December 8th, 2011
01:33 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN) - When Shane Wright met with members of Vocal Point, a Brigham Young University a cappella group that was considering competing on NBC's singing show "The Sing Off," the main question he had for the nine male students had nothing to do with their singing talent.
Wright, the artist manager at BYU, wanted to know if the team was prepared to not only represent themselves and their school but to be viewed through the audience's understanding of Mormonism.
"I went around the room and asked the guys, how would you handle this or that type of question or situation," Wright said. "In our meeting we discussed several scenarios. I wanted to get them thinking about various situations before they were put in the fire."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints oversees BYU, and the members of the singing team Vocal Point, whether they liked it or not, were going to be representing the church on primetime television. And with a recent Pew Research poll finding that nearly 25 percent of people have negative views of the Mormon Church, Vocal Point would be representing a misunderstood and at times maligned religion.
According to multiple members of the team, while representing their faith was not necessarily something they sought to do, it was a reality they knew they had to accept.
"We knew that a connection would be made between us and the Mormon Church whether we tried to or not," said Keith Evans, a 25-year-old member of the BYU team.
"Because the church has an obscure image, we thought this would be a great opportunity to show that this church is made up of normal people and is not as esoteric as people think," said Evans.
Other members hoped the team would show what young Mormons are really like and that they "do normal things."
McKay Crockett, a 24-year-old Mormon member of the team, said that while the team did understand there were misconceptions of the Mormon faith, their goal was "to show that Mormons are a lot like [everyone else] and we live life a lot like they do. It was a daunting task, but I do think we were able to do that in our kind of humble, awkward way on the Sing Off."
Vocal Point lasted a majority of the show, beating 11 other teams to finish fifth. The team sang a variety of songs, too. While they got high marks for an Elvis medley and their take on "Jump, Jive an' Wail," the judges said they were stretched by the Temptations "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" and Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You."
No matter the song, though, a connection to the Mormon Church was regularly made. Fans left comments about the team's Mormon faith on message boards and Mormon newspapers and blogs began following Vocal Point's weekly progress.
The shows judges commented on the team's religion, too.
After the team sang a cover of Justin Beiber's "Never Say Never," singer/songwriter Ben Folds, one of the shows three judges, said, "I will never again say that I could never enjoy Beiber sung by a bunch of Mormons." Sarah Bareilles, also a singer/songwriter, described the group as a bunch of "wholesome thunder cats."
On the whole, said Evans, the response from the Mormon community was "largely positive."
"Maybe a person or two objected to one of our song selections," said Evans. "Some of them thought it was a bit too wild and crazy for a bunch of Mormon guys."
But Evans says that the fact that at times the team could get "a bit wild and crazy" shows that, "we [Mormons] are allowed to be a little wild and crazy. We are allowed to have a good time."
The judges kicked the team off the show after the R&B week, where Vocal Point sang the aforementioned Temptations song, along with a rendition of Bobby Brown's "Every Little Step."
Jake Hunsaker, a 22-year-old member of the team, said that though the loss was "disappointing," the team felt privileged to have gone as far as they did.
"I think for us it is a privilege to represent members of the Mormon faith," said Hunsaker. "Just to be able to expose people to what a Mormon is like, to be able to represent Mormons and let people know that we are normal was an honor."
Members of Vocal Point said that they were humbled by the experience and are a little stunned by the way people recognize them around BYU and Provo, Utah.
With a bit of sarcasm, Evans said that ultimately he hoped Vocal Point showed people that "a Mormon's faith isn't so different to the point that they create some weird species of person that is unapproachable."
And jokingly Evans said he wanted people to know that Mormons are good singers.
CNN's Martina Stewart contributed to this report.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.