WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Put the Lord first, U.S. Naval Academy head football
coach Ken Niumatalolo counseled members of The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints and guests at a fireside Sunday at the Woodbridge
Virginia Stake Center.
"If you put the Lord first, he will bless you, and he will always come
through," Niumatalolo said. He testified that he had witnessed this
principle firsthand in the many challenges he and his family had faced
through the years.
He told the audience, some of whom had not previously had
exposure to the LDS Church, that his family faithfully paid tithing
even when they had very little in finances and his professional path
was not clear. He quoted from an admonition directly from Christ in
John 20:27 that says "be not faithless, but believing." He added that
by staying faithful, we become a "light to our neighbors" and our kind
service will make a difference.
The theme of the multistake fireside, sponsored by the Woodbridge
Stake, was "Why I Believe in Jesus Christ." Niumatalolo, in his first
year as Navy's head coach, centered his remarks on Jesus Christ. He
established early on in his message that a life grounded in the
principles of the gospel allows people to see daily the hand of a
loving Heavenly Father in their lives.
Nuimatalolo, born in Hawaii of Polynesian descent, praised
the many remarkable coaching examples and mentors he has had in his
life, including John Robinson, former head coach of the University of
Southern California, University of Nevada-Las Vegas and the National
Football League's then-Los Angeles Rams. "He was humble and treated all
people with respect, and I will never forget that Christlike example,"
Niumatalolo said. He got to know Robinson well while serving on the
coaching staff at UNLV.
He also spoke of Paul Johnson, former Navy head football
coach who is now at Georgia Tech. He and Johnson first began working
together when Niumatalolo was quarterback at the University of Hawaii
and Johnson was offensive coordinator.
Niumatalolo spoke of the genuine honor it is to coach at Navy and
recognized the great young men he has an opportunity to work with and
who will eventually go off to serve their country.
Barbara Niumatalolo preceded her husband's remarks with a heartfelt
testimony of family, the priesthood and the need of maintaining a
conviction and faith in Jesus Christ through life. She spoke of her
mother's conversion to a testimony of the gospel and eventual
membership in the LDS Church through the example of a stranger her
mother encountered while in the hospital delivering one of her
Barbara Niumatalolo spoke of her gratitude for that woman
who quietly showed a "great example" and in so doing altered the
direction of many lives. The Niumatalolos have three children, Alexcia,
Va'a, and Ali'i.
The fireside also included David Oryang, originally from Uganda, who
conducted the session; Rick Buongiovanni of the Prince William Ward,
who provided his testimony and conversion story; and a musical number, "Lead Kindly Light," performed by Marine Corps veteran Sean Burroughs
and his wife, Camille.
The multistake fireside allowed local members an opportunity to invite
neighbors, community leaders, high school football coaches and players,
and to convey the inclusive message by local church leaders of
welcoming neighbors and sharing the gospel. The Woodbridge Stake is
located south of Washington, D.C.