President M. Russell Ballard, apostle and father, dies at 95
He was a man of conviction, hard work, love and testimony — a man of faith. He loved his wife, Barbara, and their four daughters and two sons.
Acting President M. Russell Ballard, 95, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died surrounded by family late Sunday evening. He had recently come home from a short hospital stay and was back at work.
Ballard has had failing health in recent years and his eyesight was weakening with age. During October’s semiannual general conference of the church, he noted it was hard to see the teleprompter anymore and he gave his message extemporaneously.
Melvin Russell Ballard Jr. was born in Salt Lake City on Oct. 8, 1928, to Melvin R. and Geraldine Smith Ballard. He learned his work ethic early in life at the Ballard Motor Co. auto dealership established by his father, according to a remembrance shared by the church. The young Russell, the only boy in a family of four children, worked in every department at the company, including driving cars around the used car lot when he was barely in his teens.
Ballard attended East High School and the University of Utah.
Ballard served a church mission in Britain and while there served as the first counselor in the mission presidency.
Following his mission, he returned to the U of U. He met Barbara Bowen in 1950 at the Hello Dance for a brief moment, but he knew he had met his future wife.
“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to marry her, but she didn’t share the same feelings. It was a little hard convincing her. I kid her now that getting her to agree to marry me was the greatest sales job I ever did,” Ballard said in his biography.
“He’ll be remembered as a wonderful husband and a great father,” President Russell M. Nelson said in a church statement. “This is where his highest priority was. He set a good example for us on that, even though he’d had many, many demands upon his time. His family always came first.”
Barbara passed away on Oct. 1, 2018, at age 86 after a long battle with health issues, including Alzheimer’s.
“How grateful I am to know where my precious Barbara is and that we will be together again, with our family, for all eternity,” Ballard said at the October 2018 general conference.
Ballard was named acting president of the Twelve on Jan. 13, 2018, when President Dallin H. Oaks was put in the First Presidency. If protocol is followed, the calling will now be assumed by Elder Jeffrey R Holland, who himself has been hospitalized recently.
Ballard became an apostle on Oct. 6, 1985. As with the apostles in New Testament times, today’s apostles are called to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ, according to the church. He was one of 15 men who oversee the growth and development of the global church, which now numbers more than 17 million members.
“President Ballard was never indecisive,” Nelson said. “He knew exactly what the Lord taught and how it could be applied in one’s personal life and bring joy and happiness.”
“We worked together closely, and I always loved his warm manner,” said Oaks, who sat beside Ballard in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for more than three decades. “He was a man to be trusted. And he was a man who trusted you.”
His professional life was spent in the automotive, real estate and investment industries as well as serving in various church callings.
“His business experience served him well in asking the probing questions that need to be asked when you propose a program or when you ask, ‘Are we using the resources effectively?'” Oaks said.
Ballard’s ecclesiastical service included his time as a young missionary in England, bishop, president of the Canada Toronto Mission, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy and more than three decades as an apostle.
“I would not do this for money,” the church quoted Ballard as once saying. “You could not hire me for money to do what I’m asked to do as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. But for the Lord, it’s the greatest privilege that could ever be given to a man. We are witnesses of the reality of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ballard had busts of three church leaders in his office: church founder Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum — who was Ballard’s great-great-grandfather — as well as Hyrum’s son, President Joseph F. Smith, who was the faith’s sixth president. Those men’s Christian discipleship, it was noted by the church, motivated Ballard throughout his life.
“When I came to realize who they were and who I was, it was unbelievable,” Ballard said in 2019. “I am constantly aware that I have a duty just by virtue of the fact that I have a connection. I hear them saying all the time, ‘Get with it; do something worthwhile. Get going, boy; don’t just sit there.’ They were doers. They had to be doers.”
Ballard wanted every Latter-day Saint, including his children, to think deeply about the lives of faith lived by those early church leaders, according to the church’s statement on his passing. He told his son Craig, a 19-year-old missionary at the time, “Remember, the blood of prophets flows in your veins.”
“Well, no pressure there,” Craig remembered thinking. “(My father) looked at (those busts) every day in his office … and I think he felt he had to do his best. He instilled that in the rest of us.”
Nelson said conversion, commitment and consecration “were in (Ballard’s) blood. Can you imagine — we had the privilege of sitting beside a man who is the great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith. And Joseph Smith was his great-great-uncle. Every day, I feel a debt of gratitude for the privilege of associating with a direct descendant of those respected and revered leaders. He’s got that same integrity that they had.”
Ballard also served as the former chairman of the church missionary council, which included work to develop “Preach My Gospel,” the instruction guide for all missionaries, with then more than 50,000 missionaries under his charge.
As an apostle, Ballard travelled the globe extensively and earlier this year spent time in Great Britain with Elders Quentin L. Cook and Holland, who also served in the British Isles.
Ballard is survived by his seven children, 43 grandchildren, 105 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. Funeral details are pending.