Former BYU football star now a Latter-day Saint official; African American joins general authority ranks

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jim McMahon, Adam Haysbert and Vai Sikahema attend the public service for LaVell Edwards at Utah County Convention Center in Provo Friday, Jan. 6, 2017.

Among the flurry of leadership appointments announced Saturday by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a familiar name for football fans emerged.

Vai Sikahema.

After starring at church-owned Brigham Young University, Sikahema, who now will be an area Seventy for the Utah-based faith, became the first Tongan ever to play in the National Football League, where he racked up yards as a running back and kick returner from 1986 to 1993.

He was drafted by the St. Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals, and also played for the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles. Later, he became a staple in the Philly media market and worked as sports director for WCAU-TV.

Henry J. Eyring, president of Brigham Young University-Idaho and a son of President Henry B. Eyring of the governing First Presidency, also was named an area Seventy.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Peter M. Johnson of the Seventy.

Ten new general authority Seventies were appointed as well. That list included Peter M. Johnson, an African American born in New York, Benjamin M. Z. Tai, who was born in Hong Kong, and four Latter-day Saint leaders who were born in Latin America.

There have been other black general authorities, but the 52-year-old Johnson is the first African American to reach that level. He married Stephanie Lyn Chadwick in 1990, according to a news release, and the couple are the parents of four children.

The faith’s other top authorities won “sustaining” votes Saturday from members assembled in downtown Salt Lake City’s Conference Center. Unlike in recent conferences, no audible “no” votes were cast.