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The police appeared without warning one December night in Harlem, hustling five passing young men against the front wall of the Mormon Church at 128th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard.
Just feet away, a Mormon missionary, wearing her long black coat and tall boots, was dispensing hot chocolate from an orange Gatorade cooler.
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t mandatory for all Mormons to serve missions, but the Church teaches that it is a privilege to do so—to share testimonies and knowledge of the Gospel with people around the world.
In October 2012, the age at which Mormon missionaries worldwide are allowed to serve was lowered from nineteen to eighteen for men, and from twenty-one to nineteen for women.
“I’m gonna go to Harlem and play basketball with all the boys,” he thought before his plane landed.
“I was pumped.” But those aspirations were quickly crushed.
“We’re called and set apart to be missionaries and be representatives of Jesus Christ.
And so we’re here to work and teach people,” said Montierth, who appeared satisfied with the new focus of his life.
In 2005, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened for service on West 128th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard, also known as Lenox Avenue, which runs through the heart of Harlem.More unusual was the presence of Mormons, members of a church formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.There are now eighteen Mormon missionaries working in Harlem.Police activity at the front of the church was hardly enough to distract from the music and the aroma of hot chocolate.As the young black men, some wearing hoodies and others baseball caps, raised their hands to the wall, the missionaries just kept singing. From “Joy to the World” to “Silent Night,” their carols were heard from blocks away by chilly Harlem residents, some of whom wandered by to sip hot chocolate and learn a bit about a modern American religion.
She was adding to an already alluring display of steaming paper cups, laid out on a table next to blue pleather copies of the Book of Mormon.