The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has admitted to proxy baptism of peace icon Mahatma Gandhi.
Dennis C. Brimhall, President & CEO of FamilySearch, in an emailed letter received by Hindu statesman Rajan Zed today, wrote: “Mr. Gandhi had a proxy baptism performed for him in 1955.”
FamilySearch, a service provided by LDS (also known as Mormon Church), claims to be the largest genealogy organization in the world and runs a Family History Library in Salt Lake City (Utah, USA). Brihmhall was replying to questions Zed asked in an earlier email to LDS President Thomas S. Monson (who is also considered a prophet) on February 24.
Brimhall further wrote: “This was of course prior to the Church’s existing policy against proxy baptisms for famous people.”
Answering Zed’s another question—“Have other deceased Hindus been baptized by proxy without the will/request of their living relatives? If yes, how many?”—Brimhall replied: “…we do not know or keep a record of the faith of those whom proxy baptisms are performed…”
Replying to Zed’s question about baptism of Hindu ancestors without the will/request of the living relatives, Brimhall wrote: “It is the current policy of the Church to perform proxy baptisms only for those who are related to the person submitting the name of the deceased individual.”
Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, thanked LDS for clarification on Gandhi baptism, but added that appalled Hindus were still waiting for an official apology from its leadership.
But Zed also noted that LDS being a responsible organization with over 14 million membership and worldwide presence should show some maturity in this matter, as it was insensitive and hurtful to the feelings of about one billion Hindus spread worldwide.
Zed stressed that proxy baptism of their ancestors, who lived and died as Hindus, was simply not acceptable and LDS should assure them that they would develop an “effective” mechanism and safeguards to ensure that this would not happen in the future without the will/request of the living relatives.
Rajan Zed stated 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.
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.
Rajan Zed pointed out 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.
Salt Lake City (Utah, USA) headquartered LDS, which claims to be a Christian denomination, is one of the fastest growing church. Republican American presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is a Mormon and so is United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world.