The answer to strife and divisiveness in the world is turning to the Savior Jesus Christ and following His example, said President M. Russell Ballard.
“As I listen to and read the news, I say to myself, ‘If they would just accept the Savior, if they would just let Jesus Christ be part of their lives, most of all this mischief would go away.’”
Speaking to Manti Utah Temple workers in the Ephraim Utah Stake center on Aug. 22, President Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, urged Latter-day Saints to safeguard all that is “sacred and dear in our lives.”
President Ballard’s address came just weeks before the Church’s fifth temple — which can be seen for miles in Utah’s Sanpete Valley — will close for renovations on Oct. 2.
In May, President Russell M. Nelson announced that, during the historic renovation process, the Church will preserve the “pioneer craftsmanship, artwork and character” of the 74,792-square-foot temple. President Nelson also announced the Church’s plans to construct a second temple in the area in Ephraim, Utah.
Early Latter-day Saint leaders first announced plans to construct the Manti temple on June 25, 1875. Church President Brigham Young broke ground April 25, 1877, and President Wilford Woodruff, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the temple on May 21, 1888. “Show favor unto all who have helped to forward this work by good wishes, good words or good deeds,” he prayed.
Almost a century later, President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, rededicated the temple following renovation, in June 1985. Asking the Lord to sanctify the temple, he prayed that “all who will enter it through the years to come may feel the presence of Thy Spirit and recognize that they are in holy precincts.”
During his recent remarks, President Ballard praised the “glorious and wonderful” Latter-day Saints who live in the Sanpete Valley — a core of the Church. He recalled visiting the valley often throughout his life to watch the annual pageant performed by local members on the grassy hills before the Manti Utah Temple.
Started in 1967, the pageant featured stories of the Restoration of the gospel, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the journey of faithful pioneers to the Sanpete Valley. After 52 seasons, the Manti Pageant ended following its 2019 performances.
In June 2016, as local members were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the pageant, President Ballard spoke at a special devotional. The pageant holds a special place in President Ballard’s heart, he said then. His aunt, Macksene Rux, directed the pageant from 1969 to 1988 and called upon him whenever she needed help. In addition, President Ballard’s father, Melvin Russell Ballard Sr., recorded the voice of the Book of Mormon prophet Mormon that was featured for some years in the pageant.
During his recent devotional address, delivered just weeks shy of his 93rd birthday on Oct. 8, President Ballard reflected on his mission to the British Isles, the joy of family life and on the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “My dear brothers and sisters, I am getting old, which is going to happen to all of you,” he quipped. “I’m sorry I can’t avoid that for you.”
Yet, looking back, President Ballard said it has been his great blessing to serve the Lord in various capacities.
“I am just overwhelmed with His goodness and His trust that He has in you and me,” he said. “We are all, I like to use the term, ‘garden variety’ members of the Church. None of us are superstars. We are just God’s children trying to do the right thing for the right reason. We are trying to raise our families the right way so they will love the Lord and want to strive to keep His commandments. In the process, we have some wonderful, choice privileges and opportunities.”
President Ballard said one of the great blessings of his life has been the opportunity “to go to the world and witness and testify of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.”
President Ballard said he is saddened when any testimony of Jesus Christ dims.
It is hard to grow old and not ponder the great blessings that come through membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said President Ballard.
“How blessed are we, my beloved brothers and sisters, that we have a personal understanding and relationship with God, our Eternal Heavenly Father,” he said. “What a wonderful thing it is to be able to kneel and address Heavenly Father and know that He is our Heavenly Father, that we are His spirit sons and daughters and that He loves us and He knows us. He smiles upon us as we strive to do the right things.”
President Ballard said the Manti temple will be preserved and beautified.
“You have been so blessed, many of you, to have had the privilege of working in the temple. You have volunteered your time. You have participated in the sacred ordinances of the House of the Lord, over and over again….”
“The Lord smiles on your labors and everything you have done to serve Him.”
Speaking of the plan of salvation, President Ballard again emphasized the marvelous gift to know Jesus Christ and to serve Him.
Each day, he continued, is an opportunity to touch a life, “to reach out to someone who needs you and offer a word of encouragement.”
President Ballard said he believes that when God’s children have the chance to account for their stewardship in mortality, “it won’t be the number of meetings we attend, it won’t be the number of meetings we conducted, it probably won’t be all the visits we made.” Instead, President Ballard said, he believes the Lord will be deeply appreciative of those seeking and helping others along the covenant path.
President Ballard said while speaking in meetings with missionaries, he always asks the question: “Do you love the Lord?”
The missionaries’ answer always is “Yes.” He then asks the follow-up question: “What can you do for the Lord?”
Referencing Doctrine and Covenants 18, President Ballard told the congregation that the Lord’s joy is great for every soul that comes to Him.
President Ballard spoke of his wife, Sister Barbara Bowen Ballard, who died in October 2018 after 67 years of marriage.
“It has been a long three years and a very empty house,” he said. “Sometimes, it perks up with my grandchildren, and when the great-grandchildren come, it really perks it up. It takes me an hour to put things back into place, but it is all worth it. Knowing that she is there waiting for me, if I can just hang in there to the end, makes it doable and possible.”
Closing, President Ballard testified that his love for the Lord Jesus Christ knows no bounds. “He is our best friend. He is our brother that loves us. He has shown us the way. The things you and I need to find happiness are contained in striving to keep His commandments and striving to be like Him as much as we can.”