PROVO, Utah He has been a prominent figure associated with Church historic events and sites. Now, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve has been honored for giving years of support to the preservation of the historical legacy bequeathed to Latter-day Saints.
Elder Ballard on Oct. 12 received the third annual Junius F. Wells Award bestowed by the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation. Brother Wells was a past figure in the Church who edited the Contributor magazine and designed and saw erected the Joseph Smith Memorial in Vermont. President Gordon B. Hinckley was the first recipient of the award; Karl Ricks Anderson and Richard Lloyd Anderson were last year's recipients.
A video presentation at the awards dinner held at BYU highlighted Elder Ballard's involvement with several projects pertaining to Church historic preservation: construction of the Ensign Peak Park and Nature Trail; Historic Kirtland, Ohio; ongoing development and support of This Is The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City; the Smith Family Cemetery in Nauvoo, Ill.; the Smith ancestral farm and church at Topsfield, Mass.; the Pioneer Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1996-97; and commemoration of the Mormon Battalion.
"One of the things that drives my interest in preserving our history," Elder Ballard said in responding to the award presentation, "is that if we lose this, we will lose something that will be irreplacable. And one of the fears I have is that many of our young people simply don't know the price that has been paid by those of our forefathers who established this great work here upon the earth.
"Of course, they know (the Prophet) Joseph (Smith). Some of them know Hyrum (his brother). But not too many of them would be able to name very many of those pioneer forefathers that gave everything they have to establish the kingdom of God once again here upon the earth."
A great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith, Elder Ballard told of his ancestor, Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet and Hyrum. In the early spring of 1831, he said, she led a company of 80 saints to Kirtland, Ohio. Boarding a boat in Buffalo with Church members from the Colesville Branch in New York, she was instructed not to tell anyone they were Latter-day Saints for fear they could not find passage or lodging.
Elder Ballard recounted: "Lucy spoke up boldly: 'I shall tell people precisely who I am. If you are ashamed of Christ, you must not expect to be prospered, and I shall wonder if we do not get to Kirtland before you."'
Later, he said, she upbraided the people on the boat for murmuring and complaining. "Now, brothers and sisters, if you will all raise your desires to heaven that the ice may be broken up and we are set at liberty, as sure as the Lord lives it will be done," she told them.
Elder Ballard said the ice, several feet thick, cracked, and Lucy's boat proceeded out into Lake Erie. Spectators thought the boat was overloaded, and a newspaper erroneously reported that it sank with all on board. "And when Lucy and the saints arrived in Fairport, they were amused to read in the papers the news of their own deaths," Elder Ballard said.
Special guests at the awards dinner included two of his brethren from the Quorum of the Twelve: Elders L. Tom Perry and Joseph B. Wirthlin. Also present were Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, Church historian/recorder, and Elder John K. Carmack, emeritus General Authority.
Seated at Elder Ballard's table was Louise Manning of Herefordshire, England, owner of the Benbow Farm, the famous site where in 1840 Elder Wilford Woodruff and his associates converted more than 600 members of the United Brethren. Dr. Manning, who raises chickens on the farm, frequently and graciously entertains Church members who visit what to them is an important site in Church history. She had been present for a symposium on Wilford Woodruff sponsored earlier in the day by the foundation.
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