LDS On Air
When several of Boston’s prominent LDS athletes happen to be in your ward, what do you do? For Heather Walker Sandstrom (BA ’81), the answer was obvious: get them on local talk shows to discuss their beliefs. With her background in broadcasting, Sandstrom secured these athletes opportunities throughout the Boston area.
Sandstrom organized this outreach effort as part of her calling as the regional public affairs director for the LDS church in the Boston area. Mitt Romney (BA ’71), her stake president at the time, expressed concern that the people of Boston were unfamiliar with Mormon beliefs. With the Boston Celtics playing in the NBA finals and close ties to two LDS players on the team—Danny Ainge (BA ’92) and Greg Kite (BS ’84)—Sandstrom arranged for a local talk show to host these athletes. But the talk show producer had one condition: the Celtics had to win the championship first.
The Celtics did win the NBA championship that year, and the morning after their victory, Ainge and Kite—along with LDS athletes Bruce Hurst of the Boston Red Sox and Trevor Matich (’87) of the New England Patriots—appeared on People Are Talking, one of the top talk shows in the Boston area. The athletes spoke about topics ranging from their family life to the Word of Wisdom.
Sandstrom remembers one particularly notable moment when the talk show producers showed a clip of the Celtics celebrating after their championship win. While most players celebrated by drinking and spraying champagne, Sandstrom recalls seeing Ainge, Kite, and Roberts celebrating with a soft drink instead. “I think they covered a lot of aspects of the gospel just by their examples,” Sandstrom explains.
After spending several years as a student anchor on KBYU-TV and graduating from BYU in broadcast journalism, Sandstrom continued pursuing a career in the industry. She worked as a news anchor in New York, Utah, Canada, and Oregon where, after the birth of her first child, she gave up the hectic schedule of a full-time anchor to raise her children. “I realized anyone could replace me as a newscaster, but no one could replace me as a mother,” Sandstrom says.
While in Boston, Sandstrom instead focused on producing and hosting her own weekly talk show—giving her industry connections that later allowed her to pitch these LDS athletes as guests on other local programs.
Sandstrom continued to arrange talk show appearances for Ainge, Kite, Hurst, and Matich, and introduced Fred Roberts (’82) of the Boston Celtics to the talk show scene as well. She then helped arrange several youth and young adult firesides featuring these LDS athletes.
One year after she organized the initial talk show appearance for the Celtics players, a man approached Sandstrom after a training meeting for LDS public affairs directors. “One of the public affairs directors was a guy who had seen that first talk show, People Are Talking, and called the mission home in Boston and had gotten baptized,” she recalls.
Several years later, Sandstrom met a woman who had served as a missionary in Boston when the talk show effort was coordinated. “It was exciting to hear, years later, that they had lots of investigators and baptisms as a result,” Sandstrom says.
Sandstrom credits her experiences at BYU with giving her the knowledge to navigate the media industry to coordinate this unique missionary effort. “I really felt like it was a blessing from my education at BYU and being comfortable with the media,” she explains. “I am so grateful for my incredible education, experience, and training at BYU and KBYU-TV. It's helped me work, serve, and grow.”
Since living in Boston, Sandstrom and her husband have moved to the Phoenix area where she continues to put her broadcasting education and experience to use by serving in community, political, and non-profit organizations—including hosting and producing two radio talk shows. After surviving thyroid cancer and a benign brain tumor, Sandstrom also speaks to church and community groups about the role faith played in her battle with cancer. Sandstrom enjoys church service, including speaking for EFY and other conferences and serving in the stake Relief Society presidency in the YSA stake where her husband currently serves as stake president.
Recalling a scripture she often quotes, Sandstrom recites, “Remember, remember that is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation.” [Helaman 5:12]
“If we have that foundation, we may still have trials,” Sandstrom explains. “But we will have peace and we will not fall.”
—Melissa Barber Garrison ('16)