Sarah Jane Weaver: How the Lord multiplied the ‘most important thing’ one senior Church leader did all day

Earlier this year, President M. Russell Ballard looked at screens dotted with the faces of young adults from across North America and promised that even amid dark times, there is hope and light.

The March 7 devotional originated from Church headquarters and reached 300,000 young people. President Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said this generation of Latter-day Saints filled him with confidence for the future.

I watched the broadcast in the same way as the young adults — through my computer.

President Ballard, who has served as a general authority since 1976, did not mince words. “How very important you are for the future of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said. “Do not underestimate what the Lord has ahead for you.”

So I was surprised when he explained to the virtual congregation that the devotional was not the most important thing he would do that day.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, center; is joined by Elder Brent Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy and Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, for a devotional with young single adults from the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Sunday, March 7, 2021.
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, center; is joined by Elder Brent Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy and Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, for a devotional with young single adults from the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Sunday, March 7, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

President Ballard said that just before the devotional, he had learned his cousin’s wife had been given a cancer diagnosis. After the devotional he planned to call her. That act, he said, would be “the most important thing” he did all day — even more important than the devotional.

President Ballard was unapologetic in this assessment. But I immediately questioned. How could talking to one be more important than talking to 300,000? I thought.

Soon I had my answer.

As the meeting continued President Ballard took questions from the congregation. Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy read questions and comments sent by the young adults. “I just wanted to say I’m grateful for President Ballard’s comments about the most important thing that he will do today,” one young adult wrote. “I just got a cancer diagnosis this week. And for some reason, that really comforted me.”

In a single evening President Ballard ministered to one relative, his cousin’s wife who had cancer. Then, just as the Savior multiplied loaves and fishes in ancient times, that single act of service fed 300,000.

In the address about finding hope and light, President Ballard had offered a beautiful blueprint. Service is the one thing that always brings light into this life, he said.

Read more: President Ballard, Sister Eubank, Elder Nielson promise a future filled with hope and light

President Ballard promised the commenter with the cancer diagnosis — and all the young adults — that the Lord would see them through whatever challenges are ahead of them.

“I look at every day as a great new challenge, a great new opportunity to do something worthwhile. I think you just lock in your minds to do the best you can. The Lord doesn’t expect you to be superhuman, Superman, Superwoman. He just wants you to be good. He wants you to be kind with each other.”

The happiest people are the people who take life a day at a time, said President Ballad.

Weeks later, during the Church’s April 2021 general conference, President Ballard would again focus his remarks on hope. “I have experienced this loneliness since the death of my precious wife, Barbara, over two and a half years ago. … Nevertheless, despite the challenges we face in life, like that first Easter morning, we can awake to a new life in Christ with new and marvelous possibilities and new realities as we turn to the Lord for hope and belonging,” he said.

The Church sent that same sweet message to young adults worldwide in February and March; President Ballard’s devotional to young adults was one of six streamed by senior Church leaders.

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, participate in a devotional for French-speaking young adult Latter-day Saints around the world on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021.
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, participate in a devotional for French-speaking young adult Latter-day Saints around the world on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The devotionals were available on the six major continents and sent across the globe in 31 languages. In the first devotional, held Feb. 21, Elder Neil L. Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, spoke to French-speaking young adults during a meeting that originated entirely in French. The series ended on March 21 with Elder Ulisses Soares and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares addressing Portuguese-speaking Latter-day Saints entirely in their language.

I remember listening to Elder and Sister Andersen’s devotional. I don’t speak French and didn’t understand a word. But I had the same feeling that consumed me during President Ballard’s remarks.  

During this troubling time, when a global pandemic has isolated many, senior Church leaders were reaching young adults across the globe in their own language — speaking to thousands and serving ones.

In the process they modeled lessons of hope and peace and taught all of us that the Lord will multiply our “most important” efforts.