Donald Clark Osmond (professionally known as Donny) is the seventh of nine children born to the late patriarch of the Osmond family, George Virl Osmond, Sr., and the late matriarch of the family, Olive May Osmond, (nee Davis). His siblings are Virl, Tom, Alan, Wayne, Merril, Jay, Marie, and Jimmy. Speaking about his life growing up in the Osmond family home, Donny explained, “I grew up real fast, real young. Normality to us was rehearsing hard on new routines and performing on TV shows, plus tours and other performances, with schoolwork via home tutoring squeezed around that schedule.”
Virl and Tom, the two oldest siblings, were born death. While the other eight were blazing a trail in the entertainment business on television, as well as performing on stages around the world, Virl and Tom remained mostly behind the scenes supporting their brothers and sister Marie in any way they could. Although the two brothers were born with hearing disabilities, this did not keep them from being a part of the family act from time to time, especially during the holiday season on the Donny and Marie Show.
The Osmonds rose to super-stardom in the 1960s and ’70s. Indirectly, the real musical magic began in 1944 when a young Army sergeant met a young civilian secretary and married her. Neither of them could have possibly imagined that in the years to follow their offspring would become worldwide music sensations, and that the name “The Osmonds” would become a part of history.
It all started in 1958 with the creation of the group, The Osmond Brothers, which consisted of Alan (bass), Wayne (baritone), Merrill (tenor), and Jay (lead). This was only the beginning. Fast forward to the 1970s and the United Kingdom. London was first struck by Osmondmania in mid-January 1973 when the Osmond boy band from Ogden, Utah, arrived. LDS Living reports that later that same year, it was also reported that “10,000 shrieking fans met the Osmonds at London’s Heathrow Airport, causing a balcony to collapse because of too much weight from these crazed devotees.”
The Osmond craze that struck the United Kingdom in the early 1970s created several other unexpected situations for the Osmonds. By the spring of 1975, both Heathrow and Gatwick Airports were closed to the Osmonds’ chartered aircraft due to widely publicized incidents, which cost thousands of pounds to repair due to “hundreds of stampeding girls, and several policemen [who] were injured.” Two years later, hotels were also closed to the group, which necessitated a temporary house rental.
In the years to follow the Osmonds would garner throngs of adoring fans who still love and support them even today. Because of their exemplary demeanor both on and off stage, the Osmonds became “musical missionaries” and played a key role in sharing the gospel and growing the Church in that corner of the world. George Osmond told a Sunday Times Magazine correspondent, “We’re just a plain, simple family. We’re all members of the Mormon faith, and it is that more than anything else that has held us together. I can tell you the boys love the Lord even more than show business.” A 1970s convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as “the Mormon Church”), Denise Sim from Hertfordshire, rcalls, “If it hadn’t been for the Osmond family, I would not have known about the ‘Mormon Church’ and its teachings. . . .The Osmonds have had a great influence and have been missionaries in their own rights. Through their example . . . and through their music, they have brought numerous people to the understanding that we are children of God.”
Carol Oldroyd, a former staff member assisting the Osmonds, observerved the Osmonds behavior on and off stage first hand. She remembers, “From the minute we stepped off that airplane . . . the Osmonds were the kindest people to the fans of England. They cared about them; they talked with them; they gave them all the time they needed to tell them their problems. The Osmond brothers were very kind to the people of England, and I think that’s the reason why they loved them so much.” She added, “The Osmonds always tried to go to firesides or to church whenever they could, and so they set an example to the people of England.”
Ron Clark, the Osmonds’ publicist and road manager for 14 years, witnessed the incredible influence that they had, particularly with the example they set for their young female fans. He recalls:
There was nothing that any parent ever needed to worry about with their child, this precious daughter, having a fixation on any one of the Osmonds because they were nonthreatening. All they did was to be an example for goodness, and as a result of that, these girls start reading the Book of Mormon. They start reading the pamphlets that the missionaries would bring to the home. We had referral cards inside each Book of Mormon that was given away at the concert sites.
In the Spring of 1972, the Osmond family had the honor and privilege of meeting Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. During that meeting, Olive Osmond took the opportunity to present the Queen with a copy of the Book of Mormon. Donny says that years later he learned that the Queen still has the Book of Mormon in the palace.
The firesides in England that the Osmonds participated in sparked interest on many occasions, which yielded much fruit and thousands of baptisms. Merrill Osmond says that after the Osmond album titled The Plan came out in 1973, which gave a glimpse into the Latter-day Saint view of the purpose of life, people were really affected by it. At firesides, the Osmonds permitted the audience to ask questions about the plan of salvation. Merrill recalls, “I remember one fireside where the Spirit was so strong that literally people who were not [Latter-day Saints] would stand up in the middle of our fireside and start bearing their testimonies of what they were hearing. I mean, we’re talking hundreds and hundreds of people would get up over time and just want to bear that testimony.”
The Osmonds’ international influence came to the attention of Church. Ron Clark recounts a special dinner in the family’s honor with then-president Spencer W. Kimball:
It was 1977, and we were invited to Salt Lake City for dinner by none other than Spencer W. Kimball and his wife, Camilla. . . . [He said], “Well George and Olive, . . . I have some news that I would like to share with you. It’s come to my attention that this past year, through the missionary department referral system, your remarkable Osmond family is responsible for over 28,000 convert baptisms this year alone.” And he said, “Brother and Sister Osmond, I would like to extend an invitation to you and your children tonight in this very special setting to be missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide. And it will be my pleasure and an honor to set you apart individually in that calling.” And before the night was over, they had been set apart as full-time missionaries in the Lord’s service.
Alan Osmond recalls, “The prophet knew we were being bombarded with press and media, so he authorized us to receive a little more help with missionary work by having us all ordained as Seventies.”
The special meeting with President Kimball was not the Osmond family’s first encounter with a Latter-day Saint prophet. In 1972, several years before meeting with President Kimball, the Osmonds were given counsel by President Harold B. Lee. Jay Osmond recalls the inspired counsel provided to his family by the prophet, “[He said], ‘Whether it’s the places you go, the things you do, the friends you keep, always choose that decision, [that] option that will bring you closer to God.’” Marie Osmond recalls another time when she and her family were invited to a private meeting with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Osmonds did not take their spiritual charge casually but tried to make good decisions and bring light into every performance. In fact, each of the Osmonds would tell you that one of the keys to their success was that they never performed before an audience without having prayer together. This tradition continues to the present day.
Although the original band that performed in the UK during the ’70s no longer performs as an entire group on a regular basis, there are special occasions when they all perform together, and Merrill, Jay, and Jimmy have continued to perform in the United Kingdom throughout the years. And, during Donny and Marie’s run in Las Vegas, Nevada, British fans flew to the United States to see their show. Donny has commented, “. . . .the UK has always had such a very, very soft spot in my heart, and a very good place for my career, because it really was the UK that launched us into stardom.”
Although the Osmonds met with distinguished and well-known British citizens on occasion, they were always conscious of their everyday fans and looked for ways to encourage them. Jay Osmond explains, “One of the things we’ve always wanted people to know is that we got into show business not because we wanted to be famous or make a lot of money. . . . We got into this business because we felt we can maybe help families, lift families. And it was always a mission first. I think that’s what’s kept us grounded through all this up and down roller coaster of show business.”
Donny Osmond summarized the influence that his family has had on the people in the United Kingdom by saying:
Throughout the years, a lot of people have thanked the Osmonds for changing the face of the Church in the UK. . . . I am ever grateful to have been in that position that the Lord would trust us that much—to be the face of the Church over in the UK in the early ’70s. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is such a wonderful organization that brings families together, and that is the message the Osmond family brought to the British Isles.
*As a side note to this article, In 2016, Deborah Ann Griffin compiled two volumes of stories and testimonies of people who were converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints due to the missionary influence of the Osmond Family. The volumes are titled “Led by Example: The Missionary Influence of the Osmond Family. This author’s story and testimony can be found in chapter two of volume 2.