Archuleta and Exceptions to the Rule

June 8, 2009 | 120 comments
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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.

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120 Responses to Archuleta and Exceptions to the Rule

  1. Lorin on June 8, 2009 at 11:20 am

    When you have someone like David Archuleta who publicly comes across as humble and unselfish, it’s a lot easier to mentally accept the “faith exception” in that case. Virtually everyone else in that age range would fit under the “hoping to be famous exception.”

    Does he have staying power? Time will tell. But he comes across as so genuine, “unmanaged” and someone who couldn’t pull off phony if his life depended on it, that he really stands out from most celebrities. The fact that you can’t fake a David Archuleta is itself a marketing edge that could give him some staying power if he gets the right professional representation. He represents the church well — it’ about as hard to imagine him in some future scandal as Donny Osmond.

    I hope his career takes off and that that ends up being his misssion. The church and Society in general could use a few more people who have no inclination toward the media’s ugly definition of “keeping it real” and who don’t need a publicist to help them come across as a real, regular person.

  2. Last Lemming on June 8, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Even the spectre of Donny Osmond caused me some problems on my mission. A live celebrity body would have been a disaster. Archuleta should definitely wait to see how his career goes, whether it sets a bad example or not.

  3. Benjamin on June 8, 2009 at 11:49 am

    If he were to serve, he’d have to go foreign, right? And probably to a mission far, far from here. Otherwise, another aspect of the “exception” would be that learning the gospel from David Archuleta would be too much of a distraction for many investigators to become truly converted.

    Perhaps one reason it’s so effective for the weak things of the earth to preach this message is that our anonymity ensures, as much as possible, that it’s the Holy Ghost doing the converting and not just the opportunity to hobnob with a celebrity.

    I dunno, just a thought. At the same time, Dale Murphy attended my third discussion when I was an investigator myself as a teenager, and I’m still active. So maybe I’ve got it backwards.

  4. RT on June 8, 2009 at 11:57 am

    If David Archuleta decides to go, all the major entertainment outlets will do stories on it. Once he arrives in the field, all the media outlets in his assigned area will do stories about him, and if he serves in a geographically large mission, that will happen whenever he gets transferred to a new area. And then when he arrives in each area, it is likely that at least some people will open doors to the other missionaries as a result of curiosity, fame seeking, or some combination of the two.

    Unlike the stories that will be written about him if he stays home and sings, these stories will all talk about his religion. And they’ll all invariably include the some variant of the question: “Given that you have a successful musical career going, why on earth would you give it up?” To which his presumed response would be: “Because I believe it’s true…”

    From a strictly missionary perspective, I think that’s better for the church than the offhand references he’ll get in US Weekly if he stays home and sings.

  5. Jane on June 8, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I don’t like exceptions to the rule. They make my ass twitch.

  6. ESO on June 8, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    My mission was such a blessing for me, I feel sorry for people who might not serve because they perceive themselves to be famous. If DA knocked on my door or showed up in my Sacrament meeting, I wouldn’t have any idea who he was.

    I think if he wants to serve, he easily could.

  7. Susan on June 8, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    What is misleading in this article is the fact that it is not a requirement for good standing in the LDS Church to serve a mission, so therefore there is no fame exception. It is “HIGHLY” recommended that all young men serve a mission, but it is their decision — not their parents. Having served a mission myself (and my husband has as well), I see all of the benefits of serving a mission. However, I was a convert to the church during the “Osmond” years of fame and I can definitely tell you that they did an incredible missionary effort without going on a mission. I was one of those converts who first heard about the LDS Church through my friends who were fans of the Osmonds. I converted to the church in 1977, served a mission, married in the temple, have five children (the oldest who has just recently completed his mission and others in the wings to go if they so desire), and am strong in the Church. I am so thankful that the Osmonds were such a good example of good Christian living that they helped in my conversion. However, I do know that many, many, many young girls would have opened their doors just because it was an Osmond at the door, so it is a good thing that they did not serve a “regular” mission.

    My final thought is — this is David Archuleta’s decision — not his parents, not ours. Why is this even an issue? Let him figure this out on his own. He has the power of personal revelation for his own life just as we all do — I would sincerely hope that no one second guesses my decisions in life.

  8. Ray on June 8, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I believe in exceptions.

    Also, other people’s personal choices, especially in situations like this that are nowhere close to cut and dried, are none of my business. They really aren’t any of my business regardless of complexity, but this case . . .

    Whatever is best for him and the Church, that is what he should do – and that is up to him and the Church to decide. It simply is none of my business.

  9. Ardis E. Parshall on June 8, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    How exactly would David Archuleta or anyone else “ask for an exception” to serving a mission? And why would anyone think the Church would act — even notice — his not going, if indeed he does not go? You make it sound as though a mission call is like a draft notice, that it comes whether you ask for it or not, and that if you don’t respond some kind of enforcers (home teachers, maybe?) show up to drag you off to MTC anyway.

    Whether he serves or not, whoever is advising him is banking on his going very big very soon and for a long time, because those advisers don’t otherwise have his best interests at heart. You wouldn’t expect them to support a mission call when they didn’t even support his finishing high school.

  10. Costanza on June 8, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Suppose he goes to someplace like Mongolia. How long would the media hound him there? If you choose not to go, you choose not to go. I have no problem with that. I don’t buy the arguments about him being too famous to go. He would rather stay and develop a very lucrative career in the same way that lots of other people stay home for a wide range of reasons.

  11. Kent Larsen on June 8, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Benjamin (3), isn’t American Idol broadcast throughout the world? How many places could Archuleta be sent where he wouldn’t be recognized?

  12. madhousewife on June 8, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I would not be able to pick David Archuleta out of a lineup, but I think I’d advise him to milk his singing career for the next year or so, earn as much money as he can (which he’d pay tithing on, of course, plus a generous fast offering) and then go on his mission. That will be the end of his singing career, of course, but when he comes back and gets married–assuming he’s invested wisely–he can put his wife through school, buy a house and have kids, and he can still do dinner theater or whatever he was eventually destined for. Win-win-win.

  13. Laurie White on June 8, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I absolutely agree with comment #8. It’s called “agency”.

  14. Rich JJ on June 8, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Are there examples of young LDS celebrities serving proselyting missions despite the “fame exception”? Weren’t there some star athletes that still went?

    How many more “exceptions” are there? Enough to set a precedent? I can only think of Donny and Steve Young.

    I doubt there are very many famous LDS youth, perhaps because fame often comes after some life accomplishment.

    By the word “exception”, I think of being spared the pressures or judgment of the community, since the church wouldn’t discipline non-missionaries. I loved my mission but it wasn’t the only fully acceptable service to the Lord. It’s sad when some are scandalized for not serving (especially since we’re often not in a position to judge others’ spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, or family struggles). Our own prophet did not serve as a 19-year-old; he came home from the Navy and went to the University of Utah a couple years later instead.

  15. Tim J on June 8, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    “Benjamin (3), isn’t American Idol broadcast throughout the world? How many places could Archuleta be sent where he wouldn’t be recognized?”

    Anywhere they don’t speak English? Central/South America, Asia, Eastern Europe, etc.

    And I don’t think it would distract too many missionaries. I don’t know too many teeanage young men who watch American Idol. Shawn Bradley (all 7-6 of him) would have been a bigger distraction for me.

  16. Tim J on June 8, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    “I can only think of Donny and Steve Young.”

    Steve Young wasn’t much of a celebrity at the age of 19. Not in the Mormon world or otherwise.

  17. Josh on June 8, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Does a mission have to be served in the same way for everyone? While he may be a distraction in the MTC, to his trainer, and he might fill up the ward’s monthly dinner calendar everywhere he serves, could he not serve for two years traveling the world as a fireside speaker? I think that would make news everywhere he went that the former rock star turned missionary shed his leather and spiky hair in order to proselyte full time for his church. He could sing a few hymns, tell his story, bear his testimony, etc.

    I remember reading about his Dad though and I wonder if he has anything to do with DA’s recent hesitation to serve.

    And I wonder how his career would go after being defined as the Mormon missionary.

  18. queuno on June 8, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    The problem with the celebrity Mormon is that his “fame” is never as big as he thinks it is (OK, that probably applies to all celebrities; methinks Derek Jeter would elicit a giant yawn from the residents of Southern Chile).

    David Archuleta’s “fame” isn’t a tenth of what Donny Osmond’s was, and there are lots of places where David Archuleta could go where the populace would give a giant shrug. (Just think of the goat farmers in Latin America who’d look at a surname like “Archuleta” and not give a second thought.)

    The risk is obviously personal — what’s better for Archuleta’s life and growth? At this point, I think there’s a fair chance that he ends up more like Marie than Donny…

  19. queuno on June 8, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    In terms of the impact on one’s career, how about movie stars that drop out of Hollywood (or else severely curtail their involvement) to go to college and then come back?

    Plenty of music stars go two years in between albums. I don’t see the risk.

  20. RT on June 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Some of the responses seem to be responding to arguments that the post never made.

    Of course it’s David’s decision–and not ours–to make. And of course he has the right to make the decision on his own.

    At the same time, however, the Church has issued a command that all worthy 19 year old men serve a mission. That command has been repeated so often by so many prophets and apostles that it’s hardly debatable that it exists.

    Given that, the issue of the post is pretty straightforward: should there be some fame exception to that commandment. And given that David is a famous, well-known latter-day saint who’s about to turn 19, that’s a legitimate question to ask.

    As to the suggestion that the rest of us shouldn’t have any opinions on it, I disagree. If Archie took up pot smoking, I suspect I’d have a lot of company in the “Archie shouldn’t smoke pot” camp. Unless, of course, you think there should be a fame exception to the word of wisdom. Which is precisely the question framed by the post.

  21. queuno on June 8, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I agree with Ardis’ perspective — it’s not like anyone in the Church Office Building is going to be particularly bothered if he doesn’t go on a mission. And his financial advisers probably don’t want him going on a mission.

    Should he remain part of the Mormon cult of personality if he doesn’t go, though? Can you still send him to a fireside touting his Mormon-ness?

    I grew up in NE Ohio, and we had a professional baseball player in our ward (the toast of the town). He’d been at BYU and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He didn’t even do firesides. His wife did one, though, and I remember thinking, “What’s this guy’s wife’s business telling me to go on a mission, when he couldn’t be bothered to go himself? It was cool to hear her stories about his being a professional baseball player … and being a Mormon, but the biggest thing I got out of it was that he couldn’t go to Church 8 months out of the year and that he had to be careful when people sprayed champagne around the locker room (not that *that* happened a lot in NE Ohio).

  22. Dennis on June 8, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Ardis (#9),

    Excellent point. Elder Oaks’ CES fireside on “dating versus hanging out” comes to mind.

    Forgive me for quoting so much, but I think it is very relevant to this discussion:

    Now, brothers and sisters, if you are troubled about something we have just said, please listen very carefully to what I will say now. Perhaps you are a young man feeling pressured by what I have said about the need to start a pattern of dating that can lead to marriage, or a young woman troubled by what we have said about needing to get on with your life.

    If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesn’t apply to you, please don’t write me a letter. Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to confirm that the things I have said just don’t apply to them in their special circumstance….

    As a General Authority, it is my responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment [to not kill] is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord….

    In what I have just said, I am simply teaching correct principles and inviting each one of you to act upon these principles by governing yourself.

  23. Raymond Takashi Swenson on June 8, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    More than whether he goes on a mission or not, the important thing for Brother Archuletta is that he not allow the music industry to suck up all his time and energy. Keeping his own soul on the path to exaltation means making sacrifices in terms of pacing the number of concerts and other engagements.

    What would be the most effective way he could bring souls to Christ? There is still a lot of the world that has distorted pictures of what Mormons believe and how we live, and those prejudices and misunderstandings stand in the way of the missionaries being able to get the ear of many people. If Brother Archuletta could map out a plan for using his celebrity to open the hearts of people toward the Church, he might be just as effective in extending salvation to others as I was with the eight people I baptized during two years in Japan. And yes, I personally witnessed a baptism of an investigator who came to church the first time because she heard the Osmonds were LDS.

  24. Susan on June 8, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Totally disagree with your post #20 (RT) about the “command” to serve a mission. There isn’t such a thing as a “command” to serve a mission — never has been. It is strongly recommended that they serve, though. But, I don’t recall anyone that I know of who didn’t go on a mission needing to request an “exception” from the Church on whether they go on a mission or not. Facts need to be told here and it is a FACT that it is not a commandment to go on a mission and a fact that you do not have to go on a mission to be in good standing in the Church.

  25. queuno on June 8, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    If Brother Archuletta could map out a plan for using his celebrity to open the hearts of people toward the Church, he might be just as effective in extending salvation to others as I was with the eight people I baptized during two years in Japan.

    It probably works better if Brother Archuleta would allow the Church’s Missionary Department to instruct him how they think he could use his talents, rather than deciding on his own how he best serves the Church.

  26. queuno on June 8, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    There isn’t such a thing as a “command” to serve a mission — never has been.

    There are commandments (small c) and then there are Commandments (big C). Young men and missions are basically a small c, and it has been this way for 30-40 years (exceptions granted in the post-raising the bar era for physical/mental limitations, or course).

    Yes, you can be a good Mormon without serving a mission. But even the non-Mormon press will start asking questions…

  27. Dennis on June 8, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    One thing I just noticed. Donny Osmond’s statement should not be interpreted to imply an exemption from the Church. Saying that “the leaders of the church” agreed that he could “do a lot of good” by continuing his career is hardly saying that he was exempted from a mission. Of course he could do a lot of good home from a mission. So could anyone.

    Still, I wonder what he means when he says “the leaders of the church.” The prophet and apostles? A few general authorities? Or his bishop and stake president?

  28. Susan on June 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Let them ask, queno — it isn’t anyone’s business and that is the main point that I originally tried to make. I still stand by my post that it isn’t a commandment (little “c” or not).

  29. Kent Larsen on June 8, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Ardis (9) and others in 21 & 22:
    I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that there is some process for “asking for an exception,” and I probably could have worded the post better.

    However, I do suspect that in the case of someone like Donny Osmond (to give the better example), once an application has been submitted, or a willingness to serve indicated, the Church certainly does need to decide how to handle that call. I suspect in both Osmond and Archuleta’s case the willingness to serve is there.

    But in the case of Osmond, the Church chose not to issue the call (I believe) because of what it might have meant for whereever he served. I’m NOT suggesting as some seem to think that other missionaries would be too distracted (they might be to some degree, but with time I think most would get over it). I DO think that in Osmond’s case, the public he, as a missionary, would try to reach, would be very distracted. How would you know that the people he was trying to teach were interested in the gospel, instead of his fame?

    If Archuleta hasn’t indicated or doesn’t indicate to his Bishop that he is willing to serve, I am very disappointed in him, just as I would be if I learned that Donny Osmond never indicated that he was willing to serve.

    But, I won’t be surprised if the Church makes an exception somehow in how Archuleta serves, just as it did in Donny Osmond’s case.

    Of course, I also won’t be surprised if the Church doesn’t make an exception in Archuleta’s case, because he doesn’t have the fame that Osmond had.

  30. Dennis on June 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Kent (#29),

    I really am ignorant of this, but I can’t help but be skeptical of your claim that Osmond applied to serve but the church chose not to issue the call. Sounds like an urban legend to me.

    Can you provide some evidence of this claim?

  31. John Mansfield on June 8, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    This is one case where a recent prophet actually did pronounce a “thus saith the Lord”-type injunction.

    As a young man I felt the spirit of that hymn as I stood in the Wandsworth chapel in south London, listening to President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) speak. I was privileged to be an usher and was assigned to stand by the chapel door nearest the pulpit. There I heard President Kimball say in his distinctive voice: “I am often asked, ‘Should every young man serve a mission?’ The Lord has given the answer; it is ‘Yes!’ ”

    Elder David S. Baxter, Ensign, September 2005

  32. Bookslinger on June 8, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I hope that he doesn’t go on a full-time proselyting mission.

    Fame, or career or success should have nothing to do with it.

    The point is notoriety. He has notoriety, and will have for many years, regardless of his career path.

    One missionary having so much notoriety above and beyond the other missionaries is just going to cause problems and interfere with proselyting.

    And yes, it will happen even if he gets sent to Mongolia. There’s nowhere he can go to escape it, if for no other reason than the U.S. press will follow him.

    In addition to the stalwart members such as Susan, the fame of the Osmonds brought in a lot of other members who never attained their own testimony. I used to home-teach an inactive sister who accused the church of inappropriately using the Osmonds as lures or bait.

    In South America, we used to have a name for teenage girls who joined the church merely because the blue-eyed North American elders were cute: “dollies”. Granted, some of them did go on to get a testimony of the restored gospel.

    And for a young lady who does receive a testimony, there’s no harm in them thinking “yes, the missionaries were still cute”. I knew a very spiritual and productive sister missionary who had a testimony when she joined the church, who also said that.

    But do we really want people joining for the sole reason that the missionaries teaching them are cute/famous ?

    Wouldn’t this come under a heading similar to baseball baptisms?

  33. RT on June 8, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    As a starting point:

    President Benson, April 1986 conference: “The world needs the gospel, and we are charged by command of the Lord and through our Abrahamic lineage to spread it. Every young man in this Church should be qualified for a mission and then should go.”

    President Hinckley, June 2004 Worldwide Training: “We need more missionaries. The message to raise the bar on missionary qualifications was not a signal to send fewer missionaries but … a call for parents and leaders to work with young men earlier to better prepare them for missionary service and to keep them worthy of such service. All young men who are worthy and who are physically and emotionally able should prepare to serve in this most important work.”

  34. Susan on June 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    #33 (RT), very good — Thank you for the clarification. I see that it is more of a command than I remembered it to be. Thank you for correcting me.

    On the other subject, again I say — is this our business whether he goes or not? Bless his heart, let him make that decision without judgment from any of us.

  35. Bruce Christensen on June 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    No one in the First Presidency served a full time mission. Neither did Elder Oaks nor Elder Nelsen. What does this say about exceptions?

  36. RT on June 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Bruce:

    There clearly are exceptions, including those commonly given for health reasons.

    The issue isn’t whether there are any exceptions, the issue is whether there is/should be a fame exception.

    And as for the FP’s exceptions, President Monson and Eyring didn’t serve because they were of age in a time of war and there were certain restrictions in place. Being a pop star hardly seems comparable.

    I can’t remember offhand what President Uchtdorff’s situation was when he came of age.

  37. Dennis on June 8, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    #31 and 33:

    I don’t see how these quotes are commands. They are “should” statements, not “shall” statements. Even “should” statements from the prophet or the Lord Himself are different than commands. I don’t mean to denigrate these statements, just saying they are not commands. Clearly there is a difference from “Repent and be baptized.”

  38. Bruce on June 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    1. Athletes, musicians, actors … aren’t these special people who live by different rules than the rest of us?
    2. What is the current percentage of LDS young people who go on missions? I’ve heard it is suprisingly low.

  39. aloysiusmiller on June 8, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I’m in moderation so I will just say it. Who’s business is this anyway but his? Perhaps he is not going because he has already made decisions that preclude his going. What would anyone of us know.

  40. Alison Moore Smith on June 8, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    My dad served a three-years mission to Holland, beginning in 1948. None of his brothers served. For most of my life, the “command” to serve a mission has been pretty straight-forward, but that hasn’t always been the case. Given that the GAs are all still older than I am, I’m guessing they may all have become “of age” before the church was encouraging missions so strongly.

    Which of our current 3 and 12 did serve?

    As for Archuletta, my husband and I were eating at Jim’s Diner in Sandy, Utah, on Friday night. Music was pouring through the open doors. Archie was practicing next door at the Rio Tinto stadium for Saturday’s performance. Great dinner music that. I called home and held the phone up for one of my daughters.

    I think he’s a great kid with a great voice. And I sincerely hope he’ll serve a mission.

  41. Tim J on June 8, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    “No one in the First Presidency served a full time mission. Neither did Elder Oaks nor Elder Nelsen. What does this say about exceptions?”

    There were exceptions forced upon the Church during times of war.

    Bookslinger, I beg to differ about the notoriety. 19 year-old boys couldn’t care less about what singing competition he was a part of. I again give the example of SHawn Bradley. All-American center at BYU who declared for the NBA draft while still on his mission.

  42. Susan on June 8, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Interesting discussion here. What is apparent to me is that few if any of you are familiar with Archuleta and his career and fanbase. He has already touched countless hearts, and indirectly educated them on the LDS. I’ve read many discussions by fans of his who’ve had their eyes opened to the religion, some previously not even realizing it is a Christian religion. Numerous, numerous young people had thought of it as a cult. I truly believe he is already serving a mission, and, God willing, he will continue to do so with a long career.

  43. Susan on June 8, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Just to clarify, #41 is not the same Susan as me — who wrote the earlier posts.

  44. Susan on June 8, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Neither of the previous Susans are me either.

  45. Ray on June 8, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    I’m not Susan either – in case anyone wondered.

    The question still is none of my business. Worthy members who can’t serve for various reasons still can be given non-full-time missionary service assignments in lieu of that full-time service. There are legitimate options open to Brother Archuleta – and whatever he chooses, I hope the harshest criticism he receives won’t be from members of his own Church. That really would be a shame.

  46. ronito on June 8, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Seems to me, it’s up to Archie here and the rest of us would do well to butt out.

  47. DavidH on June 8, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    President Kimball pushed the mission obligation of young men probably harder than any predecessor, and probably harder than most of his successors. He put missions for males on the same level as church attendance and tithing.

    “Certainly every male member of the Church should fill a mission, like he should pay his tithing, like he should attend his meetings, like he should keep his life clean and free from the ugliness of the world and plan a celestial marriage in the temple of the Lord.

    “While there is no compulsion for him to do any of these things, he should do them for his own good.”

    Spencer W. Kimball, “President Kimball Speaks Out on Being a Missionary,” New Era, May 1981, 46

    And unfortunate drawback is that many men who, for whatever reason, did not serve, often feel diminished within our church culture.

    An interesting side note–while President Kimball put serving a mission on the same level of expectation as tithing and attending meetings and keeping oneself clean from the ugliness of the world–they really are not. Nontithe paying, non-meeting attendance, and non moral worthiness disqualify one for a time from the temple or Church callings. But not serving a mission does not disqualify one from the temple or Church callings.

    I am all for young men serving missions. I think it ought to be strongly encouraged. But I do not think it should be such a strong obligation, cultural or otherwise, that those who choose not to serve are devalued in any way.

    While missions continue to be emphasized for young men, I think there is more sensitivity to individual circumstance and agency now than during some earlier times. I think that is a positive thing.

  48. Bridget Jack Meyers on June 8, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    I was going to say that I think it would be a great idea for David Archuleta to serve a mission, he can come right on over to my place and teach me the gospel, but truth be told, he really doesn’t do it for me. I like my men to look a little older.

    Is Paul Walker available?

    In seriousness though, is it really that big of a deal for a young man to not serve a mission? Is the social and cultural stigma that bad? This is my honest non-member ignorance talking here. I did know one man at BYU who didn’t go on a mission; he was 19 and he fell in love with a fellow student and decided it was God’s will for him to get married right away instead. They got married in the temple, so not serving a mission couldn’t have been that much of a sin.

    Can Archuleta really not just say, “I don’t feel like a mission is in God’s will for me right now”? Does he really have to get the FP’s okay for that to be okay? Who’s stopping him?

  49. RT on June 8, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    President Benson, April 1986 conference:

    May I now speak with you about missionary service in the kingdom. I feel very deeply about this. I pray that you will understand the yearnings of my heart. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “After all that has been said, [our] greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.”

    The Lord wants every young man to serve a full-time mission. . . . Not only should a mission be regarded as a priesthood duty, but every young man should look forward to this experience with great joy and anticipation. What a privilege—what a sacred privilege—to serve the Lord full time for two years with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.

    President Hinckley, Priesthood Session, October 1997:

    (Speaking to the young men):

    You have missions to perform. Each of you should plan for missionary service. You may have some doubts. You may have some fears. Face your doubts and your fears with faith. Prepare yourselves to go. You have not only the opportunity; you have the responsibility. The Lord has blessed and favored you in a remarkable and wonderful way. Is it too much to ask that you give two years totally immersed in His service? . . .

    I say what has been said before, that missionary work is essentially a priesthood responsibility. As such, our young men must carry the major burden. This is their responsibility and their obligation.

  50. RT on June 8, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    As my previous posts make clear, I think there is a prophetic command for all young men to go. I am intrigued by the post’s idea of a “fame exception,” but I’m just not seeing how it’s consistent with church teachings.

    That said, I’m NOT suggesting that we should send our “harshest criticism” toward him if he doesn’t go. Unless called to do so, I don’t think we should send our “harshest criticisms” toward anyone, regardless of what they do or don’t do. That isn’t productive, and it isn’t consistent with the gospel of Christ.

    But I don’t think this means that the topic is off limits. Like it or not, he is a public figure. As such, our youth will not only be paying attention to what he does, but also to what we say about it when it comes up. Put simply, if he doesn’t go, they’ll notice–and that will have an impact on how they see the call to serve. And if we then refuse to say that he should have gone, they’ll notice that, too–and that will also have an impact on how they see the call to serve.

    Unfair? Sure. But since when does fame create a set of fair consequences?

  51. ronito on June 8, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    So then RT, I guess we’ll be favored to a “How much does Archuleta pay in fast offering?” thread?

    Seriously, if someone is going to bail on a mission because Archie didn’t go, let me let you in on a little secret, they weren’t going to go anyway. Further how does that stand up to President Hunter?

    Again, I say we’d all do better by butting out.

  52. scott on June 8, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I tend to agree with #8, that it’s not really any of our business.

    It’s really a decision that each young man or young woman makes for themselves and they each get to live with the consequences.

    While I believe that a mission is one of the best (if not the best) things that a young person can do with their life at that age, I believe that there has been such an emphasis on missions such that many get hung up on the fact that certain people don’t go.

    There will be circumstances that preclude people from going on missions and we should be able to deal with it and let them get past it too. These reasons might include health, disability, sin, career, etc. We don’t have to agree with peoples’ decisions or even understand why they don’t go, but we should respect their agency and realize that they may have very good reasons for not going.

    I don’t know the decision I would make if I were David Archuleta, but I do know that sacrifice brings blessings. It’s a tough call for a young man that seems to have a promising music career.

  53. Bookslinger on June 8, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Tim J: I didn’t mean to imply that notoriety would influence the other missionaries. I meant notoriety among the populace where they serve, and back home, that would cause the press to focus on that missionary due to his notoriety, and create public focus on the celebrity status or notoriety of the missionary in question. Teaching people in their homes would tend to become meaningless in a gospel context, because the family/individual would be focused on the celebrity/notoriety of an Archuleta or an Osmond. If the local populace didn’t already know of Archuleta through AI, the local media would inform them. And if the local media didn’t already know, the US media who would trail Archuleta would tip them off.

    Maybe Archuleta could do a mission under an assumed name. But eventually word would leak out from his friends/family and eventually make its way to the media. So I don’t think that would work either.

    In Donny Osmond’s case, we have no idea how far up the leadership his consultations about mission service went. We can safely assume his bishop and his stake president counseled him. But I’d be willing to bet that no mission president would have wanted him in his mission as a full-time missionary, because no matter what city he was in, thousands of screaming teenaged girls would have mobbed him at every opportunity.

    MP’s have enough problems with teenage and 20-something girls throwing themselves at missionaries’ feet, and trying to seduce them.

    The Susans who commented have it right. David A and Donny O have done fine, and will continue to be great ambassadors for the church. And if people want to investigate because of them, that’s fine too. (There’s no wrong reason to investigate.) But I would hope that at the end of the missionary lessons, a person’s decision to get baptized would still be for the right reasons. The full-time missionaries are still supposed to be the gate-keepers (so to speak), teaching all who are willing to listen, but baptizing only those who accept the teachings as true, and are willing to make the necessary committments. Investigate for any reason, but join for the right ones.

    Joining the church soley because it’s Archuleta’s or Osmond’s church would be just as wrong as joining the church so you can play baseball or soccer with the Americans. And if either of them had gone on a full-time proselyting mission, that’s what likely would have happened.

  54. Mary on June 8, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Interesting discussions. I would like to add a little food for thought.

    For one, how and what David decides is between him and his priesthood leaders and Heavenly Father.

    You may be interested to know that David Archuleta has always said he wants to go on a mission. And his friends have said that they hope he can go like he wants to.

    Sometimes people can’t go when they are 19. I have a nephew who went on a mission when he was a little older than 19 (actually he was 22) and he was a great leader. It took him that long to be ready. It takes some people longer to be ready. For many reasons. Some people serve their first missions when they are couples. Some serve service missions because they still need to live at home. I helped stock cans with a young man at the Bishop’s Storehouse who needed to serve a mission from home. It’s not our place to judge when or even how someone serves. Aren’t we to all to be missionaries every day?

    You might want to watch some fan videos to educate yourself on how popular he is. I will tell you right now, he could not serve in the Phillipines, Malaysia, or many other places in Asia. He is followed everywhere. He has fans all over the world. Could they find a place to have him serve where he isn’t very known? Probably. And I’m sure if they all decide that’s how he should serve a mission -in the traditional fashion – that they will have to find somewhere out of the way.

    But I will tell you this, he is already serving a mission. He is teaching charity and love. He does not criticize, judge or say an unkind word about other people. Those who interview him try to make him mad or trip him up and he does not succomb. He is truly a wonderful example of a disciple of Christ, and the exciting thing is, that his great example is played over and over on youtube and on the radio channels and on t.v. for thousands, if not millions to see. And then they wonder why he glows, and how he is so nice, and they want to know all about him and about the Church that he belongs to. And they want to know what they are feeling when they hear him sing “Be Still My Soul.” And they love to know that he reads his scriptures every day. And during American Idol, he took time to listen to conference that Sunday. And whenever he can he goes to church. And to the temple. And when he can he gives firesides. People say they appreciate him because he lives the standards he has been taught and strives to live up to his beliefs to the best of his ability, being an example of the Church without being preachy or overbearing.

    David’s father is supportive of whatever David decides to do. All the rumors were false.

    And…He has met with President Monson on more than one occasion.

    Sounds to me like he’s in touch with his priesthood leaders and he’s doing a pretty good job of understanding what’s most important in life. As one of his closest friends said, God is number one in David’s life. I personally will trust that he will follow what Heavenly Father wants him to do. I am old and a little wise and slower to judge and quicker to love than I was 20 years ago.

  55. Tim J on June 8, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    Bookslinger, the press would only give it passing notice. It’s been years since we’ve heard about those that were American Idol runners-up. Seriously, what have you heard from people like Blake Lewis, Bo Bice, Diana DeGarmo, etc.? I don’t think the AMerican public would care all that much if Archuleta decided to serve his Church in a strange land somewhere.

    “In seriousness though, is it really that big of a deal for a young man to not serve a mission? Is the social and cultural stigma that bad?”

    It’s not considered a sin to not serve a mission so Temple Marriage is certainly not out of the question. There is definitely social pressure to serve a mission but I think that’s a good thing as long as it’s not overboard. It’s much like the expectation of a child to go to college after high school. The youth of the Church are often asked about where they’d like to go on their mission, etc. growing up. Much like HS seniors are asked where they are going to college.

    Now the Church has done some things to help ease the pressure (eliminating grandiose Mission farewells and open houses for example), but there’s only so much that can be done.

  56. Tim J on June 8, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I should also add to the response to Jack’s question that it’s a pretty bad thing socially to be a 20-year old male on the campus of BYU.

  57. Bridget Jack Meyers on June 9, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Thanks for answering my questions, Tim. For the record I wasn’t really asking whether or not the church teaches that every man should go; I already know that. I’m just curious what happens when you don’t. Do you really spend the rest of your life with people looking down on you because you didn’t?

    The church also teaches that every member should get married in the temple, and my husband married me. He lived.

    I probably shouldn’t drag up family dirt here, but here goes: one of my LDS relatives told me when he was a teenager that he had doubts about the church. I was really surprised when he turned 19 and his parents announced that he’d been called to serve a mission to Thailand. Alarm bells kind of went off in my head. His parents are exactly the sort to try to push you into doing something you don’t want to do.

    He went through the temple and hated it, but they sent him off to the MTC anyways. He spent a few days at the MTC then ditched it. Got on a plane to Japan and hasn’t been back to the states since. I don’t know how he feels about the church now, but he certainly would have done much better if everyone had backed off and let him figure things out at his own pace instead of pushing him to serve a mission ASAP.

    My point? I understand that prophets have commanded all LDS young men to serve missions, but I find it really hard to believe that there are no exceptions.

    If I were LDS, I would tell David Archuleta to do what he feels God wants him to do and let other people’s opinion of his choice be damned.

  58. RT on June 9, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Ronito: If the church leaders had issued a very specific directive saying that “all members should pay (x) in fast offering,” and then a famous mormon came out publicly and said “well, that amount just doesn’t work in my situation, so I’ll pay something differrent”…then yes, I think we would be on firm ground saying that is a mistake.

    To be clear: I’m not advocating that anybody judge him on any grand level for this. Judgment is a big concept with lots of layers to it. In general, I don’t think a single decision can tell you much about someone’s character. It’s usually just that–a single decision. There is obviously so much more to a person than that.

    But that’s not the kind of judgment that this post was about. The post didn’t ask whether this decision makes him a good person or not. It couldn’t have asked that–none of us have any way of knowing. Rather, the post asked the much more specific question of whether the commandment to go on a mission still applies to famous people. And I think it does.

    Put it this way, if a Mormon athlete came out and said “You know, that 10% tithing thing–that applies to other people. But I make sooo much money. It’s just not fair for me to have to pay that much…” We’d all legitimately say that that is the wrong decision.

    Or if a Mormon CEO came out and said “You know, here’s the list of callings that I’ll accept. But anything below this line–it would be a distraction for me to serve, and it’s not worth my time.” We’d all legitimately say that this is the wrong decision.

    That’s the question of the post, whether the call to serve is similarly specific, and whether fame is a legitimate reason to ignore that commandment.

    I suppose the problem is that there was a name attached–David Archuleta. But this question here isn’t really about him as a specific person. From all accounts, he’s a good kid, and will still be a good kid, regardless of what he does with this.

    The question about famous mormons and potential missionary service is much broader than him, though. There’s a lot of people who fit this boat. And even if they don’t, there’s a lot of people who think they do, and that’s why this should be an interesting discussion topic. It’s a legitimate question to ask, and answering it doesn’t require us to make any sort of unrighteous judgment.

  59. jjohnsen on June 9, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I wish I would have pursued my dream of being a professional video gamer instead of going on a mission. Think of all the nerds I could have converted just by fighting against them in arcades around the country? I had the top score on the Marvel vs. Capcom machine at Cherry Hill you know.

    IF he wasn’t going to go, he shouldn’t have talked about it. But don’t act like signing bad pop is in any way serving a mission.

  60. Wilfried on June 9, 2009 at 8:32 am

    1) Question from Europe: who is Archuleta?
    2) Question from church: is is not indecent to discuss publicly what is a private matter?

  61. RT on June 9, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Wilfried: Sure, it is. So let’s take his name out of it, put it in the abstract, and carry on. There’s a lot of interesting stuff to talk about here.

    This is what I’m wondering: is it a fame exception, or a success exception?

    If it’s fame exception,

    (1) why wouldn’t a person’s fame be an asset in the mission field? In other words, if the threshold, practical goal is to get people to listen to our message, why wouldn’t a built-in connection/interest point be a good thing?

    And (2) how famous do you have to be before the exception kicks in?

    If it’s a success exception:

    (1) is it just entertainment, or do academics count as well? I had friends who gave up very prestigious academic opportunites to serve a mission. Should those opportunities have fit the rule as well?

    And (2) does prospective success count as well? What about minor league baseball players who are projected to be stars. Not famous yet, not successful yet, but certainly on the cusp. Do they fit the exception?

  62. bbell on June 9, 2009 at 8:56 am

    I do not have much to add except we as members tend to be really hard on celebrities that are LDS. We should back of on the expectations. They will fall short just like the rest of us. Unfort. for them they will fall short of LDS standards on a public platform. In the end HF will treat the celebrity and the regular person the same on judgement day.

    Paul Walker was raised LDS. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Walker

  63. Porter Rockwell on June 9, 2009 at 9:00 am

    My Thoughts:
    1)As far as example, the most important element of him serving a mission would be an example to other young LDS men, him serving, and putting his career on temporary hold, would drive home the importance of serving, no matter what else you think you got going on that is “more important”.

    2) The church is in a very different place (public perception-wise) today than the 30 or so years ago when Brother Osmond didn’t go. Then we were not well known to the general population, now we do not really have that problem, so it is comparing apples to oranges.

    3) Celebrity of the Osmonds is a double edged sword in my opinion, I think pretty much anyone pragmatic soul would agree Marie’s adult life has been a trainwreck, has her notariety helped, or hurt us (my opinion- it has not helped)

    4) The logistics of him serving a mission effectively could easily be worked out with a little creativity. Do not blame logistics if he does not serve.

  64. Tiffany on June 9, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Personally, I don’t buy the idea that someone’s career can be a mission and therefore they are exempt from the call to serve as a missionary. Granted, I know people who joined the church because of high-profile members. But i don’t think that a mission is 100% about preaching the gospel and converting people. I think there is a large element of sacrificing our current dreams, desires or even ambitions to serve the Lord.
    But since I’m not Archuleta, or his bishop or Stake president, I don’t know. It just seems like a cop-out to me to use the career as an excuse not to go.

  65. Tiffany on June 9, 2009 at 9:23 am

    To add to my comment, I do want to say that I do think there are exceptions: health conditions are a big one in my book. I know many great young men who haven’t served missions for various reasons. I still like and respect them. It isn’t up to me to judge their service to the Lord or their standing in the church.
    However, to use one’s career as the excuse for not working to serve a mission, well, it seems selfish.

  66. sam on June 9, 2009 at 9:29 am

    DA is famous for a mediocre musical ability. The industry made him and the industry will discard him when the time comes. Can anybody tell me where Clay Aiken went? Speaking of Aiken, I suspect it won’t be long before DA makes the same announcement Aiken did a few months ago. No one wants to talk about this, but come on folks!

    DA needs to get his rear out on a mission. He may be enjoying a certain level of popularity now, but this ain’t gonna last.

    Think of other musicians who have had staying power: Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler, etc…. When Archeluta even begins to appear as though he could stand in that company, then he can consider skipping the missionary gig.

  67. Dennis on June 9, 2009 at 9:42 am

    There still are many people saying that there is a “command” to serve a mission. I still maintain, in light of all the quotes that have been offered, that this claim is not true. Can someone who disagrees with me explain why they think it is a command, in light of my comment #37? I’m not looking for “it seems to be that way,” but actual evidence. Let’s address this issue, rather than continuing to uncritically assert that it is a command.

    Porter Rockwell (#62):

    The logistics of him serving a mission effectively could easily be worked out with a little creativity. Do not blame logistics if he does not serve.

    This is an excellent point. Most missions have several office elders who do not proselyte or proselyte only part-time. There are also missionaries who serve to indigenous groups in Central and South America. I guarantee some of these groups now little if anything about Archuleta, nor will they be starstruck upon finding out about him.

    Kent,

    I’m still waiting for you (or anyone else) to verify whether the Church actually declined to issue Osmond a mission call (see comment #30).

  68. RT on June 9, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Dennis:

    I thought my second batch of quotes solved that problem. When President Benson said that “The Lord wants every young man to serve a full-time mission” that “a mission be regarded as a priesthood duty,” and President Hinckley said that young men “have the responsibility” to go…what else do you want them to have said?

  69. Mary on June 9, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Rameumptom or Pool of Bethesda?
    Where would you rather hang out? What kind of gathering spot has this article built? What is a Zion Society response to the questions presented?

    Perhaps a better article would be something along the lines of – what are all the ways we can see that God is using people and their talents to bless His children? And then maybe we should forget about what our neighbor is doing and get on our own knees and find out what He wants us to do with our own set of talents.

  70. Wilfried on June 9, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Be called on a talent mission within an organized Mission or even be called to travel from Mission to Mission as a talent missionary… Use your talent as musician, athlete, dancer to the full extent to spread the name of the Church and get people interested in the gospel. The idea has floated around, but does not seem to have been implemented in the formal framework of a mission. Indeed, it would imply many challenges: how to cope with success, media, norms, rules, temptations? Who would be called and why not this one?

    Some mission presidents have tried it many years ago, assigning missionaries to such project. In Belgium there was the Mormon missionary basketball team (which went straight to the national championships), in Holland there was the Mormon Four, four Elders who formed a barbershop quartet of professional level (with jacket and all). Hugely successful and brought in quite a few converts who remained strong members. I presume now prohibited.

  71. GEJ on June 9, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Provided David maintains a positive image the church “wins” whether he goes or not. During the wars the military found ways to movie stars to serve productively. Should he choose to serve a mission I think the church could think outside the box and find ways for him to serve effectively with or without exploiting his celebrity status.

  72. Mary on June 9, 2009 at 10:11 am

    David is singing for this cause today at the State Dept: http://www.cun2009.org

    It’s not about the money. It’s about what good he can do with his talent.

    He just turned 18 in December. He’s done more good in the last year than anyone I know of. His music has literally saved lives. How wonderful it must be to know that the Lord has used you to bless some of His children. And yet he remains humble and knows where the gift comes from. It’s amazing to watch.

  73. John Mansfield on June 9, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I’ve never seen this Archuleta fellow, but I more interesting case to me was Peter Vidmar. If he had served a mission as a young man, it is doubtful he would have accomplished his outstanding performance at the ’84 LA Games. And without those gold medals, he wouldn’t today be “one if the top 10 corporate speakers in America.” No one would suggest that Brother Vidmar was on a special gymnastics mission. but the Church still thought that he was a sufficiently exemplary Latter-day Saint that he was invited to speak to the young men in the General Priesthood Meeting.

    Regarding Donny Osmond, I have a memory of watching him and his sister being interviewed by Barbara Walters back around 1978. Paul H. Dunn was also present with them, and in the interview, the mission question came up, and Donny said something about Church leaders deciding it would be best for the Church to keep doing what he was doing. This is a vague memory from 30 years ago, so don’t hang your hat on it, but 1) it looks like at least Elder Dunn was in on that decision, and 2) the Osmonds represented Mormonism to the world so explicitly that it made sense to Barbara Walters to include Elder Dunn in the interview.

    Lastly, LaVell Edwards and his wife served in a New York City mission, but during that time they gave a fireside in my stake in Michigan. I suppose they spent most of their mission going around the country doing that.

  74. John Mansfield on June 9, 2009 at 10:57 am

    If you follow that General Priesthood Meeting link, you will notice a funny thing. Brother Vidmar’s talk was between “Preparing Yourselves for Missionary Service” by Elder Benson and “Prepare to Serve” by Elder Ballard.

  75. RT on June 9, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Ok, that is funny. And that is a very interesting comparison.

  76. Dennis on June 9, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    RT (#67)

    Not commands. Let’s take a look.

    Benson: The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “After all that has been said, [our] greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.”

    The duty here is clearly a collective one. Says nothing about each man being commanded to serve a mission. Big difference. But, yes, the Lord HAS commanded the leaders of the Church to coordinate the preaching of the gospel to all nations.

    Benson: The Lord wants every young man to serve a full-time mission.

    Again, no command here. I want you to agree with me on this, but I’m not commanding you to. I want my baby daughter to take a nap right now, but I’m not commanding her to. Certainly, God wants many things of us that don’t fall into the realm of “command.”

    Hinckley: You have missions to perform.

    Simply general rhetoric. He could easily say, “You have college educations to prepare for,” without implying that every young man is commanded to have a college education.

    Hinckley: Each of you should plan for missionary service.

    “Should” statement. Were this a command, he might have said, “Thus saith the Lord to all worthy young men of age. You are hereby commanded to serve a full-time mission.” I am not making a strawman argument here. The Lord uses language like this for many things. For example,

    I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life. (Alma 5:62)

    The language of the Brethren to serve a mission is probably more than an invitation, but it is not clearly a command. We would better categorize it as a “very strong recommendation and what the Lord, generally speaking, wants of you.”

    Hinckley: Prepare yourselves to go. You have not only the opportunity; you have the responsibility. The Lord has blessed and favored you in a remarkable and wonderful way. Is it too much to ask that you give two years totally immersed in His service? . . .

    An encouraging exhortation, but not clearly a command. You might say the “you have the responsibility” implies a command, but in the absence of other evidence, this is a pretty weak limb to make your case on. Moreover, I think the “you” is more likely to be collective anyway.

    Regardless, the answer to this question is probably not going to be resolved by digging up some prophetic quote somewhere. There clearly is not a consistency of command language (I have argued), but more importantly, those who do not serve missions are simply not regarded as commandment violators before the Church. If they did drugs or committed sexual sin, this would not be the case. Moreover, if they did not pay their tithing or any number of other problems, they could not go to the temple. Not the case for not serving a mission.

  77. Bubba on June 9, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    And there are many that go only to be sent back home for various reasons; others return as if from a 2 year vacation, go inactive and may even join the throngs of those who have come to know that the Church (doctrines, history and all) is not what they were teaching.

    Serving a mission is a personal choice. Most who choose to go and faithfully serve do it simply because they have a strong desire to do so.

  78. Bookslinger on June 9, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Tim J: excellent point in #54 about fame being a fleeting thing. He will eventually fade from media focus. But the crucial thing is how his fans around the world would look upon him as a full-time missionary. Yeah, he won’t be in the US media much longer, but will his _international_ legions of teenage fans let him work in a foreign mission? That’s going to last a bit longer. Perhaps even until he reaches the upper missionary age limit (25).

    His international fan base is so huge, that even as it tapers off it’s still going to be big enough to cause potential problems over the next few years if he does go on a regular mission.

    And if he goes to country X, the TV stations and newspapers in country X are going to do stories about him (in order to sell more newspapers and boost ratings), thereby fueling continued interest there.

    If he wants to serve a 2 year mission, I’m sure the church could come up with something, but I seriously doubt it would be a normal two-year proselyting mission. I agree with those who think he’s doing fine as it is now. I don’t watch AI, and haven’t followed DA, I’m just going by what some have commented here, but it sounds like he’s being a good ambassador right now.

  79. Dennis on June 9, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Porter Rockwell,

    I’m sorry you’ve chosen to make a demon out of me. I’m sure you feel like you have good reasons for doing so, but I think if you knew me better you wouldn’t have said what you said. I did serve an honorable full-time mission and it looks like I feel the same way about my mission as you do about yours. (Go ahead and think I am lying if you want — if so, I’ve also been lying on my blog. I mention my mission there a few times.)

    We are clearly talking past each other. Let me clarify that I am not trying to change the fact that the Lord desires every worthy young man to serve a mission. When did I say or even imply otherwise? Nor did I ever try to “soften a clear, bright line for expectation.” How did I do this? All I said is that it is not clearly a commandment–a claim which you apparently did not even argue against in your last post. So what exactly are we arguing about? Apparently, we’re arguing about me and my motives. You’ve chosen to turn me into a bad guy in a way that, in my opinion, is completely unjustified. As for me, I have no opinions about you or your motives.

    I will simply invite you to read or review the user policies of this forum. If you think that people “ask for” ad hominem attacks, then may I suggest that you are wrong. There is no problem on this forum, however, with merely taking a controversial position.

    But I don’t even think my position is very controversial. At least a half dozen people–who I assume to be good members of the Church–have basically said the same thing.

    Disagree with my position if you wish, but please be wary about personal judgments in the future.

  80. Kent Larsen on June 9, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    For the record, I’ve removed a few comments that were unproductive and a little out-of-line, and also a bit off on a tangent. If those whose comments were removed would like to make their points again, without making personal attacks, they are welcome to.

  81. Kent Larsen on June 9, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I’m a little surprised that anyone would think that this post was intended to be critical of Archuleta or condemning of those who choose not to serve an LDS mission. Those were and are quite far from my mind. The reason that I compared Archuleta to Osmond is that both seem quite willing to follow counsel and serve.

    In Osmond’s case it was (I thought) quite well known that Donny had discussed what to do with local leaders and General Authorities, although I don’t have access to any documentation or references to documentation on the subject. I think the link to the page on Donny.com has as much information as I have on the subject, and that is in Donny’s own words. I do know that Elder Paul Dunn was very close to the family while they were at the height of their popularity, and I believe he would have been consulted along with local leaders about all these matters.

    As others here have stated, Archuleta has indicated in the past that he wants to serve a mission. And part of me wonders if his remark last week might mean that he has already discussed the issue with some of the brethren. I do remember a news item within the last few months about Archuleta visiting Pres. Monson and others in the Church Office Building, so I suppose that it is even possible that he discussed the issue at that point.

    Is this any of our business? What Archuleta decides to do probably isn’t our business. But my assumption has always been that Archuleta will make himself available (even if he never formally fills out an application). What interests me, and what I think might be worth a little attention is how the Church reacts.

    As I tried to hint at in the post, the Church’s decision does kind of mark the boundaries for this whole issue of fame or notoriety (and I agree that from the Church’s standpoint, its mostly an issue of notoriety — how much the prospective missionary is known and how that might effect that missionary, the other missionaries in the mission, and any potential converts or those being taught). To me, since Archuleta is much earlier in his career/fame than Osmond and isn’t as well known and since the fan reaction to him isn’t as extreme as it was for Osmond in the early 1970s, I don’t expect an exception from the Church (assuming he indicates that he is willing to serve). But, I admit that I’m not very well versed in his career, and I don’t follow American Idol.

    If the Church does tell him to not bother putting in an application, then it will be, I think, a bit of an expansion of when notoriety is seen as a reason for not serving a mission.

    FWIW, Archuleta turns 19 in December, so the earliest he could put his papers in is sometime in September.

  82. It's Not Me on June 9, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    I’m a little confused by the “we should just butt out” comments. Does anybody here actually believe that David Archuleta is reading this blog?

  83. It's Not Me on June 9, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    This argument about whether serving a mission is a command or an invitation reminds me of a silly question from a friend of mine: If 2 gay men are sitting on a couch, kissing, is it a sin or a transgression?

    Is there really a difference? What argument could I make to the Lord that would justify making that distinction in my life?

    “Uh, well Lord, I wasn’t aware that was an actual commandment. I just figured it was strong encouragement, and as everybody knows, there is no obligation to “be obedient” to strong encouragement.”

    “No, I didn’t have a health problem. I just didn’t feel like going. Now, if our prophet had uttered the words ‘Thus saith the Lord’ I would have gone.”

    Perhaps a little too legalistic to work.

  84. Justmeherenow on June 9, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Wrt #80: You don’t think he has access to google?

  85. Dennis on June 9, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    It’s Not Me (#83),

    For me, the point of making a distinction between commandment and really strong suggestion is not to give a person an excuse. Moreover, I think it is false that there is no obligation with anything other than a command. I feel obligated to do many things (e.g., taking out the trash) that I’m not commanded to do.

    Just because somebody is making fine distinctions between commandments vs. counsel or official doctrine vs. cultural norms, does not mean the person is trying to provide an excuse for not following such counsel or norms. I have in no instance sought to do so, and I think that most other commentators on this post have not either.

    If anything, the distinction is most important for the REST OF US, concerning our attitude towards those who choose not to serve missions. In this regard, I would argue that it is pragmatically pointless–as well as unjustified–to act as if young men who did not serve missions violated a command from God.

  86. JT on June 10, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Makes me think of Prince, who, as a Jehovah’s Witness, used to be seen knocking on doors in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. I am sure it was a distraction from his message to those who recognized him, but then again, I wonder how many actually recognized him. Of course, he didn’t have to wear a name tag that said “Elder Formerly Known as Prince,” and Archuleta is not the most common name in the world. Still, I was impressed that Prince, despite his notoriety, still wen’t door to door. Of course, he didn’t have to put his career on hold for two years.

  87. Mike H. on June 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I have mixed feelings. I served with some missionaries who were just there for their families or girlfriends, and never did bother to wake up & enjoy what they were doing. I knew one friend who wanted to go on a mission, but health afflictions prevented it. I saw other who felt their athletic prowess would do more good for the church than serving a mission. Yet, I never heard anything of them becoming famous on the field later on.

    I had a son that was ready, worthy, and desired to go on a mission, but because of all the “raise the bar” talk for missionary service, he was not allowed to go since he was slightly slow in answering questions in a conversation. He is, it seems, slightly autistic, something that is still considered a “curse” by many in the church.

    And I still have yet to hear anything definitive about those who quit their mission. What if it’s real, clinical depression? A taboo not discussed.

    Let David Archuleta make his own, final decision, but he needs to be aware of the down sides of both going, or not going, on a mission. As said, his current fame can be put aside by going to some places in the world.

  88. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 11, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Are there examples of young LDS celebrities serving proselyting missions despite the “fame exception”? Weren’t there some star athletes that still went?

    There are a number of people who served, including some South American pop music performers and others.

  89. Kent Larsen on June 12, 2009 at 12:11 am

    FWIW, Johnny Whitaker (child actor on Family Affair) served in my mission several years before I arrived. But his career was pretty much over by the time he served. I do know that at the time I served there several members still remembered him. Somehow they all knew that he had been a TV star as a child. I wouldn’t be surprised if some had joined the Church because of that.

  90. MJ on June 12, 2009 at 7:54 am

    I am a very grateful 30-year member of the church due to Donny Osmond’s (and all the brothers’) example. So chalk one up for Donny’s “mission”.

  91. Rachelle on June 12, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Personally, I am more concerned about the plethora of “former” LDS performers that are quite vocal about the fact that they were raised “Mormon” but state that they are no longer so or who, quite obviously by behavior and or dress, are not living church standards. Some that come to mind are Jewel, Julianne Hough, Lacey Schwimmer (I wonder what their conversations are like backstage on “Dancing with the Stars”), Emmy award winner Katherine Heigl and most recently “Son of Provo” turned hippie, Tony award nominated Will Swenson (who, by the way, served a two year mission in the same country I did.) Their examples all seem to say, “You can’t succeed in a career in entertainment unless you put aside your morals.” Donny Osmond’s example takes a level of faith, courage and character that I don’t think many people possess.

    If David Archuleta can remain a faithful member of the LDS Church while pursuing his career, he could do a tremendous amount of good as an example to both young members and non-members alike.

  92. amanda house on June 12, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    God always comes first! remember the story of the want to be follower of jesus that wanted to tell his family good-bye first….christ said there is no time for that. what you do shows where your heart truley is. mission puts God and heaven first and wont go unrewarded and singing puts the world first and whatever worldly reward you earn is all you get….no heavenly reward in money and fame!! CHOOSE WISELY! there will be no excuses at judgement day when the question is asked why the world came before God.

  93. Kent Larsen on June 12, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Rachelle (89) and Amanda(90), while its nice to hear that you think Archuleta could do a lot of good as a performer, that is only peripheral to the question here: whether the Church will benefit more as a whole from Archuleta’s service in the mission field, or on the stage.

    I think its an open question, because Archuleta could well be facing a declining career following the end of his involvement with American Idol. FWIW, I can’t see it lasting much longer. [But then, what do I know?]

  94. Ken on June 12, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    jjohnson: “… [D]on’t act like signing bad pop is in any way serving a mission. …”

    “Signing bad pop”? What’d he do, autograph a Coke can or something? (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled, on-topic programming. ;-D)

  95. Mike on June 14, 2009 at 7:10 am

    I believe it’s fairly straightforward. If you want to go on a mission, you fill out the paperwork. Then the Department of Exceptions makes their determination whether they will have you or not. THEN the Lord picks up the paperwork and makes the call, but not until THEN.

  96. Kathleen on June 14, 2009 at 9:31 am

    I actually spent a Sunday afternoon in the Osmond home, in 1971. I asked about the brothers serving missions. Sister Osmond said they were counseled by the General Authorities, That they would do more missionary work singing, than as a missionary. Kathleen

  97. Austin F. on June 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I hate these discussions. MYODB. It’s not your mission…it’s not your problem.

  98. English Reader on June 14, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Who is David Archuleta?

    And Austin F… Don’t like the discussion? Don’t join in.

  99. Austin F. on June 14, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    ER, so if I think the question is moronic (and one constantly asked of high-profile LDS young men), I shouldn’t express my disfavor in hopes of helping others to think about whether they should speculate and gossip about another person’s intimate and personal decision?

  100. Anna on June 14, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    My mom and Aunt were brought into the church by Donny Osmond’s example. My mom went and checked out the Book of Mormon from the library because she read in “Tiger Beat” magazine that it was his favorite. That wasn’t the moment that really brought them in, but later the missionaries came by my Aunt’s college apartment and did their door approach and she said something like “Oh, you’re the one’s with the Osmonds right?” and then invited them to come back later when her little sister (my mom) would be visiting because my mom was such an Osmond fan. They came, they took the discussions and both were baptized.

    So if the church things Archuleta doesn’t need to serve, that he serves better as a good example, great. It doesn’t bother me. I’m sure the church & David will make the right choice for him.

  101. Justmeherenow on June 14, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Well, David’s single “Crush” charted as high as #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts (better than Mesa, Arizona’s Brooke White’s single “Hold Up My Heart,” that got as high as #47). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yff9nCctMkg

  102. Kent Larsen on June 15, 2009 at 1:13 am

    Austin F., you apparently missed the part where I stated that this was about what the Church would do, and not what Archuleta would do. Sure its not my business, but then it might be if my daughter is suddenly famous in some way, or if someone I home teach becomes famous enough that this is question.

    Is it really that silly to wonder what factors go into the decision the missionary department makes when they suggest that someone can do more good through their career than by serving a mission?

  103. Reader on June 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Giff Nielsen could be another example of the “fame exception.” All-American quarterback at BYU, went on to play for the Houston Oilers, never served a mission. I’m not sure what conversations he had with church leaders, but I’m sure he always felt that playing football was his calling. Looking at his service now as bishop, stake president, member of the Houston mission presidency, etc., I don’t think anyone can argue that he missed the boat. This article was front-page of the religion section of the Houston Chronicle a few months back – definitely a testimony of his far-reaching example, which came as a result of his decision not to leave a blossoming football career.

  104. Kent Larsen on June 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks, Reader. I do think this is a good example. But I’m not quite sure where Archuleta fits in compared to Giff. My sense is that Archuleta may not be as notable. But I could certainly be wrong.

  105. Ardis E. Parshall on June 15, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Is it really that silly to wonder what factors go into the decision the missionary department makes when they suggest that someone can do more good through their career than by serving a mission?

    I still don’t get this.

    Seriously, I don’t intend to offend by asking again, but I must be missing something. Why, exactly, do you think that the missionary department (or any other official church department/representative) decides such a thing and informs a missionary candidate that he would do more good through a career than a mission? I can believe that a family friend, like Paul H. Dunn was to the Osmonds, might advise or counsel on a personal level, but what evidence is there that the church makes any formal decision like this and turns down a candidate, telling him to run with his career instead?

  106. Kent Larsen on June 15, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I dunno, Ardis. Seems to me like the logical way that it would work.

    I did hear a story from a friend yesterday about a concert-quality violinist who was given a formal choice (literally a letter that gave the violinist a choice) between serving a proselyting mission and serving a mission as a violinist. But this person wasn’t nearly as well known as Archuleta.

    If you are right and this came through personal advice and counsel from general authority friends or local leaders, how is that different from a formal letter? Are these leaders NOT consulting with the missionary department on the issue?

    Shoot, if I were the Stake President of someone who became famous and had this kind of issue, I’m sure that I would bring up the situation with the Area Authority President and get his counsel. I can easily imagine that these questions would end up at the missionary department. After all, aren’t they the “experts” on the question?

  107. Ardis E. Parshall on June 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Okay, that’s a good enough answer to let me understand your thinking.

    General authority friends are both general authorities and friends, and counsel under one hat isn’t necessarily the same as counsel under the other hat. (That’s the whole point of saying that a prophet is speaking as a prophet only when he is acting as such, no?) I see no reason to think that someone advising as a friend has any need to report his personal advice to a church department, and I don’t consider his advice to be necessarily an official church action. Had Paul H. Dunn advised Donny Osmond to serve a regular proselyting mission, that would not at all have been a formal mission call. That would only have come after papers had been submitted and Spencer W. Kimball (in DO’s case) issued the call.

    Thanks for explaining.

  108. Kim on June 15, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Dave has a very tender heart and I don’t think it is fair for everyone to be judging him. He hasn’t even turned 19 yet and everyone is all over him. My son didn’t go till he was 20 and then he was more mature and ready to go.

    Give him a break. It is his life and decision. He is trying to do everything right. He can’t even go to the temple without someone recognizing him. When he goes to church in his own ward, people want his autograph right in the chapel and he is offended. He needs time to mature. He has a great supportive father and family. He is very sad that he couldn’t graduate from high school with his friends, but how much can he do. He is getting an education in public speaking, interviewing, communications, music performing and writing. Isn’t that what some people major in? Let him enjoy this ride and leave him alone. Put yourself in his shoes and quit judging.

    He was this shy boy that would roller blade up and down our street and stop in and say hello to the widows and children. I marvel how well he is able to talk to people now. He is a different person off the stage: Quiet, reserved and very shy. I sure hope he doesn’t read any of these remarks. It would break his heart.

  109. Kim on June 15, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    By the way all of you, what are you doing to be a good example and missionary? How many people have you influenced for good today?

  110. Kent Larsen on June 15, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Kim (107, 108), you might try reading ALL the comments before coming to the conclusion that we are judging Archuleta. Its simply NOT the case (at least not in the vast majority of the comments as I’m reading them).

    We are, in fact, talking about where the boundaries are, when the Church should, formally or informally, encourage people in Archuleta’s position to serve through their career. Or, in other words, what the missionary department might do.

    I’m really not worried about Archuleta. I’m sure he will make a good decision, probably one that follows the counsel he is given by his priesthood leaders.

    I AM worried about how the decision will influence others.

  111. Justmeherenow on June 15, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Look at the rite-of-passage model for the Church’s missionary service, itself. Why was it originally instituted? Is the age conformity issue its most important feature? Or is, rather, the most important feature instead moreso that this model provides young men the opportunity to serve without interrupting their secular careers, once begun?

    If the second consideration provided more of the rationale for the system, then for young men such as David Archuleta to not necessarily have to interrupt careers that, in fact, they’ve already embarked on (or else for young men to decide in some cases to embark upon various careers having built-in age-related time constraints) would actually provide a more uniform application of this principle…since both the missionaries going at 19 and people such as David A. would all uniformly not be required to interrupt their careers.

    (And sorry for my paragraph-long run-on sentence above.)

  112. Justmeherenow on June 15, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    The “widow’s mite” — ie for some Church members, going on a mission at 19 would be a much greater proportional sacrifice of their secular career’s development (and perhaps even earnings) than another person’s going at 25.

  113. Kent Larsen on June 16, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I dunno, Justmeherenow, it seems to me that you are making a bit too much of the rite-of-passage aspect of missionary service. I don’t think that we can say that missionary service is only or even principally a rite-of-passage. [I do admit that a rite-of-passage is one effect that a mission has for many and probably most missionaries.]

  114. Austin F. on June 16, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    What does it matter what the Church would do? It’s none of your business how the Church handles DA’s missionary decision. The three best latter-day saints I know each opted out of a mission for one reason or another.

    And your excuse for butting in (famous daughter/famous home teachee) is laughable. Nice cover for gossip (or not-so-nice, as it seems).

  115. Kent Larsen on June 16, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Austin, I think we will have to agree to disagree.

  116. Justmeherenow on June 16, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Giving sanction for young individuals’ not to interrupt careers with a mission isn’t consistent with a “rite-of-passage” rationale for a uniform system of calling of 19-year-olds — but IS consistent with a rationale simply of calling individuals either before they have embarked on careers or after their retirements (or both times).

  117. John David Payne on June 16, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    He was on American Idol, right? So, clearly, the reason he’s not planning on a mission is because he’s gay.

  118. Orwell on June 17, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    If he goes, great. I can see why he would make that decision. If he doesn’t, great. I can see why he would make that decision.

    However, if the latter, the poor kid is going to face a lot of self-righteous, judgmental indignation from too many of his own faith – and it really won’t be any of their business anyway. So, if he doesn’t go, I’ll be the first to defend him.

  119. ama on June 19, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Where’s the reference to David Archuletta saying this?