[Paleopsych] NYT: For Mormons in Harlem, a Bigger Space Beckons

Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Fri Oct 7 04:10:00 UTC 2005

There are now somewhat more members of the LDS faith in South America 
and Central America than in North America. The church is growing rapidly 
in Africa. Europe - well, nothing is happening in Europe except with 
immigrants. So the church becomes ever more brown and black.

Premise Checker wrote:

> For Mormons in Harlem, a Bigger Space Beckons
> http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/02/nyregion/02mormon.html
> [Christianity as a whole became non-White about 1980. I don't know if 
> it's true for LDS yet.]
>    By [3]ANDY NEWMAN
>    The pilgrims' progress began in a back dining room at Sylvia's.
>    In 1997, a handful of members of the Mormon Church began meeting on
>    Sundays in a mirror-lined banquet hall at Sylvia's restaurant, the
>    venerable cathedral of soul food in Harlem.
>    Now, after seven transitional and increasingly cramped years in a
>    windowless brick shoebox on West 129th Street, the congregation is
>    moving around the corner to a gleaming new five-story structure on
>    Malcolm X Boulevard, one of Harlem's main arteries. Never again will
>    the members have to cut services short to make way for Sylvia's
>    overflow brunch crowd.
>    There is only one problem with the new building, in the view of
>    Herbert Steed, whose title with the newly established Harlem First
>    Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is first
>    counselor. "I think it's going to be too small soon," he said.
>    As they have across the world, the Mormons continue to multiply in the
>    New York City region, from one congregation in 1965 to several dozen
>    in 1985, to 129 today, serving more than 41,000 members.
>    Last year the church opened a temple - a place where high rituals are
>    performed - across from Lincoln Center. It is the only Mormon temple
>    between Washington and Boston.
>    But church leaders point with special pride to their expansion in
>    Harlem. They say they hope it dispels any lingering misconceptions
>    that the church, which until 1978 barred blacks from full membership,
>    remains a bastion of whiteness.
>    A 1998 survey by a Mormon and amateur sociologist, James W. Lucas,
>    found that about 20 percent of Mormons in New York City were black.
>    "We're not in Harlem because of affirmative action," said Ahmad S.
>    Corbitt, the church's Northeastern public affairs director, who is
>    black. "We're in Harlem because we love people."
>    The new building, a bright red-brick haven scheduled to open by
>    month's end, looks a bit like a schoolhouse topped by a 50-foot
>    steeple. The resemblance is apt: Much of the space is filled with
>    classrooms for religious education and a gymnasium that the church
>    promises to open to the neighborhood. The sanctuary seats 350, and the
>    baptismal font accommodates full-body immersions.
>    The soon-to-be-former place of worship, in contrast, recalls nothing
>    so much as the waiting room of a government office, with dingy
>    industrial carpeting, folding chairs, fluorescent lights and a dropped
>    ceiling. As at most Mormon churches, the walls are bare. The only
>    visual clue to the room's function is the list of hymn numbers posted
>    at the front.
>    But last Sunday, as usual, the 150 chairs were filled and people stood
>    at the back. Also as usual, the room was one of the most racially
>    integrated in Harlem, with about equal numbers of white and black
>    worshipers. (The Mormons have separate congregations for Spanish
>    speakers.)
>    The members approved a formal upgrade of the congregation from a
>    branch, the smallest worship unit, to a ward, which must have at least
>    300 members.
>    Then, after sharing a sacrament of white bread and water, they took
>    turns speaking. (The Mormon church does not have specialized clergy,
>    and preaching duties rotate among its members. Most adult males are
>    ordained priests, which entitles them to perform marriages and
>    baptisms. While women cannot be priests, they do preach and teach.)
>    "Because we stood strong together, this is what happened," a founding
>    member of the congregation, Polly Dickey, 59, testified through tears.
>    "This is what this church is about. As long as we stay together, we
>    can accomplish anything." The Mormon Church, founded in 1830 by Joseph
>    Smith Jr., is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, with
>    more than 12 million members; half are in the [4]United States, mostly
>    in Western states. It is based on what Smith said were transcriptions
>    of gold tablets he had found hidden in a mountain in upstate New York,
>    which told the story of a lost tribe of [5]Israel that fled to the New
>    World and was eventually wiped out.
>    Many members of the Harlem church said they had tried several other
>    religions before being converted by Mormon missionaries who came to
>    their doors.
>    "It's the common sense of it," said Wilbertine Thomas, 53, a
>    Baptist-turned-Catholic who was baptized in February. "At Our Lady of
>    Lourdes they don't tell you the details of how to live your life."
>    The "details" part of the service came when partitions went up and the
>    congregation broke into study groups. A dozen of the newest members,
>    mostly black, gathered in a back room to learn Gospel essentials from
>    three well-scrubbed young white teachers in short-sleeved white shirts
>    and ties.
>    One teacher, Blake Carter, a graduate student at Columbia University,
>    narrated a lesson in obedience, using the other two as actors. The
>    young man who did as his parents instructed was rewarded with car keys
>    and an extended curfew. The one who rebelled and stayed out late was
>    arrested. Mr. Carter deployed his tie as a makeshift set of handcuffs.
>    "We have the obedient one who has freedom," Mr. Carter said. "Then we
>    have the disobedient one - what's his situation?"
>    "He really has no freedom now," Ms. Thomas said.
>    Exactly, Mr. Carter said: "You gain freedom by obedience to God's
>    commandments and obedience to man's commandments: the local laws.
>    Commandments are just blessings waiting to happen."
>    The newest member, Bruce Rochester, who works restoring tires and who
>    was attending only his fourth service, said that though he had been
>    looking for a religious home after his wife died last year, he never
>    pictured himself as a Mormon.
>    "When the missionaries came, I thought when I saw the church it was
>    going to be a one-sided race thing," said Mr. Rochester, 55, who was
>    wearing an electric-blue dress shirt and tie. But he said he quickly
>    learned otherwise.
>    "I've been to churches that have different races, but this is
>    different," Mr. Rochester said. "There's more love. I felt like I
>    belong here. I hardly ever felt that at other churches."
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