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Gifford Nielsen - LDS General Conference
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LDS General Conference: Quotes & Moments Involving BYU Athletics

Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, General Authority Seventy, speaks during the priesthood session of the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 3, 2021. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – BYU athletics has had its moments during LDS General Conference over the years. The school is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So it’s not completely out of the ordinary to see a BYU sports reference in General Conference every once in a while.

Here’s a look back at some of those moments and quotes that involved BYU athletes or coaches in LDS General Conference.

Remember, you can watch The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints General Conference on KSL 5 TV and listen on KSL NewsRadio.

LaVell Edwards was a speaker in LDS General Conference

Can you imagine a BYU head coach speaking in General Conference? It happened once in the October 1984 General Conference when former BYU head football coach LaVell Edwards spoke. Coach Edwards discussed missionary work in his talk. He even worked in a reference to quarterback Stephen Covey in the talk.

“Now brethren, how do we handle adversity? Adversity is going to be with us in everything that we do, almost in every facet of our lives—in our personal associations, in the mission field, in our chosen professions, in our families. When we have adversity we oftentimes tend to look around and think that we’re the Lone Ranger. We tend to believe that we’re the only one who has problems. And we always look around and see others who are more talented, taller, smarter, handsomer, or faster. I can assure you, brethren, everyone has problems—even football coaches.

“The ability we have to handle this adversity will determine the degree of success that we will have in life. To me, this is where the gospel can be the greatest of help to us. The power of the Holy Ghost is the greatest source of strength and comfort we can have in our lives. The Holy Ghost will not only help us in times of need, but will help us to gain a firm testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, thereby preparing us for life.”

Gordon B. Hinckley cuts Priesthood Session short for a BYU Football game

When BYU was in the Mountain West Conference, the Cougars would have some road games that would land on a Saturday night on General Conference weekend. In 2003, BYU had a late-night kick against San Diego State lined up on Montezuma Mesa after Priesthood Session.

To make sure everyone was able to make it home in time to watch the game, President Gordon B. Hinckley cut his talk short so everyone could enjoy the game. I know from my seat on the gym stage, I was excited about that.

“The BYU game will not be over for at least two hours. In fact, I’ve cut my talk a little short so that you — not I, but you — can watch it,” said President Hinckley. Who drew laughs from the congregation for his comments.

Former BYU players that have spoken in General Conference

Three former BYU football or men’s basketball players have spoken during previous LDS General Conferences. Those former athletes include Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, Elder Brian K. Taylor, and Devin Durrant.

Nielsen spoke in October of 2013. He also gave a talk during Priesthood Session on Saturday. Elder Nielsen’s talk on Saturday included some mention of his NFL career with the Houston Oilers.

“In 1978, as Elder Nielsen participated in his first game as a starting quarterback in the National Football League, he wondered if he should be there. After taking a hard hit, he had to decide if he would give in to doubts or find the courage to try again. ‘I needed to learn that I could be strong and courageous in the face of difficult situations.'”

Former BYU basketball player Brian Taylor, a member of the General Authority of the Seventy, spoke in October 2018.

Devin Durrant, a First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, gave his first talk in General Conference in 1984 after completing his two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Durrant has also spoken in 2015 and 2018.

Vai Sikahema

During the Saturday session of the April 2021 General Conference, former BYU National Champion Vai Sikahema was named a General Authority of the Seventy for the Church. Sikahema recently retired from a near three-decade career at an NBC affiliate in Philadelphia as a sportscaster.

Mark Pope’s daughter, Ella, missionary work mentioned in LDS General Conference talk

In the first virtual General Conference amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a story told by Sister Bonnie Cordon about the missionary work of Ella Pope, daughter to BYU men’s basketball head coach Mark Pope.

“The second story is about Ella, a collegiate basketball player. Her example began when she received her mission call while she was away at school. She chose to open her call in front of her team. They knew almost nothing about The Church of Jesus Christ and didn’t understand Ella’s desire to serve,” said Cordon. “She prayed repeatedly how to explain her mission call in a way that her teammates may feel the spirit. Her answer, ‘I made a PowerPoint,’ Ella said. ‘Because I’m just that cool.’

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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