Alan Osmond, the oldest of the singing Osmond family, was always in good physical shape and very coordinated—after all, he was a dancer and had training in the martial arts. So when he began tripping, dragging a foot, and having trouble playing his trumpet, he was puzzled. Eventually, he learned he had multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease with no cure. When a gossip magazine learned of this and planned to put out a sensational article suggesting he was dying, he contacted Annette Funacello, an actress and singer who also has multiple sclerosis. She encouraged him to tell the world himself, so he arranged for Entertainment Tonight to interview him about it.
Alan Osmond is a Mormon, so he already had some good health practices that were important to management of MS. Mormons have, as part of their Mormon beliefs, the Word of Wisdom. The Word of Wisdom teaches Mormons not to drink alcohol or to smoke, and to eat healthy foods and care for their bodies. His family had always taught their children to have healthy diets and to exercise—not difficult when you dance onstage!
Osmond says that his faith helps him through the trials. He knows he will live again after death, so he isn’t afraid of dying. Because Mormon beliefs teach about the power of prayer, he encourages people with MS or other challenges to pray, explaining that while doctors can help, it’s God who does the real healing.
Mormons believe in eternal families, meaning that family life continues on after death. This gives Mormons a unique view of families and a larger commitment to coping with challenges. While many marriages disintegrate when one spouse has a demanding special need, Mormons know these challenges are only a very small portion of eternity, giving them motivation to work as a family to get through the earthly challenges. No matter how challenging they make earth life, they won’t exist after life on earth ends. Alan Osmond explains that his marriage is stronger now than it was before he was diagnosed, and that his wife and children have been instrumental in how well he’s doing.
The family faced additional challenges when son David was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. David, following his father’s example, openly talks about his disability and continues to live a full life, refusing to sit back and give up. He is a husband, father, and performer, and also speaks to groups about the importance of God in a person’s life, especially during times of trial.
Alan received the Dorothy Corwin Spirit of Life Award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society because of his positive attitude toward his challenges and the work he has done in the field.
The family is a wonderful example of what can be done when families pull together and put their trust in God during the hard times of life.