David Archuleta on leaving the Mormon church, coming out and ‘living a meaningful life’

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For most of his life, singer David Archuleta was a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — until inner turmoil over his sexuality nearly drove him to self-harm.

“The church is very much emphasized on family; you’re supposed to get married and have babies, create family, and that is your ultimate purpose in life,” the “American Idol” alumnus said. “You have to get married and have children in order to receive the highest form of heaven. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get that. So I thought it would be better to take my life than to strip myself away from the highest heaven.”

Now, Archuleta, 33, is reinventing himself with new music, a memoir in the works and a more authentic life. After coming out as queer in 2021, he left the church (widely known as the Mormon church) in 2022. In March, he won a GLAAD Award for outstanding breakthrough music artist, and in April he made an emotional return to “Idol” as a guest performer.

Of Honduran and Spanish descent, Archuleta came to national prominence in 2008 as the runner-up on “American Idol.” It was a heady experience for the Utah teenager. “At that time, there were, like, 30 million people watching every week, so I thought, ‘Who am I supposed to be for everybody?’ I didn’t really know,” Archuleta recalled. He described the experience as “overwhelming,” although “it taught me to keep pushing myself past my limits.”

After releasing several albums, in 2012 Archuleta took time off from his music career to serve a two-year stint as a missionary for the church in Chile. “I took it very seriously, my religion and my faith,” he said. “And I really enjoyed it; I loved it. But there are parts that are very tricky and challenging.”

As a young adult, Archuleta began to face issues he had wrestled with for over 20 years, which led him to depression, anxiety and despair. “In the church, they say homosexuality is a sin, it’s of the devil. I would think, ‘Oh, my gosh, I don’t want to be of the devil. So let me keep praying and fasting and trying to be obedient.’” At his lowest point, Archuleta believed that God would be more forgiving of him if he died by suicide than if he were gay. “I thought ending my life would be better than becoming evil for allowing myself to fall in love with the same sex.”

Once a poster boy for the church who performed with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square (formerly the Mormon Tabernacle Choir), Archuleta initially kept his faith crisis to himself. But he came to feel, after praying, that God wanted him to come out publicly. Once he revealed to People magazine that he was “stepping away” from his religion, he dreaded speaking with his mother, a church member. “I thought, she’s so mad at me for offending her religion by leaving it.”

His mother’s reaction shocked him: She told him that she had decided to leave the church, as well. “She said, ‘If you’re going to hell, then we’re all going to hell with you,’” Archuleta recalled. It was this revelation that inspired him to write his latest single, “Hell Together.”

In an essay last year for QSaltLake Magazine, Archuleta’s mother, Lupe Marie Bartholomew, explained her decision to leave the church, writing, “I did not teach my children their whole lives to serve and love a God who is not accepting of them. God is Love.”

Content retrieved from: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/david-archuleta-leaving-mormon-church-coming-living-meaningful-life-rcna154751.

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