This episode of the Church News podcast features an interfaith conversation on the recent Christmas season when, after a pandemic pause, the annual Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert returned in full form.
The performance featured the choir, orchestra, bell ringers and the “Pride of the Philippines,” singer and actress Lea Salonga. Also returning to the concert was a live audience, which featured Filipino social media influencers Megan Young and Mikael Daez; Haidi Fajardo who serves as the Philippines Area Director for Church Communication; and Kelly Taylor, the director of marketing and reputation for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
These guests join the Church News podcast to talk about the positive influence of music, using social media to edify and uplift and remembering to celebrate the joy of Christmas all year round.
Mikael Daez: The Tabernacle Choir and the experience of being in that concert was absolutely amazing. Yeah, we’re not of the Church [of Jesus Christ], but it’s something that we were able to appreciate. So I think that says a lot and that music is something that transcends boundaries. I think the Tabernacle Choir concert is something that everyone can appreciate. This is definitely something that I’m going to tell to my siblings. I’m going to talk about the experience I had with your Church, what I learned,
Megan Young: Actually, the add on to that what I love about doing things like this, even if it’s our first encounter with your Church, it’s an opportunity for us to learn more about you, about the things that you do. And that also gives you a chance to learn from them the goodness that they have, from their background, from their religion. How can you adapt certain things into your own life in certain ways.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On this episode of the Church News podcast we look back to December, when after a pandemic pause the annual Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert returned in full form — with its 360 choir voices, 85 orchestra instrumentalists, 32 bell ringers and award-winning performers, including a claimed “Pride of the Philippines” singer and actress Lea Salonga. Also in town for the celebrations were Filipino social media influencers, Megan Young and Mikael Daez. Both influencers join this episode of the Church News podcast to talk about the concert and their visit to the Salt Lake Valley and to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Also in the studio with us are Kelly Taylor, the director of marketing and reputation for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, and the Church’s Philippines Area director of communications, Haidi Fajardo. The group will discuss the influence of music, the power of social media, and the joy of Christmas, not just in December but throughout the entire year. Welcome everyone to the Church News podcast. For those in our podcast audience who couldn’t see, it was really hard to get through that introduction because we are already having so much fun.
Haidi, I want to start today with you and have you just tell us how important our guests are in the Philippines.
Haidi Fajardo: So we start with Megan. Megan is an actress, a model and a beauty queen who won the Miss World Philippines in 2013 and later was crowned as the Miss World 2013. She is the first Filipina to win the title of Miss World. That’s why we all love her because she brought home the first crown of Miss World for the Philippines. And so she’s known everywhere. Mikael Daez is so lucky to have her and she’s also lucky to have him, and I saw the beautiful sparkle in their eyes when they came here in Utah. And so Mikael is a commercial model and actor and news anchor and vlogger, and it’s quite an emerging channel which entertains a lot of people and that’s why they’re giggling.
Sarah Jane Weaver: They told me earlier that their podcast has video component and now I know why. Because it is absolutely delightful to watch them. So welcome to Utah. Today is a snowy day. I’m assuming you don’t have snow in the Philippines.
Mikael Daez: Yeah, well, we’re happy to be here. Thank you so much. Yes, it is my first time here in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Megan Young: My first time as well. But it’s not my first time to see snow because I grew up in Virginia — on the other side [of the United States], but Mikael, it is his first time to see and experience snow, so yesterday we actually went out in the snow we’re playing in it like kids.
Mikael Daez: Yeah, I gotta thank Utah for sending me the nice white powdery snow as soon as I landed. So that was nice to have and nice to see.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and last night you saw the Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert.
Megan Young: We did.
Sarah Jane Weaver: In that huge Conference Center arena. What was that like?
Mikael Daez: That was absolutely amazing.
Megan Young: Mind-blowing.
Mikael Daez: We were discussing before this podcast that one of the standouts, especially for me, aside from Lea Salonga, was the organ player Richard
Sarah Jane Weaver: Elliott.
Megan Young: Elliott. He was amazing.
Mikael Daez: Absolutely amazing. I did not know that organ playing was a full body workout. I had no idea because we were a bit — maybe like 30 seats away from the stage — and you can only see him from behind but there was this huge projection screen and they were focusing on his legs and his feet also tapping on the organ. I was like, that is amazing.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah, certainly one of the things that Tabernacle Choir does is make music approachable, especially religious music. It certainly was a way to kick in the Christmas season. And in the Philippines, you only start celebrating Christmas, what in September?
Megan Young: September, September, as soon as you know, you hit the “Ber” months. Everybody has their Christmas trees up. They have all the lights up. You hear all the Christmas music playing. So hearing Christmas music isn’t new to us. Because it’s there, for like, September, October, November, four months of the year,
Mikael Daez: We have the classics as well, like ever since I was young, we still have the same Christmas songs playing over and over again. I mean, just like in other places, everybody has their own unique Christmas songs that they always play from time to time.
Megan Young: I think just as a side note, because you guys asked us what was like a tradition that we do in the Philippines when it came to Christmas. One thing that, you know, we love doing as kids was that we would go from house to house with our friends. And then we’d sing Christmas carols to each house. And then we’d like bang on cans. And then you know, they would like give you like little coins, just to like say thank you for like singing. So we do like this caroling thing like in our neighborhoods where we would do that every Christmas.
Mikael Daez: Nice way for some extra money also, to get some extra.
Megan Young: To get some candy on the side.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I first met Haidi, when I traveled to the Philippines several years ago, and it was not November or December, but you were in full-fledged Christmas celebration. And so, this is a time of year and a season that means a lot to everyone in the Philippines. Yes.
Megan Young: Yes
Mikael Daez: Yeah. I’m just another quirk I’d like to share. So yes, Christmas starts September. But it also takes a while for Filipinos to take down their Christmas decor. So by February, you still see quite a bit of Christmas decorations. It’s only until March, April, when people suddenly finally decide, “OK, I’m going to take this down.” So it’s half year thing, I’d say.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I’m glad that you feel like Christmas can go before and after December, because this podcast is airing in January.
Megan Young: Oh, perfect.
Sarah Jane Weaver: So we love to celebrate the Christmas season all year round. And actually here, I want to bring in another person. And that’s Kelly Taylor. He’s the director of marketing and reputation for the choir. Tell us a little bit about the concert and what goes into pulling it off every year. And can you just tell us a little bit about this year’s Christmas concert?
Kelly Taylor: Yeah, Christmas concerts are a big deal for the choir. Getting a guest artists like Lea Salonga, it takes a couple of years and building those relationships and making those invitations. So we knew that was the plan quite a long time ago to make that happen. But as they write and think about how can they take the experiences of maybe the guests artists, and work them into the storyline. And then as well, we’ve been talking about sharing goodness, right? And all the things that we do. The story of Christmas, about the birth and life of Jesus Christ. How do you take His life and make it applicable to what we’re doing today? And what can we do? What’s a good example?
And this year, the story that is told of Nicholas Winton, which was absolutely fascinating. We’ve got Sir David Suchet, who tells the story. And his voice is just so alluring. We talked about how he does such a great job with that. But you’re talking about an individual where they saw need, wondered what they could do, tried to figure out a plan. And in that plan, basically what they’re doing is helping over 600 children escape the Nazi regime. And the story, as it goes, eventually, this man in his 80s, has left this scrapbook of all this information in his attic. He moved on, he continued to do good the rest of his life. And his wife finds the scrapbook and says, “What is this?” And he says, “Oh yeah, that’s something that I did.” And as they talk, they realized it was such a big story that they needed to get that out.
So the BBC there in London, actually had him on a program. I would call it like “This is Your Life”-type program, and introduced him to two the children that he helped escape from that part of the world. And they were there right by his side. And you could tell he was touched. But then the person they’re telling the story said, if there was anybody else whose lives are here because of the things that Nicholas went and did, could you stand up? And then the entire place stands up. Now at the concert, it’s a very moving moment. I mean, it said everybody’s clapping and enjoying that moment.
And what I love last night was when it all finally settled down and Sir David Suchet is trying to get rid of quiet down. He says, “Folks, we’re not done yet.” And so we are I actually have the oldest living child of Nicholas Winton, Nick Winton, here at the concert this year. And so each night, he’s able to get up there on stage and share a little bit about the story of his family as well and how it has touched his own life. And I think my favorite line of what he talks about is he said, his dad always talked about an “active goodness,” it was more than not doing something wrong, but being active and doing things that are good. And if you can’t sum up Christmas, or the spirit of Christmas in that, I don’t know what you would do, you know, so beautiful though.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And that is one of the messages of Christmas that can ripple into every single day of the entire year.
Kelly Taylor: Yeah, absolutely.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And now, while we’ve got you on, I’d love to hear these guys just weigh in a little bit because your job is to promote the choir. And I don’t know, do you think that’s a hard job?
Megan Young: Do you need promotion? No, it was amazing. And I don’t know, I think it’s really something that you have to experience in person. I mean, yes, watching it on TV is amazing. But to be able to hear the choir sing in person brings a whole different experience.
Mikael Daez: Kelly’s always like semi joking about, do they need marketing or anything? But the thing is, now that I think about it, and you say that jokingly, in a way, the Tabernacle Choir, and the experience of being in that concert was absolutely amazing. And we’re not of the Church, but it’s something that we were able to appreciate. So I think that says a lot in that music is something that transcends boundaries. I think the Tabernacle Choir concert is something that everyone can appreciate. And because it’s such an amazing experience, there is definitely a marketing opportunity there. Say there is now an answer to that question, because of this podcast. So you’re doing a great job. Thank you so much for having us. Because this is definitely something that I’m going to tell to my siblings. Yeah, I went to the Tabernacle Choir. I’m going to talk about the experience I had with your church, what I learned, and I’m going to tell them that if ever you guys find yourself in Salt Lake City, Utah, you should watch the Tabernacle Choir concert if it’s playing there, and something’s going on.
Megan Young: It would actually be amazing, because I know that you spoke how, hopefully, you wanted to take the Tabernacle Choir to different countries.
Mikael Daez: And the Philippines
Megan Young: And the Philippines.
Kelly Taylor: Absolutely.
Megan Young: And personally, I think it’s something that a lot of Filipinos would love because of their love for music, you know, how Filipinos love singing? And of course, the love for the Christmas season. And the story behind Christmas is something that is deeply rooted with Filipinos. So I think that it’s something that could definitely be loved across the world.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And certainly we can’t take the choir everywhere. But isn’t it great that we can bring a little bit of the world here each year?
Kelly Taylor: Yeah, I think what happened actually was a couple of months ago, when we knew we had Lea Salonga coming, for sure, takes a while the contract signed artists really on board to do some of these things. I reached out to a colleague and I just said, we’ve got somebody from the Philippines coming. Have we ever had anybody come? You know, should we reach out to somebody in the Philippines and have them come? What better way. We can do a podcast here, right? But how many in the Philippines — without them — would ever know about it? Right? So having Megan and Mik here allows us then to tell that story in a way that we could never have done. I mean, Haidi does a great job in the Philippines. But it’s much easier for us to do if we can just have somebody come and experience it. And so we reached out last minute. I mean, what was the invite extended?
Megan Young: A couple weeks ago.
Kelly Taylor: Just weeks ago. So this is kind of a really quick coming together and with the choir’s mission to share this throughout the world, you know, those three words added to our mission statement. It just makes sense. And we have such great people there, regardless, and again, as you couldn’t ask for a better match made in heaven, if you want to call it that. Then Christmas, the Philippines, Lea Salonga, and our guests that are here with us right now. This has just been great so we’re grateful that they accepted the invitation and then came. So we’re just been thrilled to have him here.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and while we’ve pulled you in, let’s take a look at what we can expect from the Tabernacle Choir through the next year.
Kelly Taylor: Yeah, kind of big things really, as we talk about throughout the world. Next steps is doing “Music & the Spoken Word” in Spanish and Portuguese and reaching out through Latin America that way. We’ll be in Mexico City in June. And there’s also some neat surprises coming up around April timeframe as well. We’re looking at bringing in members to participate with the choir from different areas of the world. And I expect we are, I know the Philippines was included in this search. So we’re narrowing that down now. So yeah, you’ll see, you’ll see that the choir itself will be much more present throughout the world, and hopefully a great ambassador that way.
Sarah Jane Weaver: So, we will just throw it to Mik and then Megan. Talk to us about something that you heard at the concert, that maybe you’ll want to take year round into your life.
Mikael Daez: Towards the second half of the concert, there was a beautiful story that was narrated by Sir David Suchet. And I had never heard of that story prior.
Megan Young: Really?
Mikael Daez: Yeah, I’d never heard of that story.
Megan Young: Oh, I’ve read about this story. But it was just incredible to hear it narrated by him.
Mikael Daez: The name that resonated with me in that story when he was when he said it was like the British Schindler’s List, right. So, I was listening to that story. He was an amazing storyteller, obviously, with just captivated everyone and myself included. So, I really liked that story, because I’d never heard of it. So, it was nice, coming into the Tabernacle Choir concert. And, also, coming away with a nice story to tell.
Megan Young: I think, for me, what resonated with me the most was that you can do good even in small things, even just maybe giving a smile to somebody, helping out somebody and their daily lives. Because it’s actually something that both Mikael and I practice as we practice, you know, being good people, doing good deeds, even in the smallest ways. Because what we want is we want the goodness to eventually overflow to the people around us, that matter to us. And that can overflow to the people that matter in their circle. So that’s something that we try to practice all the time.
Mikael Daez: Yeah, definitely. Paying it forward and hoping it just gets paid forward and becomes a virtuous cycle of good deeds.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Is that one of the reasons that you like to celebrate Christmas so long in the Philippines?
Mikael Daez: I mean, among other things, I think Filipinos in general are extremely, very festive, and very happy people and any reason — any small reason — that we have to celebrate anything, we kind of go for it. So, Christmas, of course, is something very near and dear to our hearts, to our faith and our lifestyle which we’ve cultivated over the hundreds of years of our culture developing. So, I think all those things combined big and small. These are the things that make up why Christmas is so important to us and why we don’t mind having it being a half-year celebration, pretty much.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I want to throw a question to Haidi. Tell us about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines, and what you think our listeners would want to know about your country?
Haidi Fajardo: OK, so I think it would be interesting to know that just last year, we celebrated 61 years of the Church in the Philippines. And I could really say that we’ve gone a long way. Because it was in April 1961, when then-President Gordon B Hinckley dedicated the place for missionary work. And now 61 years after we have close to 900,000 members in the Philippines, who are really doing good in the community, in their congregations to where they belong. There’s humanitarian work that we do. And of course, there’s our missionaries going around spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. And of course, there’s additional many things that the Church is doing.
For example, this December, we have the Light the World giving machines in Cebu and Manila. And so we’re excited about it because it’s really one way to give an instant act of service to those in need. And so our partners in Manila are Caritas Manila, UNICEF, Philippines and Hero Foundation. And in Cebu, it is Cebu Caritas, Mabuhay Deseret Foundation, and Feed the Children Foundation. So by the names alone, you really know that these are organizations that we work with, that help enrich more of the community, so that the Church could also reach more of the communities and help.
And so, if we talk about the growth and progress of the Church in the Philippines, I think we’re also at a point where we have built and strengthened our interfaith relations, ecumenical relations, especially, also that we have eight temples soon in the Philippines with two in operation, two being under construction and four that are announced. So we’re so excited about this, because this is a picture of growth in the Philippines.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And Megan and Mik, not Latter-day Saints, but you certainly are an example of the growing interfaith community in the Philippines. What are your impressions of being at Church headquarters and what you have learned so far about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since you’ve been here?
Megan Young: For me, what I’ve noticed is the connection that people have with each other. I really love the familial bond that I can sense when I meet different people from the Church. It was really nice how everybody just felt so familiar with each other, even if they met for the first time. So, I guess, that was something that really struck me at first. And then, I think the humanitarian work that you also do is something that I really admire that you’re able to reach out to different communities all over the world and being able to help out and offer what you have to other people that might have otherwise not have been given the opportunity elsewhere.
Mikael Daez: On my part, it’s been absolutely incredible getting to know Miss Haidi, Dino [who works with publishing services for the Philippines Area], everybody we’ve met here in Salt Lake City, Utah, simply because in the Philippines, I think — correct me if the statistics are wrong — but 90% or 90%-plus are Roman Catholic.
Haidi Fajardo: Yes.
Mikael Daez: However, there still is that 10%. And when I was in school, that 10% was represented very well, I had classmates and I had friends who had different religions and different faith and different beliefs. But now that I’m older, it’s nice to be able to understand the nuances behind that. And even the educational part about that Ms. Haidi, over dinner last night, was telling us the differences between the Roman Catholic beliefs and your Church as well. And we found that extremely interesting. And I think it’s really important, especially nowadays, to be able to raise awareness because it helps you understand the people who are around you — people whom you live with. And overall, it’s been an amazing experience. I mean, just to add, we were in the FamilySearch building at headquarters.
Megan Young: We learned about our family.
Mikael Daez: That was absolutely mind blowing. I loved it. And everybody’s just been so welcoming and hospitable to us. So it’s been a really, really amazing experience for us here.
Megan Young: Actually, to add on to that: What I love about doing things like this — even if it’s our first time our first encounter with your Church — it’s an opportunity for us to learn more about you, about the things that you do. And when you were in school, you got the opportunity to meet people from different religions, it also gives you a chance to learn from them the goodness that they have from their culture, from their background, from their religion. How can you adapt certain things into your own life in certain ways?
Mikael Daez: That’s so true. Sorry, I’m gonna cut into it. Because, that’s something that Megan and I have been doing for ever since we got together. Our growth as a couple and individually has always come from people around us — regardless of their backgrounds, where they come from. We learn from their stories and the experiences that they share, and that we share with them. And this experience that we’re sharing with you, and everyone here, is also and will inevitably help us grow as well.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. Well, I think there are experiences that we all have that makes the world feel very, very small. One of the reasons that the Tabernacle Choir puts on the annual Christmas concert every year is to give the gift of music to the world. They record it here, it becomes something that’s important for everybody who has a chance to participate at headquarters. And then the next year, it’s broadcasted and people get to experience it all over again, wherever they live in the world. And Megan you’ve had some experiences that may make the world feel small as well. You would have met many people from so many countries across the globe on your quest to become Miss World.
Megan Young: Yeah, it was really eye opening for me because I mean, before I entered show business, I was just you know, a simple girl who just went to school — school, home school home. So there was nothing really glamorous about my life before I entered show business. And even when I was in show business, it felt like a bubble. Because you know, you’re just stuck at work. And then you’re with the same people all the time. But doing Miss World — winning Miss World — and being able to travel to different countries really opened my eyes up into how people live their everyday lives. Like the realities that they would face in countries, like we went to Haiti, for a week. And that was very eye opening for me. We went to Colombia, and even in the different places in the Philippines, we also got to go to. So it was really eye opening for me. And it helped change the way that I did my everyday life as well, because there were some things that I might have taken for granted that when I was able to travel to these countries and meet these people, I realized that, oh my gosh, I shouldn’t be taking these things for granted and I should take this opportunity more to learn from I’m them. And I would even share that with you.
Mikael Daez: I remember a lot of stories that you shared, which helped you and myself gain a better appreciation for what you would normally consider more mundane things that you go through in your life.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I’m interested in how the two of you met, because individually, you’re both fantastic. But together, you have to be a force.
Megan Young: Long story short, long story short.
Mikael Daez: Go for it, you want to do it?
Megan Young: Long story short, is that I was hosting this event and Mikael was modeling this event. Like you were doing modeling to earn an extra buck after college. And we ended up talking backstage because you know, I mean, of course I’m going to talk to the people that I’m working with, it’s not like I’m just not going to like look at him.
Mikael Daez: Let’s add a bit of color to that one. So the exact first moment that we met, I was actually hiding out in a room because the events place was just freezing. Yeah. And here comes our host trying to knock into the door because it was warm inside that room. She knocks I was the one who opened it. I saw her freezing and I said, “Oh, you look cold. Do you want my jacket?”
Megan Young: Yeah, so he offered me his jacket
Mikael Daez: Gave him my jacket, and the rest is history. One hundred days later, we made it official. Thirteen years later, we’re in Salt Lake City, Utah, having fun with the snow.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I want to talk about the power of music. All of this have experiences where we hear something performed in music, and it means something different to us. How has music touched each of your lives?
Mikael Daez: So music to me is very similar to sports — it transcends boundaries. For a lot of people, you hear music, even if you do not understand the words, even if you do not understand where it came from, in terms of the person who wrote it, the artist singing it, you resonate with it. Just from the melody, the harmony, how it affects people. And I find that to be extremely, extremely powerful. Especially coming from my background, because I wasn’t big on music when I was younger.
Megan Young: Not at all.
Mikael Daez: I liked math when I was in school, like music wasn’t my thing. But coming into this more creative industry where I’m in TV and music, visuals become so powerful. I’ve learned to understand it. And I’ve learned to be amazed in its power to bring people together and to bring out and evoke emotion in people. It’s motivating. It’s so powerful. It’s something that you can just listen to for a minute. And it can motivate you and give you that strength to overcome certain obstacles that you have in your life. And, I myself, have stories wherein music was very powerful for me.
Megan Young: I love how you say that it evokes emotion, because I use music to really push any kind of emotion I’m feeling. So I have the genres that I go to if I’m feeling anxious, if I’m feeling, you know, a bit angsty, or if I just want to have, you know, a nice, chill morning. I have, you know, a playlist that I go to. And it just really helps bring out whatever emotion I’m feeling —whether it’s up or down.
Mikael Daez: Oh, and just to add to your point, there’s a reason why the Tabernacle Choir concert is such a huge event. Because when people go through these concerts, it’s uplifting. Yes, there is an emotion that is evoked that people resonate with, and they obviously feel good about. So, for me, these are just examples of why music is so important and can really just transcend so many boundaries in this world.
Sarah Jane Weaver: The next question I’m hoping all three of you will answer. Several years ago Elder David A. Bednar — he’s a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — and he gave an address at Brigham Young University. And he asked everyone to share goodness on social media. He said, you know, there’s a lot of stuff out there, and we would we really want the world to experience goodness. Now, each of you have the opportunity to do that every day on very popular platforms. And I just want you to respond to this idea that it’s important to use social media to share goodness.
Haidi Fajardo: So, it’s really an opportunity for me to manage the social media channels of the Church in the Philippines, as well as the Newsroom. Because it becomes the platform where you can really share goodness. We tell our stories about what the members of the Church are doing. The projects that the Church is also doing, to be able to help other people in the community in different places in the Philippines. And to help different government agencies and to help with different communities. So we’re able to tell our story there. And we’re also able to tell and motivate people on how to become good because we also share stories on how the words of our leaders are being applied in our lives, how we strengthen our families. And so we don’t know, there might be one story that we put out there that would really touch a life, you know, and instill a change in that person or not even a change, you know, just provide peace and comfort to that person. And so that’s the power of social media. And I hope that more people would really use social media positively. So that the impact would be positive also worldwide.
Megan Young: We do have a podcast, it’s called #BehindRelationshipGoals. And the reason why we came up with this podcast is because we would get comments on our social media pages, like you guys are goals when it comes to like, relationship things. How do you withstand long distance? How do you do this? And that? And actually, instead of responding to these comments, one by one, we were like, “OK, what if we just came up with a podcast that they could go back to over and over again, and talk about our experience and our stories.” So we came up with #BehindRelationshipGoals, because not everything that you see on social media, is real life, you know. Everybody has their own set of problems that they go through, they have things that they might face. So for us, we wanted to talk about the realness of our relationship. And I mean, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something bad. But it’s more of how we used our strength as a couple to overcome anything that we would have to face that was difficult, or something that might have put a strain on our relationship. So for us, it’s really about telling stories. We don’t give advice, because obviously, we’re not experts, when it comes to relationships. And when it comes to other people’s relationships, most especially. So what we wanted is that we tell our stories, and if something resonates with you, then that’s something that we want you to get out of listening to our podcast. And I think that’s where the positivity would come in, is because we’re not dictating anybody how to live their lives. But if it resonates with you, then go with it.
Mikael Daez: And I would just to add to that, before I give my example. I mentioned a while ago, we learn from the stories of other people. You listen to them, you get to know them. And if there’s something that you hear from them that you feel, you can apply it to your lives. You try it out. And if it works, you build on that. And that’s how you grow. And that’s how we’ve grown and evolved as individuals and as a couple. And that’s something that we wanted to share in our podcast in hopes that if someone picks something up. Great. If it’s a source of entertainment, and just puts a smile on their face, that’s also fine for us.
And from my example, to your question, Sarah, is I want to talk about the food show. So we have a food show that we started a couple of months ago, it’s called “Ang Food Show Na Walang Title.” That’s a mix of Tagalog and English. If you translate that it’s called, “Food Show That Has No Title.” Because to be honest, we just could not figure out a title for it. People were amused, amused. And it kind of, like, ran away. It’s doing quite well, very happy about it. But think about it this way we’re doing a food show. It’s very trivial in terms of the kind of content that it is. But I feel that there is goodness in it. I think that people when they think about goodness on social media, there is a tendency to skew towards the very authoritative people, the quote unquote, the experts. But, I think people need to remember that it’s a spectrum. You have those who are very technical about it, those who can be authorities on it, and Megan and I who just go through life and want to be able to share these good experiences.
For us, if the content that we create, an episode of the food show that we create, puts a smile on someone’s face, then for us, I think that that is a win. That’s positivity that you’re able to spread out, and hopefully that person pays it forward. And like I said, it becomes a virtuous cycle of positivity. So, for me, that’s how I see the social media and the content that Megan and I produce. And I think that’s also what keeps us motivated. You can’t cover the whole spectrum of goodness in one go. But if there’s a spot there, which you feel you can really make your mark, then try and go for it. And that’s basically what we’re trying to do.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I love this concept of the food show, because food like music is something that universally connects people.
Megan Young: Yes.
Sarah Jane Weaver: We gather around tables, you know, certainly everybody’s Christmas celebration revolves around some sort of sharing of food, and it nourishes bodies, but also souls. And I think I have so many good memories of certain types of food because it connects me to the people that I love. And so, it’s interesting to me that one of your ideas of sharing goodness is actually something that feels like home for so many of us.
Mikael Daez: Yeah, Yeah, definitely. I completely agree with that food — like music, like sports a certain extent — these are all universal themes that people can resonate with.
Megan Young: What I love about the food show is that we’ve gotten comments from Filipinos that live abroad, and they’re like, “OK, I have my list of the restaurants that I’m gonna go to when I visit the Philippines.” And this is a reaction that we, you know, we didn’t really expect. We just wanted to, like, enjoy a food show, enjoy eating food together, enjoy talking about our experiences at these restaurants. But we didn’t think that we would have an audience that would be looking forward to going to these places as well. So it’s a nice trade off, I guess.
Mikael Daez: I mean, to that point, another comment or viewer that I know this popped up was one came from a day at work. I mean, life can be hard, work can be tiring. So it’s nice to unwind with something that you enjoy. And some people like going home and like watching food. And some people choose to go to that food show that we produce. And it brings a smile to their face after a hard day or tough day at work. And for me, that’s also a win.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I want to talk about something else, because another one of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Elder Gary E. Stevenson, and he was speaking to women of our faith — also gathered at BYU — and he talked about social media, and actually said, we have to be careful of an idealized reality or debilitating comparisons. You guys are so real. But you know, he showed some pictures. And he said, you know, look, this looks like this perfect social media post. And then it scanned out and you could see not just this perfect little piece of food that he had shown, but it showed this kitchen that was just in disarray, because of what it took to actually produce, I think, it was a cupcake. But whatever it was. And then he also, as part of that address, had a picture of his own family. And then went through the steps that it took to take a picture of that idealized family. And it wasn’t an idealized situation or day. You know, kids were falling and injured; he had to turn one child’s shirt around because he’d gotten a bloody nose because his brothers had knocked him over. And so our lives are kind of messy. And yet, we put this portrayal on social media. How is it that you have found balance or know how to portray yourselves in your lives, in your situations on social?
Megan Young: I think a great influence for me would have to be my husband, Mikael. One day he and I were in a conversation. He’s like, you know what, look at your Instagram account. All I can see are selfies, just your face the whole time.
Mikael Daez: I just remembered this conversation.
Megan Young: It’s all your face. And I get that. It gets a lot of likes people like seeing glam shots, but what do they know about you? What about yourself can people connect with? I mean, obviously, people like seeing a made up face. But do they know anything about you? Do they know anything about your hobbies, about the things that you like? So why don’t you try sharing a little bit of you that you don’t mind putting out there. And I think that’s also when I started posting about my love for games and gaming, my love for K-Pop. It just all went out because I’m like, “OK, why don’t I just share that?” It’s something that I can connect with to other people. And I realized that I was more in touch with the people that were following me on my social media accounts, and I had more of a connection to them rather than just, “Awe, this is a nice picture.” And I’m like, “thanks.” It’s so, like, it’s so shallow. And now there’s a deeper connection to the people that I connect with online.
Mikael Daez: Yeah, I think Sarah, was spot on where you were talking about balance at the end of that thing you were talking about. And I think it’s important in social media, we tend to focus on the negative things, especially nowadays, like why are people portraying all these perfect photos, these perfect lives. But, on the flip side, social media has been absolutely amazing connecting the whole world. I’ve, for one, have been able to connect with friends on the other side of the globe. You know, have a relationship with them. Being able to connect with family. Megan’s mom works in the U.S. So it doesn’t feel like we’re far apart, simply because social media has given us this medium to be able to converse, connect and socialize and still maintain these kinds of relationships.
But, of course, the more negative side is what you were depicting wherein it does kind of skew and mess with people who are less informed or less aware into things thinking that, you know, life should be lived a certain way, or there’s a specific way with how life should look. And I think the answer to that, just to go full circle, is balance. Not only do you need to be able to know how to pull back, and how to basically just curate what you see, and how to know how to understand and absorb the content that you consume and absorb. But I think it’s also very important to have that support system. So in that story, I was a support system of Megan. But in many ways, she’s also been my support system when I’m looking at, you know, a certain image, certain kinds of content, that affect me and may affect me in an adverse way. She’s going to be there, and I can trust that she’s going to be there to say, “Hey Mik, let’s talk about it. I don’t think that you should think about in this way.” And maybe there’s a negative piece of news that I saw, affected me negatively. So that support system is also extremely important. I don’t think that any man can live as an island. No man is an island, right?
Megan Young: Yeah.
Mikael Daez: And no woman is an island either. So being able to be present, and having that balance as an individual, and trusting that your support system will also provide you with that balance and keep you centered, I think is extremely important.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I love that because it’s been several years since I have visited the Philippines. But I stay connected there because I’m friends with Haidi on Facebook. We see each other’s children, we’re able to know exactly what’s going on in our lives, or what’s important to us. That’s been a great joy to be able to do that. On that note, when you think about social media as a connector, plus so many other things that we’ve talked about today as connecting us globally — the humanitarian efforts that we do, our efforts to lift and strengthen and share goodness. And then the connection that we all feel through, not only music, but Christmas music in the holiday season. I love the Filipino tradition to celebrate Christmas, five, six months of the year. I think I’m going to adopt that in my own family. I do listen to Christmas music almost year round. I put it on the carpool for my kids, and they they all laugh. But there is something about this season. And even when it’s past, it makes you feel longing for it. Because it’s a time when we love and share and connect and think of other people and give gifts. And it’s also a time when people feel lonely or disconnected or that maybe hard for them. What message do you have for anyone who may not feel as connected right now as they want to?
Mikael Daez: Oh, yeah, that is very true. Like I said, balance, there are always two sides to a coin. Well, it’s always difficult giving particular advice, as Megan said. So we do have a podcast. But as she also mentioned, I think it’s important to just pull from stories that you have on a personal level. So, for me, I’ve had times when I’ve been in a bad place. We all we all have good years, we all have bad years. And what’s always pulled me together has been family, I come from a family of nine siblings; I’m two of nine. I have a huge amount of first cousins, and having them on my side and always maintaining a connection with them. We don’t have to talk every day. Some of us talk once a year. But when we do talk, there’s something substantial in that conversation. And in that connection. And because of that connection and relationship I have with my family, I can count on them that when I’m down, that they will do everything that they can to help pull me back up. And if I have family member who’s feeling that way or feeling down, then they know and they can count on me to do the same for them. So for me, family has been extremely important. For some people, maybe they have smaller families. And of course, your friends are also your family. So I think that, I’m gonna go back to it, that support system. That circle, that immediate circle, whom you trust and love, I think is always extremely, extremely important.
Megan Young: Yeah, I think for a time the Christmas season, especially when I was much younger, when we first got together it was, it was a difficult time for my family. So we did go through, you know, a couple of Christmases where we’re we were, you know, incomplete, that we didn’t have the same traditions that we used to when we were kids. So it was definitely a difficult period for us early on. And it even came to a point where I was just like, “Nah, let’s just not put up decorations. Let’s not celebrate.” It’s not something that I’m feeling because I’m remembering like the traumatic Christmas that we once had when we were younger. But you know, now that I’m older and I’ve been able to get through, you know, those times. I’m glad that I did have that support system from Mik and his family because when I couldn’t celebrate with my family, I got to celebrate with his and I got to see the beauty of celebrating, you know, this special holiday with his family. So I’m thankful for that. Very thankful for them.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I’d love to hear from Haidi on this issue too.
Haidi Fajardo: OK, in the Church, I have a calling — which is a youth teacher — for the last five years. And recently, I was called as a young single adult teacher during Sunday School. And so, I see that some of them have struggles in life. I see that they have mental health issues. I see that they have frustrations with regard to reaching their goals, or there are some family issues that they’re encountering. But at the end of the day, I think the very thing that will bring balance, or help their life is the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because that really brings you the real joy that no social media can fill up. It is the real kind of joy which nobody can take away from you, and which you do not have to buy. And so, I tell them that it’s natural to have challenges in life, and to hit rock bottom. And it’s good when you hit rock bottom, because there’s no other way but to go up. And so you can be successful. And you know, be able to address these challenges if they have Jesus Christ in their lives. Because that’s where the real joy is.
Sarah Jane Weaver: It has been such a joy to have you all on the podcast today. You do exude goodness and joy in all that you do. Now, we have a tradition at the Church News podcast where we always end with the very same question. And we always give our guests the last word. So, as we draw this podcast to a close today, I want to give all four of you the opportunity to answer the same question and that question is “What do you know now?” So “What do you know now after visiting the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and seeing Salt Lake City and experiencing snow, and listening to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square share sacred Christmas music?” And I hope that you’ll also share with us what you know now, after experiencing the Tabernacle Choir, especially as someone who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but shares a connection to all the good that the choir exudes? So we’ll just throw it to Mick and then Megan, and let Kelly weigh in. And then we’ll end with Haidi answering the most important question, “What do you know now?”
Mikael Daez: What do I know? What a loaded question.
Megan Young: This is the loaded question for the night.
Mikael Daez: All right. Well, for me, What do I know now? On a more trivial basis, I know now that putting your hand inside a big pile of powdery snow is very, very cold. Because I never experienced and dunk my hand and I was like, this hurts. This is not very fun.
Megan Young: It is not a cloud.
Mikael Daez: On the other hand, however, I’d like to thank Ms. Haidi, because Ms. Haidi and Dino [who works in Publishing Services for the Philippines Area] invited us over here to Salt Lake City, Utah. And to be honest with you, I don’t think I would have had this experience otherwise without your invite. And to be able to get to know you, to be able to get your to get to know your Church, what your Church values, the beliefs, the tradition. It’s made me very grateful for the experience because I get to appreciate yourself, I get to appreciate the Filipinos who are also part of your Church. And I know that I have a couple of friends who are part of your Church and just being here allows me to get to know them better, and understand them better when I see them eventually, sometime next year. Maybe over Christmas, we’ll have something to talk about, we’ll have something to share. And even in just that, that excitement. Isn’t that excitement goodness, in a way? Isn’t that positivity. So, for me, I always take the wins, regardless if they’re big or small. And I think goodness comes in very bite sized nuggets, most of the time.
Megan Young: You are making me hungry.
Mikael Daez: Yeah, sorry about that. But I do tend to really cherish and not take for granted these bite sized pieces of goodness. So thank you so much, everyone here for such an amazing experience. And yeah, I enjoyed being in this podcast. That’s what I know now.
Megan Young: I’m just gonna jump off from what you said. Because “What do I know now?” Now there is meaning behind the people that I meet from your Church. There’s meaning behind the buildings that I would see here in Salt Lake City, in the Philippines when we would pass by these buildings, when we would pass by the missionaries that we would see, you know, on the street doing their mission. There’s meaning behind it now. And that’s what I know now because of the eye opening experience that you gave us here and the opportunity for us to learn more about you and your community. And I’m very grateful for that as well.
Mikael Daez: That’s what you know now.
Megan Young: That’s what I know now.
Kelly Taylor: Yeah, what do I know? Now, this was so worth doing when we have individuals like Megan and Mik come. What I love most about this is this connection that’s made in seeing real people who are doing amazing things in their lives. Right? And it’s everywhere. I think it’s so easy for people to get down on media in general. Right? The stories of the world and the things that go on, and it can feel incredibly heavy. But there are so many good people doing good things all the time. And this was just a great way to capture that. I mean, a Christmas concert does that great? Yes. But I love what they’re doing as well. So it’s a great fit. But goodness is everywhere, if you look for it.
Haidi Fajardo: So first and foremost, you cannot really judge people by what you see on social media. Megan and Mikhail are very handsome, very talented. They project very well on the screen. But what I know now is that they’re one of the not just the most beautiful people in the world, but they’re, they have the heart. They’re very down to earth. And they’re real. And I got to experience that by having them with me — with us — here in Salt Lake City. And so they’re so fun. And they just, you know, help project positivity into each other. And that positivity also exudes into us. And I think that’s the reason why we we had such a fun podcast this morning. Yesterday, it was my first time to really attend a Christmas concert of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. And with Lea Salonga at that. And I found it very wonderful. It was an amazing experience for me, especially when Lea sang that Tagalog song that talks about world peace. And you know, that word “world peace” seems very trivial, because people use it trivially in the Philippines as a joke. Where if there’s a beauty contest, the response to a question that can go wrong is you strive to look for world peace. But there’s really truth and meaning on it. And then, she was able to really bring meaning to it last night when she sang it in Tagalog. And it reminded me that that is what I should strive for in my family, in my community, and in people that I love and you know, and meet with everyday that we should strive for more understanding and peace.
Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer KelliAnne Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.