First stake in India marks opening of a new chapter
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Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve added a new chapter to South Asia's history as he created the Hyderabad India Stake on May 27. It is the first stake in India.
Elder Oaks presided over the formation of the new stake during a meeting of more than 1,500 members and friends in the Novotel Convention Centre in Hyderabad.
Founded more than 400 years ago at the crossroads where North and South India meet and with a population more than 4 million, Hyderabad is a center of strength for the Church in India.
Speaking with the Church News after returning to Salt Lake City, Elder Oaks explained that there are about 10,000 Latter-day Saints in what is now one stake and six districts of the Church in India. There are two missions, the India Bangalore Mission and the India New Delhi Mission.
"Hyderabad is the most populous in Church membership, with a mature leadership base. It was ready for a stake," he said. "Some of the other districts will be ready before long. The stake in Hyderabad is compact. There are six wards, the most 'remote' is only 14 miles from the stake's center."
The creation of India's first stake came as part of 12 days of travel in the Asia Area. Elder Oaks, accompanied by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy, went to Singapore, Cambodia, Hong Kong and India. Joining them for part of their travels were Bishop Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, who traveled also to Taiwan; and Elder Anthony D. Perkins of the Seventy and president of the Asia Area; and his counselors, Elder Kent D. Watson and Elder Gerrit W. Gong, both of the Seventy.
During their travels, the Brethren conducted priesthood leadership conferences and an area review, spoke at member devotionals and met with missionaries. They also addressed some 600 young single adults and chaperones who gathered from throughout India for a three-day conference, May 25-27. Young single adults from Nepal and Sri Lanka also attended the conference and the meeting at which the new stake was formed.
Accompanying their husbands were Sisters Kristen Oaks, Diane Hallstrom, Darla Davies, Christine Perkins, Connie Watson and Susan Gong. They participated in instructing Primary, Young Women and Relief Society leaders and speaking in devotionals for members and missionaries.
Elder Oaks said, "The formation of this stake was a unique and thrilling experience for Elder Hallstrom, Elder Perkins and me."
Before the meeting, the Brethren shook hands with almost everyone present.
"The attendance was remarkable," Elder Oaks said. "There were 258 at the priesthood leadership meeting — which was over 200 percent of those invited — and 1,519 at the general session on Sunday when the stake was created."
Elder Hallstrom said, "The creation of the new stake generated excitement for members throughout all of the Church in India, not just in Hyderabad. Leaders came from throughout the country. Even after deducting an estimated 500 from outside the Hyderabad stake (mostly from the young single adult conference), the attendance amounted to 52 percent of the 1,936 members of the stake."
Elder Oaks and Elder Hallstrom commented on the reverence in the general session. "Hardly a person in the audience, which included many children, stirred during the entire two hours."
Elder Oaks spoke on the "remarkable concentration of young leaders" of the Church. "Most of those we interviewed were in their late 20s or early 30s," he said. "Most were college graduates, with several having master's degrees and all having impressive employment and credentials. Of the 22 brethren called to stake positions or as bishops, only one is a Church employee.
"Even more important, they are extremely mature spiritually, exhibiting great faith and deep understanding of the gospel; 22 of the 25 we interviewed are endowed, and 14 of the 25 are returned missionaries."
He noted that several of those interviewed "had the stature to be a stake president."
Elder Oaks said as he sat before the congregation at the creation of the new stake and looked into the faces of "beautiful, spiritual people," he saw that they "were rejoicing at this great milestone of the history of the Church in India."
Elder Oaks said that at each place during their travels, he and the other Brethren and their wives went among the members, shaking as many hands as they could, "meeting people face to face and loving them."