Questions lead former BYU athlete to join the church

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    Questions about true happiness crowd Craig Manning’s mind as he tries to focus on winning his tennis match.

    Craig Manning (third from left) poses for a picture with his BYU tennis teammates. Manning came to BYU after struggling to find motivation on pro tour. (Lance Squire)

    The teenager focused on tennis his entire life in hopes of finding fulfillment, but after reaching the pro tour he still wasn’t happy.

    “I’ll worry about that later,” he told himself repeatedly, but he struggled to find motivation as he played.

    “Once I got on the tour and realized I didn’t love it like I thought I would, I didn’t have a purpose anymore,” Manning said. “So I started looking for the truth and trying to find out what truth was.”

    Manning returned home to Australia after six months in Europe to reestablish his identity. He tried to implement what his family said would give him peace, but felt their answers didn’t have substance.

    While looking for a purpose in life, Manning began playing tennis with an older man from Canada. After seeing Manning’s abilities, the man talked BYU’s head coach into offering him a scholarship. Manning didn’t accept it right away.

    “I started sending letters to other schools,” Manning said. “I got offers from a whole bunch of schools, but I just felt good about BYU. It changed my life. All in the sudden I decided to take the scholarship and turned up in Provo. I had no idea what it was really about.”

    Manning arrived at BYU late one Saturday night. After sleeping in, he went to the Cannon Center for breakfast only to discover it was closed for fast Sunday. Manning felt he had arrived on a different planet.

    Manning (left) and his teammates in Hawaii. (Lance Squire)

    “The first semester I was staying in the dorms, I was really closed off because I thought everyone was a little weird,” Manning said. “I just stuck to myself and hung out with the non-members.”

    He had a date set to go home, but friends he met kept him at BYU.

    “Once I let my guard down and started to get to know people I realized how happy and good everyone was,” Manning said.

    At the end of the semester, Manning stayed in Utah to help run the summer tennis camps. He stayed in the dorms with teammates Lance Squire and Micah Rideout, and finding a lot in common, Manning began asking them questions.

    “For the sake of being able to sleep some, we would alternate nights sleeping in the same room as Craig because he would just have questions all night long,” Squire said. “It was great because we were getting a spiritual high, but night after night it was kind of draining.”

    Squire said the questions ranged from dating to vocation, but everything steered toward the family. Squire says he knew Manning had a deep love and respect for his family and always had that in the back of his mind.

    Craig Manning (middle) poses for a picture at his baptism with roommates Micah Rideout (left) and Lance Squire (right). Rideout and Squire would take turns staying up late to answer Manning’s questions. (Lance Squire)

    Manning soon began the discussions in his coach’s home. The discussion topics led to even more late nights with his teammates to fully understand what he had learned.

    Manning was baptized with the full support from his family just six months after he arrived in Provo. Rideout performed the baptism ordinance and Squire the confirmation.

    Manning now serves as bishop in a Provo YSA ward. According to Manning’s first counselor Paul Hillyard, Manning never lost his desire to learn.

    “He’s constantly wanting to learn and gain insight from the scriptures on the gospel,” said Hillyard. “(His researching attitude) gives him credibility in the ward because he went and found his testimony and insights. They weren’t just thrust upon him.”

    Manning now works as BYU’s mental strength coach to help athletes improve their mental game. He has a wife and four children whom he calls the light of his life.

    “The Lord answered my questions. He picked me up and put me in Provo and all in the sudden I found all the answers,” said Manning. “I had been looking for the truth for so long and just couldn’t find it anywhere, so I knew it when I saw it. I am eternally grateful the Lord allowed me to find complete joy in my life.”

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