Highlights of President Ballard’s teachings, testimony in 2023

‘I pray that someday when I pass to the next world, I may do so with my testimony burning brightly,’ said President Ballard in April 2023 general conference

“I pray that someday when I pass to the next world, I may do so with my testimony burning brightly.”

So said President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, at the April 2023 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — just seven months before he passed away Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023.

The fervor and frequency of President Ballard’s teachings and testimony were never in doubt throughout his 95 years of life, including 47 years as a general authority and nearly four decades as an Apostle.

Below are highlights from his teachings and testimony from conferences, devotionals, trainings and social media during the past year.

October: Testimonies of Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ

“My message this morning is simple. It is deep. And it is full of love for the Prophet Joseph Smith. … We thank the Lord for Joseph Smith and for his courage to go into that grove of trees,” said President Ballard on Oct. 1, 2023, during the Sunday morning session of October 2023 general conference.

I know that our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ appeared and spoke to Joseph and prepared him … to restore the fullness of the everlasting gospel,” President Ballard taught, adding, “Because we have Joseph Smith, the Prophet of this last dispensation of time, we have the Book of Mormon. What a marvelous, wonderful gift the Book of Mormon is to the membership of the Church.”

Later that same day, President Ballard posted on social media his testimony of Jesus Christ.

“I declare my witness that Jesus Christ is our Beloved Savior. He is our Redeemer. I testify that striving to live His commandments will bring peace and happiness into our lives. Through Him, we may return to live with our Heavenly Father. I know this is true. My dear friends, please know that I love you and pray for you. May God bless each of us in our endeavors to follow Him.”

August: The fear of moving forward

In a Facebook video post on Aug. 23, President Ballard talked about the fear of moving forward.

“You might be fearful about moving forward in life because you could go so many directions. You might worry about becoming what the Lord would have you become — stuck at a crossroads of possibility,” he said.

The Apostle encouraged viewers to focus energy on doing those things that will make a difference, set specific goals, seek the Lord’s guidance and act “as if” each were becoming the person he or she would like to be.

“As you work toward becoming this person and you have faith in God’s plans for you, you will feel peace that your life is moving forward in a positive direction — even if it isn’t completely clear or it’s different from those around you.” 

August: ‘Always be warm, gentle and kind’

“The most powerful thing we can do is to always be warm, gentle and kind,” wrote President Ballard in an Aug. 8 social media post.

He encouraged reconciling with those who believe differently and creating an atmosphere of love and harmony while remaining true to morals.

“Share your positive experiences of the living gospel. Be genuinely interested in others’ lives, their successes and their challenges. Be champions of other faiths.

“When we love God, we love His children despite any differences we might have.”

June: The devotion of Joseph and Hyrum

The devotion and commitment shown by brothers Joseph and Hyrum Smith were key to the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, taught President Ballard as he spoke and presided at the first session of the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center.

“All who know of the great and eternal principles for which Joseph and Hyrum gave their lives surely must stand with reverence at their courageous faith and are inspired by the testimony of truth they sealed with their precious blood,” said President Ballard, a great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith.

In sharing an extensive history of Joseph and Hyrum, President Ballard called on today’s missionaries and leaders to never forget the sacrifices of those who have preceded them in the work of salvation. “Now no missionary should ever fail to understand and appreciate the great price others have paid to establish once again the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth. No assignment or challenge of any missionary should hold him or her back from boldly declaring the gospel truths that are ours to have.”

Five days later, on June 27 — the 179th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum — President Ballard provided an online link to the text of his seminar remarks, saying: “Their courage and faith combined with their dedication to serve Jesus Christ and fulfill their earthly missions are traits I have learned from and admired throughout my life.”

June: The house of the Lord

On June 4, President Ballard rededicated the Columbus Ohio Temple after its three-year renovation, mindful of the Lord’s 1830s instructions to early Latter-day Saints to “go to the Ohio” and be “endowed with power from on high” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:32).

Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland Temple in 1836 — 187 years later and 160 miles away, President Ballard rededicated the Columbus temple.

“I testify that the temples are the houses of the Lord,” he told the Church News. “It is here where Heavenly Father instructs His children and helps us prepare to return to His presence. It is here where we receive personal revelation, make covenants with Heavenly Father [and] the Savior, and participate in eternal ordinances.”

In a Facebook post following the rededication, he wrote his hope Latter-day Saints today would view temple attendance with the same urgency as the 19th-century Saints who sacrificed labor, land, clothing and financial resources to build the early temples.

“Heavenly Father instructs us and helps us prepare to return to His presence. It is here where we receive personal revelation and make eternal covenants. Heaven is as close as it can be in the temple because it is the house of the Lord.”

April: ‘The most remarkable thing in the history of the world’

“The most remarkable thing in the history of the world happened in the Sacred Grove in 1820 — the heavens opened,” said President Ballard, speaking to members and missionaries in Toronto, Ontario, in late April, almost 50 years after serving as a mission president in the city.

“It must have been something that penetrated his being — from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet — when he heard our Heavenly Father call his name, ‘Joseph: this is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!’ That is our message.”

President M. Russell Ballard waves goodbye to attendees during a special stake conference in Ontario, Canada.
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, waves goodbye to attendees during a special stake conference of the Hamilton Ontario Stake, April 23, 2023. | Nick Lachance, for the Deseret News

Any faithful seeker who asks about the truthfulness will get an answer, President Ballard emphasized. “This is the true Church of Jesus Christ. The Lord has opened the heavens again. … Our message is the most thrilling and most profound and most exhilarating message that I know of.”

April: ‘Remember what matters most’

Referring to the inscription of “What matters most is what lasts longest” on the gravestone of his late wife, Sister Barbara Ballard, President Ballard outlined what matters most during his Sunday afternoon session address in April 2023 general conference.

First, what matters most includes a relationship with Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. “This relationship matters most now and in eternity.”

Second, relationships with family and friends are essential for emotional and physical health and can also offer love, happiness and a sense of belonging. “Nurturing these important relationships is a choice. A choice to be part of a family requires commitment, love, patience, communication and forgiveness.”

Third is following the promptings of the Spirit. “I testify that following the promptings of the Spirit is one of the things that matters most in all our relationships.”

Finally, “I testify that being converted to the Lord, bearing testimony of Him and serving Him are also among the things that matter most,” he said, encouraging listeners to bear testimony of Jesus Christ more often. “Bear testimony of what you know and believe and what you feel, not just of what you are thankful for.”

March: ‘My preparation’

Standing at Nottingham Square in England with fellow Apostles Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Quentin L. Cook, President Ballard recalled in a March 2023 Church News video how serving as a young missionary and sharing the gospel helped solidify his testimony

“I was 18, 19 when I arrived here, and I thought I knew the gospel. But I didn’t,” said President Ballard of his memories of his service, street meetings in the marketplace and the hecklers who interrupted them.

“I think in the process of sharing the gospel message here in this marketplace is where my own personal testimony started to become solidified in my heart and in my mind.”

March: Willing to ‘preach, testify, witness’

“The Lord blessed me because I was willing to preach and testify and witness that He is the Savior and Redeemer of the world,” said President Ballard of his life as he and Elder Cook of conducted leadership and missionary meetings in Washington, D.C. and New York City in early March.

To any who represents the Church as either a missionary or a leader, President Ballard said that during tough times and hard days, all can turn to Jesus Christ. “If you are having a tough day, let your mind go to Gethsemane; think what Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, was willing to do for you.”

President M. Russell Ballard, right, snf Elder Quentin L. Cook, left, pose with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan in New York City.
President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, right, and Elder Quentin L. Cook, also of the Twelve, left, pose with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan after meeting with him in New York City on Sunday, Mar. 12, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

February: ‘Fellow missionaries’

In a Feb. 28 devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center, President Ballard looked over the faces of nearly 900 full-time missionaries, most of them young adults. As he did, he called his listeners “my beloved fellow missionaries.”

“I use the term ‘fellow missionaries’ because, guess what? Apostles are missionaries, too — full time, until we die,” he said. “And what is our message? It is the same as the message you’re going to carry to the world as missionaries of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

He reviewed how missionaries are assigned to their missions by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “I witness and testify, after assigning thousands of missionaries, that the power of the Spirit of God prompts a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. … You’re assigned to go where the Lord wants you to go, and now you have the challenge of being everything that the Lord wants you to be.”

President M. Russell Ballard gestures to the missionaries at the Provo Missionary Training Center,
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gestures to the missionaries after speaking at a devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. | Adam Fondren, for the Deseret News

He gave a blunt assessment of the Restoration. “Our message is either true or it isn’t — it’s that simple. It either happened or it didn’t,” he said. “My testimony tonight — without reservation or question — is that it did happen.”

February: Blessing others’ lives

Reflecting the love of Jesus Christ in word and deed is what matters most, said President Ballard, speaking at a Feb. 23 event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Melvin J. Ballard Center for Social Impact at the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business. The center is named for President Ballard’s grandfather.

What a person acquires in this life will mean little, said President Ballard. What will be important, he added, are the lives of the people “we’ve been able to help” by reaching out and extending a hand of fellowship, taking the time to make a phone call or send a note, and offering help to someone who just needs a little boost. “I hope that we will have our hearts and our hands and our eyes available, that we will be anxiously engaged in reaching out to them.”

President Ballard concluded: “I want you to know that I know that Jesus is the Christ. I’ve carried His name and been a witness of Him in all different circumstances, all different places in the world. And I never come away from those experiences without being so humble, so grateful that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that I know what I know about who I am, and who all of you are, and our purpose in life.”

January: Fixing things while there’s time

President Ballard presided and spoke at the Jan. 21 funeral of Sister Mary Crandall Hales, wife of the late Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Following messages and tributes from leaders and family, President Ballard offered a bit of counsel as the service came to a close: “I think coming to a funeral service is a good time for us all to think a little bit about how our own personal lives are. If there’s something we need to fix, let us do it while we have time.”

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