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For week ended May 23, 1999 Posted 4 Jun 1999

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Summarized by Kent Larsen

Mormons on a Quest Here
New York NY Daily News 23May99 C3
By Roberto Santiago: Daily News Staff Writer

BROOKLYN, NY -- While making their rounds, Elders Carlson and Havili were challenged to a game on the basketball courts on Church Avenue in East Flatbush. Now, the defenders are begging the Elders for a rematch, since they lost by one point.

Apparently the defenders assumed that missionaries aren't athletes. "They called us out, challenged us to a game while we were making our rounds," said Elder Tyler Carlson, 19, who played high school basketball in Denver. "We said, 'Fine.' We put down our knapsacks, loosened our ties, and beat them by a point."

His companion agrees. "We know they are hurting," laughed Elder Sione Havili, 19, who played tailback for BYU. "We know it can't feel too good being showed up by two missionaries."

Elders Havili and Carlson are two of 42 missionaries in Brooklyn, and some of hundreds of others converting more than 1,000 in New York every year since 1990. Ten years ago just 7,063 New Yorkers were Mormon, now as of the end of 1998 that number reached 21,676. Brooklyn alone has 3,334.

Prior to the 1978 revelation on the priesthood, it would not be likely that New Yorkers could see missionaries at all in the inner city. Since then, the Elders have become much more common, and the areas that they cover are shrinking. Now four Elders cover the neighborhoods of East Flatbush, Canarsie, Remsen Village and Rugby while just two Sisters cover Midwood and Ocean Parkway.

After telling about the missionaries and Church growth in New York City, this article focuses on recent converts, including Sister Shauna McKenzie, a 23-year-old Jamaican immigrant in East Flatbush. McKenzie joined the Church last month, leaving the Seventh-Day Adventists, after calling for a free 'Bible' from an LDS TV commercial. In response, the Elders arrived. "Around January, two white men were knocking on the door. I thought they were the police. But they turned out to be missionaries bringing the Bibles. I invited them in and we spoke about the church. They offered solutions to family problems we were having." said McKenzie. She said the LDS Church was the only Christian religion she had ever talked to that said the purpose of life was happiness.

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