Coach Niumatalolo shares 3 morally grounding principles with Ensign College students

Speaking to Ensign College students on Tuesday, April 27, Ken Niumatalolo — the head football coach at the United States Naval Academy and a stake president in Maryland — cited three principles of righteousness that have blessed his life. 

Before sharing his devotional message, he expressed how impressed he felt to speak with the students of the college, comparing them to the 2,000 stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon. 

“You are the valiant 3,000 students of our Heavenly Father’s choicest children from around the world,” he said. “With those types of qualifications and divine lineage, you have limitless potential.” 

Niumatalolo said the three principles have kept him “grounded in a world of changing moral values,” “steadfast in the storms of life” and “safe from the cunning of the adversary.”

1. Always put the Lord first

The first principle is to always put the Lord first in order for everything to always work out. 

“It doesn’t mean it is going to be easy or that there won’t be any tough times.” 

Recounting the history of his hometown of Laie, Hawaii, Niumatalolo said the Church’s initial purchase of property in that city was seen as foolish because of the town’s remote location at the time. 

He said the Church chose to build a temple on the land before doing anything else with it. A logical decision may have been to start by building the Polynesian Cultural Center first to provide jobs for the people, he added, or perhaps to build BYU–Hawaii first to provide educational opportunities. 

“I bear you my testimony that everything worked out for the best in this community because they put the Lord first and build the temple first.” 

He explained that the beaches of Waikiki and the major hotels were seen as impediments to the success of Laie’s development. 

The Church followed an inspired path, he explained, of building the temple, then the school, and then the Polynesian Cultural Center. 

Now, the cultural center is a top tourist attraction in “a beautiful, thriving little town … located on prime real estate that was once considered undesirable.” 

“Don’t let the cares of the world or demands of life change your eternal priorities and perspective,” he continued. “Always seek the things of God first. Always have your covenants and spiritual goals first.”

He presented the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as examples of putting the Lord first. 

“All of them were very successful in their chosen professions,” he said. “But more impressive and more powerful are their testimonies and the lives they live as servants of the Lord.” 

2. Pay your tithing

Niumatalolo’s second principle was that of paying tithing. 

“When you invest in the Lord, there is always a return on your investments,” he taught. “He always fulfills His promises and His part of covenants.” 

Niumatalolo told a story of paying tithing with his wife when they were recently married. He emotionally testified that when they did so, they were always blessed. 

The Ken and Barbara Niumatalolo family at Temple Square in Salt Lake City several years ago.
The Ken and Barbara Niumatalolo family at Temple Square in Salt Lake City several years ago. Credit: Provided by Niumatalolo family

“There were several times as a young married couple when it looked like we wouldn’t be able to meet our essential financial obligations,” he said. “But we always paid our tithing, and things always worked out.” 

Then he counseled students to not forget the blessings they received from Heavenly Father. 

“If you start to become successful in life, remember Who opened the windows of heaven for you. Don’t forget Him.” 

3. Honor the Sabbath day

The final principle Niumatalolo shared was to honor the Sabbath day. 

Collegiate football coaching “is an extremely competitive and ruthless profession” in which many coaches see Sunday as the most important day of game preparation, he said. 

When he became a head coach 14 years ago, he decided he wouldn’t work on Sundays. 

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, center, kneels with players during a game on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.
Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, center, kneels with players during a game on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Credit: AP Photo

“Renewing my covenants with the Lord every Sunday, by partaking of the sacrament with my family, is the best way that I know to prepare myself to be my best as a husband, father, stake president, coach and citizen.”

Niumatalolo closed by bearing testimony that many of the blessings he and his family have received have come as “a direct result of honoring the Sabbath day.”