Often standing out in areas such as modesty, chastity, and clean living habits, LDS celebrities are under a lot of pressure to represent the Savior and their faith well in an increasingly critical public eye. We’ve already talked about five famous returned missionaries who have successfully faced the pressure—here’s another list, compiled by YOU, of five more.
Jon Heder (Japan)
Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight
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.
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.”
Dale Murphy (Boston, Massachusetts—Mission President)
Photos courtesy of Sports Illustrated and utahvalley.org
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.
Dale joined the Church too late in life to be a proselytizing missionary, 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.”
Photo courtesy of We Got This Covered
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 LDS. “I consider myself a devout Mormon,” 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 LDS 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.
Elizabeth Smart (Paris)
Photo courtesy of Spokesman
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 eighteen 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.”
Ken Jennings (Spain)
Photo courtesy of LDS.net
Question: This LDS game show contestant holds the record for the longest Jeopardy winning streak and his winnings total over 4 million dollars.
Answer: Who is Ken Jennings?
Long before he captivated America with his amazing brain, Ken Jennings taught another nation an amazing message.
“I had the best time on my mission,” said Jennings of his 2-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.”
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.”