Throughout the years, I have been blessed to meet some of the members of the world-renown Osmond family through telephone conversations, emails and letters, and personal meetings. With each encounter, I have been thoroughly impressed by their genuineness, kindness, and humility.
Introduction to the Osmond Family
I was first “introduced” to the Osmond family through “The Donny and Marie Show.” Each week as I watched the program, I became more and more amazed at how close-knit of a family they really are. The show may have had the title “The Donny and Marie Show,” but it was not only about Donny and Marie. It was in fact a family affair. Each member of the family had a part in the production of the show, whether they were in front or behind the cameras. Even Mr. and Mrs. Osmond were active in the shows either as extras in some of the skits, Mr. Osmond singing with the Osmond Brothers, Mrs. Osmond singing with the Osmond wives, or each displaying their own musical talents, especially Mrs. Osmond who often favored audiences with her extraordinary saxophone playing.
As I continued watching the show, I became keenly interested in learning more about this remarkable family. I bought their records and even began reading teen magazines to find out as much as I could about them. I soon discovered that they are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, as members of the Church are more commonly called. That piqued my interest even more as I was born and raised Baptist, and I had no knowledge about Mormons or what they believe.
By reading the magazines, I was able to find an address to subscribe to the Osmonds Fan Club in the United States and the United Kingdom, and soon began receiving materials, including magazines, CDs, newsletters, and a book by Paul H. Dunn, who was a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He used to invite the Osmonds to speak at Firesides (small meetings with a spiritual bent, usually without a fireplace).
The book, which is titled “The Osmonds: The Official Story of the Osmond Family,” gave me a greater insight into how their faith has a major impact on their life. It soon became apparent to me that this family had something that I needed in my own life.
Looking back, as they say hindsight is 20/20, it makes perfect sense that commercials about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be shown during commercial breaks and at the end of The Donny and Marie Show each week. Those commercial spots always seemed to end with the same thought-provoking question, “Family, isn’t it about time?” followed by an offer to request a free copy of the Book of Mormon.
I now realize that even the weekly television show was a small seed being planted that would eventually blossom into me becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ.
Receiving My First Copy of the Book of Mormon
I have always been a lover of good books, and thinking that the Book of Mormon would be a welcome addition to my growing library, I wrote the address that was given at the end of the commercials and requested a free copy. I have to admit that I was not prepared for the events that followed, as the commercials made no mention of the fact that two young men riding bicycles would deliver the copy of the Book of Mormon to me personally.
I would soon learn that these young men were missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ. At that time I did not even realize that there were Mormons living in our area, let alone that there was a Mormon chapel literally 15 minutes from where I was living with my parents at the time.
The day that the young missionaries arrived with the copy of the Book of Mormon, I invited them in and we had a brief discussion. I was intrigued by what they were saying and invited them to come back so that we could discuss the subject further.
This was in the beginning of 1981 as I recall. I met with the missionaries on several occasions and even began reading the Book of Mormon. However, in March 1981, I made the decision to leave home and join the Navy. I thanked the missionaries for their time and for the things that they had shared with me and promised that I would meet with missionaries again at a later time to continue the discussions.
I put the Book of Mormon in my bookshelf and prepared to leave for Navy boot camp. The book would be left behind, but the things that I had been taught and read up to that point, remained etched in my mind. The small seed that had been planted from watching The Donny and Marie shows was being watered and nurtured. God definitely had a plan for my life, albeit I could not quite put all the pieces of the proverbial puzzle together at that moment. The only thing that I knew for sure is that being introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not per chance or coincidence.
A Sailor Prepares for Baptist Ministry While Seeking for Truth
My early years in the Navy are a story within itself, but suffice it to say that although religion was not at the forefront of my life, I could not get the things that I had been taught by the Mormon missionaries out of my mind. There was something in what they had been able to teach me before I left home that I needed to investigate further, but alas, I felt that it would have to wait for a more convenient time.
As I mentioned, I was born and raised as a Baptist, and it was my desire to one day become a Baptist minister. As the years progressed, I eventually attended Instructor School and was assigned as an Instructor for Navy Electronics C School in Norfolk, Virginia. While stationed in Virginia, I began attending a local Baptist Church on Sundays, and the Bible College associated with the church during the week.
All of my life, I had been taught that the Bible is the Word of God and all of His precious truths could be found therein, but still my soul hungered and thirsted to know more than I felt that my Bible College professors were teaching me. I had even read the Bible in its entirety a few times, but still, deep down inside of me I always sensed that there was so much more to learn and to know.
I was eventually assigned to a ship, the U.S.S. Lake Champlain, in San Diego, California. One day while I was out on liberty, I came across a bookstore that caught my attention. I went inside to look around, and it did not take long to figure out that it was an LDS bookstore. Still, being a lover of books, I stayed and browsed the books and other things for quite a while before deciding to purchase a copy of the Book of Mormon, some tapes that contained General Conference messages, and a book by Joseph Freeman who was the first Black to receive the Priesthood after the 1978 Revelation which allowed all worthy males, regardless of race, to hold the Priesthood and to enjoy the full blessings and privileges thereof. In my mind, I was not quite sure what General Conference was about or what was meant by the Priesthood, but somehow I knew that I needed to have these materials.
I would love to be able to say that I went back to the ship and began reading the Book of Mormon or the book by Joseph Freeman, or even listening to the cassette tapes, but I placed them in my locker and vowed to get back to them at a later time. The seed will still be watered and nurtured.
Mormon Missionaries in Keflavic, Iceland?
Years later, I attended NATO Satellite Ground School in Latina, Italy, followed by duty at NATO Satellite Ground Control in Keflavic, Iceland. One day while I was sitting in my barracks room, I decided that I wanted to find out what was going on in The Church of Jesus Christ at that time, and so I did an online search to find out how I could get an overseas subscription to the Church News. I found an email address and sent an email making the request. I received a response from one of the editors of the Newspaper, Mr. Doug Osborne, who inquired why I was in Iceland and what my interest was in the LDS Church. I told him that I was in the Navy and that I was only interested in reading about the Church.
He sent a follow-on response stating that he had contacted the local missionaries and had asked them to pay me a visit. I relunctantly agreed to the visit, believing that because I was on a secure NATO base, the chances of missionaries being able to contact me was almost impossible. However, in a few short days after receiving the email, I received a telephone call from the missionaries. My first question was, “How did you get my telephone number?” They responded that they called the operator and she gave it to them. I thought to myself, “Well so much for security.” I invited them to come over. That was in early 1997.
All the while, I remained in contact with Mrs. Osmond via email. In January 1997, I wrote an article originally titled “How to Be a Success in Life” which she changed to “Encouragement” and published in her M.O.M. newsletter which she sent out worldwide. I still have a copy of that edition of her newsletter in my collection, along with her emails and personal notes that she sent me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her newsletters as each one contained some of her favorite inspirational quotes and/or inspirational articles that she had written, as well as news about the family that she dearly loved.
A Trip to Branson, Missouri and One Step Closer to Baptism
My beloved mother, Frances Mae Harmon Brown, passed away at the young age of 59 years after losing her battle with breast cancer in June 1997. Shortly after her passing, I took a short vacation and went to Branson, Missouri. It was there that I met Merrill, Jay, Wayne, and Alan Osmond for the first time. I also met Alan’s wife Suzanne, and 6 of their sons – Michael, David, Scott, Jon, Alex, and Tyler. I even had the opportunity to sing part of the song “Your Cheatin’ Heart” with Jimmy Osmond in one of the Osmond Family Shows and had my picture taken for the local Branson newspaper.
The highlight of the trip was being a guest in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Osmond on several occasions. I could clearly understand why everyone called them “Father” and “Mother” Osmond. Mrs. Osmond and I had wonderful conversations, and Mr. Osmond even signed a copy of the Book of Mormon for me. I still have that copy of the Book of Mormon in my library. While in their home, I clearly remember Mrs. Osmond telling Jay and Merrill one day that I was going to begin preparing to become a baptized member of the Church. I also had wonderful conversations with Jay and Merrill during my visit in Branson. Merrill even autographed a picture for me and included a personal inscription which reads, “Dear Keith, I know your heart. It is good. You have a great mission to complete. I am anxious to see where the Lord takes you.”
Return to Iceland and Baptism
Upon returning to Iceland I continued to meet with the missionaries. I met with them for almost a year before I told them that I would not be baptized until I had read the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price in their entirety. I did, however, attend Church services at the Mormon chapel in Reykjavik, Iceland, on a regular basis.
By this time I had already read the Bible 7 times in its entirety, but there still remained the hunger and thirst in my soul for more – much more. I was inspired to create a 40-day reading plan to complete all of the reading. At the end of the 40 days, I contacted the missionaries and told them that after much prayer, pondering, and study, I had made the decision to be baptized.
I was baptized on Tuesday evening, 10 March 1998. The rest, as they say, is history. I emailed Mrs. Osmond to let her know that I had been baptized a member of the Church and as a special gift, she sent me a copy of the Doctrine and Covenants Study Guide and a handwritten note. I still have both in my library.
During the past 17 years I have been blessed to hold several leadership positions in the Church. I have also been blessed to maintain contact with a few members of the Osmond family – Merrill, Alan, and Alan’s sons, Nathan and David. I have never met Nathan in person, but I have spoken with him on several occasions by telephone and personal messages on Facebook. In my music collection I have autographed CDs by both Nathan and David. I have also been blessed over the years to be able to speak to Merrill Osmond by telephone.
It all started with the early days of The Donny and Marie Show, which led to early discussions with missionaries, which led to a Naval career and an eventual trip to Branson, Missouri, to meet some of the Osmonds, which led to conversations and a signed copy of the Book of Mormon, which culminated in becoming a baptized member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Osmond family may never know the tremendous impact that they have had and continue to have on my life.