Donny Osmond is no doubt one of the most famous Mormons in the entertainment industry. And it’s fair to say that his religious beliefs have sometimes landed him in hot water with the public over the years. Take the star’s controversial confession about gay marriage, for instance. His opinions on the subject in fact resulted in a serious backlash from fans. Then Donny also raised eyebrows by coming clean about one of his biggest regrets.
Yet Donny and all his siblings were raised in the Mormon religion. And it is a big family – Donny has seven brothers and one sister, after all – at the head of which was patriarch George Osmond. George was actually the person who turned his brood into a squeaky-clean group of singing superstars. That’s why Donny was performing on stage before he’d even turned six years old.
And Donny was still singing a decade later when the star became a teen idol. Yes, it seemed that young girls couldn’t get enough of him. Many others were, however, perhaps a little unsure. For one thing, his Mormonism was baffling to some. Donny was apparently living the sort of rock-star life of which everybody dreamed – but he didn’t partake in its excesses. In fact, the young boy would insist that he’d not engage in sex before marriage, drink, take drugs or even swear.
This again comes down to the singer’s Mormon beliefs. Yet Mormonism is actually just a common moniker for the movement; its proper name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And, as you can see, the church has some pretty strict guidelines for its members. For instance, alcohol and drugs are banned as well as substances such as coffee and tea. These rules are based on the teachings of the faith’s founder, Joseph Smith.
There’s also a dress code of sorts for members. So Mormons are expected to dress with decorum and not pierce or tattoo their bodies. Women are in fact only allowed to pierce their ears once per ear. According to the teachings of the religion, too, these rules are in place so that followers can show respect for the bodies God provided.
Donny and his family are far from the only Mormons in the entertainment industry, though. Gladys Knight, Brandon Flowers, Jon Heder, Larry Bagby and David Archuleta are all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of them have even served missions abroad, trying to spread their religious goals further.
Missionary work is a very important aspect of the Mormon faith, after all. Members of the church, especially young men, are even urged to go abroad and represent their faith through activities such as proselytizing or offering humanitarian aid. The missions are not compulsory, but males of the Mormon church will generally spend two years on a mission, while females will spend 18 months.
But back to Donny. At the age of 20, Donny got married – even though his father had told him it would hurt his career. His bride was Debbie Glenn, another Mormon. They ended up having five children together, all sons: Joshua, Jeremy, Donald, Christopher and Brandon. The boys were likewise raised in the Mormon faith.
In 1985 Donny and Debbie spoke to the Los Angeles Times about how they were handling parenthood. Debbie said, “The LDS religion believes in a strong family – a strong unit – and teaching and raising your children properly.” Donny said that the church had a “program that really solidifies the family together and that is ‘family night.’”
Donny said of the family home, “I’m glad we’re living in an area where there’s a lot of Christianity. Regardless of whether they’re Mormons or not doesn’t really matter. There happens to be a lot of Mormons in our area, which makes it nice for us because our kids can see them every week at church and play with them during the week.”
And Donny went on, “Mormonism plays a vital role in raising our children because we teach them the love of God and the reason we’re here on this earth: to perfect our lives and hopefully someday, we believe, to return to our heavenly Father. I think that what’s nice about that is that it really puts life itself into a good perspective. You understand what you’re really here for and what your goals are.”
So Donny clearly respects his religion and feels it has improved his life. However, there have been some very messy moments surrounding the Osmond family and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1978, for example, Donny and his sister, Marie, were interviewed by TV journalist Barbara Walters about Mormonism – and it didn’t seem to go well.
Walters said to Donny and Marie, “I have to ask you something that I know you have heard about, and if I don’t ask it people will wonder why I didn’t. And that is, in the strength of your religion, the whole business about blacks not being allowed to be priests… Tell me how you feel about it and what the explanation of that is.”
Donny’s response was, to say the least, awkward. “Well, I’m not an authority on the subject,” he said. “But I will mention that we are not prejudiced people. We offer more, I think, than any other religion to the black person.” Yet he also said, “[Black people are] not allowed to hold priesthood right now, and I don’t know why, but that’s the way the Lord wants it.”
Walters then told Donny, while gesturing to Marie, “I have noticed here that you have no trouble speaking your mind, and yet, you know, in the church feeling about it, it seems to me, that the woman is somewhat in the secondary position.” Marie gave an answer to that – and in truth it was quite a shocking one.
Marie, then 19 years old, said, “Secondary, no. But you have to remember that you need a patriarch at the head of the home, and this is the way that I feel. You need someone to run the home. The woman is equally as important but as far as speaking her mind, that should be the man’s job.”
Fortunately, the Mormon religion has since adjusted its views on sex and race. In 2015, for example, three women were appointed to the executive councils of the church. And in 2013 spokespeople for the organization released a statement denouncing an earlier Mormon belief that dark skin was a “mark of inferiority.” By then, too, black men were allowed to hold priesthood positions.
But understandably the Mormon religion, like most religions, has been subject to a lot of other criticisms. The Mormon beliefs on homosexuality have, in fact, proved very controversial. After all, the church will currently only accept gay, lesbian or bisexual members if they remain celibate with regard to members of their own genders and don’t have same-sex relationships.
This is particularly complicated for the Osmond family because in 2009 it was revealed that Marie’s daughter Jessica is in fact gay herself. Marie, however, stood by her. She even told the radio station KOST 103.5 in 2009 that she loved her child and that “when it comes to marriage… [she thinks] that civil rights need to be for all.”
Marie explained, “You know, I think each of us has the right to choose who makes that medical decision for us. I think everybody should have the right to share homes and finances with somebody that they care about. You know, on those types of things, I’m very supportive.” Yet this isn’t in keeping with the Mormon church, which is officially against same-sex marriage.
And it in fact seemed that not all members of Jessica’s family were supportive. In November 2011, you see, her uncle Alan Osmond wrote a seemingly homophobic article for a Mormon website called The Family. And according to people who reported on the story at the time, The Family was run by “The Osmond Network LLC.”
Alan outlined his beliefs in the article, writing, “It is important to understand that homosexuality is not innate and unchangeable. Research has NOT proved that homosexuality is genetic.” And he also wrote that gay and bisexual people could “diminish homosexual attraction and make changes in their lives.”
So does Donny Osmond also harbor apparently homophobic ideas? Well, some of his recent actions would suggest not. In October 2009, for instance, Donny surprised everyone by twice kissing openly gay judge Bruno Tonioli while appearing on Dancing with the Stars. And afterwards Donny joked, “I don’t think they’re going to let me back in Utah any more.”
Plus, Donny was notably absent from a “March for Marriage” display that many of the other Osmonds attended in 2013. Alan was there, as were his wife, son and grandchildren. The event was supposed to be a “celebration of marriage” and a “stand together for the family” in accordance with Mormon doctrine. Marie also did not attend.
But what does Donny actually think of same-sex marriage – and by extension, the future of his gay niece? Perhaps the answer can be found in a statement that Donny made in response to a question he received from a fan, circa 2006. As the fight for equal marriage rights raged on in America, Donny said, “I do support our church leaders who say that we can accept those with gay tendencies in our church as long as they do not act upon their temptations.”
Interestingly, the person had asked, “How do you think Christians should respond to gay friends who consider themselves ‘married’… one of my dearest friends on earth, a guy also born 12/9/57 is like this? I support President Bush on his recent stance on this, that gay marriages should not be recognized, yet I love my friend dearly and would NEVER want to hurt him.”
Donny answered, “My beliefs about marriage [are] beautifully stated in The Family – A Proclamation To The World, a document published by the leaders of our church back in 1995. I am going to include it here.” It was a long document, but it was one that made clear that same-sex marriage was not permitted under Mormonism.
The key takeaway from the document read, “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and… the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” The church leaders also claimed, “Disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”
As for Donny’s personal thoughts on the matter, he stated, “There are many gay individuals that are members of our church. I know many of them. In fact, some of my best friends are gay… Everyone has tendencies to succumb to temptation, but we all have the same standard given to us by our Father in Heaven.”
Donny went on, “Whether we may be tempted to be immoral with members of our own sex or of the opposite sex, we are expected to live chaste lives. This is very well explained not only in the Book of Mormon, but in the Bible as well.” Yet Donny was not finished there.
Donny continued, “The whole beauty of God’s plan is that we all have our free agency to live our lives the way we want to live them. Personally, I believe in the words stated above and that they came from a living prophet, so I abide by them. We all determine for ourselves what is right and what is not right for our own lives and how we live God’s commandments.”
Donny finished, “I am not a judge, and I will never judge anyone for the decisions they make unless they are causing harm to another individual. I love my friends, including my gay friends. We are all God’s children. It is their choice, not mine, on how they conduct their lives and choose to live the commandments according to the dictates of their own conscience.”
But has Donny ever stated any regrets about his religion? In fact, he has – but it might not be what you’d expect. The star actually made clear his biggest regret when answering another fan question on his website, circa 2015. The person asked him about the Mormon missionary work, and Donny had a lot of thoughts about it.
The fan said, “I am a member of the church and still have a few years before I can go [on a mission]. I’m not sure if the Lord feels that I need to go. But then again, I feel as though I need to devote my time to academics. But how do I choose between what I feel I need to do? And what Heavenly Father wants me to do?”
Donny answered, “Four of my sons have gone on missions, and the fifth is planning to go. As I see the wonderful growth in each of them, I feel a twinge of regret that I did not go on a full-time mission.” However, there was a reason why Donny had ended up not going on one: his career had been considered almost missionary work in itself.
Donny explained, “At that time, some church leaders encouraged my brothers and me to continue to perform because we were getting a lot of attention as “Mormons,” and yes, it did bring a lot of attention to the Church and may have even caused some to investigate our faith, but I still missed the personal experience of serving.”
In the last part of his answer, Donny made reference to the Mormon church’s relaxing of the rules about women. “I was thrilled to see the age for the young women of the Church lowered so all who would like to serve can go without delaying their families,” he wrote. “What a great blessing this will be for the Church and for the future mothers who will have the mission experience behind them as they rear their children.”
The church has also changed its rules on LGBT issues slightly since Donny wrote those messages on his website. From 2019, in fact, the church has adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But – especially considering that some people have linked a rise in Utah suicides to the harsh Mormon rules – this alteration may be too little, too late for many.
Donny has seemingly said no more about same-sex marriage publicly since publishing the messages on his website – but Marie has. In 2013 she told TV news anchor Diane Sawyer, “The God that I believe in is a god of love, not fear. I believe in [my daughter’s] civil rights, as a mother… I don’t think God made one color flower; I think He made many.”
Jessica got married in 2019, four years after same-sex marriage was legalized across the entire United States. Marie wrote on Twitter, “Congratulations to my darling daughter Jessica and her new wife Sara!” But on Donny’s Twitter there was no mention of the wedding. Maybe he attended, and maybe he didn’t.
But besides the issue of same-sex marriage, there are other controversial skeletons hiding in Donny’s closet. That’s right: both he and Marie have more demons from their pasts than you may have imagined. And while they may have been all smiles in front of the camera, they were also masking some horrific secrets. Read on to find out more.
Donny and Marie were members of one of the most iconic family groups in music history and blazed a trail as the presenters of their very own variety show. Yes, their ’70s series Donny and Marie was a certified hit with audiences. But behind the scenes, there were darker forces at play – ones so traumatizing that they would continue to plague the brother and sister duo for many years afterwards.
When you talk about the most wholesome groups in musical history, you’d be remiss not to bring up The Osmonds. The heavily religious siblings took the world by storm with their clean-cut image and shimmering pop sound; and, ultimately, they became of the most popular acts of the early ’70s.
However, Donny really took the lead in the group – despite the fact that he was a late addition. And he also started his showbiz career at a very young age – first appearing on television with his brothers when he was just five years old.
Yet while his siblings had already been singing together before he joined, Donny added that special something to the group. Then, The Osmonds’ appearances on The Andy Williams Show and The Jerry Lewis Show in the ’60s catapulted them into the spotlight.
But in the following decade, things really began heating up for the group; by that time, they had also made a musical transition from barbershop and gospel to bubblegum pop. The Osmonds’ desire to shake off the variety show stigma that had attached itself to them partly spurred this change – and needless to say, the shift in styles proved a success.
What followed was something commonly dubbed at the time as “Osmondmania.” During the early ’70s, the group dominated the charts, embarked on tours across the U.S. and even had their own cartoon named after themselves. And that’s not to even mention the fact that there was a new Osmond in town…
You see, Marie Osmond became the next one in the family to pursue a musical career. And while she achieved solo success early on, she didn’t forget about her show business family, as she also chose to perform on stage with them.
Unfortunately, The Osmonds’ popularity subsided during the latter half of the decade; indeed, the group never quite reached the heady heights of their past accomplishments. And although the family members kept the Osmond brand alive, they weren’t the same group without Donny at the helm.
Still, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, and the rest of the family found this out firsthand when Donny and Marie teamed up together to great success. To begin with, their initial collaboration spawned two hit singles in 1974: “Morning Side of the Mountain” and “I’m Leaving It All Up to You.” The best was yet to come for the pair, though.
In 1976 the siblings found themselves fronting their very own variety show, entitled Donny and Marie. The program featured various performances and skits and became a runaway success – perhaps thanks in part to the chemistry between the two. Sadly, though, what we saw on screen didn’t tell the whole story.
“I had producers take me out into the parking lot when I was 103 pounds and tell me that I was obese, disgusting and a disgrace to my family,” Marie told Closer in 2015, adding, “[They said] that I needed to keep food out of my fat face.” Naturally, the horrible treatment weighed heavily on the teen star.
Marie went on, “This sent me on a head trip – that 250 people could lose their jobs because of me.” The result? Marie deprived herself of food until she weighed 97 pounds. The admission certainly paints a new picture of the show, although it isn’t the only complaint about the program’s crew.
“We had a director who was a perfectionist,” Donny said in the same interview. He elaborated, “There were so many wonderful outtakes that weren’t used because he wanted it to be perfect. What I’ve learned over the years is that imperfection is perfection. You can’t make it too perfect to a point where it’s not real.”
Incredibly, amid all of that chaos, Marie was also studying at the time. Then aged 16, the star was also faced with the stress of having to carry the show with her brother – despite the fact that Donny himself was only 17. And both teens were understandably out of their depth.
As Marie recounted to Closer, “When other celebrities came on the show, sometimes they wouldn’t know their stuff. So Donny and I were required to make up the time so [that] we wouldn’t lose money. That was a lot of pressure.”
What’s more, Donny maintained an admirable work ethic in his early years. That’s a regime with which he appears to have kept up too; as it happens, though, it seems that the star now finds it hard to maintain a balanced lifestyle.
Indeed, Donny told the Daily Mail in 2009, “I was just on the phone to my wife, and we made some promises that next year’s going to be a little lighter when it comes to my workload. Next year belongs to her.” A grueling schedule on the road is something that may be second nature to him now.
And Marie in particular has apparently suffered from her time in the spotlight. She even contemplated suicide in 1999 after the birth of son Matthew. The mother of eight told her nanny at the time, “I can’t stay here.”
Marie added in the 2009 Daily Mail interview, “My body was racked with hysterical crying, and I began to understand for the first time why a person would want to take their own life.” Marie was eventually diagnosed with post-natal depression, although the support she subsequently received enabled her to work through it.
Then Marie realized that her pressure-cooker childhood may have spurred on her sudden breakdown. She said in the same interview, “It hadn’t been easy growing up in the music industry in the ’70s – and for two reasons. Not only was I a girl, but I was [also] the only female Osmond. I felt a huge pressure on all sides.”
In addition, Marie had to overcome sexual abuse as a child and the suicide of her son Michael in 2010. Today, though, Donny and Marie seem in better places, and Donny can look back on their show with fondness. He told Closer in 2015, “I look back at my life as all these peaks and valleys, and Donny & Marie happens to be a peak. The bad times dissipate and you only remember the good. When I see those old clips, sometimes I cringe, but it still brings a nice big smile to my face.”