Barbara Ballard remembers those pivotal first impressions she had of M. Russell Ballard. Her future husband and Quorum of the Twelve member was good-hearted, handsome and "he knew where he was going."
Young Russell Ballard had vision.
Such foresight has well served Elder Ballard and countless others throughout his life. The Church leader's commitment to improving the lives of others was recognized Nov. 13 by Friends For Sight, who honored Elder Ballard with their "People of Vision Award." Friends of Sight is a Utah volunteer-driven association dedicated to preventing blindness.
LDS civic leader Katharine B. Garff was presented with the same award that evening at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.
President Gordon B. Hinckley attended the event. He was joined by President James E. Faust, first counselor in the First Presidency; President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve; and Elders Joseph B. Wirthlin and Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve.
"What has made Elder Ballard a person of vision is his foresightedness," said President Faust in a video tribute. "He is able to look ahead and separate the wheat from the chaff."
President Faust spoke of the business savvy Elder Ballard learned from his father, Melvin Russell Ballard Sr. Elder Ballard's success in the auto sales industry was complemented by a keen sense of humor. President Faust said Elder Ballard has injected levity into difficult council meetings, quipping, "This isn't nearly as hard as selling used cars."
University of Utah president Bernie Machen said Elder Ballard possesses a talent for crafting consensus from people of diverse backgrounds. The two men have served together in "Alliance for Unity," a consortium of Utah business, education, civic and religious leaders working to bring harmony within communities.
"I see [Elder Ballard] as a person whose life is lived in crescendo. . . . It keeps getting stronger and more obvious of what a servant of the people he is," added bestselling author and friend, Stephen R. Covey.
Several Ballard family members participated in the video tribute, including Elder Ballard's son, Clark. "I've always felt like I could talk to [my father] about just about anything," he said.
Elder Ballard said folks in business need to develop a vision of what they can do to improve their community — and the willingness to use personal and financial resources to realize that vision. He also spoke of the necessity of the sort of voluntarism represented by Friends For Sight.
Parents, Elder Ballard added, must teach their children correct principles and values.
In his brief comments after receiving his award, Elder Ballard recognized his fellow Church leaders in the audience.
"I've had the privilege to learn from these men who are very wise and have a tremendous capacity for vision."
Elder Ballard also congratulated fellow award recipient Sister Garff. The Ballards and Garffs share a special bond — five grandchildren, with a sixth on the way. A Garff daughter, Melissa, is married to a Ballard son, Craig.
In a video segment dedicated to Sister Garff, the honoree spoke of her love for service and family, saying her children had delivered "exquisite joy" to her life. She also gave thanks to her husband, Elder Robert H. Garff, a Utah business leader and an Area Authority Seventy.
"He has shown me a mountain of possibilities."
Sister Garff counseled parents to instill a sense of humor in their children. She also spoke of the value of community service.
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