The New Promised Land Mormons are booming in the Northeast.

NEW YORK--The celestial room in the newest Mormon temple feels, well, heavenly--white carpeting, ivory upholstered chairs, the scent of calla lilies and roses. The location, though, is famously terrestrial: Manhattan's Upper West Side, across from Lincoln Center.

Why here, and why now? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown nationally by 25% in the past 10 years--an astonishing level of growth by any measure--but its membership has risen even faster in the New York metropolitan area (31%) and in the Northeast (37%). As it happens, the Mormon faith began in the Northeast--in 1820, 14-year-old Joseph Smith claimed to have seen his "First Vision" in upstate New York--but Mormons have not been a major presence in the region for a long time. So what has caused this boomlet?

According to Jan Shipps, author of "Sojourner in the Promised Land," the religion is getting a better reception in the Northeast than in the South and the Midwest, where evangelicals and fundamentalists "don't want to admit Mormonism is Christian." Much of the growth is occurring "in New York and the really urban areas," especially among Latinos. There are 60 Spanish-language wards (as the congregations are called) in New York alone.

The church supplies soup kitchens nationwide with food from its own farms, orchards, ranches and warehouses, often stocking not only its own pantries but those of other faiths. And true to its message of self-sufficiency, it has employment centers in Boston, New York and Washington devoted to helping members and nonmembers. It even offers to help find housing for people who are looking for work. Ms. Shipps says that this safety net makes the faith "attractive to people who are struggling."

By church policy, Mormons who do missionary work by going door to door never proselytize in the area where they have put down roots. Thus they are seen in two ways: as the strangers who come to the doorstep carrying the Book of Mormon and as co-workers, neighbors and friends. Linda Watkins, a BYU grad from Mesa, Ariz., who moved here two years ago, says that by welcoming new members to the church she has come to know a lot of "young professionals and graduate students" who have just converted to Mormonism or who are interested in doing so.

They seem to like the strong sense of community and the obligations that come with it. Philip Jenkins, author of "The Next Christendom," notes that it is the "churches that demand a lot of time and commitment that have been growing fastest in recent years." At a Mormon service fair last year in New York, more than 100 young people gathered to hear from a dozen local groups about volunteer opportunities ranging from walking dogs at a pound to sleeping over at homeless shelters in churches.

"You know the book 'Bowling Alone'?" Mr. Jenkins asks, referring to Robert Putnam's study of the fractured and individualized nature of modern America. "What the Mormons offer is exactly the opposite."

Ms. Riley's book, "God on the Quad," will be published in January by St. Martin's Press.