While most Indians are proud of their country’s religious diversity, many have resisted faiths they see as foreign. In 1986 Ganesh Iyer was involved in a Hindu nationalist group in Goa that became concerned about religious discussions Laurel and Nathel Hill, a Latter-day Saint senior missionary couple, were holding in their home. “We felt that they were polluting India,” Iyer recalled, “and we wanted to stop conversions to Christianity.” Iyer went three times to pressure the missionaries to stop their work but experienced an apparent stupor of thought on each attempt. “We talked about everything in the world except what I had come for,” he said. “Literally, each time we spoke I forgot what I went to talk to them about.”
Iyer left the Hills’ home instead with a copy of the Book of Mormon—and soon a testimony that it was true. When his friends and associates found out that he planned to be baptized, they had him beaten. Iyer’s conversion also shocked and saddened his family, especially his father. “He had a lot of hopes tied up in me,” Iyer explained. Iyer’s father argued that if God wanted his son to be a Christian, he would have been born in a Christian family. When Iyer decided to serve a mission, his parents disowned him and for many years held an annual death ceremony to mourn what they saw as a loss of their son.
Iyer maintained his concern for his family, however. Years later when he heard his mother was sick in the hospital, he risked visiting her. When he saw her condition, he offered to give her a priesthood blessing. “You bless me?” she asked incredulously, since in Hindu tradition elders bless younger generations. After Iyer explained the purpose of the blessing, she accepted—and was soon released from the hospital.
The experience softened her heart about her son’s decision. “She told me, ‘I know that you are in the right place for you.’ That’s enough for me,” Iyer said. While he remained separated from his family, he has looked forward to an eventual reconciliation, in this life or the next. “I know, because of my patriarchal blessing, that my ancestors will be grateful for the work I will do for them.”