Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of posts about the Latter-day Saint keynote speakers at the upcoming RootsTech Connect 2021.

When he was 19 years old, Will Hopoate made headlines in Australia’s national press for turning down a $ 1.5 million contract in rugby league to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After spending a year in the National Rugby League playing for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, Hopoate suspended his career to serve in the Australia Brisbane Mission from 2012 to 2013.

In a “I’m a Mormon” video before his departure, Hopoate said that serving a mission was a childhood dream and serving others was a way of expressing gratitude to God for his talents.

Now, 10 years later, the rugby star – a Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs defender, husband and father – has the opportunity to share a message on RootsTech’s virtual center stage.

“Thanks to my family, today I am who I am,” he said in a recent interview.

Hopoate will be one of the 13 keynote speakers at RootsTech Connect taking place February 25-27. Born in New South Wales, Australia, the rugby league player and Latter-day Saint is of Tongan descent. He and his wife Jimicina Green have four children under the age of 4.

“The mission has been a true spiritual anchor in my life, in the sense of converting more to the gospel and learning more about it,” said Hopoate. His wife also served a mission and together they strive to instill gospel principles in their home, he added.

League rugby is a brutal, tough and high-physical contact sport. It’s a mental challenge, but it also provides some parallels to the gospel.

In the same way that he prepares for a game, Hopoate said, he must prepare for daily spiritual battles. “It is important to have spiritual training sessions, read, pray, serve and minister … to be spiritually fit and have the spiritual energy to endure courageously to the end.”

Listening to your coaches is the key to getting better, Hopoate continued. “I believe that in the same way and from the spiritual point of view, our coach is the Lord, who through His prophets and leaders of the Church, show us the opposition and the spiritual battle that we all have, which is against him. adversary. …

“If we heed their advice and follow the ‘spiritual game plan’, victory is assured.”

Australian rugby league star Will Hopoate will speak at RootsTech Connect in February 2021. “He suspended his career to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is currently playing fullback. of the Canterbury-Bankstwon Bulldogs. Credit: FamilySearch.org

Hopoate’s 10-year career in rugby league has also provided him with the opportunity to continue his missionary experiences.

For example, one day when Hopoate was returning from a training session with a teammate, they stopped by the local Latter-day Saint meetinghouse. This caused his partner to ask Hopoate about his beliefs.

In answering their questions, Hopoate said his teammate was curious and wanted to know why there are so many different churches – and what makes the Latter-day Saint faith different.

As Hopoate explained about the Great Apostasy, the formation of the various Churches, and how the Lord restored His Church, “things started to click in his mind,” he said of his companion. Hopoate also told him about living prophets and apostles and the role of the Book of Mormon.

“It was not a big and deep spiritual experience, but it was a small and meaningful conversation that had a spiritual impact on both of us, and this is something I will remember,” said Hopoate.

Sign up for RootsTech Connect to watch Hopoate’s speech.

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