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Former Oakland Raider recounts LDS conversion

Published: Thursday, May 30 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Summur-Rayn Berrett, their oldest daughter, recalls the faithful dedication of her parents. They held family home evening and scripture study each week. They traveled long distances to attend church meetings and activities. The children each received a father’s priesthood blessing at the start of each school year. They attended early-morning seminary. Young Women camp was a high priority. One sibling was pulled off the soccer team because games were on Sunday. They spent general conference weekend at the stake center and had a picnic in between sessions because it was too far to return home. Owens consistently made the 2.5-hour drive to attend the Washington D.C. Temple.

“That was just how it was,” Berrett said. “We didn’t know any different.”

“We had a firm foundation at home, where our parents taught us to be leaders and examples,” said Randii Foster, another daughter.

Both women expressed gratitude for their special friendship with Todd and Kathy Christensen over they years. The Christensens were with the family in the Bountiful Temple when Berrett was sealed to her husband.

“It speaks volumes when you live a Christ-like life,” Berrett said, shedding a tear. “It’s scary to think what our lives would be like without the gospel. They (the Christensens) are an integral part of our lives and I’m grateful for their courage. It’s been a great blessing to us.”

Foster said her parents have been active missionaries, bringing upwards of 50 people into the church over the years.

“They (the Christensens) may not know the extent of the impact of their actions. Them sharing the gospel with my parents has impacted countless lives,” Foster said. “A thank you wouldn’t suffice.”

Final thoughts

Vai Sikahema, also a former NFL player, didn’t play against Owens in the NFL, but for a time they attended the same LDS ward and became friends. Sikahema has heard Owens’ conversion story several times and says it’s “an amazing example of how the Lord prepares his children to receive the truth.” Sikahema, a former BYU Cougar, also called Todd and Kathy Christensen “tremendous member missionaries.”

“An NFL locker room is not an easy place to share the gospel. Players are consumed with their money, fame and the trappings of professional success in the most visible arena of hero worship that exists,” Sikahema said in an email. “Through that clutter, Todd invited Burgess to take the missionary discussions. In that clutter, Burgess recognized the message. When I met the Owenses, they were dyed-in-the-wool Latter-day Saints, their testimonies firm and immovable.”

Sikahema continued: “It’s funny, I often see Burgess in NFL Films highlights as a Raider and … I marvel that in that atmosphere, he joined the church. Those teams were notorious partiers and rabble-rousers; even in the NFL their reputation is legendary. Yet, in their midst, was a black, athletic, knock-your-teeth-out safety who now holds the priesthood and is sealed to his wife and children for time and all eternity. Amazing, isn’t it?”

Reflecting on what he has learned over the past 30 years, Owens hopes others can learn something from his experience. He hopes others open their hearts and sincerely ask the right questions.

“We are all children of a Heavenly Father who loves us all. He sees us from the inside out, not the outside in, and his gospel treats us that way,” Owens said. “He wants us all to be successful. He has given parameters to guide us, and if we follow those rules and guidance, we’ll be blessed. And he will always be there — he will never give up on us.”

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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