When I was young, my family immigrated from Tonga to the United States. My father was a boxer when we lived in Tonga, and he started training me to box after we arrived in the States. His master plan was that I would be the heavyweight champion of the world someday. He taught me not to be scared. You can’t be scared in the boxing ring if you want to succeed. My father may not have been active in the Church at that time, but he taught me so much about facing difficulty and having courage in the face of fear.
Learning to box uniquely prepared me for my profession. I went to Brigham Young University on a football scholarship. And even performing what most people regard as probably the scariest thing to do on a football field—catching a punt—I always did it calmly. I was never really afraid. In fact, I loved the challenge of football.
My father anticipated that I would have a professional career in sports—it turned out to be in football, not boxing. But I think my training helped me both to have faith and to look forward with faith and hope in uncertainty.
As young adults, you face a lot of difficult and scary things—personal issues like decisions about education, career, marriage, and family. And you also face more widespread issues, like economic crises, social temptations, political upheavals, and even war. But from my own life experience, I know that as we choose to put the Lord first in our lives, He is always there to guide us through it all.
The Influence of Good Friends and Good People
I had the good fortune of having good friends when I got home from my mission. A friend I had met in the missionary training center introduced me to the woman who would later become my wife. I’ve never discounted the fact that your friends often determine your success or failure in life. Your friends and mentors can help you make decisions that will lead you either closer to or farther from God.
When I was in the National Football League, I looked up to Gifford Nielsen, who had also played for BYU before going on to the NFL, eventually becoming a sportscaster and later a General Authority Seventy. I ran into him one day on a golf course, and he gave me advice that changed the course of my professional career.
We were sitting in a golf cart, just me and him, and after I told him about my plan to go into television like he had after I finished playing football, he gave me advice to not continue pursuing a career that would require me to be at the games on Sundays. That way, I’d always be able to have a calling on Sundays and serve in the Church.
It was that simple, but it was advice that I hadn’t thought about. And that changed the course of my life.
Standing Up for What You Believe
Most of my career in the NFL was scary and uncertain. Only 2 percent of college football players make it to the NFL, and even when I made the team, I could get cut at any time. To survive as long as I did was a great blessing, but living without a fallback was hard. It took a lot of faith.
In the NFL, you go from team to team, year to year, bouncing around the country. It seems glamorous, but most people don’t see the less glamorous parts. It’s a hard way to live. And it’s a hard way for couples to live too; that’s one reason why there’s such a high divorce rate among professional athletes.
What helped is that I knew where I stood. I had a firm foundation in Christ, and I consistently did all those things that kept me close to Him and Heavenly Father.
You might not face a career path that is filled with so much pressure and temptation, but in my case, being a professional athlete exposed me to a very different lifestyle than I was used to. For example, when we arrived in big cities and traveled in the beginning, my teammates immediately wanted to go out and participate in different activities that were not aligned with gospel standards, and I knew right then that I couldn’t straddle Zion and Babylon. I couldn’t answer “let me think about it” in order to appease them. Instead, I needed to be firm in my faith and explain why I couldn’t join them.
I was fortunate that I was married while I was in college. When I went to the NFL, my wife and our six-month-old baby were with me. We were married in the temple, and I knew what those covenants meant to me and what they required of me. So I would tell my teammates, “No, I don’t do that.” And when they pressed, I’d say, “My wife and I were married in the house of the Lord where we made sacred covenants. Those covenants are more important to me than anything else.”
And the odd thing is when they asked me those questions and were absolutely certain about what kind of person I was, those same teammates began to protect me and respect my standards and covenants. It requires courage to stand up for what you believe and cherish.
Facing so much temptation was scary in the beginning, but relying on Heavenly Father and remembering the sacredness and meaning of my covenants in the face of pressure always helped me stand firm on the covenant path in my career. You can do the same in any circumstances you find yourself in throughout your journey.
Follow the Prophet
I know that as young adults today you’re facing so much uncertainty and fear about the future. And you might wonder what to do and how to get through it. The easy answer is to follow the guidance of the prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. When a prophet of God speaks and gives you something specific, it’s as simple as just following that counsel.
I’ve noticed that President Nelson likes to offer simple lists of things we can do to stand firm in our faith. Over the past few years, he has given members of the Church five things to do to increase our faith, five ways to increase spiritual momentum, three things that you should do as you begin the new year, and more.
He doesn’t give a list of a dozen things. Just simple things. And if you do those simple things and be resolute, your life will be changed by doing the simplest things. Your foundation of faith will stand firm, even when there are scary circumstances in the world. Do those things and you’ll be OK. You’ll be protected.
It reminds me of the story in the Old Testament of Naaman, the military officer who had leprosy. He went to Elisha, the prophet, who told him to go wash himself in the Jordan River seven times. The military officer thought it was dumb, but the people around him encouraged him as the general to just go do it. And he had the faith to go do it—something so simple. And he was cleansed. (See 2 Kings 5:1–15.)
Put Your Future in Heavenly Father’s Hands
Now, I may not have become a professional boxer, but I did learn some things about facing fears. With all the decisions and challenges you are facing right now as a young adult, I plead with you to do all you can do to seek and keep the Spirit’s influence with you always. That’s the key. As President Nelson recently taught: “Positive spiritual momentum will keep us moving forward amid the fear and uncertainty created by pandemics, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and armed hostilities. Spiritual momentum can help us withstand the relentless, wicked attacks of the adversary and thwart his efforts to erode our personal spiritual foundation.”1
When I was younger and facing the reality of moving to a new country as an immigrant, I couldn’t imagine a life free of uncertainty. As I’ve continued to face uncertainties throughout my life and my career, I’ve learned that as disciples of Christ, we can face whatever fears or obstacles are in our path.
As you surround yourself with good people, set and stand up for your beliefs, and follow the prophet, the future won’t seem so scary. And you’ll be able to move forward with faith in spite of fear or uncertainty. When you put your future into the hands of our loving Heavenly Father, you can trust that He will always be there for you.
1. Russell M. Nelson, “The Power of Spiritual Momentum,” Liahona, May 2022, 98.