Latter-day Saint athletes: Ashley Hatch, Olivia Moultrie, Jon Russell on faith

From the doorstep of England’s Premier League to the professional and national team fields of women’s soccer, Latter-day Saint soccer players have made news in recent months for both playing well and sharing their faith.

Olivia Moultrie

Olivia Moultrie is 16 years old, but she already has scored a professional goal with the National Women’s Soccer League’s Portland Thorns. In fact, she turned pro when she was 13.

She scored that goal in a tournament last summer and she’s seen action in two games so far this season. This spring, she scored two goals and had an assist to help lead the US U-20 team win a regional tournament that earned it a spot in this year’s Women’s World Cup for players younger than 20.

earlier this year, Primary General President Bonnie H. Cardon interviewed Moultrie.

Moultrie said sees herself first not as the youngest professional women’s soccer player but as a daughter of God. She always prays on the field right before kickoff.

“I’ve done it since I was 10 years old and I’ll do it forever,” she said.

She quoted President Russell M. Nelson’s statements that effort counts with the Lord and said she tries to stay as close to God as possible.

“Continuing to do the things we can to be the closest to him, he’ll tell us what he needs us to do,” she said.

Jon Russell

Every year, three English soccer teams are promoted from the country’s second division to replace the three worst teams in the Premier League.

Jon Russell’s helped bring Huddersfield within a single goal of promotion this spring. Agonizingly, the team lost 1-0 in the final play-in game.

In the process, Russell was the subject of two major features, one in the Telegraph and the other in The Athletic, both of which featured his unique place as a Latter-day Saint in British soccer.

The Telegraph called Russell, who previously played in the Premier League with Chelsea, “English football’s only Mormon.”

“I know I’m quite rare,” he said in the story.

“Praying and reading helped calm me down,” Russell said. “It’s been one of the biggest parts of my life and now it’s like a pre-game ritual. That is what I have and I feel God is there helping me. When I was young I would be petrified before games. Having faith made me confident and less scared.”

He went into more detail with The Athletic.

“I remember this time before a game I was reading the Book of Mormon, and it was the first time I read it properly and felt the scriptures and, during the game, my nerves just went (away),” he said. “I felt a confidence I had never felt before and then I knew how important my faith was.”

Ashley Hatch

Moultrie isn’t the only Latter-day Saint in the NWSL.

Last year’s Golden Boot winner as the NWSL’s most prolific goal scorer, Ashley Hatch is back at it again this year, with three goals through seven games, good for fifth in the league.

The Spirit are off to a rough start as defending championsbut Hatch treasured a recent opportunity to take several of her teammates to the Washington DC Temple open house.

“I didn’t realize how vulnerable I would feel bringing my teammates to the temple,” she told the Church News, “but I really enjoyed it. They were all so great to come and support me.”

My recent stories

Police respond to report of hail of bullets at Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center in New York (June 8)

At National Press Club, Elder Bednar responds to questions about church finances, portrayal of church in media (May 26)

Latter-day Saints mourn over ‘senseless’ shooting in Texas, Elder Bednar tells National Press Club (May 26)

The time President Gordon B. Hinckley had the National Press Club laughing out loud (May 25)

About the church

A churchwide broadcast featuring Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf speaking about “Teaching in the Savior’s Way” will be released this weekend. The video will become available for livestreaming on Saturday here. It also will be broadcast on the Church Satellite Network and on YouTube.

The church held the groundbreaking for the Burley Idaho Temple.

My colleague Trent Toone wrote about a look back at a Hollywood movie about a missionary in this story: “Which more accurately portrays Latter-day Saints: ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ or ‘The Other Side of Heaven’?”

A lawsuit has been found in which Joseph filed for the return of church property. Read more here.

Elder Robert L. Backman, an emeritus General Authority Seventy, has died.

A woman member of the church wrote an essay about how the church was her escape from misogyny and violence.

What I’m reading

I’ve been watching a lot of the Women’s College World Series because I coach fastpitch softball. I really enjoyed learning about the sweet, family friendly tradition of what they do with home run balls.

Behind the scenes

Portland Thorns player Olivia grown Moulton, 16, told an interviewer that she had five inches since turning pro at age 13.

Portland Thorns player Olivia Moulton told an interviewer that she had grown five inches between turning pro at age 13 and making her National Women’s Soccer League debut at age 15 last summer.