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7 Latter-day Saints Who Held Their Own on CBS' "Survivor"

by | Feb. 22, 2019

On Wednesday, February 20, the long-awaited 2019 premiere of the hit TV show Survivor: Edge of Extinction played across TVs in homes around the U.S. In its 38th season, Survivor has proven again and again how riveting a show that tests the contestants' physical and mental strength can be.

And throughout the show's epic seasons, a few contestants have stood out. In particular, these eight Latter-day Saints have shown what it takes to compete on a show full of incredible survivor challenges and unexpected twists.

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1. Neleh Dennis

Image from survivor.fandom.com

Heber City, Utah, native Neleh Dennis competed in Survivor: Marquesas (season 4, spring 2002). Dennis, who was 21 at the time of the competition, was known for her phrase "Oh my heck!" and bringing her scriptures to the island as her luxury item, according to the Deseret News

She's also known for her strong alliance with fellow competitor Paschal English, which helped get her to the final tribal council. However, Dennis took second place with a 4 to 3 vote in favor of winner Vecepia Towery. 

2. Ashlee Ashby

Lead image screenshot from YouTube

Latter-day Saint Ashlee Ashby competed on Survivor: Palau (season 10, spring 2005). Ashby attended Brigham Young University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications, according to the Deseret News. For her bio on the show, Ashby listed graduating early morning seminary in high school as her proudest achievement, according to survivor.fandom.com

Ashby was the second contestant to be voted off season 10.

3. Rafe Judkins

Image from CBS News

Raised in a large Latter-day Saint family with more than 60 cousins, according to survivor.fandom.com, Rafe Judkins competed in Survivor: Guatemala (Season 11, fall 2005).  But Judkins' interest in wilderness survival began long before the show. While attending Brown University, Judkins managed the Brown Outdoor Leadership Training, a program designed to give students exposure to extreme wilderness situations. 

Judkins made it to the final three contestants on the show before he was voted off. 

4. Dawn Meehan


Trae Patton, CBS Broadcasting Inc; retrieved from the Deseret News

A BYU English professor and mother of six adopted children, Dawn Meehan competed on two seasons of the show, Survivor: South Pacific (season 23, fall 2011) and Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites (season 26, spring 2013). 

In Survivor: South Pacific, Meehan was voted out on Day 27 when an alliance turned on her and she ended up in 10th place. After changing game strategies in Survivor: Caramoan, Meehan made it to the final tribal council and came in second place. 

5. Rick Nelson

Image from CBS; retrieved from the Deseret News

Also a competitor on Survivor: South Pacific (season 23, fall 2011), Rick Nelson made it on the show after applying 14 times, according to his bio on survivor.fandom.com. Once on the show, Nelson, a rancher from Aurora, Utah, was known for his handlebar mustache, cowboy hat, and good humor. 

While on the show, Nelson joined what would become "one of the most unified and strongest [alliances] in Survivor's history," according to survivor.fandom.comNelson came in fifth place. 

6. Jonas Otsuji

Lead image screenshot from YouTube

Jonas Otsuji was a well-liked player among competitors in Survivor: One World (season 24, spring 2012). Otsuji studied photography at BYU, served a mission in Japan, and worked as a sushi chef. According to Deseret News, his culinary skills made him the provider for his tribe members.

After a rift with his alliance, Otsuji was the fifth contestant to be voted off. After extinguishing his torch, host Jeff Probst noted, "Well, you just voted out somebody who almost everybody agrees was likable, was a provider, and was loyal. That means nobody is safe."

7. Jeff Kent

Lead image from CBS News

Retired Major League Baseball player Jeff Kent had already made millions during his career. But the lure of the game led him to compete on Survivor: Philippines (season 25, fall 2012). Though Kent tried to hide his career as a five-time all-star and National League MVP award winner, other players eventually recognized who he was. 

Kent was the eighth player to be voted off season 25, though his "exit speech is probably the best there has ever been," Host Jeff Probst said, according to the Deseret News

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