There are many well-known members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who appear in the limelight quite often such as David Archuleta, Gladys Knight, Brandon Flowers, and Donny and Marie. The one thing that these entertainers, as well as many other LDS artists, have in common is that regardless of their esteem and acclaim, or the permissive environment in which they work, they remain steadfast and immoveable in their faith and testimony.
Remaining True to the Faith
Between General Conference sessions on Sunday, 5 April 2015, KSL aired a 30-minute special titled “Steadfast in the Spotlight” which featured three LDS artists: organist Richard Elliott, London Broadway star Savannah Stevenson, and folk hymn-revival group called the Lower Lights who shared their testimonies and how they manage to remain true to the faith in an oftentimes ruthless business.
Richard Elliott – The Organ and His Conversion
Richard Elliott is the principal organist of the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He is well-known for his amazing riffs on the organ that leave audiences awed by his remarkable talents. He is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ. Prior to his conversion he played for different churches and in a 1970s rock band. He attributes his conversion in-part to his talent on the organ, “I was assigned to tutor another student in music theory. In the course of those tutoring sessions, I spoke to her about music, and she taught me the gospel.”
He originally planned to become a studio musician and studied organ as part of reaching that goal. However, after being converted to the gospel and becoming a member of the Church, his goals soon changed. After attending the preparatory division of the Peabody Conservatory and the Catholic University of America, he received a bachelor’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music while also serving as an assistant organist for the Wanamaker Organ. After receiving MM and DMA degrees from the Eastman School of Music, he became a professor of music at Brigham Young University (BYU), and in 1991, he was appointed a tabernacle organist at the retirement of Robert Cundick. He has recorded many organ pieces with various labels and occasionally gives organ recitals at various locations across the United States. He has had several of his arrangements for the organ published, many by Jackman Music.
Elliott is married to the former Elizabeth Cox Ballantyne and has two children.
Savannah Stevenson – From Glinda to Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Savannah Stevenson is a class performer as the lead of the London cast of “Wicked” where she plays the role of Glinda. However, she proclaims that the highlight of her career thus far has been playing Mary, the mother of the Savior, in “The Life of Jesus Christ” LDS Bible video series. She attributes that cherished role to the magnificent change in her life. She commented about her acting career:
In some ways it’s hard to be a Christian and be an actor. A lot of the work out there in the industry is not what I want to involve myself in. I’ve learned to not cross those lines because it’s not worth me feeling like I’ve compromised my own faith. Everyone I work with knows what I believe and they love to talk with me about it.
Stevenson was born on 29 July 1983, and raised in Derbyshire. She was accepted into the prestigious National Youth Theatre at the age of 15. Beginning in 2001, she trained at The Guildford School of Acting and graduated with First Class Honors in Performance with the Principals Award. She has adorned the stage with her presence in numerous productions, and has made several guest appearances in episodes of television dramas such as Casualty, Playing the Field, and Peak Practice. A segment of the footage from the LDS Bible video in which she played Mary was used as part of the 2014 “He Is the Gift” Christmas campaign, which went viral on YouTube and Facebook with over 11 million views.
Stevenson married Nathan Copier in April 2015.
The Lower Lights – A Collaboration of Talent United in Faith
The Lower Lights is a folk-style band comprised of more than 30 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who collaborate their talents to revamp sacred hymns and gospel tunes by adding their own flair of Americana style. Each of the members are musical professionals in their own right, but each also realizes that what they have established is an amazing “musical family” in which there is no room for egotism. Their common ground is found in their love for music and the gospel. The music that they produce and perform has favored them with unprecedented accolades and praise.
One of the band members, Paul Jacobson, stated, “There is such a great spirit about it because everybody wants to be here.” The band percussionist, Patrick Campbell (who is also an LDS Bishop), remarked, “I never in my life would have thought that what we set out to do would be so well-received and so well-loved.”
These are everyday people who happen to be Mormons who are living in the spotlight, but yet they have remained focused and true to the faith. They seek not for the riches and praises of men, but rather they yearn to do those things which will bring praise and glory to their Father in Heaven.