Early Sunday morning on Oct. 6, 1985, President M. Russell Ballard received a phone call from President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Hinckley invited then-Elder Ballard to come to his office at 9 a.m. that morning before the pair would attend general conference. President Ballard, assuming he would be called to a newly formed area presidency, told his wife to be prepared to move outside the United States.
But as they sat together, President Hinckley instead spoke about visiting President Spencer W. Kimball to receive direction as to whom would fill the vacancy left in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles with the death of Elder Bruce R. McConkie.
“I just left President Kimball,” President Hinckley told Elder Ballard, who at the time was serving in the Presidency of the Seventy. “And he has authorized me to extend a call to you to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”
In a recent Church News interview, President Ballard described what happened next. “I started to weep and he started to weep and he embraced me and I can still feel Gordon B. Hinckley’s arms around me. And that was a very special experience.”
President Ballard was sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that afternoon.
In the years since then, President Ballard — now 94 years old and Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — recalls sitting in quorum meetings and looking around the circle at the other apostles and thinking: “How did this happen? What am I doing here?”
Then he always questions, “Am I doing everything that the Lord wants me to do?”
Those occasions often end with President Ballard finding a quiet place to inquire of the Lord. “I can witness that He lives and that the power of the Holy Ghost is sent to reveal what you do and what you say in those moments when you are asked to do something way beyond your own personal capacity.”
Over the years, President Ballard said, he has learned the Church “is in good hands” because of the “power and the goodness and the spiritual insight” that come from members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “I can say to you, the Church is secure and always will be secure, because the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency will always guide this Church in the direction it should go.”
President Ballard said on one occasion a president of the United States visited Church headquarters and commented that he had just been listening to senior leaders who were most informed about the world.
“Why would he say that?” President Ballard questioned. “Because we were in counsel with the president of the United States and we were answering questions about things that are going on in every corner of the earth. We have got our arms around the world, and how do we do that? Because we have mission presidents, we have stake presidents, we have bishops, we have Church organization. … We know, because our people are everywhere.
“I think it is a remarkable, remarkable thing to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Just as in the earliest days of the Church, Latter-day Saints must exercise “faith in every footstep,” said President Ballard.
President Ballard said that one day God’s children will all be accountable for the way they lived their lives. “One of the great blessings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that it is revealed truth that has come through a prophet of God.”
The Church’s “teachings, covenants and commandments help our Heavenly Father’s children prepare for that day. … I think when we pass through the veil, the people that we’ve been able to touch through our kindness, through our teaching, through our smiles, through our love — we may be surprised how many will be there to say ‘thank you.’”
President Ballard said after 94 years his testimony is very secure and real. “My testimony has come as I have served, as I have studied, as I have prayed, as I have moved about the earth meeting with our Heavenly Father’s children,” he said. “I have always come back home and thought to myself, ‘How blessed are we to know that a boy went into the grove of trees near his farm home in 1820 and knelt, wanting to know from God how he could have his sins forgiven?’ And we witness to the world that in answer to that prayer, the Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared to him and spoke to him.”
The Church’s message “is a message of love,” said President Ballard. “It is a message of inclusion. It is a message of come and enjoy the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ which has been restored to the earth to the Prophet Joseph Smith and those who have succeeded him in this sacred calling as apostles and prophets.
“This is a great thing we have, and one of the wonderful witnesses we have that our message is true is the Book of Mormon. … We have the Book of Mormon and we have the Bible, and they stand side by side now, as scripture, which is filled with guidance and direction on how to find peace, joy and happiness in one’s life. And it is wonderful and it is true!”