Seventeen-year-old Utah Mormon David Archuleta, one of two finalists in the singing contest American Idol, is experiencing what many other Latter-day Saint celebrities have faced before him.The Osmonds, golfing great Johnny Miller, singer Gladys Knight, Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, snowboarder Torah Bright, author Stephenie Meyer and other high-profile Mormons have all had to deal with questions about their faith and their fame. How do they reconcile the two?
Novelist Stephenie Meyer, whom London’s The Times newspaper called “a teetotal Mormon mother of three”, told that publication that her style, informed by her faith, resonates with a lot of readers. “I know a lot of kids who relate to my books because they don’t drink and they are not sexually active,” she said. “There are a ton of them but they don’t get a lot of representation in literature or television or movies.”
One notion some reporters bring to their interviews with Mormon celebrities is that all Latter-day Saints are the same: squeaky clean and somehow unsuited to fame. The reality is, however, that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are all different, and those rising to prominence in their respective fields will handle the spotlight in their own ways. Some choose to push their beliefs aside, to varying degrees, as they make their way in fast-paced, high-profile industries such as movies, music and professional sports. Many, though, find ways to stay grounded and true to their faith while seeking to excel in their chosen pursuits.
Singer Donny Osmond begins the text of his official Web site with these words: “As I've traveled all over the world, the fact that I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has caused a lot of interesting questions. Some want to know how Debbie and I have been able to maintain a strong marriage over all these years while living in the world of show business.”
Osmond continues: “Others want to know how we've dealt with the challenges of raising a close and happy family in such difficult times. How do we maintain a balance between work and family life? Well, you know it's not always easy, but the following pages are my attempt to explain a way of life that helps answer these kinds of questions.”
Some Mormons, seeing a fellow member of their church reach celebrity status, are often excited to see ”one of their own” counter a perception that Mormons are different or even a little strange. This kind of validation does more than just place a Mormon (and by association, Mormonism) in the mainstream: the success and popular acceptance of another Latter-day Saint somehow compensates for what some see as generations of misunderstanding.
Today’s Salt Lake Tribune quotes Mormon Julianne Hough, the Dancing With the Stars winner and country music artist, as she advises Archuleta regarding his future: “Keep your family first. Those are the people you have to rely on. Always be who you are, and don't be afraid to say ‘No.’”