BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
In his duties as a General Authority, Elder M. Russell Ballard has traveled across the globe many times. But his stops in Argentina always hold special meaning for this veteran member of the Quorum of the Twelve.
It was Elder Ballard's grandfather (and apostolic predecessor), Elder Melvin J. Ballard, who dedicated South America for missionary work on Christmas Day of 1925 while living in Buenos Aires. He would later prophesy that the continent would grow strong as the oak and become a power in the Church.
The younger Elder Ballard participated in the Sept. 9 rededication of the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple. Again, his thoughts turned to his beloved ancestor.
"Whenever I come here I have a fond feeling of appreciation for a grandfather who fulfilled his apostolic role in dedicating all of South America for the preaching of the gospel," he told the Church News.
On the day before the rededication, Elder Ballard and his wife, Sister Barbara Ballard, visited a monument located a few steps from the temple grounds that commemorates Elder Melvin J. Ballard's powerful prophesy. It was the first time the Ballards had seen the monument.
During his time at the monument, Elder Ballard noted that his grandfather spent nine months laboring in Argentina, passing out handbills and inviting people to Sabbath services. They had little success.
Yet Elder Melvin J. Ballard's apostolic vision for this country and continent was crystal clear. It's been almost 87 years since that Christmas Day dedication - and South America has indeed risen up. It is a power in the Church.
"Today there are over 3.4 million members in South America and many missions," he said.
Elder Ballard said his grandfather developed a deep love "for the sons and daughters of Lehi" while serving as a president of the Northwestern States Mission. In that assignment, he worked on Indian reservations and there witnessed miracles.
President Heber J. Grant recognized Elder Ballard's love for the Lamanite people and assigned him to take the gospel to South America.
Elder M. Russell Ballard also spoke of the warm personal memories he has for that first Elder Ballard. "I knew him more as a grandfather than as a mighty apostle."
The Ballard family connection to Argentina stretches across generations. Sister Barbara Ballard said their oldest son, Clark, served in the Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission. Twenty-five years later their first grandson, Thomas, served in that same mission.
Both missionaries participated in special anniversaries commemorating Elder Melvin J. Ballard's dedication.
"We've had a foothold here," said Elder Ballard with a smile.
Still he is quick to note that the work is not done in South America. The prophesy of his grandfather is still being fulfilled. "It behooves every member of the Church to warn his neighbor," he said. "We need to be involved, rally the saints and raise missionaries."