Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the icon of peace and non-violence and the Father of Indian nation, was baptized by proxy by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) on March 1997, according to information from an independent researcher. The revelation by the researcher Helen Radkey of Salt Lake City has raised sharp reactions from Gandhi's grandsons and Hindu activists worldwide.
Radkey, who was excommunicated by the Mormon Church, was researching on Mormon proxy baptisms conducted on Jews and found the records about Gandhi's baptism in a restricted database. She informed Rajan Zed, the Hindu leader from Nevada, about Gandhi's baptism in an email.
According to the researcher, the confirmation was completed on Nov. 17, 2007, at a Sao Paulo, Brazil, temple. A screen shot published by Huffington Post showed the details of Gandhi's baptism. According to the researcher, she viewed the records on Feb. 16, 2012, but the records disappeared soon after that from the database, Chakra News reports.
Gandhi, though secular, had lived his life according to the Hindu principles and was cremated as per Hindu traditions. Zed said in a statement that it was shocking to learn about Gandhi's posthumous baptism by the Mormon Church.
The issue is of high concern if our ancestors are being baptized by the Church without their will or request from their relatives. Ancestors had always been highly important in Hinduism since ancient times. Hindus followed sraddha, pitryajna, pinda, etc., rituals for their ancestors. Hindu feelings would naturally be hurt if their ancestors were baptized without their will, he said according to Chakra News report. He sought clarification on the issue and an apology from the Church, if the allegation turns out to be true.
After Radkey's revelations on the unauthorized proxy baptisms done on Jews by its members, Mormon Church had recently apologized for the same. Now the issue of baptizing Gandhi, who is revered in India and across the world for his peace and non-violent struggle against oppression and injustice, stirs the debate on the Mormons proxy baptism rituals.
The Mormon Church, one of the fast growing churches in the U.S., believes Jesus Christ as their savior and Joseph Smith as their founder-prophet. According to Church doctrines, any member of the Mormon Church can baptize their ancestors or other dead people, in proxy. The reason stated is that the ritual allows the ancestors and dead, who in their lifetime had not got an opportunity to get themselves baptized to follow god. The ceremony is conducted in a temple and rituals are performed by a proxy clad in white dress as per Mormon customs.
Though the church says they counsel their members to use the rituals only to baptize their ancestors, the open end rules do allow baptizing any dead individual of any religion. Though theoretically the Baptism would initiate the baptized to Mormonism, in case of the dead it is valid only when the dead accepts the ritual and agrees to follow the savior in their spiritual world.