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How 'America's Got Talent' contestant Evie Clair stays strong in LDS faith

Evie Clair didn’t know what to do.

She was in the middle of responding to one of the many messages on her social media accounts on a Sunday afternoon, and the sheer volume of work that remained was overwhelming.

And then, it struck her.

“It’s Sunday,” the 13-year-old realized. “You just gotta remember that this is your work now. This is your job. And you doing this right now is like working on Sundays.”

Her hand hovered over the computer mouse while she considered. “Replying to messages?” she questioned internally. “That’s never been a job for me.”

But since her performance of “Arms” by Christina Perri on “America’s Got Talent” and the millions of page views that followed, managing social media accounts is all part of a day’s work for Clair. And while she’s grateful for the positive responses she’s received since she sang on national television, Clair has decided to take a break from her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds on Sundays.

I'm getting through your messages as fast as I can. I love hearing from you. Love you all. Thank you for your support. Posted by Evie Clair on Saturday, June 24, 2017

“We really prioritize our Sundays as the Sabbath day, and we try not to do anything that differs from what the Lord asked us to do,” Clair said. That includes performing — when the Arizona Diamondbacks invited Clair to sing the national anthem before a baseball game on an upcoming Sunday, she asked to rescheduled for a different day.

Clair’s priorities stem from her parents, Hillary and Amos Abplanalp, who have raised their five children in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Amos Abplanalp, who was diagnosed with a 5 percent chance of surviving stage 4 colon cancer, has continued to serve as bishop for his local LDS congregation despite his illness. His example of perseverance has helped Clair remain optimistic in the face of her family’s current challenges.

As bishop, Amos Abplanalp attends as many church functions as possible to support his congregation, his wife wrote on her blog. But on low-functioning days when Amos Abplanalp lies very still in his chair so as “not to wake the cancer beast,” he’s happy just to hold her hand, she said.

It’s at times like these that Clair will make dinner, unload the dishwasher or sweep the floor to relieve some of the strain the cancer has caused her entire family. Still, it’s hard to keep the negative thoughts completely at bay.

“I’m too tired to do this today. I don’t want to do this. This is too hard,” are the common refrains, Clair said.

But then a wiser and older version of the teenager takes over.

“Okay, wait,” Clair reminds herself as she thinks about her dad. “He’s doing this right now, and he’s the bishop, and he goes to work and he has cancer all on top of that.”

Suddenly, the daily tasks don’t seem so daunting.

Love my daddy. #cancersucks

Posted by Evie Clair on Saturday, July 8, 2017

Amos Abplanalp’s commitment to his faith has also been an inspiration to his neighbors. A family in the area who hadn’t been to church in 30 years returned after hearing of the bishop’s situation, Clair said.

“He’s been a big example of not giving up and spending your time wisely,” she continued.

The moments Clair gets to spend with her father can be few and far between — Amos Abplanalp is still working as a psychological professional counselor in Arizona to provide for his family, and Clair is often working with music reps and producers.

Time with her dad is therefore all the more precious.

“Since my dad isn’t too active and he can’t do much, when he has time and he’s sitting down watching a show — that’s my favorite thing,” said Clair.

When she’s away, Clair stays close to her father by having family prayer and scripture study with him over the phone. The distance also seems smaller since her dad has always been supportive of her goals.

“Before I did the show, we talked about it, and he really encouraged me to pursue my dreams and do what I wanted to do,” Clair said.

Since her performance, Clair is often recognized by strangers who sometimes request a photo with her, wrote Hillary Abplanalp on her blog. But despite the fame, Clair stays levelheaded and keeps the long term in mind.

“My goal has always been to sing for as many people as I can and help them feel the spirit,” said Clair, who has performed at a number of baptisms and firesides. “Ever since I was really little I always had that goal to inspire people and help them feel the message of the song.”

In addition to her singing, Clair plays the piano, guitar and ukulele. Her experience teaching the piano to a friend with Down syndrome has also helped shape her future career.

“Later down the road, I want to be a musical therapist,” Clair said.

Making cookies with my fabulous friend Jesse to take to someone special.

Posted by Evie Clair on Monday, June 26, 2017

In the meantime, Clair exudes a kind of quiet confidence in her abilities despite the pressure of being in the spotlight, which she attributes to a performance that went horribly wrong in kindergarten.

“I was so nervous, I totally wrecked the whole thing. And it was terrible,” she said.

Rather than give up on the craft, Clair became more determined.

“I am never going to embarrass myself like this again,” her 5-year-old self promised. “I’m going to try my best and I’m not going to be nervous when I perform.”

Not trusting in her talents alone, Clair prayed for help and hasn’t been nervous while singing since.

Getting ready to perform on stage for the town of Florence fireworks show! I'm so happy my daddy made it here tonight! #independenceday

Posted by Evie Clair on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Instead, Clair gets the jitters before she sings, or when she’s talking to people following a performance. “It’s very flattering to have people compliment me on my singing, but … I don’t know how to respond to it,” she admitted.

Some conversations also require Clair to stand up for her beliefs. During one afternoon in the recording studio, several music reps and producers were impressed with Clair’s ability to sight-read and transpose a song on the spot. When she reached the chorus of the song, though, Clair noticed the profanity in the lyrics.

“Can I just skip the bad word in it?” she asked the producers. When they didn’t see the problem, Clair plowed ahead with alternatives she was more comfortable with. But when none of them were quite right, Clair’s mom motioned for her to sing a sustained “Ohhhh.”

“It just sounded good like that,” said Clair, satisfied.

When she’s not singing pop, Clair often turns to the LDS hymns if she’s in need of comfort.

“My dad’s favorite hymn is ‘Be Still My Soul,’ so I sing that one a lot,” she said. “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus” has also been a favorite of Clair’s since she was little.

The support she’s received from friends, family and strangers also encourages her.

“It’s just been really crazy to think that so many people know about our situation now,” she said. “They’ve been sending so much love and been praying for us,” she continued, particularly expressing gratitude for those who have sought out the family’s GoFundMe page.

Although the stakes will be higher in round two of “America’s Got Talent,” Clair remains happy with her current success.

“Every time before I perform, I say a little prayer to myself that I’ll be able to just do my best, and I’ll be able to sing and be able to touch the hearts of the people that I’m singing to,” said Clair. “I felt like I was really able to do that when I was on ‘America’s Got Talent.’”

While it is unclear when Clair will appear on the show again, round two of "America's Got Talent" is set to air Tuesday night on NBC.