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Illustrated New York City Mormon Chronology

Fascinating details of Mormon history in NYC, archival photographs, digitally restored film and documentary video. Sixth in our series “The Power of the Mormons in New York City”

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Manhattan Temple. Photo: Jerry Ferguson Photographer/CCL

New York City has a longer continuous involvement with the Mormons than any large city in the world.

Pre-400 AD

Mormon history says that the Lamanites, who were from the lost tribes of Israel, came to the Americas where  Jesus Christ appeared to them.

400 A.D.

Mormon history says that a battle between the Nephites and Lamanites took place at Hill Cumorah, Palmyra, New York. The Nephities were wiped out, and the Lamanites became ancestors of the American Indians.

Prophet Mormon compiles the Book of Mormon which his son buries in Hill Cumorah in upstate New York.

1805 Dec 23        Mormon founder Joseph Smith, Jr. born.

Angel Moroni & Joseph Smith. Painting, June 6, 1886: Library of Congress.

1827 Sept 27       Angel Moroni allows Smith to start translation of Book of Mormon.

1820                       Around this time Smith receives his First Vision.

1828

Martin Harris visits and asks classics professor Charles Anthon of Columbia College to authenticate Book of Mormon

1829 May 15

Smith records that John the Baptist appeared to him and a colleague to give authority to start a new Biblical priesthood.

1829 July 1           Joseph Smith finishes translation of Book of Mormon in Palmyra, New York

1830 April 6         Church of the Latter-day Saints organized in Fayette, New York

1831 Aug 31, Sept 1

“The Mormonites” by journalist James Gordon Bennett published in NYC’s Morning Courier and Enquirer

“In politics -- in religion -- in all the great concerns of man, New York has a character peculiarly her own; strikingly original, purely American -- energetic and wild to the very farthest boundaries of imagination. The centre of the state is quiet comparatively, and grave to a degree; but its two extremities, Eastern and Western; the city of the Atlantic, and the continuous villages of the Lakes, contain all that is curious in human character -- daring in conception -- wild in invention, and singular in practical good sense as well as in solemn foolery…

Mormonism is the latest device of roguery, ingenuity, ignorance and religious excitement combined, and acting on materials prepared by those who ought to know better. It is one of the mental exhalations of Western New York…

About this time a very considerable religious excitement came over New York in the shape of a revival…This general impulse given to religious fanaticism by a set of men in Western New York, has been productive among other strange results of the infatuation of Mormonism. This piece of roguery, folly and frenzy (for it partakes of all) is the genuine fruit…”

1832

Founder of Mormonism Joseph Smith visits New York City on a shopping expedition. He wrote his wife, “The buildings are truly great and wonderful, to the astonishing of every beholder…I am determined to lift up my voice in this city.”

Elijah Fordham. Courtesy: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

1837 June

One Mormon lives in NYC: Elijah Fordham. Visiting Mormon missionaries mail Orson Hyde’s Timely Warnings to every NYC minister.

1837 July

Mormon leader Parley P. Pratt moves to NYC. He and Fordham hand out tracks, preach and gather 4-6 followers.

1837 Sept            Pratt and Fordham publish A Voice of Warning.

1837

Pratt reports that the Holy Spirit was poured out on Elijah Fordham, other worshipers and himself at prayer meeting. There were speaking in tongues and prophecies to continue the work in New York City.

Parley P. Pratt. Source: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The Lord said that He had heard our prayers, beheld our labors, diligence, and long suffering towards that city; and that He had seen our tears. […] We should tarry in the city, and go not thence as yet; for the Lord had many people in that city, and He had now come by the power of His Holy Spirit to gather them into His fold.”

1837?

Miracle healings. At 13 Bedford Street Wandle Mace’s child healed from brain fever after doctors declared “no hope.”

1838                       NYC’s Zion Watchman publishes 8-part series opposing Mormonism.

1838 April            Orson Pratt becomes NYC leader of Mormons. About 100 newly baptized members.

1840 May             Manhattan has 200 Mormons, Staten Island and Brooklyn 16.

1844                       Smith killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois.

1844 Dec 1           NYC Mormon paper The Prophet started.

1845                       Controversy over NYC Mormon leader’s ideas of polygamy (called “spiritual marriage” by Mormons)

1846 June 12

Model of Mormon temple at Navuoo, Illinois included in an exhibit of models of city structures at the Granite Building, Broadway and Chambers Street.

1846

Orson Pratt urges Mormons to leave NYC: “Brethren Awake! Be determined to get out from this evil nation by next spring.”

1846

First Mormons to arrive on West Coast come from NYC on the ship S.S. Brooklyn. Mormons leave United States for Utah.

1876                       Mormons continue to meet in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

1890                       Mormon church disavows practice of polygamy (reiterated in 1906).

1905                       Mormons start meeting in Harlem, 33 W 126th Street

1913                       400 Mormons in NYC area

U.S. Senator Frank J. Cannon

1914                       Ex-Mormon U.S. Senator Frank Cannon holds anti-Mormon rally at Carnegie Hall.

1919

First Mormon chapel since great move to Utah built east of Mississippi at 272 Gates Avenue, Brooklyn

1919                       Postwar immigration of Germans to NYC and into Mormon church

1918

Fragments of eleven ancient Egyptian papyri, which Joseph Smith claimed shows Abraham being sacrificed upon an altar, stored at 221 Ralph Avenue, Brooklyn. A fragment used in sacred Mormon Book of Abraham. Fragments transferred to Metropolitan Museum of History which gave them back to Mormons in 1967.

1922

B.H. Roberts in NYC creates Mormon evangelistic method of two-person teams, writes Rasha the Jew and The Truth, the Way, The Life.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, 1929. Source: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

1929                       Weekly CBS broadcast of Mormon Tabernacle Choir

1930                       About 1,600 Mormons in New York City

1934 Dec 9

New York Stake (like a diocese) formed at meeting in Stillman’s Gym, 316 W 57th Street.

1955 Apr 6

"Mormons in New York will mark, this coming Sabbath, the 125th anniversary of the founding of their Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

...members of the sect, a quiet, thrifty group, will in most cases go about their daily routine as on any other day...The chances are, if the weather is nice, that some time between the morning and evening church meetings most of the Mormons in Manhattan will go 'Eastering.' That is an Easter Sunday picnicking tradition back in Utah's hills, and some families continue it here.

Mrs. Thora Allen...said the other day that there must be around 2,000 active Mormons in this metropolis, with the largest concentration--about 500--on Manhattan Island. A goodly percentage of these are young men and young women enrolled at colleges and universities on or near Manhattan...G. Stanley McAllister of the Manhattan Ward...is vice president and general manger at Lord & Taylor's department store. Kenneth H. Beesley...teaches philosophy of education at Teachers College, Columbia University...Mrs. Colleen Hutching Vanderweghe...was Miss America 1952. A large number of men in the congregation are insurance company executives.

Because the Mormons adhere pretty sternly to a policy of self-sustenance wherever they are, men and women from the Manhattan Ward and from other wards and branches in the local stake voluntarily spend week-ends working the stake farm at Washington, N.J. They raise wheat, corn, cattle, chickens, horses and hogs. The crops are neatly stored against a day of possible need...

The town is full of young people from Utah struggling for places on the stage, in TV, radio and in the other areas of the arts. It is this group, thought, that is likely to slip out of the Mormon orbit, especially those who stay overlong...

Converts come in at a rate, roughly, of three or four a month."  ---from Meyer Berger's New York.

1964

Mormon Pavilion at NY World’s Fair features a 12-story replica of the façade of the Salt Lake Temple and the film "Man's Search for Happiness." Spurs city-wide growth of Mormons, particularly in Hispanic communities. Hispanic interest and questions about the position of African Americans in Mormonism raised questions about Mormon racial policies.

1965 May             First Spanish-speaking Mormon congregation.

1971                       Mormons establish church across from Lincoln Center

1978

Spencer W. Kimball

Mormon president Spencer W. Kimball announces revelation that African American men are eligible for priesthood. African Americans gain full access to rituals and privileges in church.

1997                       Harlem Mormons start Sunday meetings at Sylvia’s Restaurant.

1998                       Harlem Mormons buy former Jehovah Witness’s Kingdom Hall at 58 W. 129th Street

1000                       In Palmyra, New York Mormons build their 100th temple.

2004                       20% of NYC Mormons are African Americans.

June 13, 2004     Manhattan Temple dedicated

2005                       New Harlem church building opens at 128th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard.

2008 Nov 12

Anti-Mormon protest at Broadway temple by gay rights activists against church’s support of California’s defense of marriage proposition 8.

2010

34,870 members in New York City.

Manhattan = 8354

Bronx = 5629

Queens = 10463

Brooklyn = 9096

Staten Island = 1328

Source: 2010 Religious Congregations and Members Survey

2011                       “I’m a Mormon” advertising campaign in New York City.

2012

42 congregations (wards) in New York City: 14 in Manhattan; 12 in Queens; 9 in Brooklyn; 5 in the Bronx; and 2 in Staten Island.

Mormons prepare to build large temple in Flushing, Queens. Democratic State Representative Tony Avilla of Bayside calls the temple “public enemy number 1.”

 

Thanks to archivists at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, NY Public Library, Columbia University, and Library of Congress.

Sources include:

Claudia Bushman, Contemporary Mormonism, 2008.

Terryl L. Givens & Matthew Grow, Parley P. Pratt, 2011.

Scott Tiffany, ed., City Saints. Mormons in the New York metropolis, 2004.

Richard N. Ostling & Joan K. Ostling, Mormon America, 2007.

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