.@DavidArchie's speech transcript
This is an edited version of David's speech from the Freedom of Religion symposium on 15 April 2015 at UCCU center at Utah Valley University. Some words between videos that were shared are missing which I will add later when I find out what they were.
David Archuleta Speech Transcript
Religious Symposium 15 April 2015
Introduction of David (Applause)
David: I’d like to thank Dr. Griffin for inviting me here and to UVU for hosting this wonderful event. And I’d also like to thank all of you for coming here tonight for sharing this evening with all of us here. Thank you (Applause), thank you.
(Moves over to other mike). “I’m going to move over to this mike now”. Sings first few words of “It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas”.
David: No, (laughter) even though I got a little confused with all the snow out there. But, no, we’re really going to sing a song for you.
(Sings Disney song “He Lives in You” from the movie Lion King II)
David: The beliefs in the forefront of my life, in life’s decisions have benefited not only in what I do as a performer, but also as an everyday individual.
I was raised with Christian beliefs centered upon Jesus Christ as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. But I hope the things that I share tonight with all of you from my life’s experiences will be beneficial whatever your beliefs and upbringing may be; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or unaffiliated with a particular belief. I hope I express the truth I have come to know in a way that will be of value to you.
We are all in this world together, so why not support one another and come together in strength to receive the joy that I know we can find in our lives. I invite you to focus on your principles of love, hope and courage and reflect on what can be added to these principles as I share with you 8 of my own thoughts.
Thought 1: Truth Within
Growing up, I was taught to understand the value of truth. To pay attention to the energy or light that truth gives off. I learned that if we’d seek out this light and bring it into every aspect of our lives, it would shine for others to see. These truths were given to me in a home where we learned to keep God our center, and by doing so, we would feel power above our own each day.
I would like to share a few experiences of how I’ve witnessed this power in my life. For those of you who know what I do, you probably are familiar with my time on the 7th season of American Idol. I wasn’t planning on being on as long as I was, but I found myself at the finale alongside my friend David Cook. Now before all of this happened, I had competed in another competition called Star Search, winning the kids division when I was 12. However by the time I was 13 I was forced to stop singing because I had been diagnosed with a partially paralyzed vocal cord and could barely get through just one or two songs. Aside from singing, my speech and breathing were also affected by this paralysis. In my 13 year old mind I thought it was a curse for being a bad person, or maybe a sign that I was supposed to do something else with my life. But fast forwarding 11 years to today, I can see how our future is designed to work out for the better if we are willing to work through hard things, be patient and have courage to follow the light through faith based principles.
As a junior in High School, working at a park amphitheater with 3 friends, Adam Reuben who is a student here at UVU, and is here, his brother Nate and their cousin Ryan. I really enjoyed that job and I’ll just give you a brief description of what it was like. You run lights and sound in the very back in the dark, being somewhat a part of the show only no one can see you, and they probably don’t even realize that your there, which actually I quite loved, I liked that. I didn’t like being the center of attention which is why this was the perfect job for me. You can ask my friends from school, or even now. I would awkwardly stand in a corner and not say anything. I liked to observe and see people but didn’t want to interact or be seen. So again this park technician job was a perfect job.
American Idol auditions came. I had always been a fan of the show and everyone wanted me to audition, but I was very hesitant about performing because I thought it was no longer an option.
Thought 2: Prayer
I felt an overwhelming energy driving me to audition as if it were guiding me to an invisible door of my future. At first I tried to ignore it because I didn’t want to leave my comfort zone. But that energy was something I recognized from throughout my life as that light that guides us to things beyond our capacity of understanding.
I believe we all feel sparks of inspiration and illumination and that’s probably where the inner instinct of a higher power comes from. Our souls are connected with something bigger and greater than us. It’s impossible to find any words or scientific evidence to explain this, but I know that we all receive these sparks throughout our lives.
Now I tried for a long time to dodge this feeling but it wouldn’t go away. I’m not going to lie, I was afraid of it, because I felt it was asking too much of a little person like me. I didn’t know why I needed to audition and leave a safe place, so after awhile, I decided to take it to God. At home we prayed a lot which taught me build my own relationship with God through personal daily prayers. I went to my room, knelt beside my bed and spoke to Him. I told Him I didn’t know why I kept getting this feeling to go audition for a reality TV show but I couldn’t shake the prompting I was receiving. I asked if it was really something I needed to do. As I knelt in that prayer, I experienced something I’ve never experienced before. It was as if this giant wave came and wiped every fear, every concern and every feeling of inadequacy right out of existence. That moment I had come to know that this great and supreme being who I spoke to in prayer each day, knew me. After that beautiful flood which brought an unfathomable amount of peace and love into every cell of my body, I heard a voice clearly say, “Go and audition, there’s something you need to learn.”
So after quitting my perfect job (laughter from audience), which was not easy for me to do, I went to audition, and I made it through (picture on screen of David on American Idol). But, at first I was told I didn’t make it though, and was kindly shown the way out of the auditions. I remember staring at the exit sign thinking ‘what was my lesson here?’ As I was leaving the judges called me back over, told me they were just messing with me, and gave me the golden ticket.
After returning home with my golden ticket, I was invited by my friends who I worked with at the park amphitheater, the Reuben family, to go on a backpacking trip to the Uinta’s. It was great, no cell phone, no service, no computers, just trees, mountains, lakes, bugs and quiet. The Reuben family are quite the sleepers, so while they were all sleeping, and my sandwich was my only companion, I went out a little ways and found this enormous rock. I climbed up on to it and sat for hours each day to think. I felt this overwhelming feeling that something was going to take place in my life. I was confused about this American Idol thing. So once again I decided to talk to God about my situation. I wasn’t shown the future, but I felt that I needed to decide who I was I going to be. Regardless of what was in store I needed to ask myself ‘Who am I?’ I may not be able to control what will happen next, but I can control what kind of person I will be and how I handle what was sent my way. I remembered the things my parents taught me that no matter what situations I would find myself in, I could be true to who I was by listening to a still small voice that would help me recognize light.
My time on the rock helped me decide who I was going to be, and that I would always keep what I believe from a religious standpoint first. Those days spent talking one on one with God in the Uinta Mountains helped me prepare for what was to come.
Thought 3: The Greater Good
During American Idol one of my goals while on the show was to choose songs that I felt had purpose. This became a challenge one week when I chose to sing John Lennon’s “Imagine”. During my dress rehearsal the producers walked up onto the stage, stopped me and told me I needed to sing the first verse that everyone knew. I had chosen to sing the third verse because I felt I couldn’t leave people with the message ‘imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try’. With Debbie, the stage manager being the only one to support my decision, I was able to sing the third verse. I’m thankful I didn’t ignore the feeling I had, because I believe the overwhelming response and success of the song was directly related to staying true to who I was.
As an artist it is more than just the notes and sound. It is the energy that you put into what you do. If something is not true, then you can’t put that energy of truth within you into your art. It doesn’t matter how nice or technically correct it is, the energy is what makes the difference. I realize if that we make an effort to stand up for these truths within, greater good will always prevail.
Thought 4: What Matters Most
Immediately after American Idol, I was signed to a record deal, released a single called “Crush”, had an album come out, did multiple concerts and tours, and I started getting a little side tracked. People were suddenly telling me, “money, and fame and having all these people know you are what make you happy. Girls screaming ‘I love you’, or ‘marry me’, or mothers screaming ‘marry my daughter’”.
For awhile I thought, maybe they’re right. These record label and record industry people are older than me, have been at it longer, and were telling me I needed this to be successful and happy. It didn’t occur to me that just because people are nice, doesn’t mean what they say is true.
As a performer when I would speak up and say I didn’t feel comfortable with certain songs or scenes in videos, they would tell me, “But this is what’s popular. You want your music to be heard don’t you? If you want to make a difference in the world people have to hear your music, and this is what’s in.”
Where I was known for songs like “Imagine” and “When You Believe”, they were now telling me and I quote, “We see you more as a white Chris Brown.” (Audience laughter)
When I would again say, ‘I don’t want to sing songs that are dark and portray hurtful relationships’, they then told me, “Oh, well you might as well be a Christian singer.” Now I do love Christian music but I wanted to show that no matter where you are, you can have the freedom to stand up for truth. You can be considered a pop artist and not have to follow everyone else. Other examples of people who were able to stand up and be treated who they were, were people I admired like Owl City, Dolly Parton, Phil Collins, 5 for Fighting, Lindsay Sterling and many more.
It got to a point though, where I let these voices get to me and I became afraid to speak up about what was important to me. I didn’t tell people I believed in Jesus Christ or that I was a Mormon for fear of ridicule or being uncool or being seen as an overbearing religious freak. It was a world where I was now believing that you needed to be politically correct, not offend anyone, not say anything that anyone would disagree with, and where you do what the big wigs tell you. I wasn’t sure what I could be open about anymore, even though I still considered my religious beliefs to be what was most important in my life.
(Which leads to) thought 5: Facing Fears.
As in times before I began to feel an overwhelming energy pulling at my soul, telling me once again to do something that was not easy. Leave my comfort zone and put a hold on my career… and life to serve a mission (applause). Thank you…I knew it was I needed to do, I just didn’t know how. When I first turned 19, I had announced to my management and record label that I was going to serve a mission. They came back telling me that I couldn’t because of contractual obligations. At first I thought that again this must be a sign that my instincts were wrong. But later on with help from my mom and friends, I realized that only I could decide what matters most to me. After over a year of obstacles and preparation, I turned in my mission application and in November of 2011, I received my call to the Chile, Rancagua mission. I was excited to pay it forward. Because of my fear however, I thought about leaving without letting anyone know. Or releasing a video message, that way I wouldn’t have to face disappointment or misunderstanding from others.
While doing a Christmas tour my road manager Kari, who is also here today, told me, “I think you owe it to your fans to tell them face to face, and not just face to face but at one of your shows.” I knew she was right, I needed to face my fear, knowing what could follow. I announced that I would be leaving in front of my home town of Salt Lake.
(Song; “Be Still My Soul.”)
Thank you. I want to thank the musicians, very talented musicians accompanying me tonight, Miss Kendra Lowe who is on the piano and also Mr. Bart Wilson who is on percussion and he’ll come back later.
Thought 6: My Mission and the Power of Religious Freedom.
I loved my mission and while I could go on and on about it, I will share a brief story. One of the people I grew to know and love was a single mother named Blanca. (sigh) Every time I think of her I just get, whooo, teary eyed. It’s what the mission does to you. Blanca was originally from Cuba. She grew up Catholic, but during her time in Cuba, they were not allowed to practice religion or else they would be arrested. They had to close down all places of worship, so she and a small group of Christians would have to meet in secret in a small home so that they could worship the God they loved and relied upon. She found her way to Chile where my companion and I met her. Together with her two children we shared God’s plan and I will never forget when she said, quote- “I can’t explain what I’m feeling right now. I just know that it’s true.”
Blanca taught me the importance of religious freedom. What does it really mean to have your freedom taken away from you? I’ve never had to worry about being arrested for praying. But here was Blanca who left the home she knew in Cuba for freedom to worship the God she loved, and so that she could live her life in a way that she could dedicate it to Him. Something that I somewhat had taken for granted.
How blessed we are that we can live in a country established on liberty and justice for all. Where the first amendment to the United States constitution states, quote- “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
These me who we’ve read about in our history books, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock were men who had beliefs founded in God. They seeked for freedom and rights not just for themselves, but for their country. They helped establish a country rooted in ancient principals to worship God freely and in a more powerful way than previously permitted, having been weighed down by British rule before. Even though their lives and reputation were at stake in the decision to stand up for what they believed, they declared these precious rights in a Declaration of Independence and later in the constitution. Their decision to stand up for their beliefs was not easy and a lot was on the line.
In the book “The Miracle of America, Birth of a Nation” by William S. Norton and Brian P. Trotter I quote, “It is of particular note that if the war for Independence had been lost, these good men and their families would have been tried for treason. The penalty for which was not just death, but far, far worse. After horrifying and an excruciatingly long process, when spirit and flesh had been unmercifully parted, their quartered remains would have been scattered across the countryside so that their final resting place would be unknown, unnamed and un-honored. And yet, in spite of this threat, these stalwart men pursued their righteous path pressing forward with faith in their creator. We may ask ourselves, if the task rested upon our shoulders, would you have signed it?” –close quote
The freedom fighters did not fully understand what their courage would lead to and if their lives would be cut short for their simple decisions to stand up for their beliefs. But do you think they would have imagined that over 300 million people would now be living in this country founded on principals of a nation under God and liberty almost 300 years later? Look at us here today. We are their results of simple, but bold decisions…? to affect ours, our children’s and our children’s-children’s lives.
If any of you are wondering how to begin living this freedom openly and outwardly your beliefs, may I quote a well-known phrase, “Love they neighbor as thyself.”
This leads to thought 7 of serving others.
There’s no decision that has impacted me and changed me more than the decision to serve. On my mission I was able to live two years of service that was dedicated to others and dedicated to God. And coming from the entertainment industry I may have gotten a little caught up in the ‘how much more can I do to get people to see me’ way of thinking. I learned on my mission that the exact opposite is where love is born. Because it is not all about you, it is not all about me. There are people who have nothing according to the world’s terms of money or fame, and yet they hold the key to the secret of life. What brings joy and happiness? I needed to go to people who no one knew about to find it. I needed to work hard…..understanding others and understanding yourself.
I had a recent experience that helped me gain better insight in what religious freedom meant for me personally, and also how we learn from mistakes in understanding one another’s perspectives.
Just this weekend before last I was watching the LDS world-wide general conference. I felt impressed to share some of the quotes that impacted me, especially with it being Easter weekend. One of the quotes I decided to share on my Twitter feed was from the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Boyd K. Packer where he stated, quote- “Though romantic love is incomplete, it is a prelude. Love is nourished by the coming of children who spring from that fountain of life entrusted to couples in marriage. Conception takes place in a wedded embrace between husband and wife.”
Now, I did not type it all down fast enough in my notes…while the first part struck me saying ‘romantic love is incomplete, it is a prelude’, I didn’t take time to really consider how it ended. I mixed what I thought I heard into the quote, saying ‘expressed between a man and women in marriage’ instead of ‘entrusted to couples in marriage’ as Boyd K. Packer said.
Twitter only allows 150 characters, so the quote didn’t fit in one tweet. I added the part that didn’t fit into another tweet which only showed the remaining words “expressed between a man and woman in marriage.”
I didn’t realize that over the weekend I would receive thousands of angry comments misinterpreting the line into an anti-gay, homophobic, political statement that would get sucked in to the current Indiana debate. Though I do firmly believe in God’s order of the family, never had I intended to imply homophobic, belittling political statements. However, the damage had been done. I was now living what had always been my fear before my mission of being misunderstood and taken the wrong way. When my manager informed me of what had happened, I quickly released an apology for anyone who had misunderstood my romantic love being a prelude tweet.
Now, although I did not quote verbatim what President Boyd K. Packer said, I would like to share why I felt so impressed to share his message. I hope people can look at the fact that love is more than just a one night stand. I pray that people take seriously how powerful sexual intimacy is. Because I know it is God given power to enhance everlasting relationships in marriage, and even has power to bring new lives into this world which is attached with new responsibility. Sex is not designed for selfish pleasure seeking. It is a pact between husband and wife that enhances their bond and that bond can enhance even more with the coming of children.
There’s nothing more valuable to me than my family and I hope that we treat the gift of families and the powers that form families with the importance and sacredness that they deserve.
I realized how an innocent mistake can be read wrong, jumped to quick conclusions, bring offense and fear, and end with bitter remarks leaving both sides hurt. I believe we all have taken offense at one time or another with things. I learned I have to be willing to understand where other people are coming from.
This experience has helped me. My reaction before may have been to cover up my mistakes and to hide in fear. But now I’m beginning to learn that in order to understand others, I need to love them enough to help them know why what I shared mattered so much to me and then listen to what matters most to them.
It is about giving your best to show who you really are and to become the better you. To have the freedom of beliefs that help you find hope that there is room to become your best to express in your art your passions, your talents and your faith, your hope for a better world and the hope to make a positive impact on the lives of those around you. You have this freedom. You don’t have to keep secret what matters to you and be like (young aged?) Blanca and hide. You have strength to stand up and make a difference, and as you stand up you become a leader of light instead of a follower of fear.
In conclusion I hope each of us, wherever our religious beliefs are based can make the arrangements in our lives so we can continue to dedicate time to serve others.
I learned that there is power in a smile, a simple hello, a prayer for another and trust in each other. When we take the time to serve each and every person that is within our reach, we come to realize how we truly are one. That we are connected no matter how different our upbringings or circumstances are. Through service we remove the chains of greed, pride, anger and judgement to uncover the links that connect us together. Love, it is there. It is part of our make-up as humans because whether we choose to express love or not, it is constantly flowing from a higher source. We are all loved by the same creator and service is what unveils his love for each of us. I encourage you my brothers and sisters to find this love for yourself, and as you discover it, may you help others feel it through you and this is my humble prayer.
We’d like to leave you with a song that is really special to me, and may God bless all of you. Thank you.