Menu
In the News

Episode 76: President M. Russell Ballard shares memories of general conference, emphasizes the need to anchor faith in Christ


President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has given dozens of conferences addresses since his call as a general authority in 1976. After 46 years in general Church leadership, he joins this episode of the Church News podcast to share his memories of general conference.

As members and friends of the Church prepare for the upcoming 192nd Annual General Conference the first weekend of April 2022, President Ballard offers insights into the event and what it is like to prepare a general conference talk.

“I try to think through what the current needs and realities of what people are facing and try to say something that would be helpful to them, all focused on the anchor that everyone needs in their life, regardless of what’s happening, and that anchor is to stay close to the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.

Subscribe to the Church News podcast on Apple PodcastsAmazonGoogle PodcastsStitcherSpotifybookshelf PLUS or wherever you get podcasts.

Transcript

President M. Russell Ballard: It’s not difficult for me to give a talk. It’s very difficult to say something worthwhile, something that will be helpful for people in their lives. And I try real hard to talk about practical things in a lot of ways, because I think in this world that we’re living in now, it’s the simple things that we need to hang on to: family prayer, blessing on the food, being kind to each other, strengthening family relationships. If anybody’s lost that, they ought to do everything they can to put it back, because it’s a very, very important part of family life.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Called as a general authority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1976, and sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles nine years later, in 1985, President M. Russell Ballard has participated in Church leadership for the past 46 years. As Church members prepare for the 192nd Annual General Conference on April 2 and 3, President Ballard, now Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, joins this episode of the Church News podcast to share memories and insight and direction. Originating from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, this weekend’s proceedings will be broadcast in 98 languages. President Ballard, thank you for taking a few minutes to talk with us and teach us as we all prepare for general conference.

Sarah Jane Weaver: You were called as a general authority in 1976. 

President M. Russell Ballard: Yes.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Tell us what you remember of that conference.

2:22 

President M. Russell Ballard: I remember, as we were coming to priesthood meeting, the first priesthood meeting as a general authority there, four of us had just been called to the [First Quorum of the] Seventy, and President [Marion G.] Romney was not feeling well, and I heard President [Spencer W.] Kimball say that President [N. Eldon] Tanner will call on all four of them tonight, which I then assumed he was talking about the four new ones, so the first conference talk that I ever gave — no notes, no preparation, just called on — and I was told I had four minutes or something like that. And [Elder] Paul Dunn [of the Seventy], who had such a wonderful sense of humor, said — a very dear friend — he had overheard that the four of us were going to get called on, and he called me over and he said, “Russ, I want to tell you something,” and I said, “What’s that?” He said, “Well, when you get up to the pulpit, there’s a little man that stands on the side and puts cotton balls in your mouth.” What he was saying is, “Your mouth, you’re gonna get so dry, you’re going to wonder how you’re going to even say any words.” You have to understand — Paul Dunn had such great wits. Funny man. 

Anyway, when you think about the first conference I ever attended, where I attended personally, I think was when I was maybe around 10 or 12, and we couldn’t find any place to sit, and somehow we ended up on — there’s the rostrum was like this and on each side there were some stairs, and my friend and I ended up sitting on those stairs, so we were looking at the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] very close, and they didn’t shoo us off. They let us sit there because there weren’t — the place was jammed. How we ended up there, I have no recollection, except that we’d come to conference, and kind of wandering, I guess, not paying attention, but it was a pretty good seat. So I’ve had a lot of times I’ve been to conference.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivers an address during the Saturday evening session of the 191st Semiannual General Conference held in the Conference Center on Oct. 2, 2021.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivers an address during the Saturday evening session of the 191st Semiannual General Conference held in the Conference Center on Oct. 2, 2021.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I want to talk about your childhood. You’re the grandson of another Apostle, and you didn’t attend conference much as a child.

5:15  

President M. Russell Ballard: Well, my parents were not active in the Church during my being raised, and I did not understand, to be candid, what it meant for my grandfather, Melvin J. Ballard, to be an Apostle. He never really talked to me or told me what that meant. All I knew was he was beloved, and that he would speak and everybody would want to listen to him because he was a great speaker, and he was Grandpa. I think I was 11, approaching 12, when he passed away. So my memories of him as a Church leader, would have been not what they should have been. Because at that time in my life, my parents weren’t active in the Church, and I wasn’t going to, I didn’t go to conference. And sadly, I never heard him speak personally in the Tabernacle. I would give anything to be able to have heard him preach. I have some tapes, early tapes of his preaching, but I missed really understanding that — and I’m gonna have a visit with him when I get on the other side, which won’t be long now, and he should have told me who he was. I don’t ever remember him in any role, other than a grandfather that loved his grandchildren. 

Read more: How seminary blessed the life of President Ballard growing up in a family that didn’t attend church

He took my cousin Barbara and I to the circus, and he — I remember he bought a bag of peanuts, and he would break them in half, and he’d give me one of the halves and give Barbara the other half, then he’d eat a full one. You know that the peanuts were that way. When I was 8, he took me to the Rialto Theatre — doesn’t exist now — and I don’t remember the movie, but it would have been a Walt Disney of some kind, and I remember the lights went off, and the movie came on. I was excited and sitting next to my grandfather, and he went fast asleep. I mean, he really went out, and I’m watching Mickey Mouse and whatever — I don’t remember what the show was — but when it was over, I had to wake him up and tell him that the movie was over, and I think it was my eighth birthday, and he took me by the hand and out of the theater we went. It’s interesting what you remember. That was a memory he made for me that stuck, taking me to the circus, taking me to the movie, to the Rialto Theatre on my birthday. We had family time with him, but he didn’t do what I’m going to talk to him about, which would have been the most important thing he could have done, and that would be to tell me what it meant to be an Apostle. That never really connected with me, and think I was, I would have been 12 in about two months. He died in July, and think I would have turned 12 in October. And just think what he could have told me, and maybe he didn’t think I was smart enough, or maybe he didn’t think I’d pay attention enough, that he didn’t sit me down, and so I’ve tried really hard with my grandchildren to talk to them from time to time, and let them know what my assignments are and what my testimony is, what my responsibilities are. 

Elder M. Russell Ballard tells a story to his family members during a council meeting in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. Now President Ballard — as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — has been an energetic advocate of the council system in the Church stretching at least as far back as October 1993, when he talked on that subject in general conference for the first time.

Elder M. Russell Ballard tells a story to his family members during a council meeting in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. Now President Ballard — as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — has been an energetic advocate of the council system in the Church stretching at least as far back as October 1993, when he talked on that subject in general conference for the first time.

Credit: Nick Wagner

So when you have memories of conference, I believe the first time I remember in conference would have been, like I said, when I was about 12 and we ended up on those stairs, and it was me and my friend in the Tabernacle. It wasn’t a family matter, because my folks were not active in the Church in those days.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And you had no inkling, as you looked up at those brethren, that that could be you someday?

10:28  

President M. Russell Ballard: Oh, no, no. In fact, I’ve given in, I think, one of my conference talks — but I did say to my friend, “Be nice to sit in a nice red chair like that, that looks really comfortable,” because we were someplace where we weren’t supposed to be. But I ended up in one of those red chairs, and it’s not all that comfortable. It’s comfortable after you’ve given your talk, but while you’re waiting for your turn to give a talk, it’s not totally comfortable.

Sarah Jane Weaver: So is it true what Elder Dunn says that when you step up to the pulpit, it’s a little different, you kind of get a dry mouth?

11:14  

President M. Russell Ballard: Well, not so bad that a little man with cotton balls stands there, but it’s not difficult for me to give a talk. It’s very difficult to say something worthwhile, something that will be helpful for people in their lives, and I try real hard to talk about practical things in a lot of ways, because I think in this world that we’re living in now, it’s the simple things that we need to hang on to: family prayer, blessing on the food, being kind to each other, strengthening family relationships. Those are the things that are, today, we don’t know — if anybody’s lost that, they ought to do everything they can to put it back, because it’s a very, very important part of family life, in my judgment, and it comes from parents leading it. The parents have to lead it out to the children.

Sarah Jane Weaver: What’s the process you go through when you try and write a conference talk?

12:44  

President M. Russell Ballard: After I’ve given my talk, and the rest of the conference goes on, I’m listening carefully and trying to determine if there’s something that is being said that would be the keynote, that I could build a talk around in six months. I try to think through what the current needs, the realities of what people are facing, and try to say something that would be helpful to them. All focused on the anchor that everyone needs in their lives, regardless of what’s happening, and that anchor is to stay close to the Lord Jesus Christ. If people will love Him, and keep Him foremost in their hearts and in their lives, whatever difficulties we may face, whether it’s a loss of a loved one, or a tragedy of one kind or another, or an illness, or disappointment in a marriage or children or whatever, if we’re anchored properly, with our love and our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He really is our Savior, and He really is, in our hearts, the Redeemer, and that He really can be our best friend as He Himself has declared He wants to be, then I would say that’s one of the most important things people can have in their lives, is to never be so busy or so preoccupied in other things they don’t have time to ponder on their relationship with Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Now I want to turn to Oct. 6, 1985. You’ve been a general authority for nine years, and on that day, you’re sustained to the apostleship. What was that day like?

15:09  

President M. Russell Ballard: Well, it was an interesting day because it was Sunday morning, about 7:30 in the morning. President Hinckley called me and asked me if I was out of the shower yet. He had such a great sense of humor. I said, “Oh, boy, President, I’ll say, we’re coming to conference.” And he said, “Well, would you come by and see me at 9 o’clock in my office in the administration building?” And I said, “Well, I’d be very happy to.” Of course, I was a [General Authority] Seventy, and so at the appointed hour, and he said, “Bring Barbara with you.” So Barbara and I arrived at 9 o’clock. and he, in this administration building here on South Temple, and he invited me into his office. He had Barbara remain in the waiting area there for a few minutes. And he said, “I’ve just left President Kimball, and President Kimball has authorized me to extend the call to you to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.” And he wept, I wept, he embraced me. It was one of those very tender moments. And then he invited Barbara in and explained what would happen, and, of course, she cried, and I cried. We had a good cry anyway, and went to conference and came home that night as a sustained Apostle. I hadn’t been yet ordained, that was done later when the Quorum of the Twelve were all together. When I was ordained, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve all had their hands on my head.

Read more about President Ballard’s call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other excerpts from his biography

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m glad you talked about Sister Ballard. When I think about conference talks you’ve given, I think of Sister Ballard. She died before general conference a few years ago, and then you spoke about the fact that you knew you’d be together with her again. Can you talk about the support she was to you all those years, and then how hard that must have been to give that talk?

17:29  

President M. Russell Ballard: Well, I married way over my head when I married Barbara Bowen, and she is the mother of seven children, and if I were to have our seven come in and say, “Did you ever hear your mother raise her voice?” They would say, “No.” “Did you ever hear your mother being angry in any way with you or with anyone else?” And they would say, “No.” I wouldn’t ask him the same question about their father. So, when I married Barbara, that was one of the great blessings that Heavenly Father made possible for me, because she was so totally and completely supportive. I cannot ever remember her complaining that I had to go off on this mission, or that I would be gone for 10 days to Africa, or that I’ve missed this family activity to fill an assignment. All I can say about my beloved wife, Barbara, was she sustained and supported me in every way, and my calling as a member of the general authorities for almost nine years as a Seventy, and then the balance of my life as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. So I really ended up, I think, in this responsibility, because I married way over my head and had such a wonderful companion in my dear Barbara.

Then-Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Barbara B. Ballard, exit the stand following the Sunday morning session of the 184th Annual General Conference Sunday, April 6, 2014, at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

Then-Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Barbara B. Ballard, exit the stand following the Sunday morning session of the 184th Annual General Conference Sunday, April 6, 2014, at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Sarah Jane Weaver: Now, this year, you have been a general authority for 46 years. That’s a lot of general conferences. You’ve certainly seen the growth of the Church in that time. Those early conferences would have been a little smaller than they are today.

19:59  

President M. Russell Ballard: Oh, yes. Those conferences were held in the Tabernacle, and there would be some sessions where the Tabernacle wasn’t totally, totally filled. I’m the longest, I think, living, serving general authority. There’s others that have served longer. I think President [David O.] McKay served for 60 years or something like that, but I count every day that I have the opportunity to get up in the morning and contemplate that I have the blessing of trying to serve the Lord, in some way, try to do a little good one way or another. I try to do that, I’m not sure that I’m very good at it, but try to never lose sight of how precious every one of our Heavenly Father’s children is. And I try to achieve my consciousness of that, because I think one of the key roles of a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is to try to encourage and lift and help those who are trying to get through this mortal experience, and sometimes they just need a little encouragement, and I try to do my part that way.

Sarah Jane Weaver: You would have seen the Church build the Conference Center, and then been part of the solemn assembly when we were all in the Conference Center, and the first general conference was held there. That’s a little bigger than the Tabernacle. What was that like to stand at the pulpit there for the first time?

Video: President Ballard on how it’s an ‘awesome responsibility’ to speak in general conference

21:55  

President M. Russell Ballard: Well, standing at a pulpit at a general conference in any building is an awesome responsibility, and I do it with great anxiety and anxiousness. Not that I’m anxious about whether or not I can say what I have prepared, but anxious that what I have prepared to say will help somebody and will be of some value and some worth to the membership of the Church or a member of the Church somewhere in the world who would need to hear what I had tried to prepare. I think my first talk was about four minutes, and that was with no preparation, I told you when President Romney was not able to speak in general priesthood meeting, so the four new [General Authority] Seventies were the ones that were called upon to bear our testimonies in the Tabernacle. I have no idea what I said. I’ll have to go back, but I think it was OK. Nobody got after me, so I guess I did all right. But I’ve given almost 100 general conference talks. I think that’s right. But I’m getting old. I’m 93, so I started up, and this, I think, I was 45. I was awful young compared to what I am now.

See President Ballard’s first talk, on April 3, 1976

Sarah Jane Weaver: In the four and a half decades you’ve served, you’ve also seen quite a few prophets be sustained by the membership in solemn assemblies, starting with President Kimball, and then going to President Benson and President Hunter and President Hinckley and President Monson, and now, President Nelson.

President M. Russell Ballard: Yes. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: Those have to be sacred, sacred moments for you.

24:07  

President M. Russell Ballard: Well, the brotherhood of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is a very special relationship, and often a very sacred setting where we share and teach and listen to one another in such a way that impacts ultimately the entire Church, always with the thought in the back of our minds that this is a worldwide Church, and so when we’re talking about, “Wouldn’t it be nice to do this,” or “Wouldn’t it be nice to do that,” we’re always thinking, “Well, will this work in Asia? Will this work in Europe? Will this work in South America? Will this work in Alaska?” And so it’s a very, very wise thing our Heavenly Father established, through the Lord Jesus Christ, when He established 12 apostles to direct the affairs of the Church, and, of course, the three presiding high priests, which are also apostles, which make up the First Presidency. I’ve been there all these years, and I can tell you that the Church will always be secure and safe as long as you have 15 apostles who are able to assemble and review and discuss those things that will bless the lives of the members of the Church worldwide, the best way, and the Lord is very close to the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, left, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, share a light moment prior to the Sunday afternoon session of the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, left, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, share a light moment prior to the Sunday afternoon session of the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News

Sarah Jane Weaver: When I think about you giving your first conference talk, all four minutes of it, they probably received that outside the United States several months later in printed form, if they got it at all. The conference talk you’ll give this week is going to reach all corners of the earth, people in Africa or Asia or Europe could be watching in their own language right from their phone. That has to be a pretty broad idea when you think, “I’m going to stand here and people in so many places in the world will get this message instantaneously.”

President M. Russell Ballard: Well, now you make me want to go back and look at my conference talk and see if it’s any good.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Don’t do that.

27:14  

Then-Elder M. Russell Ballard records a talk in advance of the live event celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith at the birthplace of Joseph Smith in near Sharon, Vermont Thursday, Dec. 22, 2005.

Then-Elder M. Russell Ballard records a talk in advance of the live event celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith at the birthplace of Joseph Smith in near Sharon, Vermont Thursday, Dec. 22, 2005.

Credit: Jason Olson, Deseret News

President M. Russell Ballard: It is very important to me, I don’t speak for the rest of the Twelve, I speak for myself, that I try to be sure that I’m speaking to the membership of the Church and not to any group. I want to talk to the garden-variety members of the Church, wherever they are, so that they understand the beauties and the power of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I never weary of talking about Joseph, and talking about the Lord preparing him and preparing his family and making it possible for him to go to the Sacred Grove, and for the courage of that young man to be able to kneel down and pour his heart out to his Heavenly Father, wanting to really be sure his sins were forgiven them. And that glorious spring of 1820, when the heavens opened and the Father and the Son appeared and spoke to him: “Joseph, This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him.” People need to resolve in their hearts either it’s true, that experience that Joseph had, or it’s not. And my witness, which I know without reservation or question, that it is true. I’ve been in the Sacred Grove several times. I’ve had confirmation and spiritual warmth and reassurance that the experience Joseph had there was the opening up the dispensation of the fullness of times, that the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ would come back to the earth one more time to bring about the eternal salvation of our Heavenly Father’s children, and what a wonderful blessing I’ve had to be part of the leadership, the Church, at a general level. I was blessed to have wonderful leadership assignments, at ward and mission levels, but to be blessed to have general leadership responsibilities, taking me all over the world. There’s not much to this old earth I haven’t been to in 46 years and born testimony and witness of the reality of the Restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And as a direct descendant of Hyrum Smith, you’ve had the opportunity to carry on the work that Joseph started.

30:21  

President M. Russell Ballard: My mother’s father was Hyrum Mack Smith, who was the oldest son of Joseph F. Smith, who was the youngest son of Hyrum Smith, who is the brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith. So through my mother, I have claim to Hyrum, the brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith. And I have given talks over the years that the Lord not only raised up Joseph, but he raised up Hyrum to be Joseph’s companion and older brother. He was five years, almost six years older than Joseph; and yet, talk about an example of an older brother being willing to sustain and support a younger brother. You don’t find a better example that I know of anywhere in the history of the world. Hyrum Smith was chosen of the Lord, to be a shepherd, I think, to the Prophet Joseph. I think Joseph was able to do, in a lot of ways, what he did in restoring the fullness of the gospel, and being the Prophet of this the dispensation of the fullness of times, this last dispensation, because he had an older brother that was with him and loved him and sustained him. It’s interesting when you read carefully, when they were together, on occasions, Joseph would turn to Hyrum and say, “Hyrum, you’re the oldest, what should we do?” A good example of that was when the mobs were trying to kill Joseph, and he knew that that was their objective, and they’d crossed the river, and he and Hyrum, were there on the other side of the river, and the word came: Well, the people think you’re running away. And Joseph — this is not exact words — turned to Hyrum, he said, “Hyrum, you’re the oldest, what should we do?” And he said, “Let us go back and face what we need to face.” And along the way, Hyrum Smith said to his little brother, “Joseph, Joseph, I will not leave you.” And to Carthage they went, and were both martyred there, with Hyrum, holding the door trying to serve and save the others, was murdered in Carthage Jail, and so those two great prophets were taken at the same time.

Sarah Jane Weaver: When you talk about the sustaining and the support that Hyrum gave Joseph, and then we look at the Church today — how can Church members sustain current Church leaders? We get to do that every conference, but how do we do that every day of our lives?

33:55  

President M. Russell Ballard: By saying your prayers, being nice to each other, fulfilling the callings that come to you through those who have responsibility in your ward, in your stake; to children, being kind to your parents and loving or listening to your parents. All with the preparation of being able to serve the Lord however the Lord would want you to serve. That’s one of the great quests. That’s why young men need, very early, to prepare that they’re going to serve as a full-time missionary. And that’s why young women who want to and have the desire to serve also — they don’t have quite the same requirement of the Lord as do the young men. To serve the Lord as a full-time missionary, that takes a lot of faith. You think about it, you submit your application to serve a mission and it comes to a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, and you have no idea where you might be assigned. You can go to Asia, you can go to any of the continents, you can go to countries that you don’t even know where they are. 

I love the example of my grandson. He got his mission call, and he was going to school up in Portland, so I had it with me, and I called him on the phone. I said: “I have your mission call. Do you want me to send it to you? Do you want me to read it to you?” “Oh, Grandpa, read it to me,” and so I told him he was, read it, that he had been called to Lithuania. Oh, he got so excited, and couldn’t hardly stand it. And then he went silent. He’s in Portland on the phone: “Grandpa, where’s Lithuania?” He had no more idea where it was, but he was excited, he wanted to go, and he was to go there and learn Russian when he did. So, it’s a miracle. What other organization on the face of the earth, do their young people, at the very prime of their schooling career step up and are willing to accept calls, and willing to go wherever they’re assigned, and to learn a language that they’ve maybe never even heard of? A lot of the great evidence the Church is true is the miracle of the youth of this Church, who are willing to serve full-time missions.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, waves towards the audience as he leaves after the Saturday evening session of the 191st Semiannual General Conference of the Church, at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, waves towards the audience as he leaves after the Saturday evening session of the 191st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Credit: Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

Sarah Jane Weaver: You mentioned preparation for mission, preparation for callings, preparation for Church service. What should we be doing to prepare for general conference?

37:18  

President M. Russell Ballard: Well, I would hope you get all your fussing done, so that you could have a little quiet time for the two days and be able to listen to what will be presented. I don’t think the membership of the Church have any idea how much prayer and effort goes in to the preparation of a general conference talk by a general authority. And it’s not that we’re interested about being eloquent, but we are desperately interested in being able to tell and say to the Church membership what the Lord would like to have them hear in this day and time in which we’re living. It’s His Church. It has to be His voice that is being sent out to the world through the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve the best way we know how to do it.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Is there a moment that stands out in your memory of conference? When you think of general conference, do you think, “Wow, that was the epitome of what conference means to me.”

38:42  

President M. Russell Ballard: I think sitting in the congregation and having my name read as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and I was in the congregation sitting next to my wife, in the Tabernacle, and then standing up and then being invited to come up and take my seat and one of those red chairs. Four of us were named at the same time. I wouldn’t forget that. There are so many things that I would not forget, because general conference is just filled with enlightenment and the beautiful music of the choirs that sang. To me, during general conference is probably as close to heaven as you get without going there personally, because the spirit of the Lord is there and it’s uplifting and it’s educational and it’s filled with love and it’s a wonderful time.

Sarah Jane Weaver: When you were first called, there were only a few dozen temples in the whole world; and now, conference is a time that President Nelson has taken as an opportunity to announce more temples.

See the locations of the Church’s 265 temples across 6 maps

40:15  

President M. Russell Ballard: Well, he learned that from President Hinckley. President Hinckley was the one that started expanding the temple footprint around the world, and President Monson, and now President Nelson. And those are talked about, prayed about, those temples are being put closer to the people so they can get their eternal blessings that can only be performed in the house of the Lord that will be efficacious both in this world and then the world yet to come. And so the very fact that we are placing temples as quickly as we can, as close as we can to the membership of the Church, so they have access to it for their own endowment and their own blessings, but also to be able to take care of their kindred dead whom they love.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I have a favorite question, when I do interviews. It’s: “What do you know now?” But President Ballard, what do you know now after participating in speaking in so many general conferences?

41:38  

President M. Russell Ballard: Well, I know a lot more. I know that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that the Seventy are the Seventy of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that the general officers of the auxiliaries, the wonderful women who are called to take care of the Primary, the children’s organizations, and Relief Society and the Young Women, that those calls are heaven sent. They come through revelation and through the prayer and the contemplation of the Brethren, and the great work and personal preparation of those who received the call, and so I don’t believe anybody is called to general-level responsibilities that Lord hasn’t had an eye on them for a long time. There are those who say that we were ordained, some have been ordained to some of these callings before we were ever born. I don’t know about that. I think that could well be. I think, without question, I think we made some pretty strong commitments to our Heavenly Father, that, “Let us come here and we’ll behave.” And it’s a grand design, to have The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with a Prophet and the heavens opened, where God and Christ have been able to reveal the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s a remarkable, remarkable thing. We know who we are, we know we are the spirit sons and daughters of God, we know that we lived with Him before we came here. We know what our real purpose is here, and we know what our destiny is when we leave here. It’s not a great puzzle to a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s a very clear path that the Lord has given us because we all have to get this physical body to be able to do what will be required on into the eternity, so we had to have this mortal experience and we see that, we see premortality, our spirit world of life before we were born. We understand that our spirit is part of our being; we understand when we die, that our body will be put to rest for a season, but our spirit goes on, never dies. And there will be that great and glorious day of the Resurrection when body and spirit will be together, never to be separated again, all made possible because of the atoning sacrifice and the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Savior and the Redeemer of all mankind, our Heavenly Father’s first born spirit Son, and His only begotten Son, and our precious Savior, in whose name we do this work, and this is His Church. It is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints restored in the latter days. That’s why it’s the Latter-day Saints, not the early-day Saints, that is directed, under the affairs, under the guidance and the blessing of the Lord Himself.

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News Editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen, and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.

Newsletters
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed