“The greatest aspect of the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith was to bear testimony of Jesus Christ,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson tells students at World Peace University.
On November 22, 2022, a 15-foot-tall bronze statue of the Prophet Joseph Smith was unveiled at Pune, India’s World Peace Dome. The MIT World Peace University’s 263-foot-tall dome is decorated with statues of 54 other religious figures, scientists, and philosophers, including the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“As I speak to this audience, I feel a great sense of friendship,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told some 3,000 students gathered for the statue unveiling that was part of the university’s World Interfaith Harmony Conference.
“I am gratified,” Elder Christofferson continued, “that you would honor us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as you honor the Prophet Joseph Smith with his statue in this majestic hall built to promote world peace. I honor each of you and express gratitude for your generosity and kindness.”
Elder Christofferson spoke for 15 minutes about the life and teachings of Joseph Smith. One of those key teachings, he said, focuses on friendship.
“Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of [our faith and doctrine],” Elder Christofferson said, quoting Joseph Smith. “[Friendship will] revolutionize and civilize the world and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers. Even the wolf and the lamb shall dwell together.”
The placement of the Joseph Smith statue is itself a story rooted in friendship. Ashok Joshi, an award-winning scientist and philanthropist from India who lives in Salt Lake City, USA, is a friend of the Revered Professor Dr. Vishwanath Karad — the founder and president of World Peace University.
At Joshi’s invitation, Dr. Karad visited Salt Lake City in 2015 and delivered the keynote address at the Parliament of World Religions held in Utah’s capital. While in Utah, Dr. Karad became acquainted with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He met Elder Christofferson and Brigham Young University President Kevin J Worthen, who was also present at Tuesday’s event.
Dr. Karad said that in the Church of Jesus Christ he saw something “so similar, so matching with what Indian culture stands for. These were the people who showed me a glimpse of what India would like to convey and proceed and promote. … A very unique event is taking place today. What a good fortune, friends.”
The 55 statues at the World Peace Dome — which include the likenesses of Moses, Peter and Aristotle — represent those “who think always [of] the soul and the mind,” Dr. Karad said. “The absolute right path can be shown only through education. What type of education? It has to be a universal, value-based education system.”
President Worthen told the students that Dr. Karad’s holistic approach to education — engaging the body and the soul — is exactly the kind of education the Church of Jesus Christ engages in.
“I hope each of you will have an understanding of what Joseph Smith meant when he said, ‘In knowledge there is power’ — power to fulfill our divine destiny as children of God,” President Worthen said. “My wish on this occasion is that those who enter this dome and this university feel a measure of that power as they experience this sacred space.”
King Husein, chairman and CEO of Span Construction & Engineering, said the Joseph Smith statue was patterned after the one that resides at the Joseph Smith Birthplace memorial in Vermont.
“I am grateful to God for the Prophet Joseph Smith, for his life of sacrifice and for his role in restoring the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Husein, who helped facilitate the placement of the Joseph Smith statue in the World Peace Dome. “Among many principles that Joseph Smith taught, he also advocated the rights of all human beings, the freedom to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. … He also encouraged self-reliance and the need to follow the commandment of Jesus Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Elder Christofferson said that those visiting the dome should understand that the Church of Jesus Christ worships Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, not Joseph Smith.
“We readily acknowledge [Joseph’s] continuing influence for good in the world, the revelations that he brought forth, his example of service and sacrifice and his devotion to and witness of the living God,” the Apostle said. “The greatest aspect of the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith was to bear testimony of Jesus Christ — that He lives. I add my own testimony.”
The Church of Jesus Christ in India
Elder Christofferson reflected on the local leadership in attendance at the ceremony including: Elder John Gutty, Area Seventy; Prasad Badireddy, president of the Rajahmundry India Stake; Stanley Massey, president of the New Delhi India Stake; Jitender Kumar Sanayi, president of the Hyderabad India Stake and Nithya Kumar Sunderraj, president of the Bengaluru India Stake.
He said, “They were all present and recognized, and Elder Gutty was seated on the dais with the other dignitaries. They were in the procession entering the Peace Dome. It was a moving moment for me to see the four stake presidents together there—the capable, bright men who hold the keys of the work in that vast nation. As I looked at them, the impression came to me that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has truly come to India.”
The Church is home to just under 15,000 Latter-day Saints spread throughout 46 congregations. The first stake was created in 2012. A house of the Lord is being built in Bengaluru.