I chose David Archuleta as the first story to share... mainly because he is very well known around here. Many of the stories in the book are of people that you might not recognize by their names... (i.e. the creator of Black & Decker or a professional golfer). But I know that you all know who David Archuleta is... so here you go. :)
And also... this is a VERY wordy post. It is like 7 pages of a book... so... yeah. Lots of words. Sorry. I usually try to avoid that.
David James Archuleta was born December 28, 1990, in Miami, Florida, to Jeff, a jazz musician from Utah, and Lupe, a salsa dancer and singer from Honduras. David was exposed to diverse music genres growing up in Utah, from Latin music on his mother's side to jazz music from his father's collection. He was particularly fond of and inspired by gospel, pop, R&B, and "soulful"music, as well as Broadway musicals.
At ten years old, David won the children's division of the Utah Talent Competition, leading to other television singing appearances. He became the Junior Vocal Champion on Star Search 2 when he was twelve. In 2007, at sixteen years old, he became one of the youngest finalists on the popular television series American Idol. In May 2008 he finished as the runner-up, receiving 44 percent of over 97 million votes.
Barely after Idol, David saw massive success straight out of the gate with his first lead single, Crush, a catch pop tune, which charted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has since sold two million downloads.
David is deeply passionate about helping others, supporting numerous charities such as Rising Star Outreach, Invisible Children, Children's Miracle Network, and Stand Up to Cancer. In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, he delved into his Latino roots by lending his voice to the recording of Somos El Mundo, a Spanish version of We Are the World.
David has toured extensively across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Asia to perform for fans. "It's amazing how one song can change someone's life," he says. "It's been done for me so many times, and I want to give to my fans the same thing those artists have given me."
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I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But I think everyone realizes there is a time when you really, on your own, become converted to the Church by the Spirit from your own experiences -- when you gain your own relationship with Heavenly Father. We all have challenges with our self-identity when we're teenagers, and I guess that is when most people begin to ask their own pest ions. That was the case for me. Things came up that challenged what my parents had been teaching me, and I had to find out for myself.
I guess I was about twelve years old when I started wondering about things. I never questioned if God existed; that wasn't a problem for me. But one of my challenges was that I didn't understand a lot of things. I always had trouble comprehending things in school. Maybe that is why music is something that I connected so easily and quickly with. I didn't talk very much -- I still don't talk very much -- but there was something I felt in music that made so much sense to me. I couldn't always explain it to other people, so I just shared how I felt through my music and singing.
For some reason, especially when I was a child, I felt a powerful connection to the song in church, those moving songs we sang. I knew God existed because I could feel Him during the music. I could feel His Spirit so strongly through those songs.
During my teenage years in particular, the challenge for me was to know if God cared about me individually. That was what I needed to understand for myself. I thought He had a lot more to worry about than little old me. I was a quiet, shy boy who didn't know what he wanted from life. I didn't have any sense at all of my self-worth, and my shyness made that problem even greater. It complicated things. It seemed as though everyone else was good at sports, or they could play the piano really well, or they were super singers. I loved to sing, but I didn't think I did it very well. So, as much as I loved singing, I didn't think that was what would make me successful in life.
I didn't feel like I had any worth in the eyes of someone as great as God. I was even afraid to pray because I didn't think God would want to hear from me. I would pray sometimes, but I just didn't know if He wanted to listen to me. I would attend church and listen because I always felt it was really important to learn about God, but I didn't understand the process of gaining a relationship with God because I didn't think I could. I didn't think I was capable of it. I felt I was so small and insignificant and so lacking in skills or education or talents.
What made that start to change was when I first really started reading my scriptures, when I was around eleven or twelve years of age. At first the scriptures didn't make a lot of sense to me, but then I began reading independently and I started understanding some things. The stories and also the character of the people I was reading about started to really strike me. I was drawn into the scriptures by how much the people seemed to love and look forward to things in life, how much they loved God, how much they loved their families. The optimism they showed for life struck me the most.
As I was reading more and really paying attention to the Church, I would ask myself questions as to what I was supposed to accomplish, why I was here on earth. When I wondered about my self-worth, I would go into seminary class and get my answers there. Once I was old enough to ask questions and wonder, that was when things started to make more sense.
I think I really started to believe that the Church was true when I was finishing reading the Book of Mormon for the first time. When I read the scriptures, the words about prayer really stood out to me. I could see there were people who truly had conversations with God. After I completely read through the Book of Mormon, I saw Moroni's challenge to pray and ask God yourself. His words were so convincing. Moroni already knew this was true, but he challenged people at the end of the Book of Mormon to ask for themselves if this book was true and see if God would give them an answer. It was humbling to read what he had to say and to take on that challenge. I had to get up enough courage to ask God if this was real and if it was true. And the great thing is that I did learn for myself that the Book of Mormon is true!
The more I prayed, the more I started realizing who God was and understanding that He wasn't just some super ultra Being who acknowledges you only when you do something amazing, but He was someone I could talk to with reverence. Someone who cared about the challenges I had. Someone I could have a relationship with and who would love me, no matter what. That is how I gained my own testimony of the gospel: when I established my relationship with God. I had to pray and do something I wasn't sure about. But once I got over that hump, I knew I could pour out my respect and appreciation to Him, and I knew that I didn't have to be a king or a prophet or a bishop to pray to him. I knew I could praise Him and let Him know my thanks to Him. And when I was able to let Him know that, I could really feel His love. I could feel Him saying, "My son, I love you so much, and I care about you," and I could feel impressions from the Spirit saying, "Here is what you can do." It was just really surprising to feel something back.
Music is a strong element in my testimony because of how present those feelings of the Spirit are when you are singing about things that matter. The feeling is so strong.
One of the most memorable prayers that I've ever had answered was when I was in high school. I was confused. I had vocal cord paralysis. I thought that was the answer that I wasn't supposed to do music anymore. But my desire to do music never went away. When American Idol came, I was going to school and had a summer job, and I was wondering whether to audition. I didn't want to think about it because I didn't think I was good enough, but something kept urging me to go. The feeling wouldn't leave me alone, and so I decided to pray about it. I felt dumb again because I didn't think that Heavenly Father would care enough about a decision like this. But at the same time, I felt like it was important to pray about it. So I knelt beside my bed and asked Him what His opinion was about me auditioning for American Idol, if I should quit my job and do it. I immediately got a strong, strong feeling back: "Go and audition. There is something for you to learn." I was really surprised about that. It almost felt as though a big wind rushed over me. That was when I made my decision to go.
During American Idol, I saw how my beliefs really came into play because I felt like Heavenly Father had given me that opportunity. I wouldn't be there without Him. So I made sure I gave back to Him because I didn't want to disappoint Him. I knew my relationship with music was closely tied to Him. I knew I had a responsibility to share what I had felt and learned from music. Even though each week on Idol was challenging, I worked hard to pick songs that allowed the feelings of the Spirit to be there and to make sure people understood why I was there. Especially when I sang "Imagine," I was sure I would get voted off the show, but I felt I was doing what Heavenly Father would have wanted me to do.
I couldn't believe the response I got from the people who worked on American Idol, and then the judges, and then all the people after that. All I did was sing the songs in a way that was meaningful to me and allowed me to feel that spiritual feeling. People of all ages wrote me letters telling me what they felt. I was shocked by how direct they would be, saying they weren't sure what it was but that they had felt something powerful and strong and beautiful. So many letters were coming in, just hundreds of them. Hardly any of them were, "You are so cute"; most of them were just thank yous and people saying there was something they felt when I sang. Many said they weren't sure what they were feeling, and they asked if I could tell them what it was. I hadn't realized how people who didn't feel the Spirit often didn't know what they were feeling. I knew Heavenly Father really wanted me to be there, He had a purpose for me, and He wanted me to help people feel good and come closer to Him. It was touching for me to have that opportunity.
I guess that was one of the most remarkable things for me, to see how the Lord works. I didn't go on TV and say I was a Mormon. All I did was sing the songs that I felt people would be able to connect to, the same way I've been able to connect to things through the Spirit. I didn't feel like I did this incredible performance there. There was something else that was coming across to people. It is amazing how the Spirit can communicate in that way.
I feel the Spirit when I sing, and I have learned that others can feel the Spirit as well. When I realized that the Spirit was what I was also feeling when I went to church, I learned how to serve other people better. I learned how you can love your family better and get to know God better as you try to live the commandments and be obedient. It is like the Spirit feeds you and helps you little by little. When I cone ted those two together, I understood that my Heavenly Father is also the one who allowed me to have music because I feel Him so strongly through it.
I know that the way we can be happy is to know that Heavenly Father loves us, and that happiness comes through having a relationship with Him. That is why I'm a Mormon. And I just want to do whatever I can to help people understand that and seek a relationship with Him for themselves.
Cannon, Joseph A. Why I'm a Mormon. Stevens Point, WI: Worzalla Publishing Co., 2012. 18-24. Print.
P.S. Sorry if there are any obvious typos... this took me forever to type and I was trying to go fast!!