PUNE, Maharashtra, India —
Elder D. Todd Christofferson accepted the Saint DnyaneshwaraWorld Peace Prize in India on Aug. 14 on behalf of the Church.
The World Peace Center bestowed the prize — the Philosopher Saint Shri Dnyaneshwara World Peace Prize-2017 — in the name of a revered Hindu philosopher of the 13th century during an hours-long ceremony that included a grand procession through campus and traditional Indian music and dancing.
Michael Nobel, a great-grandnephew of the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize, joined the World Peace Prize Committee and the president of World Peace University as they conferred the award on Elder Christofferson. Nobel said he has worked with Latter-day Saints through a Salt Lake City company since 1994 and found them to be “scrupulously honest, clean-living, efficient and dedicated, with a work ethic second to none.”
“The world today, with all its problems, it needs you, the Church you represent and your work,” Nobel said. “It needs you more than ever. Thank you, Elder Christofferson, and my sincere thanks to your organization for continuing your work.”
Elder Christofferson wore an orange shawl with gold trim and shining gems given to him as part of the festivities while he addressed an audience of more than 5,000 people.
“Recognizing and protecting faith is the path to peace,” he said. “True religion offers a stable foundation for a just and healthy society. It strengthens and ennobles nations, communities and individuals.”
Elder Christofferson and his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, pulled on a rope with a group of dignitaries to ring a bell for world peace and democracy.
World Peace University President Vishwanath Karad said the goal of his Maharashtra Institute of Technology school system — 23 elementary and secondary schools and five universities — and the World Peace Center is to spread a message familiar to Latter-day Saints, who are counseled by the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”
“The union of science and spirituality alone will help bring harmony and peace to mankind,” Karad said.
Karad said the World Peace Prize Committee chose to honor Elder Christofferson for his “noble mission of spreading the message of peace and harmony throughout the world” and his “relentless mission of love, compassion and sacrifice.”
Elder Randy D. Funk, the Church’s Asia Area President, explained that Elder Christofferson is one of Christ’s living apostles and provided an outline of the Restoration and LDS beliefs. His chief focus was Joseph Smith’s teachings on religious freedom and civility. He shared the prophet’s statement months before his death that “Our motto … is peace with all.”
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to follow these principles,” Elder Funk said. “We seek to implement them in the way that we exercise our faith. As followers of Jesus Christ, we seek to assist the poor and the needy, regardless of one’s faith, religion or nationality.”
Elder Robert Kumar William, an Area Seventy from Bangalore, India, said Elder Christofferson “has personally visited and worked with Church members and government, civic and religious leaders in 80 nations” since he began his service as a General Authority of the Church in 1993.
“I’m gratified,” said Elder Christofferson. “I know it’s not simply to me personally, but I represent several millions of people who really want to bless the lives of their fellow man, who believe in being faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and try to incorporate His character in their lives.”
The Church has provided $1.89 billion in humanitarian aid throughout the world since 1985.
Elder Christofferson also accepted a trophy with the image of the Indian philosopher Saint Shri Dnyaneshwara, a revered 13th-century Hindu saint for whom the prize was named, and a cash prize of more than half a million rupees.
On Tuesday, Elder Christofferson donated the cash prize, worth about $8,200, to the Rivka Sahil Akshar Institute, a special needs school outside Pune in the town of Wai.
During a visit to Utah, Karad realized that the aims of the World Peace University run parallel to the aims of the Brigham Young University schools. He was impressed with the Church Educational System’s Honor Code. The World Peace University proscribes the use of alcohol and tobacco and prohibits profanity. His goal for his school system is to create a values-based education system in India.
Perhaps most of all, Karad was struck by the Mormon emphasis on families. Joint families, an extended family arrangement, are prevalent throughout India.
“You preach here at the university the importance of values,” Elder Christofferson said. “You teach the value of character in education. We teach the purpose of education is building character. I feel comfortable. I feel very much at home.”
Elder Christofferson is the ninth World Peace Prize laureate since the first prize was bestowed in 2006.
The Church has three stakes, 43 congregations and 13,000 members in India.