Being a celebrity probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Oh, there’s money, sure—but the price of fame ensures that every decision made will be highlighted, every fashion choice scrutinized, and every mistake magnified. Though this prominence may be taxing at times, it does provide those who have it with a unique opportunity to publicly express their opinions and stand for their beliefs.
Many not of our faith have provided the Church with exposure and renown, both on the screen and on the stage. It’s been said that “any publicity is good publicity,” and that may be true—but the best publicity comes straight from the source.
Latter-day Saints have the responsibility to act like a disciple of Christ in word and deed. Luckily, there are plenty of famous members whose actions reflect positively on the Savior—and some of them are even returned missionaries.
Lindsey Stirling—New York City
Violinist, composer, dancer, and internet sensation Lindsey Stirling has performed all over the world. She’s played with John Legend, Michael Buble, Celine Dion, and Josh Groban, and her YouTube videos have generated over a billion views. But before the fame, Lindsey did something that she still considers to be “one of the best journeys of [her] life.”
She went on a mission.
“Every day you are thinking about others,” Lindsey blogged about her experience. “I learned so much about relationships, love, and being selfless.”
For 18 months, Lindsey put aside her adoration of popular music and stylish clothing as she taught the restored gospel to the people of New York City. “This was a big sacrifice,” she said, “but it was so worth it . … I had to reach down inside myself and realize that there is more to me than my desires, my style, and my hobbies.” She continued, “God helped me discover a new side of myself.”
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Though she’s now a household name, Lindsey still feels the effects of her mission. “I feel my mission was preparatory for my mission in life,” she told the Deseret News. “It prepared me to do what I’m now doing and use it … to try to bring light to people.” She continued, “I will be forever grateful that I got to serve a mission.”
Jeremy Guthrie—Spain and Texas
On October 24, 2014, the collective eyes of the sports world were on Jeremy Guthrie. A star pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, the 35-year-old Guthrie took the mound in Game 3 of a World Series that was tied at one game apiece. Under the daunting lights of baseball’s biggest stage, Guthrie stole the show—giving up only four hits and earning a critical road win.
But what many people don’t know is that Guthrie didn’t always plan on making it to that stage. After a frustrating freshman season at BYU, he made the decision to give up baseball and serve a mission. “I left my glove behind, I left my ball behind … because that’s really what is asked of a missionary,” he said in a press conference. “And when I came back, I had no expectations.”
Shortly thereafter, Guthrie transferred to Stanford University, where he found success that eventually paved a path to the pros. “I knew that whatever happened for me would be [God’s] will,” he said, “and the more I asked myself questions about why my baseball career turned around … the only answer I had was that [it] was just a tremendous blessing.”
Many years later, Guthrie still credits his successes in life to his service. “What I learned as a missionary,” he said, “is the foundation for everything that happens to me.”
In 2018, Jeremy Guthrie was called as a mission president for the Church. He and his wife Jenny presided over the Texas Houston South Mission.
“It started with a whisper.”
The lyrics to one of Neon Trees’ most popular songs could also accurately describe the spiritual transformation of their drummer, Elaine Bradley. A rock-and-roll girl since birth, Elaine’s musical prowess brought her into an environment where, in her younger years, she made some poor decisions. However, a series of spiritual promptings inspired her to eventually serve a mission in Germany.
Shortly after returning home, Elaine teamed up with fellow returned missionaries Tyler Glenn (who has since left the Church), Chris Allen, and Branden Campbell to form Neon Trees. Since then, the band has enjoyed tremendous success—touring with Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift, performing on late night talk shows, and climbing the Billboard charts.
“When I had [my] spiritual realization,” Elaine told LDS Women, “I quit drinking, I quit doing drugs … I just quit it all.” Now, as a key player in an industry that encourages riotous living habits, Bradley has a policy of abstinence. “There’s definitely a moral strength and comfort that comes from it,” she said. “[Drugs and alcohol are] never a temptation because we’ve already agreed.”
Whatever heights she and her bandmates reach, Bradley is devoted to remaining grounded in the gospel—and she credits her determination to her missionary service. “From then on I was committed,” she said. “I never wavered after that.”
“I believe in my [Latter-day Saint] faith and I endeavor to live by it,” said Mitt Romney in a speech he delivered during his first campaign for President of the United States. “Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it.”
Romney has enjoyed a long and illustrious career in business and politics. He’s been a presidential candidate, the CEO of a major corporation, and he even rescued the 2002 Olympics. Being a leader in the country has its perks, but Romney’s prominence in the public arena has left him vulnerable to harsh criticism on the basis of his religion. However, despite the opposition, Romney remains true to the faith.
Perhaps his service as a missionary has something to do with that. Romney’s testimony strengthened dramatically over the course of his 30-month mission in France. “Being in a foreign place [preaching] in a foreign language [about] a foreign faith, you do a lot of soul-searching about what you really believe,” he said.
But Romney put forth the effort, and it paid off. A fellow missionary of then-Elder Romney told a French news service, “I’ve never known a harder worker than he.” After serving an honorable mission, Romney returned home with the leadership skills that would make him one of the most successful businessmen and politicians of the last century.
The strain and spirit of Romney’s missionary service have shaped the rest of his life. “On a mission, your faith in Jesus Christ either evaporates or it becomes much deeper,” he said. “For me, it became much deeper.”
Serving a full-time mission in Chile, David Archuleta thought he had, for the time, put his singing career behind him—but the Church had a different idea. “My mission president … called me,” David said in an interview with FM 100.3. “He said, ‘We have a special request from the Church. We don’t want to distract you from your work, but we think this is a good missionary opportunity.’”
The opportunity, as it turned out, was to record the song “Glorious” for the Church-produced documentary Meet the Mormons.
An accomplished and popular singer, David is used to taking requests—but singing “Glorious” proved to be a little more challenging than he expected. “When I recorded it the first time, I had a Spanish accent,” he said. “I couldn’t pronounce the words very well.”
Amidst all the hype after his time on American Idol, David admits that something was missing. “As I was in the wave after American Idol … the only focus was trying to make everybody else happy, and in the process, I lost myself,” he said. “I’m so grateful for the mission because I found myself again.”
David cites the decision to serve as one of the best he’s ever made. Despite considerable pressure from people within the music business to stay home, the choice was ultimately his. “It’s not because someone told me that I’m supposed to do it, and not because I no longer want to do music,” he said upon announcing his departure. “I’ve felt I need to do this with my life.”
In 2004, Jon Heder became a legend. Though initially undertaken as part of a school project, his portrayal of Napoleon Dynamite—the wolverine-hunting, tetherball-playing, moon boot-wearing high school hero—won the hearts and wallets of moviegoers around the nation. In the years since, Jon has been a staple of comedic cinema, starring alongside household names like Ben Stiller, Jeff Bridges, and Will Ferrell.
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In the years since, his celebrity status has allowed him to have an impact on how the world views the Church—something he thought he gave up once he returned from his mission to Japan. “I was representing the Church on my mission, and now I’m representing the Church again in some ways,” he told USA Today in 2006. “I’m a Mormon. This is what Mormons do.”
Though some Church members distance themselves from their religious roots once they make it big in Hollywood, Jon has stayed true to his faith. In 2012, he told Vulture that after the success of Napoleon Dynamite he got “a lot of offers” for “raunchy” projects. He turned them all down. “It comes from how I was raised,” he said. “It’s just kind of who I am. These are the standards I live by.”
He has more MVP trophies than Pete Rose and Jackie Robinson. He hit more home runs than Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench. He won the prestigious Roberto Clemente award and had his number retired by one of the most storied franchises in sports.
Then, he served for three years as a mission president in Boston, Massachusetts.
Dale Murphy was one of the best center fielders to ever play the game. Introduced to the Church by a minor-league teammate, Murphy quickly embraced the gospel and became a role model on and off the field. Well-known for his clean living habits, Murphy was an ambassador for Christ before he ever put on a name tag.
Just a year after his baptism, Murphy wanted to serve a mission. “But several local Church leaders felt he could do a greater missionary work in baseball and encouraged him to remain,” a 1985 Ensign article states.
But the call to serve still came later in life to him and his wife. Though the Murphys’ service ended in 2000, Dale is still quick to praise the missionaries they presided over. “My appreciation for the missionaries throughout the world grew tremendously,” he said in an interview with the MiLB Stockton Ports. “They work so hard and have such great faith … we will never forget their examples to us.”
The life of a DJ is usually a riotous one. In such lifestyles, promiscuity, drug use, and other high-risk behaviors often abound. So to some, the phrase “Mormon DJ” might sound as oxymoronic as “pretty ugly” or “jumbo shrimp.” But to Ryan Raddon, more famously known as Kaskade, it’s all in a day’s work.
Yet, as he told Rainn Wilson in an interview, “If you love the music, then all the stuff that’s going on around it is ancillary.” Despite his love of the music, Kaskade’s love of the gospel took precedence for two years as he served a mission in Japan. Still fluent in Japanese, he often surprises his fans with the revelation that he is a Latter-day Saint. “I consider myself a devout [Latter-day Saint],” he told LA.com. “I’ve never had a drink of alcohol in my life.”
In part due to their clean lyrics and modest costumes, most Latter-day Saint performers appeal to more conservative crowds. But through his unique music, Kaskade is able to maintain his standards while shining a gospel example into a corner of the industry that might not receive it otherwise.
It’s been said that our trials can either make us bitter or better—and few people know about trials quite like Elizabeth Smart. As a 14-year-old, Elizabeth was abducted from her home by a man who verbally, physically, and sexually abused her for nine agonizing months. Local and national media outlets frantically covered both the heartbreak of her disappearance and the relief of her unexpected return. Many among us might allow such an event to hinder our development, but since her escape, Elizabeth has taken every opportunity to raise awareness, serve, and spread the light of the gospel.
“The gospel has the answer to any and every problem in life,” Elizabeth told the Salt Lake Tribune in 2011, shortly after returning from her mission to Paris. “We can overcome anything with it.” Putting her life of inspiration and activism on hold, Elizabeth spent 18 months of her life as Sister Smart—serving and teaching about the restored gospel.
“A mission is an incredible experience,” she said. “I feel so lucky. … Every day, I was going out and sharing with people what is most important to me. Being able to do that and … see how their lives changed, that made everything worth it.”
Question: This Latter-day Saint game show contestant holds the record for the longest Jeopardy winning streak, and his winnings total over $4 million.
Answer: Who is Ken Jennings?
Long before he captivated America with his amazing brain and Jeopardy! hosting skills, Ken Jennings taught another nation an amazing message.
“I had the best time on my mission,” said Jennings of his two-year service in Spain. “It was one of those experiences that’s so dense and intense that you can’t really believe how much happened in such a short time. Even the hard or dull times have acquired a rosy, nostalgic glow in hindsight, just because of how valuable the whole experience was to me.”
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Jennings told Times and Seasons that his mission deepened his religious convictions. “What I took home from my mission was an increased love for and testimony of the Book of Mormon. I also find it harder to take the Book of Mormon for granted after watching how quickly it can surprise and change the lives of people.”
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