23904_000_015Little by little, the Lord has helped Annapurna Guru Murala, a young woman in India, fulfill her dreams and His plans for her.
A girl’s journal is often a record of her dreams, and Annapurna Guru’s journal held her most cherished desire. “Someday,” she wrote, “I will go to the temple.”
Annapurna was not a member of the Church when she wrote these words. Raised in Hyderabad, India, she had learned something about Christianity as a child in a Catholic school. Then, in 1992, her older brother met Latter-day Saint missionaries and was baptized. Annapurna was 14 when her brother, Murthy, gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon. “Once I read it,” she recalls, “I felt it was true.”
Annapurna found in the gospel answers to her most troubling questions, especially her worry about what happens after death. But just as surely as she knew the gospel to be true, she knew something else: Her parents would not allow her to be baptized in a Christian church.
During her remaining teenage years, Annapurna lived her new faith quietly. She read the Book of Mormon and the Bible. She prayed. She learned all she could. And she began to form in her mind a beautiful dream: Someday she would marry a Latter-day Saint. Someday she would go to the temple. And someday she would give her children the precious gift she lacked: membership in the Lord’s Church.
Miracle by Miracle
By the time Annapurna graduated from college at age 20, her parents had begun planning a traditional arranged marriage for their beloved daughter. But Annapurna never considered her dreams to be unattainable because she felt that they were not hers alone. “I had big dreams,” she says, “but actually God had His own plans for me.”
When Annapurna was 21, those divine plans started to become reality—miracle by miracle. First, she met Santosh Murala, a faithful Latter-day Saint visiting his family in Hyderabad. A medical student, Santosh was doing a surgical residency in Chandigarh, two days away by train. When they met, Annapurna and Santosh talked for half an hour. After that brief conversation, Santosh called his friend Neil Twitchell, who was then serving as India Bangalore Mission president, and confided, “She’s gold!” Santosh felt quite clearly that this was the woman he had been looking for. Annapurna felt that Santosh—the first Latter-day Saint young man she had ever met—was the man she had been praying to find.
The two exchanged a few letters, confirming their feelings. Several months later they married. Understandably, Annapurna’s family was upset at first, as was Santosh’s. But Annapurna was legally old enough to marry a man of her choosing.
Annapurna viewed this situation through the eyes of faith. “If I had married to please my parents and other people,” she says, “then my children might never have known about the Church and the whole responsibility for that would have been on my head. This one step has changed life for me and my posterity. For this life my parents may be upset with me, but for eternity they will be happy and proud of me.” In fact, Annapurna’s parents are already more accepting of her marriage. They like Santosh and even get together socially with Santosh’s parents.
“God Takes Care of You”
The next part of Annapurna’s dream came true when at last she was baptized. There was no branch in Chandigarh, so the Muralas made the five-hour journey to New Delhi for the baptism. Ironically, now that Annapurna was free to go to church, the nearest branch was far away. “Before I was baptized, the church was very near my house, just on the corner at the end of the road, and I didn’t have the opportunity to go,” she says. “Now the church was five hours away, so we could go only once a month.” Then Annapurna became pregnant, and the five-hour trip was too taxing for her.
But then came another miracle, in the form of two Latter-day Saint families. “God takes care of you,” explains Santosh. A British couple, Brother and Sister Beer, came to Chandigarh, where Brother Beer worked in highway construction. Sister Beer taught institute classes to the Muralas, and the Beers held family home evening with the Muralas every week. A Korean family, the Moons, also moved to Chandigarh, where Brother Moon worked for a construction company. Every Sunday for two years, this little group of Latter-day Saints met at the Moons’ home for sacrament meeting. Shortly after Santosh finished his residency in Chandigarh, the Beers and the Moons moved away too.
In New Delhi, where Santosh is receiving specialized training in heart surgery, there are two branches of the Church. Now Annapurna’s knowledge about the Church is catching up with her knowledge of the gospel. She has learned how to sing hymns and conduct meetings.
Dreams for the Next Generation
On 19 June 2001—Annapurna’s 24th birthday—her girlhood dream of temple marriage came true. The Muralas traveled to the Hong Kong China Temple when their first baby, Neil, was not quite two. During the five full days they spent serving in the temple, the most sacred and wonderful moment came when they were sealed to each other and to their son.
Today the Muralas’ lives are full to overflowing. Annapurna serves as Primary president and Santosh as president of the New Delhi First Branch. Santosh also spends about 100 hours a week at the hospital, working 18- and 36-hour shifts. In order to have Sundays free for Church responsibilities, he works on holidays. So Annapurna spends most of her time caring for their two young children and supporting her husband in his heavy responsibilities.
And she continues to dream. She dreams of sharing the gospel with her parents. She dreams of the day when her own and others’ children—the first generation of children in India to have Primary, seminary, and Young Men and Young Women—will be strong leaders of the Church. She dreams of the time when her children will serve missions. She dreams of the time when they too will go to the temple. And she even dares to dream that that temple might be in India.