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How the Lord blessed President Ballard because he was willing to ‘preach, testify, witness’ that Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer

President M. Russell Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook visit New York City and Washington, D.C., ask leaders and missionaries to focus on people

President M. Russell Ballard greets New York mission leaders and missionaries at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, greets New York mission leaders and missionaries at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center in Kensington, Maryland, on Friday, March 10, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


How the Lord blessed President Ballard because he was willing to ‘preach, testify, witness’ that Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer

President M. Russell Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook visit New York City and Washington, D.C., ask leaders and missionaries to focus on people

President M. Russell Ballard greets New York mission leaders and missionaries at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, greets New York mission leaders and missionaries at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center in Kensington, Maryland, on Friday, March 10, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

NEW YORK CITY — At the conclusion of leadership and missionary meetings in Washington, D.C., and New York City, President M. Russell Ballard shared a powerful reality of his nine and a half decades of life.

“The Lord blessed me because I was willing to preach and testify and witness that He is the Savior and Redeemer of the world,” he said.

“This is the Church of Jesus Christ.” He is “the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind,” continued the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

President Ballard, 94, addressed missionaries, participated in area instruction meetings and met with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Catholic archbishop of New York — speaking about the challenges of the world — during a weekend ministry assignment March 10-12 on the East Coast of the United States. Traveling with Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Ballard reflected on his life, emphasized the importance of missionary work and encouraged priesthood leaders in the Church’s North America Northeast Area.

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, right, and Elder Quentin L. Cook, left, pose with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Catholic archbishop of New York, after meeting with him in New York City on Sunday, Mar. 12, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Also participating in meetings were Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder W. Mark Bassett, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the North America Northeast Area presidency.

To any representing 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.”

What is the bottom line?

While addressing local leaders, President Ballard asked them to ponder “the bottom line” of their service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I think our bottom line is people,” he said. “Have we been able to touch or lift or bless the lives of Heavenly Father’s sons or daughters?”

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President M. Russell Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook wave to missionaries after meeting with them in the Washington D.C. Temple visitors’ center in Kensington, Maryland, on Friday, March 10, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

When the day comes that each of God’s children account for their lives, President Ballard said, he is not sure the Lord will care so much about meetings. “I think He will say, … ‘Who did you bring unto Me? Who did you put on the road to immortality and eternal life?’ That is the work we are about.”

Every soul “is precious in the eyes of the Lord,” he continued.

All face circumstances that are hard, that provide learning, he said. For example, the past five years since the death of his wife, Sister Barbara Bowen Ballard, have been a lonely and learning time for President Ballard. All should tell the people they love “how precious they are,” said President Ballard.

“I realize I am in the sunset of my life,” he continued. “I hope when that day comes, the Lord will smile upon the efforts I have made in my lifetime to try to honor Him, to bear His name and testify of His Church here upon the earth.”

President Ballard spoke about spending time with his friend and neighbor, Elder LeGrand Richards, a former presiding bishop of the Church who later served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles until his death in 1983.

On one occasion, Elder Richards, who was best known for his work as a missionary, asked President Ballard if he thought it would be hard for Elder Richards to find his late wife, Jane, after he died. 

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Missionaries are reflected in a water feature as they pose for a photo at the Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, on Friday, March 10, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

While others had assured Elder Richards that this would not be a problem, President Ballard expressed doubt. “Elder Richards, in your case, that could be a real problem,” President Ballard said.

“What do you mean by that, my boy?” Elder Richards responded.

“I said, ‘Elder Richards, when you die, there will be so many people who will rush to you to thank you for bringing them the gospel of Jesus Christ through your writings, your teachings and your wonderful example of your love for the Lord that you might have a problem finding your dear wife.’”

So, concluded President Ballard, “the work that you do, the work that I do, the work all of us do, is with people, sons and daughters of God.”

Elder Cook also asked leaders to center all they do on the Savior. Elder Cook said that while serving as a stake president he prayed many days about an important question, “How can I build faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?”

Two things happened when he did this, he said. First, “it influenced what I did.” Second, “when you are building faith in Jesus Christ the Holy Ghost will bear witness of it.”

Concluding, he said, “Testify of the Savior and build faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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President M. Russell Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook are introduced to stake presidents during an area instruction meeting in New York City on Sunday, March 12, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Preparatory time

Both President Ballard and Elder Cook credit their full-time missions for preparing them for the rest of their lives.

They each served in England — President Ballard from 1948 to 1950 and Elder Cook from 1960 to 1962.

The leaders also share a heritage unique for current members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with ancestors who also served in general Church leadership. President Ballard’s family line includes Hyrum Smith, Joseph F. Smith, Hyrum Mack Smith and Melvin J. Ballard. Elder Cook is a great-grandson of Heber C. Kimball.

Noting that President Ballard has often expressed the feeling that one day he will report to Hyrum Smith about his ministry, Elder Cook added, “I have a feeling I am going to report to Heber C. Kimball.”

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Missionaries pose for a photo at the Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, on Friday, March 10, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Like their relatives, President Ballard and Elder Cook have also been heavily involved in missionary work for the Church. Elder Cook, now chairman of the Church’s Missionary Executive Council, worked with President Ballard years ago on “Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service.” 

President Ballard, during the weekend, repeatedly emphasized the importance of missionary work. “Your mission will be a precious time in your life,” he said to all who are currently serving. “I can’t think of anything in my lifetime more important than establishing and confirming my testimony.”

Elder Cook also emphasized the blessings of missionary service. “The time will come when you look back on this time as a missionary and you will come to understand that everybody you love is blessed because of your missionary service,” he said.

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