By Geoffrey Biddulph
Gladys Knight and her 60-person choir of Latter-day Saints gave four performances for more than 5,000 people in southern Florida last week.
“This is the way, this is the light,” she said in teary testimony regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Gladys Knight is famous worldwide for such songs as “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Over the weekend, she, along with her choir and a three-person band gave four shows to thousands of members and non-member investigators, who crowded into the Fort Lauderdale Florida stake center building. They heard Knight’s renditions of “Because I have been Given Much” and “I am a Child of God,” as well as several Gospel songs that are not in the Church hymn book.
Knight sang several solos, but she also directed several choir members who also took the stage alone. They sang songs such as “Uphold Me with Thy Sweet Spirit” and “Oh, How I Love Jesus” with a swelling choir behind them.
The highlight of the evening was certainly when the famed singer and her husband both gave their testimonies of the restored gospel.
“It is indeed a miracle that I belong to this church,” Sister Knight said. “The image of the Church in the past has not been conducive to my being here. It shows His hand in motion. An African-American woman: Who knew I would have a calling such as this?”
Knight has indeed been given a special calling by the Brethren to travel throughout the world giving her testimony both in speech and through song. Given her fame and her reputation, she may be a vessel for bringing thousands of tens of thousands to investigate the Church.
Several years ago, Gladys Knight’s son was the first member of her family to look at the Church. After he got baptized, her daughter came next.
Sister Knight described her search for God’s true church, which came after the baptism of her children:
“I was raised in a Baptist home. We spent all day on Sunday at church. I was kind of all over the place religiously. I was a Baptist and then a Catholic and then I went to several other churches. I was seeking. There was something good in every one of those churches, but I thought there’s got to be more. My daughter Kenya said, ‘talk to the missionaries.’ I fell in love right away. They were respectful, and the first thing they said was, ‘Can we pray?’ I believe in the power of prayer. They told me, ‘You check it out.’ I got on my knees and asked the Lord, and I got my answer. I couldn’t wait for my next lessons. I said I wanted to get baptized tomorrow.”
Very soon after that, she was baptized.
Her husband, William McDowell, gave an eloquent and humor-laced testimony about his courtship and marriage to one of the most famous singers around.
They met because he was the manager of a spa in San Diego. “As Gladys kept traveling around the world, and I kept on traveling around San Diego, it was common knowledge Gladys has lost her mind and had joined those Mormons,” Brother McDowell said.
He would go to visit her in Las Vegas and, “There were a lot of young men on bicycles who kept on visiting — hungry young men on bicycles.”
McDowell added, “They kept on saying they belonged to the true church of Jesus Christ. I was raised very Baptist by god-fearing people, my grandparents. How could they not be members of the true church?”
But McDowell said he went to seminary and read The Book of Mormon and then got on his knees and asked, and “I received the answers. My grandparents had prepared me to recognize the Truth when I saw it.”
He acknowledged his brother, who was in the audience, and said, “This is the first time he has heard my testimony. Hopefully I can bring my family to a truth. The Church of Jesus Christ has been restored. It was restored by a young boy, Joseph Smith, who in a field saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.”
McDowell continued, “Take the time to research and find out for yourself. Take the time to pick up The Book of Mormon. Ask whether it is true. If you want to see a miracle, just think that Gladys Knight is running a choir in the Mormon Church.”
He then introduced his wife as “Gladys Knight McDowell,” and she sang a song to which Brother McDowell wrote the lyrics — “He Lives.” It was a very moving song about the Savior that Knight sang to a misty-eyed crowd.
“I have to give this testimony of mine,” Knight said. “I have no other choice. Sometimes the truth is right before you and you don’t see it.”
Knight said that it has sometimes been difficult for her to tell people she is a Mormon. “But this is the true church. It has the 12 apostles, just like Jesus’ church. Just like the people in Jesus’ day, we need to look farther for the truth. The people in those days got the same ridicule we get today. I was willing to risk that for the honor of serving him.”
She asked non-members in the audience, “At least see for yourselves. At least be obedient to that end.” She then went into the audience to shake hands and give hugs to the many people who adore her.
Mission President Noel Reynolds said his missionaries received 425 solid referrals from the event.
“The missionaries from the Haitian branch brought 17 people, and one young lady asked to be baptized right away after hearing Gladys Knight’s testimony,” President Reynolds said. Another ward mission leader had been asking his father, a Baptist, to hear the discussions for year. His father finally agreed with enthusiasm after attending the Gladys Knight event.
May God bless you in your life and help you in your search for happiness.
For anyone who has questions and is interested in finding out more, click on this link – http://mormon.org/mormonorg/eng/