‘American Idol’ Alum Claps Back at Critics Over Mormon Mission Trip

american idol

Heavy/ABC "American Idol" stage

Though she only appeared on a few episodes of “American Idol” in 2022, 17-year-old contestant Kenedi Anderson of Cruzet, Virginia, made a big impression on viewers and judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie, earning a coveted platinum ticket. But she shocked fans and made headlines by abruptly quitting the show with little explanation.

Now 20, Anderson — who released the single “Nothing Hurts” and an accompanying music video in March — has stunned fans again. On June 5, 2024, she announced via social media that beginning in July, she’ll be “taking a break” from music to go on an 18-month Mormon mission trip.

The move has surprised many fans, especially given that Anderson moved to Los Angeles after her high school graduation to pursue her music career, according to Parade. She has received a wide range of reactions on social media, including encouraging comments from some fans and pleas from others to reconsider. The teen swiftly clapped back at her critics, insisting that the unexpected move is the right decision for her.

Kenedi Anderson Thrilled by Church’s Decision to Send Her to Hawaii

On June 5, Anderson announced her upcoming mission trip by posting a series of Instagram photos of her posing with a copy of The Book of Mormon.

“I’ve chosen to serve a full time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” Anderson began her post. “Dedicating 18 months of my life to serve my Lord and Savior is the least I can do after all God has blessed me with.”

“I hope to return a more Christlike and charitable person,” she continued. “I also hope to help others find the joy and peace that I have found in this gospel. All I’ve ever wanted to do with my music, is to help others feel healed & heard the way that I’ve felt those things through music.”

Anderson also assured fans, “I AM NOT QUITTING MUSIC :)) I am taking a break to focus on what God has called me to do, but I will be back before you know it! And you better believe that I’ll be working harder than ever to put music out for y’all!!”

She has shared evidence that she’s working on new music, posting a photo in her Instagram Stories on June 10 of her working with producer Carson Ripley.

On TikTok, a video of her reading her letter of assignment to her family has gone viral, with nearly 3 million views. When she read her destination out loud — Honolulu, Hawaii — Anderson screamed with delight.

“It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months,” Anderson read out loud. “Our Heavenly Father will reward you for the goodness of your life. Greater blessings and more joy than you have ever experienced await you as you prayerfully serve the Lord in this labor of love among his children.”

When someone asked Anderson on TikTok how her destination was chosen, she responded, “The prophet of our church (who is the mouthpiece for God on earth) assigns you to a place anywhere in the world through the spirit of God. We believe wherever you’re called is where God wants you!”

Kenedi Anderson Claps Back at Critics With Song

Anderson has received lots of support for her decision, especially from fellow Mormons. But others have left comments begging her to reconsider or criticizing the Mormon church’s belief system.

The singer has responded to the pushback with multiple tongue-in-cheek posts, including a series of Instagram photos on June 7 of her smiling, holding a Starbucks drink, which she captioned, “Unbothered 💋”

In response to one person’s TikTok comment that called the church a “cult,” Anderson posted a TikTok video in which she clapped back at her critics with a song as she played her acoustic guitar. She captioned the post, “Silly little song to the haters ❤️”

“Call me evil ’cause I believe in Jesus,” Anderson sang. “But all the death threats are only from the sweetness of your heart. You’re just doing your part, what an angel you are.”

Anderson’s decision to step back from music to dive into a mission trip is reminiscent of season 7 runner-up David Archuleta‘s decision to do the same four years after he competed on “Idol.” Archuleta put music on hold in 2012 to go on a two-year LDS mission trip to Chile, per the Salt Lake Tribune. Now openly queer, he has since left the Mormon church, which is the topic of his latest single, “Hell Together.”

Every year, approximately 53,000 young Mormons are sent on voluntary mission trips around the world, according to PBS. They typically pay for their own expenses while spending six days a week studying scripture and going door to door “teaching and contacting” potential converts, including those who are already Christian but not Mormon.

Anderson’s break from pop music will be mandatory, per PBS, which reported that missionaries can’t watch TV or movies and they’re “only allowed to listen to music and read books that are of a religious nature.”