Artists find God in and out of the pew

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Musician Cas Haley placed second in the TV contest America’s Got Talent in 2007. He identified himself as LDS as a child but now declares no religious affiliation.

Cas Haley performs at Kilby Court in Salt Lake in January 2016. (Natalie Stoker)

The number of people who declare no religious affiliation, sometimes called “nones,” has grown in recent years in the United States. Pew Research shows that from 2007 to 2014, 6.7 percent more of the U.S. population now call themselves religiously unaffiliated.

Though Haley doesn’t affiliate himself with any one religion, he has studied various religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism. Haley said he considers himself a Christian and has “so much respect for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Haley said his motivation to study other “ways of thinking” stemmed from being singled out for belonging to the LDS Church when he lived in Texas as a youth.

Haley’s most recent album, “More Music More Family,” emerged after he injured himself by repeatedly crashing at a Minnesota ski resort in the winter of 2013 to 2014. He said the experience of being injured and coming back to singing after the injury inspired him to value his family and his relationship with God more than he had before.

Clayton Joseph Scott, who toured with Haley in 2015, was impressed that Haley tours with his family instead of touring alone. “(Haley) is very sincere when he says ‘more music more family,'” Scott said. “His 9-year-old and his 5-year-old and his wife and his mom come and tour.”

Brisco at art exhibit in the HFAC.
Brisco attends an art exhibit in the Harris Fine Arts Center. (Coben Hoch)

BYU theater student Sarah Brisco from Gilbert, Arizona, said she had her own struggle with organized religion. Brisco grew up LDS, but for a period of about two years she rarely attended church activities and stopped going to church on Sundays altogether.

Her friends’ examples influenced her decision to distance herself from the Church.

“A lot of my friends weren’t really a part of an organized religion, but they still seemed to be really religious people,” she said.

She said she wanted to experiment with a similar lifestyle.

Though she normally stayed away from church activities, she drew and wrote to stay close to God. Brisco is now an active member, but she still feels close to God while drawing or writing. She said through her experience away from the Church, she found out who she was and found a direction for her life. She now finds that her art and stories are deeper than they were before her time away from the church.

Brisco said anyone thinking about experimenting like she did should “pray, make a decision and then pray again and see how feel.”

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