SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is growing in India, and that is attracting media attention.
Two national, English-language newspapers published stories about the church this week. The first story appeared Monday in the Mint, which has a partnership with the Wall Street Journal and is the second-largest business paper in India. The second story was in the New India Express.
Both discussed the LDS Church's growth in the country, perhaps based on two milestones. Church membership in India has surpassed 10,000, and in May 2012, the church organized India's first LDS stake — a church administrative unit made up of multiple congregations.
Formation of the Hyderabad India Stake was a sign of the strength of the congregations in the region.
India is also home to an additional six church districts, a grouping of congregations with not enough members to form a stake. Districts are subdivisions of church missions.
The long Mint story profiles an LDS convert named Praveen Beesa, who served a church mission in his homeland.
The story also quotes a Texas couple serving a senior humanitarian mission. Elder William Black and Sister Rebecca Black told the Mint that the LDS Church has contributed nearly $35 million in humanitarian activities in India in the past dozen years.
The Mint reported that there are now 40 congregations in 15 Indian cities. According to the 2013 Church Almanac, there were nine congregations and about 1,000 church members in India when the first mission was formed in 1993.
Now 10 times larger, the church remains small enough that the New Indian Express story reported Thursday that inter-caste marriages "are not uncommon" among Latter-day Saints in India.
That is a growing phenomenon in India, and recent newspaper stories talk about how couples and families navigate them.
The New Indian Express story reported there are about 850 Latter-day Saints in the Chennai area, where it said "a spectacular church came up in the Little Mount area of Saidapet almost two years ago."
In May, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited India to meet with members and missionaries. About 350 missionaries from the India New Delhi Mission and members of the New Delhi District attended one meeting on a day where the temperature reached 113 degrees.
"Some attending who waited for more than two hours said this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they would not miss for anything," Elder and Sister Black reported on a church website.
The church has two missions in India — India Bangalore and India New Delhi. The latter was formed in 2007 to provide ministry in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
The LDS Church does not have a temple in the region. Members in the region travel to the Hong Kong China Temple to participate in temple ordinances.