancestors without even asking them.
Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly. Any faith, larger or smaller, should not be mishandled, Rajan Zed added.
According to reports, Catholics had also 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. “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.
According to LDS sources, Jesus Christ is the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which has been restored by God through Joseph Smith (1805-44). One of the fastest growing church, LDS is led by 15 Apostles, including President Monson (who is also considered a prophet); first and second Counselors Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf respectively; and President of The Quorum of the Twelve Boyd K. Packer. LDS, also known as Mormon Church, which claims to be a Christian denomination, has 134 temples and a membership of over 14 million. Republican Romney is a Mormon and so is United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
One of the greatest moral and political leaders of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi was Time Person of the Year in 1930 and was runner-up for Time Person of the Century.