A large number of India's Mormons are first-generation converts -Photo: Ian Trueger

A large number of India’s Mormons are first-generation converts. -Photo: Ian Trueger

How India’s Mormons are looking for love.

With only 12,700 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in India, Mormons have a hard time finding eligible partners for marriage. This has necessitated events such as the All India Young Single Adults (YSA) conference. While the official theme of this year’s conference is a series of workshops centered on ‘Decisions Determine Destiny,’ regular attendees of such conferences state that this is not the main draw for them to attend. Venella Vakapalli, an 18-year-old participant remarks, “It's no secret that we all come here to find spouses.”

The YSA conference for 2016 was held at the Summer Green Resort, a 22-acre facility situated 25 km north of Hyderabad. This year, 400 Mormons from all over the country attended the conference slated to last one weekend. During the conference, participants were enthralled by topics such as “Eternal Marriage: Logic vs. the Lord’s Way,” a seminar hosted by Elder Natarajan.

Elder Natarajan’s seminar is basically a dating class, with participants being taken through the perils and pitfalls of the modern Mormon dating scene. During the seminar, those attending were encouraged to get off social media: “Whatever you do, don't propose over Facebook!” Natarajan also noted, “Every year, in the southern Chennai district [in Tamil Nadu state], there are only four to five Mormon marriages. This is simply not enough.” On being asked whether she had a potential suitor or not, Venella replied, “Everyone keeps asking me that. Someone came up to me earlier and said, 'Have you met your husband yet?’ I said no, I am only 18-years-old. They told me, 'He's somewhere around here. Go search'."

It is this concern that there are simply not enough marriages that has sparked the organization of YSA conferences that are fully paid for by the Church. In Mormonism, families and marriages are eternal and continue even in the afterlife. This makes the choice of marriage partner very important and not an issue to be trifled with. During the seminar, Natarajan stated, “Look past the looks.” 12,700 Mormons in a country with a population of about 1.2 billion people is a small sample pool in which a Mormon is restricted to.

It also poses a problem of the Church not having enough missionaries to increase the number of believers. It is increasingly difficult to obtain a visa for missionaries, so the Church has had to rely mainly on Indian Mormons to spread the word. Due to the fact that most of the Mormons in India are first generation converts, many of them have already passed the stage when they would have taken their missionary duty. When coupled with the Indian government’s aversion to Christian missionary activity, progress for Mormonism in India seems destined to be depressed for a long time to come.

The first proselyting work in India began in 1850 by British sailors who visited Calcutta. It was not until 1981 that the government of India allowed a missionary couple to establish a Mormon branch. ‘The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ’ was translated into a local language, Telugu in 1981. Presently, there are 12,701 Church members, 2 missions, 6 Family history centers and 43 congregations in India.

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