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How a BYU football player’s career-ending injury led him to be cast as Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon Videos series

Looking back on his remarkable journey, Langi Tuifua has learned that ‘God has a plan for you’

Langi Tuifua had NFL aspirations.

After helping Bingham High School to win a trio of Utah state titles, the highly recruited defensive lineman was eager to excel in college football at Brigham Young University.

“Football was my entire life,” Tuifua said.

The dream came crashing down when the chiseled, 6-foot-3 Polynesian athlete suffered a career-ending neck injury. It was one of the worst moments of his life.

Five years later, Tuifua has a new passion and career path in acting, and he just played one of the most iconic figures in the Book of Mormon Videos series of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“God has a plan for you,” Tuifua said. “If you have faith in that plan and roll with the punches, you will be successful in what He has for you.”

A career-ending injury forced Langi Tuifua to give his dream of playing NFL football and become an actor.
A career-ending injury forced Langi Tuifua to give his dream of playing NFL football and become an actor. Tuifua is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. | Donovan Kelly, BYU

Life-changing injury

The first time it happened was during fall camp of his freshman year in 2017.

Tuifua made contact with a teammate during a practice before the first game and said his “neck went into a weird position,” leaving him with severe numbness and pain in his left arm and back.

Tuifua didn’t draw a lot of attention to the injury because he wanted to keep playing, and was able to play much of the 2017 season.

But the pain didn’t go away. Tuifua was examined by doctors and learned he had an herniated disc in his neck.

Tuifua underwent surgery to repair his herniated disc and spent a year recovering and training with plans to return, but pain and other effects of the injury were too difficult to ignore. He feared further damage and even the possibility of paralysis. Ultimately, he decided to retire from football in the spring of 2019.

“It definitely was a hard time. Having to give it up was heavy,” he said. “During that time I was struggling with faith. I was having doubts and not feeling well mentally at all.”

Spiritually, Tuifua said he had been less active in the Church for most of his life. He started to become active again as a junior and senior in high school because he wanted to play at BYU and liked its culture. Following his injury, he sought new direction from heaven.

“I did pray to God asking for guidance,” Tuifua said. “I asked Him, ‘Where should I go from here?’ I started to follow all the ‘coincidences’ that God set up for me.”

Discovering a talent for acting

Tuifua’s prayers were answered in the theater.

In addition to football, Tuifua liked BYU for its computer science program. Before his injury, he had met with some companies to discuss internships and possible employment.

He also had an interest in film and soon discovered a passion for acting. Following his injury, Tuifua was taking a theater history class that required him to attend several of BYU’s plays and musicals.

One production that captured his attention was “Wonderland.” Tuifua remembers sitting in the backseat and watching actors and actresses his same age perform on stage.

“These guys are ridiculously good,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. Maybe this could be someone like me. Maybe I could be up there one day.’”

Despite opportunities with computer science, Tuifua changed his major and started acting. He had previously made short films with friends in high school, but now he was learning and honing true acting skills. He’s grateful to older students and professors who took him under their wing and pushed him to improve.

Tuifua landed roles in BYU on-stage productions of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Bertolt Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” and most recently as Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice.” The more he acted, the more he felt he was going in the right direction.

Langi Tuifua retired from football after a career-ending injury and find a new passion for acting.
Langi Tuifua retired from football after a career-ending injury and find a new passion for acting. He was cast in several BYU on-stage productions before landing the role as Captain Moroni in the Church’s Book of Mormon Videos series. | Donovan Kelly, BYU

The acting major graduated from BYU last April. He has appeared in a few television commercials, had a role in a Lifetime Christmas movie and has even done voice work for a video game.

One day he received a call from the casting director for the Church’s Book of Mormon Videos series. She was interested in looking at him for the role of a young Nephite war general — Captain Moroni.

“Are you kidding me?” he said.

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Becoming Captain Moroni

Tuifua originally auditioned for another role with the Book of Mormon Videos series back in 2020, but nothing materialized, largely in part to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the casting director called Tuifua back earlier this year and asked him about his interest in the role of Captain Moroni, not only was he thrilled, but he also felt more prepared to go through the audition process a second time.

“It was a lot easier for me,” he said.

Those working with the Book of Mormon Videos series didn’t know the circumstances surrounding Tuifua’s football injury or his pivot to acting. All they saw was a muscular young man with a distinct look and emerging acting talent. They had been searching for a faithful person to play this special role and when he walked into the recreated Book of Mormon city of Zarahemla, clad in Nephite battle armor and raising the Title of Liberty, they knew he was right person to play the role, said Adam Anderegg, a director.

“The Lord did provide,” Anderegg said. “You could see this was more than just experience, he has a gift for this. He has this crazy scar from the surgery that makes him look like a warrior. All of this hardship he went through really was perfect for the Captain Moroni side of the equation.”

Anderegg continued: “When you see somebody who has goodness in their soul, it’s easy to see it and feel it, and you can’t fake that. You can’t just put makeup on it. He’s got light in his eyes, and that is the thing that is so cool about the fact that he came through the door and stepped into those shoes of Captain Moroni.”

That doesn’t mean the process of developing how he would portray the Book of Mormon war hero wasn’t stressful for Tuifua.

“Knowing how iconic this character is to all Church members, I just had to bring what I felt would humanize Captain Moroni,” the actor said. “Obviously, Captain Moroni has a family ... and his main motivation is trying to protect his family, his faith and his people. Coming at it from this protective, brotherly love helped me develop the role for Captain Moroni.”

For Tuifua personally, a deep study of Captain Moroni’s life in the scriptures and the overall experience strengthened his faith and testimony.

“Like all roles in acting, you step into another person’s shoes and have empathy for them. Captain Moroni was no different,” he said. “Understanding the importance of family and having a personal connection with God, it all helped me to grow as a person.”

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Tuifua’s portrayal of Captain Moroni will be featured in Season 5 of the Book of Mormon Videos series.

Actor Langi Tuifua, a former BYU football player, plays war hero Captain Moroni in the Church’s Book of Mormon Videos series.
Actor Langi Tuifua, a former BYU football player, plays war hero Captain Moroni in the Church’s Book of Mormon Videos series. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

‘The Lord has a path for all of us’

One takeaway from Tuifua’s story that Anderegg appreciates is that life’s curveballs can sometimes guide people to where the Lord needs them to be.

“If you think you have hit the end of your road or have to make a left turn, you might just lift your eyes up and realize there’s a group of people praying that you would show up,” the director said. “The Lord has a path for all of us. We get to have these challenges and crazy things happen to us, then we get to choose how to respond.”

Tuifua learned a similar lesson.

“You will think you are on this path to do one thing and all of the sudden, God tells you, ‘I know you like this, but my plan is for you to go do this thing,’” he said. “I hope that people understand that God puts you through these challenges to make you a stronger and more knowledgeable person.”

Watch an interview with Tuifua, his parents and others on BYU’s Deep Blue series.

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