David M.W. Pickup
In the year since 18-year-old Scottish musician Benjamin Hunter auditioned for the Mormon British Pageant, he has released his first album, featuring hymns and songs of faith inspired by his musical journey.
Hunter, a third-generation member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has lived his entire life in Airdrie, a small town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Hunter said confidence has played a large part in his ability to live the gospel and be an example to others.
“I think it depends on how confident you are to speak up and share the gospel with others, and that’s what determines how easy or difficult it can be for you,” Hunter told the Deseret News.
Hunter grew up as "one of two or three" members of the LDS Church in his high school. “Some people don’t even get that lucky in Scotland, so (living the gospel) can be tricky," he said.
When he was younger, Hunter gathered strength from music, which played an important role in his upbringing. Coming from a musical family, Hunter said that grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members all left a musical legacy.
“My interest in music has always been around, but I really got into it when I came into my teens,” said Hunter, who has played the piano for more than a decade and began playing the guitar when he turned 14.
During high school, Hunter developed a love for musical theater and devoted much of his time at school to performing. Eventually, he felt that some aspects of his participation clashed with his beliefs and decided to withdraw from the program.
However, in 2013, when his bishop asked him to audition for the first Mormon British Pageant — a production at the Preston England Temple similar to the Nauvoo Pageant or Hill Cumorah Pageant in the United States — Hunter realized he could pursue a career in musical theater while maintaining LDS standards.
“I think I’ve been blessed to figure out that the things that I love in life can also have something to do with the gospel,” Hunter said.
While performing in the British Pageant, Hunter was introduced to representatives from the Priesthood Department and Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, who invited him to be part of the “Savior of the World” production at the Conference Center. Hunter was cast in two roles for the production later that fall.
After performing in “Savior of the World,” Hunter stayed in Utah and worked at the Church Office Building for three months. While in Utah, he performed in the Boy Scouts of America production “A Century of Honor” at the Conference Center and did a show at the Tuacahn Amphitheater in St. George.
Hunter said the highlight of his stay in Utah was singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during its Christmas concert. “That trumped everything. It was unbelievable,” Hunter said.
“Honestly, I was only expecting to come out for this production at the Conference Center Theater, and then all of these amazing things happened,” Hunter said. “I met amazing people, so it was really just a blessing, more than anything else.”
The three-month trip, as well as his own personal scripture study, inspired Hunter to record his first full album of music. The indie-folk album “Secret Prayer” was recently released for digital download through most major music distributors, including iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.
“Being involved in the British Pageant and all of those productions in Salt Lake and St. George, I kind of came to feel that I had a responsibility and a calling to share my faith through music,” Hunter said.
Hunter recited from memory part of 2 Nephi 33:1 in the Book of Mormon: “When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.”
“I was so touched by that,” he said, mentioning that he often thought, “How can I do that with my music? What am I going to do now to keep this missionary work going?”
One Sunday, he read a verse in Doctrine and Covenants that stood out to him. Section 25, verse 12, says, in part, that "the song of the righteous is a prayer." That same morning, the opening hymn in Hunter’s sacrament meeting was “Secret Prayer.” Hunter said that experience was an answer to his prayer about how he could continue to be a member missionary. He would go on to write his own arrangement of “Secret Prayer” and also produce several other songs about faith.
“For me,” Hunter said, “it’s important to write songs and perform albums about my faith because I feel that’s how I can best be an instrument in the Lord’s hands and to hasten the work like we’ve been asked to do.”
Hunter is working on his mission papers and anticipates receiving his mission call in June.
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