David Archuleta: the Eagle, the temple and the music

Published: Monday, Nov. 28 2011 5:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been a year since David Archuleta was the featured artist of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert.

Sporting a sweater and scarf, the 20-year-old "American Idol" star was in town last week to promote his Christmas concert CD and DVD, sign autographs, sit for some media interviews and enjoy Thanksgiving with his family before beginning a Christmas tour.

Polishing off a turkey sandwich during an interview, Archuleta described how honored he was to be invited to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir he grew up admiring.

“It was an out-of-this-world experience,” Archuleta said. “Taking it in, singing, being there … It was cool.”

December 2010 is also special to Archuleta for another reason. It was last year, in between concert rehearsals with the choir, that the young Mormon celebrity received his Eagle Scout Award.

“I am so happy I did it,” Archuleta said. “I was far from the best Scout when I started. I wasn’t motivated at all, but … then I came back and got it. I was really happy I did.”

Archuleta credits his Murray neighbor and former Scout leader, Cal Madsen, for encouraging and helping him to attain the highest rank for a young man in the Boy Scouts of America program.

“I paid him to say that,” Madsen said with a laugh. “It’s a real credit to him. His dad also encouraged him. Archuleta took it upon himself to finish it. It was something he always wanted to do, but with his music and competitions, he didn’t think he would get there. But he followed up and worked hard enough to finish it.”

Incredibly, Archuleta earned his Life rank in Scouting during the year he was competing at "American Idol." A year went by with little progress and then Archuleta wrapped up his requirements — three merit badges and his service project — in the last three days before his 18th birthday in 2008.

He had previously fulfilled the requirements for Personal Management, a merit badge that helps a Scout learn to manage finances, and only needed a signature from the counselor. Sherry Madsen, Cal’s wife, signed off on his American Cultures badge. The last badge was Fire Safety, which required a meeting with members of a local fire department. Three days before Archuleta’s birthday, Cal Madsen called the Murray Fire Department and was told it might take a week to schedule an appointment.

“I said this is for a young man named David Archuleta,” Madsen recalled. “About 10 minutes later they called and said they could take us in 15 minutes at the station. David was ready and we boogied over and met seven firemen plus the chief. They all wanted in on this. They had wanted to invite their families, but decided maybe not. Two hours later, we finished up.”

As for the service project, Archuleta admitted he hadn’t really thought about it. Madsen phoned Murray Parks and Recreation and was told it might take a week or two to come up with a suitable project.

“I said I’m kind of in a hurry. I got a young man that is turning 18 who happens to be David Archuleta. I had no sooner mentioned his name when she said, 'Let me call you back,'” Madsen said. “People were wonderful. All I had to do was mention his name and they were ready to bend over backward. Ten minutes later, they called to say they had 180 trees, bushes and shrubs to plant along the Jordan River Parkway.”

Archuleta took over and made arrangements for the trees to be planted the day before his birthday. More than 20 people showed up to help, and the job was completed in less than three hours.

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