So David Archuleta hinted last week that he might not serve an LDS mission.
His situation is reminiscent of what happened with Donny Osmond years ago. Osmond never served an LDS mission because “when I was of that age, my career was such that everyone, including my parents and the leaders of the church, thought that I could do a lot of good in the world by continuing being in the public eye, by living an exemplary life and sharing my beliefs in every way that I could,” he says on his website, Donny.com.
Of course, Archuleta is not Donny Osmond. At best, all anyone can say is that Archuleta might have a career that would justify the same kind of treatment. It is simply too early to determine whether or not Archuleta will have the same kind of career. On the other hand, the worldwide popularity of American Idol might mean that regardless of which mission Archuleta were to serve in, his presence could become a distraction or interference for the rest of the a mission.
In recent years I’ve heard several times from General Authorities that they teach and preach the general rule, and then deal with whatever exceptions there might be. Osmond was clearly an exception. His career was in full swing by the time he turned 19, and has been progressing for over a decade at that point. Archuleta is perhaps a year or so into his career, and it is anyone’s guess if it will even last another year.
There is, of course, a problem every time that you make an exception to a rule, especially when that exception is very public, others come along expecting the same exception to be made for them. I don’t know that Archuleta has asked for any exception to serving a mission in December, when he turns 19, but his popularity makes the idea something that has to have crossed his mind, as well as that of many in the missionary department.
Its also possible that he will simply delay serving, to see what happens with his career. Who knows, if his career doesn’t take off in the next couple of years, he could still serve.
Still, it will be interesting to watch to see how both Archuleta and the Church act in this situation. It might give a bit of insight into what we might call the “fame” exception.