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'Mormon moment' pops up in Harlem land spat

Published January 10, 2012 11:52 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In this so-called "Mormon moment," even a minor real estate flap in Harlem makes it into The New York Times. And the story even refers to Mitt Romney – "a Mormon," as the article notes — but only due to the publicity for the Utah-based faith his presidential campaign has generated.At issue is the former home of the LDS Church's Harlem congregation, which The Times describes as "a crumbling, windowless, one-story building on 129th Street between Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard and Fifth Avenue and the grassy vacant lot beside it."In 2005, the church erected a spanking new building around the corner but retained ownership of its earlier site. Now Mormons are ready to sell that to a residential developer and neighbors are balking. They want to keep the rare open space as a community garden, with the "ramshakle" building for neighborhood parties."The Mormons find themselves torn between two charitable missions — the global social-welfare projects that go hand in hand with its energetic proselytizing, which proceeds from the sale will support," writes Anne Barnard, "and the needs of Harlem, where the mixed-race congregation has achieved a hard-won measure of acceptance despite the church's fraught history with African-Americans, who were barred from the church's ministry until 1978."Even some local Mormons want to see the church retain the garden and structure.Wayne Collier, a Harlem congregation member, told the paper "he and others had proposed turning the land into a "welfare center," with a cannery, storehouse and employment center — all institutions the church currently has scattered from Inwood to New Jersey."Apparently, the church's Salt Lake City bureaucracy rejected that proposal.An aside: The Times article also notes that Mormons "shun alcohol and caffeine."

That's half right.

Devout Latter-day Saints do not drink booze, but they are free to consume caffeine. While coffee and tea are off-limits under the faith's health code, other caffeinated products — from Diet Coke to hot chocolate — are fair game.Peggy Fletcher Stack