Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles represented the Church at the unveiling of a 15-foot-tall bronze statue of the Prophet Joseph Smith at the World Peace Dome in Pune, India, on Tuesday, Nov. 22.
The statue of the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joins 54 other statues located within the 263-foot-high dome at MIT World Peace University.
The statues at the World Peace Dome — which include the likenesses of the Savior, Moses, Peter, Aristotle and other religious figures, philosophers and scientists — represent those “who think always [of] the soul and the mind,” explained the Revered Professor Dr. Vishwanath Karad, the founder and president of World Peace University, to the Church’s India Newsroom.
In a social media post on Nov. 23, Elder Christofferson wrote he was honored to represent the Church at the event “in this majestic hall built to promote world peace.”
While members of the Church acknowledge Joseph Smith’s influence for good and revere him as a prophet, Elder Christofferson shared that “unquestionably the most notable statue for me and for all members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ is the statue of the Savior Jesus Christ that stands in this dome. …
“As a special witness of the name of Jesus Christ, I attest that He is the central figure who makes God’s plan of redemption possible for each of us.”
In his address to roughly 3,000 students and guests gathered at the unveiling for the university’s World Interfaith Harmony Conference, Elder Christofferson also made it clear that Latter-day Saints worship Jesus Christ.
“We readily acknowledge [Joseph’s] continuing influence for good in the world, the revelations that he brought forth, his example of service and sacrifice and his devotion to and witness of the living God,” the Apostle said. “The greatest aspect of the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith was to bear testimony of Jesus Christ — that He lives.”
Elder Christofferson also spoke of the life and teachings of Joseph Smith, including the Prophet’s focus on friendship.
“Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of [our faith and doctrine],” Elder Christofferson said, quoting Joseph Smith. “[Friendship will] revolutionize and civilize the world and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers. Even the wolf and the lamb shall dwell together.”
How did a Joseph Smith statue end up in India?
Dr. Karad visited Salt Lake City in 2015 at the invitation of his friend, Ashok Joshi, an award-winning scientist and philanthropist from India who lives in Utah.
While in Utah’s capital, Dr. Karad delivered the keynote address at the Parliament of World Religions and became acquainted with the Church. He met with Elder Christofferson and Brigham Young University President Kevin J Worthen, who also attended Tuesday’s unveiling.
Dr. Karad said that in the Church of Jesus Christ he saw similarities to Indian culture. “These were the people who showed me a glimpse of what India would like to convey and proceed and promote. … A very unique event is taking place today. What a good fortune, friends.”
King Husein, a Church member born in India, and chairman and CEO of Span Construction and Engineering, helped in the statue placement at the World Peace Dome. He explained that the Joseph Smith statue was patterned after the one at the Joseph Smith Birthplace memorial in Vermont.
“I am grateful to God for the Prophet Joseph Smith, for his life of sacrifice and for his role in restoring the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Husein said. “Among many principles that Joseph Smith taught, he also advocated the rights of all human beings, the freedom to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. … He also encouraged self-reliance and the need to follow the commandment of Jesus Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Elder Christofferson was accompanied to India by his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson. The two traveled to Africa earlier in November when Elder Christofferson attended a gathering of the National Council of Religions for Peace in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Nov. 11.
The Church’s first stake in India was created in 2012. Today, there are four, and all four stake presidents attended the ceremony: Prasad Badireddy, president of the Rajahmundry India Stake; Stanley Massey, president of the New Delhi India Stake; Jitender Kumar Sanayi, president of the Hyderabad India Stake and Nithya Kumar Sunderraj, president of the Bengaluru India Stake.
Elder Christofferson said it was moving for him to see the stake presidents together there, “capable, bright men who hold the keys of the work in that vast nation. As I looked at them, the impression came to me that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has truly come to India.”
Elder John Gutty, an Area Seventy, also attended. There are close to 15,000 Latter-day Saints in 46 congregations in India.