For years, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have encouraged young men to go on missions to strengthen their testimonies and serve the kingdom. As of late, television producers are beginning to notice another benefit: increased success on reality shows.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve was asked to comment on this issue Friday as a guest on the AM-radio "Michael Medved Show." Medved quoted from a May 6 Newsweek article on the prevalence and success of Mormons on reality-TV shows and asked Ballard if he had theories about this trend.
The article by Sally Atkinson said Brigham Young himself couldn't have done a better job colonizing the reality show scene with Mormons. It references David Archuleta and Brooke White, who earned fame on "American Idol," along with other members of the church who have succeeded on "Survivor," "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing With the Stars" and other popular shows.
"I don't have a theory," Ballard replied. "Other than the fact that our people like to compete, they like to excel and one of the fundamental principles of our doctrine is the 'glory of God is intelligence' and to learn all that you can and be the best you can be."
"I think there's probably a little missionary zeal in some of them wanting to do well."
Atkinson had theories of her own. The article reads:
"But for Mormon contestants themselves, the motivation is more complex, whether it's testing the limits of their religion, showing America that Mormons aren't the insular community they're often perceived to be or the one that crosses all denominations: the hunger for fame."
She quoted Lynne Spillman, a casting director for "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race," who said she thought coming from a big family as many LDS do helps with confidence and that the group dynamic gives them an edge in the voting that resembles sibling rivalry. She also said with their missions they "can relate to being dropped off in the middle of somewhere they've never been and having to make it."
Medved asked Elder Ballard if he thought missionary experiences were a factor."Anybody that has a missionary experience for the Mormon Church, (he or she learns) to become self-sufficient very quickly," he said. "They pack their bags, and they're courageous, and they go forward and carry on the work they were called to do."