From Academy Award-winning actors to those with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, learn more about the famous actors and actresses who converted to the Church.
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The “Empress of Soul” made her film debut with the lead role in Pipe Dreams (1976). For her performance, Knight received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture.
In 2003, Knight had a small role in the hit movie Hollywood Homicide, starring Harrison Ford. She was also featured in Tyler Perry's film I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009).
In addition to film roles, Knight guest-starred on several television series, including The Jeffersons, A Different World, Benson, Living Single, The Jamie Foxx Show, and New York Undercover. She also made a number of television cameo appearances on shows such as 30 Rock and Las Vegas.
► You'll also like: How Gladys Knight Became a Latter-day Saint
Gladys Knight’s faith in God has been a driving force throughout her life, and her thirst for light and knowledge, along with the example of her children, helped prepare her to accept the gospel, and become one of the most beloved famous Latter-day Saints.
“I raised my children to seek the Lord. We had been searching for the best of the Lord, the most of the Lord,” she recalls. “My son Jimmy and his wife were the first to join the Church, after his best friend shared his testimony. Then my daughter, Kenya, joined the Church. I watched their lives grow, and to see how my grandchildren were being raised and what they knew really impressed me.”
At her daughter’s invitation, Knight began attending Relief Society. Knight shares, “After a while, Kenya told me, ‘Mom, it’s time for you to talk to the missionaries.’” And so she did.
“When the missionaries came to my house, we had the most beautiful prayer,” Knight recalls. “I loved the fact that when they came in they did not try to sell me on the Church—they just told me about the gospel. My mom, who I consider to be the most spiritual woman I’ve ever met, wasn’t a member, but she said, ‘You go.’ Those were basically her last words.”
Knight joined the Church in 1997 and was baptized by her son Jimmy. “I feel so blessed because my son held the priesthood and was able to baptize me,” she says. “It is such a precious thing to me. I was overjoyed.”
Fun Fact: Several famous actors have received a copy of the Book of Mormon, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Depp, Snoop Dog, and Rain Wilson. To read the interesting stories of how they received these scriptures, click here.
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If you ever feel intimidated because of physical or mental limitations, just look to the inspiring life of 3-foot 9-inch Church member Billy Barty. Barty, who died in 2000, is famously quoted as saying, “My parents never told me I was small, so I never knew any better.”
Barty began acting at age 3 and made his mark in the film business, appearing in films and television shows from 1927 to 2001. Over the course of his 70-year career, Billy appeared in over 200 productions including vaudeville, television, commercials, stage roles, and nightclub appearances. He was perhaps the most recognizable of all little people and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in July 1981. His most recognizable role was as High Aldwin in Willow (1988).
In the early 1960s, Barty became enamored with Latter-day Saint Shirley Bolingbroke, whom he had met at the Little People of America’s convention. While they were dating, Barty agreed to meet with the missionaries and regularly attended church after he and Shirley married in February 1962.
Barty's daughter Lori said she did not know her father was not a member of the Church until she was about to turn 8. “I was very confused,” she said, according to Meridian Magazine. “I didn’t know my dad wasn’t a member. He was always very involved in the ward, always respectful. He enjoyed bearing his testimony. He was so impressed with the Book of Mormon.”
As his daughter prepared to be baptized in the Church, so did Barty. About this change in her father, Lori said, “I think he wanted to baptize me."
Barty was always an advocate for little people and founded the Little People of America in 1957 and the Billy Barty Foundation in 1975. He passed away at age 76 in the year 2000.
Fun Fact: Did you know "Rudy" Ruettiger, from the classic film Rudy, and Mark Schultz, whose story is told in the Academy Award-nominated film Foxcatcher, both converted to the Church?Learn their stories and about other famous athletes who became Latter-day Saints here.
Dean Jagger in the film trailer for Dangerous Number
Until Academy Award-winning actor Dean Jagger starred in the 1940 film Brigham Young, Frontiersman, he was a little-known actor. However, he went on to star in White Christmas and Twelve O'Clock High, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Jagger became very interested in Brigham Young after landing this career-making role. After then-prophet Heber J. Grant praised his performance in the film, Jagger began studying the gospel. He ultimately joined the Church in 1972 after marrying Etta Mae Norton, who was a Latter-day Saint.
Later in life, Jagger donated his awards, personal papers, and memorabilia to the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University.
Fun Fact: For the making of Brigham Young, Frontiersman, Twentieth Century Fox consulted with Church historians and leaders, including President Heber J. Grant.
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Richard Bartlett “Ricky” Schroder, Jr. debuted at age 9 in the hit film The Champ (1979). Ricky stayed in the limelight for many years, starring in the sitcom Silver Spoons as a youth. Later as an adult, he changed his name credit to “Rick” and appeared in main roles in the Lonesome Dove mini-series (1989) and the popular NYPD Blue television show before turning his main focus to directing.
Schroder married Church member Andrea Bernard in 1992. Despite taking the missionary discussions while they were dating, and again after they were married, he was not receptive to the gospel. At a 2008 single adult conference, Schroder explained, "I convinced myself I didn’t need [religion]. . . . I had this sort of paranoia that [people at church] just wanted to be friends with me because I was famous or something. I couldn’t understand that they were really happy and they really did care about me."
But Schroder surprised his wife when, after nearly eight years of marriage, he said he wanted to get baptized. So his father-in-law baptized him in April of 2000.
"The greatest decision I ever made, besides marrying Andrea, was to ask with faith if Jesus was the Son of God, and if He was real . . . and if the Book of Mormon was true," Schroder said. "Since gaining a testimony of our church and getting baptized, I can’t tell you how much my life has changed in my perspective, my relationships with my friends and my family, and how my talent has changed."
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Gordon Alexander Jump got his start with Nathan Hale and Ruth Hale, a California couple who owned a small theater in Glendale, Utah. It was through the Hale family that Gordon became acquainted with the Latter-day Saints. When he landed a part in a play about Latter-day Saints, he began to have questions about the religion.
The Hales's son-in-law Alan Dietlein gave Jump a copy of A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards, and Jump joined the Church in the 1960s, remaining a devout member throughout his career. Gordon’s most popular roles include the clueless radio station manager Arthur “Big Guy” Carlson in the TV series WKRP, the incompetent Chief of Police Tinkler in the sitcom Soap, and as the lonely Maytag Repairman in commercials for Maytag brand appliances.
After becoming a member, he acted in several Church films, including a role in a 1969 temple film. He remained a devout member until his death in 2003.
Fun Fact: Gordon Jump has a cameo appearance in the comedy The Singles Ward, which was produced by Kurt Hale, grandson of Nathan and Ruth Hale.
Kevin J. Foxe
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Most well known as the executive producer for the independent film The Blair Witch Project (1999), Kevin Foxe was taught the discussions and joined the Church in 2002. The announcement of his decision was originally posted by Matt Anderson, an alumnus of the Germany Berlin Mission, on the alumni website. It was later confirmed by Foxe himself in an email to famousmormons.net.