The biggest news story involving Mormonism this week besides the 14 Tony nominations for "The Book of Mormon" musical on Broadway, is, not surprisingly, Marie Osmond’s third wedding.
Major news outlets carried details that she remarried her first husband, former BYU basketball standout Stephen Craig, in a private ceremony in the Las Vegas Temple. The news reported that she wore the same wedding dress that she wore on her first wedding.
Do a quick search in newspaper databases like Lexis-Nexis for the words "Osmond" and "Mormon," and you bring back hundreds of articles. The musical family may have the distinction of being the most famous Mormons over this period of more than 40 years since their breakout success on "The Andy Williams Show." Today, they’re still making news for the church, and I admire them for doing it.
I know of people who began their quest to join the church because of the Osmonds. I appreciate that contribution. I am also aware of their many gifts to Utah and to children through the Children’s Miracle Network. They deserve credit for those gifts, even though I sense they don’t seek honor for it.
But for Marie especially, the public spotlight seems to have had more than its fair share of public setbacks in these long decades. A few minutes online, and you can be reminded of details of her two divorces; you can be reminded of public disclosure of eating disorders and of pressure from producers to lose weight as a teenager.
You can learn of her very public battle with postpartum depression. Once, she gave Tom Cruise a public rebuke over the issue. Another time, Marie was hospitalized with an adverse reaction to medication, and the tabloids screamed rumor and innuendo.
Marie fainted on live television. She suffers with asthma. Her children’s visits to the hospital have made news. Cruel, contentious lawsuits have made tabloid headlines.
Even her most private pain, the death of her son, received prominent national attention.
In short, Marie Osmond hasn’t had a perfect nor a private life.
It is not fair to Donny, Marie, Alan or Jimmy or any of the rest to turn them into icons representative of our wonderful faith. They have chosen to be in show business and don’t deserve the extra weight of being national exemplars of Mormonism any more than any other nationally recognized Mormons do, any more than I wish such on myself.
But in a celebrity-obsessed culture, that is what they became in many ways, and I admire how they have tried to handle it.
Sociologists can tell us a lot more about the role celebrities play in our lives than I can, but this celebrity culture today seems to say much more about audience needs than about the foibles in the lives of the celebrities we might follow. Tabloid headlines of the failures of young starlets can seem to make us feel better about ourselves as we like to think we’d never make the mistakes they seem to make.
As such, celebrities can become scapegoats, and tabloid culture can sometimes gratify prurient pride. A focus on the motes in the eyes of the private lives of public people can allow us readers and viewers to ignore the beams in our own eyes. I’m not saying we as Mormons do this with the Osmonds, but I’m saying the culture seems unhealthy in too many ways for celebrities and for us.
This cruel culture is why I have grown to admire Marie Osmond and her brothers, even though I rarely listen to their music. Sure, they aren’t perfect, but neither am I. They have soldiered on despite a withering attention for more than four decades. They still sing when the times seem not to call for it.
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