Elder Andersen’s Sid Going example was timely

189096-william-hopoateIn the first talk given during the Priesthood session of this past General Conference, Elder Neil L. Andersen told the story of New Zealand rugby player Sid Going, who, in 1962, was poised to become a major Rugby star. But Going instead chose to serve an LDS mission, and became a star anyway when he returned two years later.

Now, less than six weeks after Conference, Australian LDS Church member Will Hopoate has chosen to follow Going’s example, forgoing interest from 6 teams and at least one offer worth USD $1.6 million.

Will Hopoate is the son of John Hopoate, himself at one time a star for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. The elder Hopoate, a Tongan-born LDS Church member, played from 1993 to 2005, and was one of the NRL’s leading scorers. But John Hopoate also left a trail of scandal, becoming the “most suspended player of the modern era” (according to the Sydney Morning Herald in 2005). Following his retirement from Rugby, John has become a professional boxer.

His son, Will, in contrast, shows little interest in scandal. He has told newspapers that he is “deeply religious.” With reporters and teams looking for information about his plans, the younger Hopoate hinted at the possibility that he would serve a mission in recent weeks, telling the Sun-Herald, “missionary service is something I’m taking into consideration. I’m weighing up my options but it’s important to me.”

He played for the Sea Eagles in both 2010 and this year, and the Sea Eagles have a better record this year than last. Will is under contract through the end of this season (the Grand Final game will be held October 2nd), and it seems likely that his missionary service will begin soon after.

The Sea Eagles have been kind in their reaction, despite the fact that they were “desperate to retain him.” Chairman Scott Penn said the club supported their young star’s decision. ‘‘We’d like to congratulate Will on a strong decision,’’ Penn said. ‘‘We certainly support you, you have been an integral part of the Sea Eagles family. We’ve loved watching you develop and certainly would very much like to see that continue so we’d very much like to see you come back once you’ve fulfilled your mission.’’

[From what I can tell, Rugby has the fourth highest number of professional players who are Mormon, behind football, baseball and basketball.]

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16 comments for “Elder Andersen’s Sid Going example was timely

  1. What these New Zealand and Australian rugby players have done by serving missions is inspirational. Many Mormon athletes at BYU, Utah, Utah State, etc, likewise put their athletic careers on hold in order to serve missions.

    Before we start negatively judging some BYU quarterbacks for not serving missions, we should remember that none of the First Presidency served full-time missions as young elders, as well as four members of the quorum of the twelve: Packer, Nelson, Oaks, and Hales.

  2. Great examples. Thanks for this story, Kent.

    P.S. I was hopining this wouldn’t become an anti-example comment thread, but I think it bears noting that counsel about every young man serving a mission wasn’t the same in the generation of our elder leaders that it has been in later generations.

    My dad served a three year mission (to Holland) in 1948. Neither of his brothers served. It was much more of an “offer your services” or “wait to see if you are approached” kind of thing than a “you’re expected to serve unless something is wrong.”

  3. The Apostles who didn’t serve missions have pretty good excuses (WWII / Military Service).

  4. What I appreciated most about Elder Andersen’s talk was that he didn’t just postpone career for a mission, but that he didn’t let that career change his Sabbath observance when playing and practicing. That is the more important example I think…seeing how it affects an entire lifetime and not just 2 years.

  5. Scott (5): “What these New Zealand and Australian rugby players have done by serving missions is inspirational.”

    Well, I think you are only hearing about the examples of those who have served. I’ve only been collecting information for a few months, but I’ve come across many examples of those who haven’t served missions. Also, as far as I know, Sid Going is the only player who has managed to get games shifted from Sunday to another day.

    As far as the Sunday issue goes, as I understand it Going played Rugby Union, the version of Rugby that is most popular in New Zealand. BUT, Rugby Union is less popular elsewhere and more oriented to amateur players. While Going was very good and played on New Zealand’s national team (the All Blacks), I’m guessing that he was not a professional — he didn’t play for money.

    The Hopoates, on the other hand, play Rugby League, which is much more popular worldwide and a full professional sport. Due to a salary cap, the maximum a Rugby League player can earn is $500,000 Australian dollars (as I understand it). Given the money involved, the popularity and the tendency of fans to prefer seeing games on Sundays (I believe this is as true in Australia as it is in the U.S.), I can’t see the National Rugby League giving in to any player, no matter how popular, on this issue. I likewise can’t see the NFL, MLB or NBA changing games to accommodate a single player.

    So Jax (8), I think your suggestion that Going’s no Sunday play example is effectively a choice between choosing a professional sports career or not.

  6. Has anyone else wondered if perhaps Elder Andersen got a call from Hopoate’s Stake President about this issue before Conference?

  7. Kent, me suggestions is exactly what you have stated: a choice between a career in sports (not just players, also announcers, etc) and one of keeping the Sabbath Holy. Which one do you think is more important?

    There are many careers that people choose that require Sunday work (Dr., Nurse, Police, Fire, military, etc) but those are only necessary on Sunday because they are the jobs of keeping people alive and helping them in times of dire need. To me that is the work we should be doing on Sunday and it is excusable to choose to join those professions. But to break the sabbath just to entertain? and to make money? If the only argument people can give is “they have a skill to provide for their families…” then I’m not buying. What other commandments are breakable just to get gain? I could be quit better well off if I were allowed to ignore some of those pesky 10. I still want the Austin Collies and Jeremy Guthries to do well and I cheer them on in games, but I think they made poor choices.

  8. I certainly understand your position, Jax. To be honest, I’m not sure that I agree, but since I haven’t been in that situation, I haven’t thought through the issue that ballplayers face that well. AND, I hadn’t really thought that this would be the issue to be discussed from this news.

    For me, the most interesting issues are:

    * Did local leaders ask Elder Andersen to talk about this, or bring it to his attention? Or is this just a coincidence?

    * What does the relative prevalence of Mormons in Rugby mean?

  9. If you can find out if someone on a local level talked to Elder Andersen about this, please let us know. That would be interesting.

    Any chance I can pick a Conf. talk next time?

  10. Looking back at the last few NFL seasons, there haven’t been very many former BYU quarterbacks who have put in significant playing time on Sundays. I’d say this is more a theoretical problem for them, than it is a practical one. (I’m looking at you, John Beck and Max Hall)

  11. I am a little torn by the keeping the sabbath day holy thing. Personally I would take a job that pays less money if I did not have to work on Sunday. I have been blessed with more than I need to provide for my family because of that.

    Jeremy Guthrie is in my stake here in the Baltimore area. He attends church in the morning before he goes to work when they are at home. I would hope that other athletes that work (if you can call it that. Looks like fun to me.) would attend church somewhere prior to heading off to their job.

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