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Navy football coach to members: 'Put the Lord first'

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.