All-American Returned Missionary: Placing the Lord First

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Spenser Briggs

Basketball is important to Southern Virginia University junior Spenser Briggs — a biology major from Goldsboro, N.C., who has been on two different national championship teams — but his faith holds highest priority.

In 2005, Briggs received an athletic scholarship to attend Barton College in Wilson, N.C., where he was a successful basketball player. He played on Barton’s 2006–07 team that won the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II National Championship.

“I played on a team that made it to the elite eight and lost to the national championship team my freshman year,” said Briggs. “My second year we won the national championship.” Briggs enjoyed the opportunity to play on a team with other good players, win a championship, and continue to improve his game.

In the wake of his success at Barton, Briggs decided to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Briggs faced opposition when his coach — who had expected to have Briggs as an integral part of the team for four consecutive years — told him that if Briggs left on a mission, his athletic scholarship would not be held for his return.

“I knew that if I didn’t go then, it would never happen,” Briggs said. “So I made the decision to turn in my mission papers and not play that year.”

Briggs was called to the Czech Republic Prague Mission. He served honorably for two years, including time as a zone leader and assistant to the president.

“My mission has been the best experience of my life,” said Briggs. “It helped me realize what’s most important. It changed my life.”

In the summer of 2010, he returned home and planned to move to Utah so he could have an educational experience in a Latter-day Saint environment. However, while choosing which college to attend, he learned more about Southern Virginia University from his older brother, Elliot Briggs — who graduated from Southern Virginia in the spring of 2010.

After talking with Brian Pendleton, head men’s basketball coach at Southern Virginia, Briggs decided the school was right for him. Briggs said he is grateful he chose to attend Southern Virginia because his educational and athletic experience takes place in an environment that upholds the standards of the Church.

“The honor code is amazing,” said Briggs. “I love the fact that the gospel is involved with learning here. The teachers and the people who run the school understand how important it is to have the spirit on campus.”

Though he forfeited his basketball career at Barton to serve a full-time mission for the Church, he managed to continue his basketball success at Southern Virginia University. This year, Briggs was named a First Team All-American, and, along with his team, won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association’s national championship in March — a first for Southern Virginia.

“I really like the idea of the genius of small [at Southern Virginia],” Briggs said. “The teachers help you get involved. You get one-on-one time with them.”

He is currently the captain of the basketball team and a pre-med student with plans to become a podiatrist.

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