The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints strongly encourages its youth to go on two-year mission stints before starting their families or careers.
The Season 7 runner-up comes from a devoutly Mormon family, but saw his singing career skyrocket early as a 16-year-old teenage heart-throb who received millions of phoned-in votes each week from fans.
Unlike Idol finalists Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, Archuleta has not become a star.
His latest album
In fact, he was recently dropped by his record label, Jive, following the disappointing performance of his latest album, 2010′s ‘The Other Side of Down.’
“I’ve chosen to serve a full-time mission,” the teary-eyed 20-year-old
announced at the Christmas concert at Salt Lake City’s Abravanel Hall. “It’s not because someone told me I was supposed to do it and not because I no longer want to do music anymore. It’s because it’s what I feel I need to do next in my life. It’s the same feeling that I’ve always tried to follow in my life — the feeling that’s allowed me to have the opportunities I’ve had, the challenges and the blessings, too. And I’ve learned to trust that feeling and answer when it calls.”
The LDS Church says it has over 52,000 full-time missionaries worldwide, 80 percent of whom are young men in their late teens and early twenties. They travel to a mission site which is usually far from their home and are allowed only two phone calls home a year — on Christmas and Mother’s Day. They raise their own financial support and must follow strict church guidelines of sexual chastity and healthy diet. They are easily recognizable throughout the Third World since they travel in pairs dressed in dark slacks, white shirts, ties and plastic name tags introducing them as Elders — even if serving in vacation areas or on the beach.
In 1974, LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Every young man should fill a mission.” As a result, completing a mission is often described as a rite of passage for a young Mormon — usually starting around age 19 and lasting 24 months. About 80 percent are young, unmarried men, 13 percent were young single women and 7 percent were retired couples.
Archuleta did not announce where he will serve. A church official said it will be up to Archuleta whether he wants to make the location of his assignment public.