News Release

Rugby League Star Ben Hannant Visits Papua New Guinea

Church leaders meet with senior PNG politician

In an age when you often hear only negative things about the private lives of Rugby League players, it’s refreshing to find a sportsman who is doing the right thing.

Australian NRL star from the North Queensland Cowboys and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), Ben Hannant, travelled to Papua New Guinea on the 13th and 14th December to visit with 100 young patients at Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH) and participate in other community activities.

The visit to the hospital was part of a weekend visit facilitated by the Church. PMGH chief executive officer Grant Muddle said the hospital was delighted to receive a Christmas visit from one of the NRL’s most popular players.

On Saturday, Mr Hannant hosted a reading session in the Buk Bilong Pikinini children’s library at the hospital and handed out Rugby League gifts to children in the hospital’s acute and chronic care wards.

During his visit to the hospital, Ben went from bed to bed, meeting individually with each of the children.  His time there lasted approximately two hours as he gave personal attention to each child and mothers and fathers when they were present.  

“It was a bit emotional actually,” the 29 year old NRL star said.  “I’ve got five kids of my own, and just to see these kids  doing it tough — but seeing the smiles on their faces, it makes you appreciate everything you’ve got.” 

In other events during Ben's visit to Papua New Guinea, he addressed a gathering of 200 young people and adults in Gaire village.  He spoke about being strong, hard-working and persistent. He shared with them that he began playing football at the age of three and, at age 12, he didn’t make it onto the representative teams, but his friends did.

He asked his parents why he didn’t make it.  “My parents told me something which I will tell you.  If you want to achieve something in life, you put God first, and you work extremely hard and He will bless you,” he said.  “As a young kid coming through, I started putting God first in my life and I worked really hard and, eventually, I made it.”

Ben also spoke to groups of men and women at a Young Single Adult convention of the Church held in Port Moresby.  During his remarks on Sunday to the young adult women (members of the Church's Relief Society, the largest women's organisation in the world), he told them of his close relationship with his mother, who was recently released from a calling as seminary teacher for the Church after 17 years of service. He also shared his admiration for his wife and the mother of their children.  He gave both women credit for a great deal of what he has accomplished.

Ben has commented before, “It is my view that the most important role I will ever fill is not one of an elite sportsperson, coach or mentor but that of a husband and father.”

Brother Hannant, who with his wife, Emma, is the parent of five children, spoke later that evening to a gathering held at The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Port Moresby. In attendance were 45 local business leaders, lawyers, National Rugby League officials and representatives from the PNG Chamber of Commerce. The guests were entertained by a choral group from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

As in his previous speeches, he referred to his experience as a Rugby League player and his family. He quoted his former coach, Wayne Bennett: “No one is better than you and you are no better than anyone else”, and then went on to talk about how that made him feel that he was as good as anyone else, (at a time when he really needed it) and he could be successful as a Rugby League player.  

The meeting was conducted by Dr Lautofa Pulotu McCarthy, the director of public affairs for the Church in PNG. Elder Robert Dudfield, an Area Seventy for the Church, gave each attendee a copy of ‘The Family a Proclamation to the World’.  This is a document regarding the sanctity of the family to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and includes the phrase, “The family is ordained of God”.

(Some of the above information was sourced from the National, one of PNG’s leading newspapers, and The Gaire Village Sentinel.)

On Monday, 15th December, Church leaders took the opportunity to visit the Hon. Delilah P. Gore, MP, Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development at her offices.  Minister Gore is one of only three women serving in the PNG Parliament.  

President Paul Whippy, second counsellor in the Port Moresby stake (diocese), Dr McCarthy, PNG national director of public affairs, and Elder David Moore, public affairs representative for the Church, met with the minister.  She welcomed them and told them she was aware of the Church and its popular reputation.

President Whippy and Dr McCarthy both took the opportunity to talk about the Church’s 35-year history in the country and reviewed some of the recent humanitarian projects for clean water, wheelchairs and food initiatives, among others.

In a recent media release the Church announced that it is “delighted to continue to serve the people of Papua New Guinea by partnering with government and international medical partners in 2015 to immunise against Rubella and Measles. 

“The Church will provide funding, professional support and volunteers to ensure the success of this major health initiative.  We do this, and all we do in Papua New Guinea and around the world, because we are devoted to Christ, family and community.” 

Minister Gore said that she also believes that the best way for the country to solve social, welfare and humanitarian projects is to partner with the local churches.  During the visit, President Whippy presented Minister Gore with a statuette of the Christus, one of the enduring images of Jesus Christ revered by the Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is involved in humanitarian projects in 182 countries around the world. Watch a short film about their efforts here.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.