For years, Latter-day Saints in India have faced challenges in participating in temple worship and ordinances — great obstacles in distance, time, cost and documentation — as they have traveled several thousands of miles each way to the nearest temples in Hong Kong, the Philippines or Taiwan.
Those challenges will last only a couple of years longer, now that ground has been broken for the Bengaluru India Temple, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ first temple in the Asian nation of 1.3 billion people and various faiths, including Hinduism and Islam.
“This day would not have been possible were it not for your diligence and prayers,” said Elder Robert K. William, an Area Seventy, in acknowledging India’s past and present Latter-day Saints, including a small group of Church leaders gathered for the Dec. 2 groundbreaking ceremony in Bengaluru.
Elder William presided at the morning event and offered the dedicatory prayer on the site and the start of construction, as reported by Newsroom. He acknowledged the temple as being the result of Church members’ faith and testimony, the volunteer service of many missionaries and pioneers in India and the guidance of senior leaders who shaped the foundation of the Church in the country.
“With the beginning of the construction and the future dedication of the House of the Lord, this will become a hinge point for India and India will not be the same anymore,” he added. “Much of the effort to make this happen lies upon our shoulders and the shoulders of our rising generation.”
Church leaders determined that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the groundbreaking ceremony would be an invitation-only event with limited attendance. A full video of the ceremony will be available for viewing by members in the temple district in coming days.
“Today marks history for the Saints in India as we break the ground and prepare the soil for the construction of the holy temple in Bengaluru,” said President NithyaKumar Sunderraj, president of the Bengaluru India Stake.
Likening Church members to building blocks of the temple, President Sunderraj said each person plays a significant role.
“At times we may fall short like those blocks of bricks, yet everyone’s faith and testimony in the Savior Jesus Christ is key for the temple to be ready and operate in the coming years,” he said. “As we turn the soil today and make preparation for the construction, may we all in unity turn our hearts towards our Savior Jesus Christ and commit ourselves to prepare individually and as families to offer our service in the coming years.”
Sister Anne William, wife of Elder William, also offered remarks during the ceremony.
“As the construction of our beautiful and sacred temple progresses, simultaneously we can work towards working on our responsibilities as members of the Church to let God prevail in all our hearts, prepare our family, friends and neighbors to receive the blessings of the temple, devote some time to do our family history work so that the blessings of this temple can also reach those who have passed away.”
Citing a President Nelson statement that it is easier to build a temple than to build temple-worthy people, Elder William offered four ways for Church members to prepare spiritually and to become holier.
- Love God and one’s neighbor
- Forgive and forget
- “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”
- Learn about the temple and qualify to obtain a recommend
In the dedicatory prayer, Elder William asked, “that this ground be hallowed and protected from all harm and danger … that the temple will be completed as scheduled.”
He specifically prayed for blessings upon those having lost loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other causes. “We pray that they will find peace and hope and that the ordinances of the temple will assure them of Thy plan for them and that the hope of eternal families may shine brighter in their lives.”
The temple rendering was released Jan. 15, along with the announcement of the temple site. The groundbreaking was announced earlier this fall, by a First Presidency letter dated Oct. 1.
The exterior rendering showcases the planned appearance and design for the 38,670-square-foot temple, with its central spire and surrounding four smaller spires.
Located at 2-B, Garudachar Palya in Bengaluru’s Whitefield neighborhood, the temple will be built on a 1.62-acre lot along with a new two-level meetinghouse, new Church offices, a distribution center and housing for temple patrons. Existing Church offices and the meetinghouse located at the site will be removed during construction.
Just days after announcing the Bengaluru temple during the April 2018 general conference, President Nelson traveled to the city later that month as part of his first global ministry across four continents and visited potential temple sites in the area.
“The influence of the temple will be felt not only by the people here in this particular part of India,” President Nelson said, “but it will bless the people of the entire nation and neighboring nations.”
The country is home to 14,528 members in 46 congregations as well as two missions. India is currently part of the Hong Kong China Temple district, with that temple nearly 4,000 kilometers (almost 2,500 miles) away from Bengaluru.
That distance is not lost on Latter-day Saints and their local leaders following the announcement of the Bengaluru temple 32 months ago.
On the morning of April 2, 2018, President Robert Anthony, a counselor in the Bengaluru India Stake presidency, woke up to a stream of emails, WhatsApp and Facebook messages at 5 a.m. after having decided to wait until Monday morning to watch the Sunday afternoon session of general conference with his wife because of the time differences between India and Utah.
“When I got up at around 6 a.m. and read the messages, I thought I was still sleeping and dreaming,” he said. “When I saw a clip on WhatsApp where President Nelson announced the Bengaluru temple, I broke down. I just couldn’t believe. I shouted for joy and wept.”
After waking up his family and replaying the video to share the news with them, President Anthony said, “We all immediately got on our knees and said a prayer filled with intense emotions. We thanked the Lord.”
He described how the announcement came as a blessing in response to the hard work the members put in doing family history work. They followed the example of Saints in the Ivory Coast, where a temple was announced in 2015 following high numbers of names submitted to temples from the area.
While watching general conference together as a ward the following Sunday, President Anthony described how they “all shouted for joy when the temple was announced.”
Just north of Bengaluru, in Hyderabad, the city with the first stake in India, Manohar Mekala expressed his gratitude for the blessing of a temple.
“It’s a dream come true for me and my family,” said Mekala in April 2018, who later that year was called as first counselor in the Hyderabad India Stake presidency. “I had a strong feeling one day we would have a temple in India, but I never thought so soon that God would bless this great nation with the temple blessings.”
Having been unable to attend a temple prior to serving his mission in 1988, Mekala said that as he taught others about the temple as a missionary, he developed an even stronger desire to visit a temple. In 1995, he was finally able to visit the Manila Philippines Temple where he was endowed and then sealed to his family.
“Since then I have never been to a temple,” said Mekala in 2018.
“In the month of May 2017, my daughter got married and we planned to witness her sealing in Hong Kong,” Mekala said. “Many families are sealed in Hong Kong, but now to get visas to Hong Kong is a big challenge.”
Despite having planned well in advance for their daughter, Monica Mekala, and her husband, Raj Kumar Ganaparam, to be sealed in Hong Kong, the family was still waiting for visas over a year later when the Bengaluru temple was announced.
“Saints in India go through a lot of visa problems, so we don’t have a chance to visit a temple often,” Mekala said. “Now I can see the Lord is aware of all the difficulties we are going through, and that’s why the Lord announced His house in India. I know many Saints have prayed, and now He has answered our prayers.”
— Jason Swensen of the Church News contributed to this report.