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Statue of Joseph Smith Joins 54 Other “Messiahs of Peace” at India’s World Peace Dome

by Sharon Lindbloom
6 December 2022

In Pune, India stands the World Peace Dome, the “world’s largest dome” described as “an epitome of architectural magnificence.” Beneath the dome is the World Peace Prayer Hall, where up to 3,000 people may gather for “meditation and introspection” while surrounded by “the statues of the world’s greatest philosophers and scientists,” called “Messiahs of Peace.” In late November (2022), a 15-foot statue of Joseph Smith, the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, joined 54 others along the walls of that large hall.

The Salt Lake Tribune ran a story explaining how it came to be that a statue of the prophet Joseph Smith was installed in India, beneath the World Peace Dome, during the World Interfaith Harmony Conference. As the story goes, several years ago Vishwanath Karad, the founder of the World Peace Dome, was invited to speak at LDS church-owned Brigham Young University. During his visit, he became curious about the Mormon church. After exploring “what the church was all about,” he decided that a statue of Joseph Smith should have a place in the World Peace Dome. 

While the dome, with its World Peace Prayer Hall & Library, is a global interfaith enterprise, its underlying foundation, its visionary founder, and the nation in which it resides, is Hindu. In fact, the full and formal name of the structure includes the name of one of the most revered saints of India, the building’s full name being “Philosopher Saint Shri Dnyaneshwara World Peace Dome, World Peace Prayer Hall & Library.”

It’s this strong connection to Hinduism that caused me to wonder about something said at the World Interfaith Harmony Conference. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, at the installation of the statue Dr. Karad commented that “he saw in the LDS Church something ‘so similar, so matching with what Indian culture stands for.’” While I was thinking about Dr. Karad’s statement, I came across another story in the LDS-focused Church News about Latter-day Saints participating in a Sikh (Hindu) festival in California. The story quoted a member of that Sikh community pointing out that the LDS church and Sikhism are “so paralleled in our beliefs.” 

These two statements made me question: What is it in Mormonism that is “so similar,” “so matching,” and “so paralleled” to Hinduism?

Unlike Mormonism, Hinduism is an ancient faith that cannot be traced back to a single founder. Hindu believers (comprising about 9 million people) subscribe to many different views. Hinduism can be described as “unique in that it’s not a single religion but a compilation of many traditions and philosophies,” a “fusion of various beliefs.” Nevertheless, there are some beliefs that are nearly universal among Hindus. Khan Academy notes,

Common to virtually all Hindus are certain beliefs, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • a belief in many gods, which are seen as manifestations of a single unity. These deities are linked to universal and natural processes.
  • a preference for one deity while not excluding or disbelieving others
  • a belief in the universal law of cause and effect (karma) and reincarnation
  • a belief in the possibility of liberation and release (moksha) by which the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (samsara) can be resolved

How does Mormonism fit with these common elements of Hinduism? I was surprised to find corresponding LDS doctrines for each of these bullet points. Take a look.

  • a belief in many gods, which are seen as manifestations of a single unity. These deities are linked to universal and natural processes.

Like Hinduism, Mormonism also holds to belief in many Gods. These Gods can be understood as a “single unity” in that they are said to be “one in purpose,” and are linked by virtue of being literally a father and his sons. Additionally, Mormonism recognizes a linked family line of Gods that goes back through all eternity. Here are a few supporting quotes from LDS authorities:

Joseph Smith: “I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 370)

LDS church: “The Church’s first article of faith states, ‘We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.’ These three beings make up the Godhead… Although the members of the Godhead are distinct beings with distinct roles, they are one in purpose and doctrine.” (Gospel Topics online, “Godhead”)

Joseph Smith: “If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? When­ever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a pro­genitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 373)

Joseph Fielding Smith: Our Father in heaven, according to the Prophet, had a Father, and since there has been a condition of this kind through all eternity, each Father had a Father, until we come to a stop where we cannot go further, because of our limited capacity to understand.” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:47. Italics in original.)

  • a preference for one deity while not excluding or disbelieving others

While Mormonism holds that there are an uncountable number of Gods in existence, the only Gods today’s Latter-day Saints are to worship are those in the church’s Godhead (Heavenly Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Ghost). Yet not so long ago, Mormons were instructed to confine their worship to Heavenly Father alone. By doing so, “a preference for one deity” was clearly evident. Here is this teaching presented by an LDS apostle in 1982:

Bruce McConkie: “We worship the Father and him only and no one else. We do not wor­ship the Son and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know per­fectly well what the scriptures say about worshipping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense–the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to Him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is re­served for God the first, the Creator” (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, 60. Italics in original.)

  • a belief in the universal law of cause and effect (karma) and reincarnation

Mormon leaders have promoted a type of karma in teaching that a person’s situation on earth is directly related to his or her actions in Mormonism’s preexistence. That is, being born on earth with “disadvantages” is a punishment for certain preexistent behaviors, while being born with “advantages” is a reward. Regarding reincarnation, Mormonism does not currently embrace that idea. But an early church prophet and president suggested that the wicked would one day be returned to their “native element” to be “reorganized” (see Journal of Discourses 1:118). Some supporting teachings for these two points:

Mark Petersen: “With all this in mind, can we account in any other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China, or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born here in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our preexistence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-day Saints. These are rewards and punishments, fully in harmony with His established policy in dealing with sinners and saints, rewarding all according to their deeds” (Mark E. Petersen, “Race Problems as they Affect the Church,” August 27, 1954, 11).

Brigham Young: “’Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” [Jeremiah 18] The clay that marred in the potter’s hands was thrown back into the unprepared portion, to be prepared over again. So it will be with every wicked man and woman, and every wicked nation, kingdom, and government upon earth, sooner or later; they will be thrown back to the native element from which they originated, to be worked over again, and be prepared to enjoy some sort of a kingdom.” (Journal of Discourses 2:124)

  • a belief in the possibility of liberation and release (moksha) by which the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (samsara) can be resolved

Mormonism does not ascribe to an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, but it does allow for “liberation and release” from a continuing cycle of sin, repentance, re-sin, re-repentance, and so on. According to Mormonism, true or complete repentance is evidenced by the person never committing the same sin again. This leads to uncertainty; Mormons can never be sure that they have truly repented to the point of having their sins forgiven. Thus, the endless cycle of striving for the forgiveness and righteousness that are required for Mormonism’s exaltation. But there is a special, relatively unknown LDS temple ceremony (called by different names including Second Anointing or Second Blessing) that can replace that worry and uncertainty with surety. Though the exact meaning of the ceremony today is in dispute, LDS leaders have described it as an unconditional promise of future exaltation. The endless cycle of striving becomes resolved. Consider the teachings of an LDS apostle:

Bruce McConkie: “Blessing nine: We have power to make our calling and election sure, so that while we yet dwell in mortality, having overcome the world and been true and faithful in all things, we shall be sealed up unto eternal life and have the unconditional promise of eternal life in the presence of Him whose we are.” (“The Ten Blessings of the Priesthood, October 1977 General Conference)

“Those so favored of the Lord are sealed up against all manner of sin and blasphemy except the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost and the shedding of innocent blood. That is, their exaltation is assured; their calling and election is made sure, because they have obeyed the fulness of God’s laws and have overcome the world.” (“Calling and Election Sure,” Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, 110)

Though not universal, another common belief found in Hinduism is this:

  • A belief that each individual is a divine being 

This doctrine is also prevalent in Mormonism. Before their mortal lives on earth, human beings were born in a spirit world to heavenly parents; that is, God the Father and Heavenly Mother. As such, humans are literal children of God, making them divine beings. Quoted in an LDS church manual is this authoritative statement:

The First Presidency: “Men are Gods in Embryo. ‘Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of our earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through the ages of aeons, of evolving into a God.’ (The First Presidency [Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund] …” (Quoted in Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual, 1976, 130)

So it turns out there are a number of similarities between Mormonism and Hinduism. And in all these things, both “isms” conflict with Christianity and the truths found in the Bible. The Bible insists there is only one true God who grants each of us one mortal life and provides but one way of salvation. 

One way, one truth, one life, one name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all… (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

According to the Bible, Hinduism is not true. Mormonism is not true. But God is true, and He is faithful. He offers His gracious forgiveness to Hindu and Mormon and Muslim — to all. To everyone.

One way, one truth, one life. The same Lord is Lord of all, and He makes this amazing promise: Everyone who calls upon the one name, the Lord Jesus, will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

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