People should revere the Lord, not celebrities.
That was part of the message delivered by San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Steve Young to some 6,400 members and their non-LDS friends at a fireside recently on Temple Hill."Please don't waste your time worshiping sports heroes, rock stars, movie idols. Please just worship God, your Heavenly Father," said the quarterback who was named Most Valuable Player of the 1995 Super Bowl. "Turn to Him in faith, let Him take you by the hand and lead you through this life. He will not let you down."
The missionary fireside, organized by Pres. Phil Smartt of the California Oakland Mission, featured talks by four of the five Latter-day Saints on the 49ers squad: Young; all-star center Bart Oates; rookie offensive lineman Tim Hanshaw; and defensive back coach Tom Holmoe, a former star cornerback for the 49ers during the 1980s. Rookie running back Jamal Willis was unable to attend.
The fireside congregation included an equal number of members and those who are not LDS. Three missions in the Bay Area received about 1,700 referrals from the fireside.
Among guests at the fireside were consul generals from five foreign consulates located in San Francisco, and numerous Bay Area mayors, city council members and county supervisors, as well as political figures.
"Every time one of them
the 49ersT spoke, we would keep nodding our heads in agreement," said Pilolevu Tuita, the princess of Tonga, whose husband is Tonga's consul general in San Francisco. "We had tears in our eyes most of the time."
Eugene A. Smirnov, consul general of the Russian Federation, said, "I am grateful to have been here this evening to hear Steve Young and the other 49ers. I listened with great interest to their message, about being Christians, and I am in full agreement with it."
Longtime 49er fan Bob Bacon, a former two-term mayor of El Cerrito, (Calif.), attended the fireside to catch another side of Steve Young. "I knew [he] was deeply religious," he said, "but I had no idea the others were, too. Their message is something that is sorely needed in our world today."
This was the second consecutive year that Young, Oates and Holmoe have given a missionary fireside on Temple Hill. Since last year's talks, the 49ers went on to win the Super Bowl and are currently driving toward their second championship season under the leadership of Young.
In his remarks, Oates, a 14-year veteran who has been on three Super Bowl teams, winning two rings with the New York Giants in the 1980s, said that he had never had another LDS member on the same squad until he joined the 49ers last year.
The fireside talks were mostly geared toward the many non-members in attendance. Oates spoke about gaining and strengthening a testimony, and added, "Tonight, many of you have felt or will feel the witness of the Holy Ghost. I encourage you to contemplate these feelings and have the courage and determination to act upon the promptings."
Hanshaw, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound rookie offensive lineman out of BYU and who is considered by talent scouts to be one of the most underrated rookies in the National Football League, spoke about his mission to Sweden.
He told about a man he met on his mission who was divorced and had three children living with him. The man embraced the gospel, and later his ex-wife did the same. Then they got a call from a son who was studying in Arizona, who told them about how he was introduced to the Church and wanted to get baptized, too. The couple got remarried and since then the family has gone to the temple to be sealed.
"Once they were divorced, once they were all separated and spread apart. Now they are an eternal family," Hanshaw said. "That's the true power of the gospel. It invites men and women - all of us - to become better people, to better ourselves and to prepare ourselves to one day return to our Heavenly Father."
Holmoe, in speaking of the gospel, used football as an analogy. He said, "Some people think the 49er playbook is the gospel of football strategy. . . . It's a good system, but it's very imperfect. On the other hand, here is something that is perfect," he said, holding the scriptures. "Pure truth, the holy scriptures, the word of God: the Holy Bible, the first witness of Jesus Christ; the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ."
He said if a football player is fortunate enough to go all the way, he wins a Super Bowl ring and the reassuring feeling the he has overcome all the odds and endured to the end of the season. "No number of rings, no fame or parades or money earned could compare to the prize to be gained by enduring to the end in our quest to return to our Lord and gain eternal life," he said. "It's not easy, but it is enjoyable."
During his talk, Young showed a humble side to the man millions saw running around San Francisco's Candlestick Park, hoisting his helmet in jubilation, after defeating the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football Conference title game last January.
"I have come to understand that life's whole process is really a walk in faith. It is faith that prepares you for that next experience, it is faith that makes you understand clearly that there is something to learn from every experience, and faith reassures you that there is life way beyond football."
He told the fireside congregation that everyone is equal in the sight of God and that each has great value to one another. He said today's hunger for competition leads to a belief that, in every aspect of life, there is a champion and there are losers. "This is a dangerous way to think," he said.
Instead, he suggested, everyone should be competing against himself, and no one else.