Remembering the Life of President M. Russell Ballard

  • November 13, 2023

We are sad to inform that President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has died. After a short stay in the hospital recently, he returned to his home where he worked as best he could before passing away at approximately 11:15 pm November 12, 2023 surrounded by loved ones. He was 95 years old.

President Ballard became an Apostle on October 6, 1985. He was proclaimed Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on January 16, 2018. Like the Apostles in New Testament times, today’s Apostles are called to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ. . President Ballard was one of 15 men who oversaw the growth and development of the worldwide Church, which now has over 17 million members.

“President Ballard did not hesitate,” said Church President Russell M. Nelson. “He knew exactly what the Lord was teaching and how it could be applied to one’s personal life and bring happiness and joy.”

“We worked closely together, and I always liked his warm manner,” said President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency, who sat alongside President Ballard in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for more than three decades. “He was a trusted man. And he was a man you trusted.”

President Ballard is survived by his seven children, 43,105 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

Funeral details are pending.

Learning Work Ethics Early in Life

Melvin Russell Ballard was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 8, 1928, to Melvin R. and Geraldine Smith Ballard. He learned his trade at a young age – at a car dealership. His father founded the Ballard Motor Company, and young Russell, the only boy in a family of four, worked in every department at the company, including driving cars at a used car lot where he had yet to assemble.

M. 1 year old Russell Ballard in 1929.2019 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

These events set a pattern of work that served President Ballard well in all aspects of his life. “I learned from my father that when you start something, you finish it,” he said. “In the end, it makes you satisfied that even if you win, then it will be profitable, or if you learn that it won’t work, then you walk away from it, but you never leave wondering if you are willing to stay with it. .”

Such a patient attitude served him well throughout his life – including his days at the University of Utah; his professional life in the automotive, real estate and investment industries; and his various assignments for the Church.

“His business experience has served him well in asking the probing questions that need to be asked when proposing a program or when asking, ‘Are we using resources effectively?'” said President Oaks.

A Church Leader With The Blood Of The Prophets In His Veins

President Ballard had the fireworks of three well-known Church leaders in his office: Church Founder Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum (President Ballard’s great-grandfather), and Hyrum’s son President Joseph F. Smith, who was the sixth president of the faith. Their legacy of Christian discipleship, including the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum in 1844, inspired President Ballard until his dying days.

“When I realized who they were and who I was, it was unbelievable,” said President Ballard in 2019. “I always know that I have a job just because I have connections. I hear them say all the time, ‘Get rid of it; do something worthwhile. Go, boy; don’t just sit there.’ They didn’t do it. They should have been the doers.”

He wanted every Latter-day Saint, including his children, to think deeply about the lives of faith lived by those early Church leaders. He told his son Craig, a 19-year-old missionary at the time, “Remember, the blood of the prophets runs through your veins.”

“Well, no pressure there,” Craig remembers thinking. “(Dad) looked at (those buses) every day in his office … and I think he felt he had to do his best. He instilled that in all of us.”

President Nelson said that conversion, commitment and sanctification were “in (President Ballard’s) blood.” You can imagine – we had the privilege of sitting next to a man who is Hyrum Smith’s grandson. And Joseph Smith was his father’s uncle. Every day, I feel I owe a debt of gratitude for the privilege of meeting direct descendants of those revered and respected leaders. He has the same integrity that they had.”

In his last general conference address given on October 1, 2023, he spoke about the Prophet Joseph Smith and his central role in restoring the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings in it.

President M. Russell Ballard

President M. Russell Ballard was an evangelist in the English Mission from 1948 to 1950.2019 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

President Ballard’s missionary service included his time as a young minister in England, a bishop, president of the Canada Toronto Mission, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy and more than thirty years as an Apostle.

“I wouldn’t do this for the money,” said President Ballard. “You could not hire me to do what I am asked to do as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. But in the Lord, it is the greatest blessing that can ever be given to a person. We are witnesses of the truth of the life and service of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

President Ballard took this responsibility seriously, even as the former chairman of the Church’s teaching council (which included the task of developing “Preach My Gospel,” a manual for all missionaries), who at that time had more than 50,000 missionaries under his supervision, or the father of five daughters and two sons.

Special Witness, Special Father

President Ballard said that one of his greatest experiences came from teaching his children about the gospel of Jesus Christ. “You learn to capture teaching moments, and if you’re awake and alert, they come, and when those moments are there, it’s a shame for any father to miss an opportunity to teach his children a lesson.”

One of those times came in the late 1980s after President Ballard became an Apostle. Craig, his youngest son, admits that he was “bitter,” because his father was often away from home because of his assignment. It was not easy to share the man he called “Father” with Latter-day Saints around the world. “When I was young, I didn’t understand it,” Craig said. Fortunately, President Ballard recognized the disagreement. Seeing an opportunity to teach, President Ballard brought Craig on Church work in Tonga and Samoa.

“When we got off that plane, for the first time I saw how others saw him,” said Craig. “Many had traveled for two days to come just to see the Apostle. That’s when it changed from a burden to a blessing for me to know this person well.”

This, Craig said, was not only President Ballard’s gift photo tell people something but also teach see.

“He didn’t just say, ‘Well, deal with it.’ “He knew I had to understand it, and I had to be a part of supporting his call,” said Craig. “I was very pleased with that, and he has done that many times in different ways. He was not only a special witness—he was a special father.”

Another teaching moment came after her school-aged daughter Tammy was playing with friends in a car that had somehow backed up, smashing the door. Tammy said she was saddened to learn that the car she thought belonged to her father actually belonged to someone else. President Ballard said when he got home and saw his daughter’s face, he knew she had his full attention. “I taught him that he was more valuable than the Cadillac he had wrecked and that what happened in his life and how valuable he was to me was more important. We could fix the car, but if he did something wrong in his life, that would be very difficult to fix.”

President M. Russell Ballard

President M. Russell Ballard and his wife, Barbara.2019 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

“He will be remembered as a good husband and a great father,” said President Nelson. “This is where he stood out the most. He set a good example for us in that, even though he had many things that required his time. His family always came first.”

Throughout the years, President Ballard’s children relied on his spiritual strength. His late wife, Barbara, said, “When we were in Canada on our mission, our little boy had just started kindergarten and he didn’t know anyone. He was shocked. My husband took her to the office, knelt down with her and prayed that Heavenly Father would help her find friends. They prayed that prayer together for several days in a row. He has helped several of our children in that way when they have special needs.”

The Ballards not only prayed together regularly but also played together on exciting family vacations. President Ballard recalled a trip they took to California for one of the first motorhomes to roll off the assembly line. “I took them to Chinatown, and everybody in San Francisco looked at that big thing and was pointing and laughing at it,” he said. “I couldn’t find a place to park it, so I dropped everyone off at Chinatown and kept driving around those hills of San Francisco and eventually bailed them all back out again.”

Marrying His “Angel”, Barbara

President Ballard could not speak of his family without praising Barbara. “You are just an angel. It is very difficult to live with someone who is almost perfect,” he said. They met at the “Hello Day Dance” at the University of Utah. “He was not only beautiful but had a shining personality. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to marry him, but he didn’t have the same feelings. It was hard to convince him. I told him that getting him to agree to marry me was the biggest sales job I’ve ever done.”

President Ballard praised Barbara as a wonderful mother whose calm manner made home life heavenly. “All our seven children, if you bring them in here and wonder if they have ever heard their mother raising her voice within the walls of the house, their answer will be no; he never did that. He has the attitude to be able to deal with a serious situation in a calm and quiet manner. She is beautiful, loving, caring, careful, and her children love her. No one in the world can hold a candle to how our children feel about their mother.”

Their second child, Holly, agrees. He said his parents’ love and respect for each other influenced his and his siblings’ behavior in ways that build life.

“We felt that the best place to be was to go back home and be in that place because our parents got along very well,” she said. “I learned that you have to treat everyone with respect. And they did that very well with us as children.”

President Oaks, who was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles a year before President Ballard, said he was “very impressed with the way President Ballard treated his eternal partner, Barbara. At his age and maturity, he has just become a model husband. Thinking about it. And he is very gentle. ”

Barbara passed away on October 1, 2018, at the age of 86. He faced a long battle with some health problems, including Alzheimer’s, with his characteristic kindness and sense of humor.

“I am so glad to know where my precious Barbara is and that we will be together again, with our family, forever,” said President Ballard in general conference five days after Barbara’s death.

Individual Service

President Ballard’s tender feelings for his family extended to the people he taught in the pulpit. During a speech at the Church’s general conference in April 1980, he invited Latter-day Saints to send him names of needy people. He promised to write a letter to those people to encourage them. Hundreds of characters broadcast from all over the world. President Ballard eventually wrote over 600 letters of encouragement to people in need of spiritual help. One letter recipient wrote, “I feel that your letter was the real beginning of this wonderful change in my life, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

ballard india

President M. Russell Ballard visits Latter-day Saints in India in May 2019.2019 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

“We have to get to that one,” said President Ballard. “We must look in every way to help each other in this journey of human death. I think people deep down are good, and I think they want to know what the truth is, but they don’t know where to find it. They ask, ‘Who am I? Where am I from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Where does all this lead? Where does this take me?’”

President Ballard put pen to paper to answer those questions in “Our Pursuit of Happiness” (1993), which helped to teach others about the Church and their purpose in life. President Ballard’s life ministry also included “Counseling with Our Councils” (1997), which is used by many local leaders throughout the Church.

Through everything that happened to him as a husband, father and Apostle, President Ballard looked to Jesus Christ for inspiration and assurance in all things. In fact, he often carried a small picture of the Savior in his badge pocket for encouragement on difficult days.

“Whenever he got discouraged, he would take that out and look at (the image of Jesus Christ) and think, ‘I can do this.’ I would do anything for him,’” said Holly.

President Ballard came to know that the gospel of Jesus Christ anchored him in a world of changing principles. “I have a strong belief that those who adhere to their faith in the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of the Prophet Joseph and the revelations that came to the Church through him, confirm and declare that Jesus is the Christ. he is the Son of God and that the gospel is on earth, they will be able to handle whatever life passes them by.”