President Ballard asks Latter-day Saints in the British Isles to share this Christmas gift

LONDON, England — At the conclusion of a weeklong visit to the British Isles on Sunday, Oct. 31, President M. Russell Ballard asked Latter-day Saints in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to exercise their faith and prayers and diligently share the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with others.

Between now and Christmas, he said, “let your prayers to your Father in Heaven include a desire that He place one of His children in your pathway, so you can share what you now know is true … . There can be no greater gift that any one of us can give the Savior at Christmastime than to bring someone to Him.”

President Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, served as a young missionary in Great Britain from 1948 to 1950. He traveled to England and Scotland again the last week of October to address members and missionaries and to visit significant Church history sites. He was joined by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Quentin L. Cook, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and themselves former missionaries in the British Isles; the trip marked a coming home for the trio of senior Church leaders.

Read more: How 3 Apostles received a sure witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ during missionary service in England

Elder Cook arrived in England in September 1960 and Elder Holland in October 1960; they would serve together as companions during summer 1962. Sister Patricia Holland and Sister Mary Cook accompanied their husbands on the trip and spoke during the member meeting, as did Elder Alan T. Phillips, an Area Seventy from London. 

During the meeting, held in London at the Hyde Park Chapel and broadcast throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, President Ballard said he “grew up spiritually” in the British Isles.

He shared the story of his great-grandfather Henry Ballard, who was “born and raised in this great land” and who joined the Church in 1849.

Henry Ballard “was taught the gospel, not by missionaries, and not by elegant and powerful preachers. He was taught the gospel of Jesus Christ by a farmhand,” he said.

It took “courage, a lot of courage,” to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early days when the missionaries came to England, said President Ballard.

“I love those early pioneers,” he said. “I love those marvelous Saints, including my own family members, who found the gospel in this land and who joined the Church, and miraculously — one way or another — were able to raise their families in the Church.”

Miracle Godfrey attends a special stake conference broadcast to United Kingdom and Ireland in London, England on Sunday Oct. 31, 2021.
Miracle Godfrey attends a special stake conference broadcast to United Kingdom and Ireland in London, England on Sunday Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

President Ballard told the congregation that they have something very precious. “We have the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.”

He asked Church members throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland to give the Savior Jesus Christ a Christmas present and share the precious gift they have by bringing “a soul, another child of God, to Him.”

This can be accomplished as members plead with the Lord to help them share their testimonies. “The power of the Holy Ghost will come to us and you will have promptings and you will have opportunities; you’ll have exposure even between now and Christmas to bring someone to the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

During his remarks, Elder Holland looked back on the contributions of Latter-day Saints in the area to the Church of Jesus Christ. And then he looked forward.

“The great days in Great Britain, and in these islands, are not behind us,” said Elder Holland. “The great days of the kingdom of God in England and Wales and Scotland and Ireland are ahead of us. We feel it. We know you do. And we are grateful to come and be part of it.”

Elder Holland said that as a young missionary laboring to build and strengthen the Church, he wanted the work to go faster. He returned as a member of the area presidency and waited again. “Yet, when we consider just in our lifetime how much has happened, we get a little bit of a glimpse of what can happen in the future,” said Elder Holland.

For example, when President Ballard was serving as a missionary from 1948 to 1950 there were no stakes in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and today there are 45 stakes, he said.

Elder Holland closed his remarks by quoting a poem by William Blake, titled “Jerusalem”:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

“That is still the cry and the call of every one of us until that work is done, until the Savior chooses to return,” said Elder Holland. “Until then, we have our work outlined for us to build Jerusalem in this green and pleasant land.”

During her remarks, Sister Holland also spoke of the British Isles. “This is home for me,” she said. “This is a place that I love.”

She quoted President Joseph F. Smith, President Ballard’s great-grandfather: “After we have done all we could do for the cause of truth, and withstood the evil that men have brought upon us, and we have been overwhelmed by their wrongs, it is still our duty to stand. We cannot give up; we must not lie down. Great causes are not won in a single generation.”

Sister Holland said that, like her husband, she will “teach of and testify of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the divinity of the Church” until she dies.

President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Quentin L. Cook Elder and Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with wives Sister Mary Cook and Patricia Holland tour an area near the River Ribble in England on Wednesday Oct. 27, 2021. Many converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were baptized in the river through early missionary efforts.
President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Quentin L. Cook Elder and Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with wives Sister Mary Cook and Patricia Holland tour an area near the River Ribble in England on Wednesday Oct. 27, 2021. Many converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were baptized in the river through early missionary efforts. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

During his remarks, Elder Cook spoke of a visit President David O. McKay made to England in 1961 to dedicate the Hyde Park Chapel and to create the London England Stake; Elder Holland was able to attend the meeting.

Elder Cook, who was serving as a missionary in the Bristol England District, was invited to participate in another meeting a few days later — the groundbreaking of a new chapel in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. Latter-day Saints in Wales stood on a nearby hillside and sang to President McKay, “When you come home again to Wales.” It was a moment so special that Elder Cook “can remember it to this day.”

In addition, President McKay paid tribute to his mother at her childhood home in the city, where the Church dedicated a plaque in her honor.

Elder Cook also spoke about the future of the Church in the British Isles.

“We have been with all of the missionaries here in this beautiful part of the Lord’s vineyard because they are assigned to carry the message of Jesus Christ and His divinity,” said Elder Cook.

Sister Cook spoke of the time Elder Cook was caught in a snowstorm while driving, with their two young sons, from California to Utah over the Sierra Nevada. Elder Cook spent many hours huddled with the boys to keep warm before safety vehicles arrived. When Sister Cook was finally able to speak to her 3-year-old son, he said, “Hope ya know, we had a hard time!”

“I think many of us are saying that right now,” said Sister Cook, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know who we are. And they know what we’re going through.”

Expressing gratitude for inspired Church leaders and the Church’s home-centered “Come, Follow Me“ resources, Sister Cook added, “Let’s take heart and wait on the Lord.”

She spoke to the children in the congregation, inviting them to testify of Jesus Christ by sharing Primary songs about the Savior with their families.

Elder Phillips told the congregation that God loves them so much that he gave His only Begotten Son. “This morning, I want to bear simple testimony of one simple truth,” he said. “Heavenly Father loves you.”

Jesus Christ lives and “stands there ready to rescue and recover each one of us,” Elder Phillips said. “You are not alone. You have not been abandoned. You are enough. You are His child. You are precious. You are His.”

More from the weeklong ministry in the British Isles