President M. Russell Ballard: Honoring the legacy of a warrior for truth

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Apostles and other general authorities honor the family of President M. Russell Ballard as they enter the Tabernacle. The Ballard posterity includes seven children, 43 grandchildren, 105 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. (Courtesy of Church Newsroom)

Gratitude for his devotion to family, tremendous sense of humor, zeal for missionary work and love for the Jesus Christ was expressed at a memorial service for President M. Russell Ballard on Friday, Nov. 17.

Thousands of people gathered in the Tabernacle on Temple Square Friday to honor the life and service of President Ballard. The late acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve died Sunday, Nov. 12.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the services. Recovering from a recent injury, President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Church, viewed the proceedings from home.

Three of President Ballard’s seven children were the first to speak. Thoughts about their father shared similar themes of his love for family, the value of simplicity and his applied faith in Jesus Christ.

Music for the funeral was provided by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. Musical numbers included “Consider the Lilies of the Field,” “Faith in Every Footstep,” “Have I Done Any Good” and “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.” (Lynnette McConkie)

Brynn B. Huntsman, President Ballard’s daughter, offered a prayer to begin the memorial. She expressed gratitude for her father’s example to many. “He was never wavering in his love for the Savior,” Huntsman said.

Craig Ballard, his son, said he was just four years old when his dad began a life of full-time Church service. “He was always busy, but he also took time for me,” Ballard said.

“Even in his busy and demanding busy life, he has always been there when it mattered most to us,” Holly B. Clayton, his daughter, recalled. She said even with all his duties, he was first their father.

“Dad always gave us wise counsel and advice when we were confused and needing direction. He gave us encouragement to move forward with a positive mental attitude and an eternal perspective. He always helped us feel that things would work out.”

Both Ballard and Clayton talked about how much their father loved the Savior and loved serving him.

A flag was spread across the casket of President Ballard for his service in the United State Army Reserve. After the memorial service, an internment was held for family at the Salt Lake City Cemetery where he was laid to rest. (Courtesy of Church Newsroom)

During the time Ballard was serving his full-time mission in Japan, his father visited and told the missionaries that he knew Jesus Christ. Ballard was surprised to understand that knowledge had not come through a manifestation.

“He simply said, ‘I know Jesus Christ because I serve Jesus Christ,’” Ballard said. He said he believes, because of his father’s example, that countless people are coming to know Christ the same way.

“Proclaiming the Restoration was the greatest desire of his heart,” Elder Quentin L. Cook, member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said. He called President Ballard “the most dedicated missionary of our generation.”

Elder Cook talked about President Ballard’s heritage which includes his grandfathers, Melvin Joseph Ballard and Hyrum Mack Smith, who served as apostles; his great grandfather, Joseph F. Smith, who served as president of the Church for 17 years and his great-great grandfather, Hyrum Smith — brother to Joseph Smith, who was martyred with him. 

Sister Wendy Reese and President Shane Reese, President of BYU, attended and expressed gratitude for President Ballard’s remarkable example. “Let’s get going; let’s do the work,” Sister Reese shared one of his important messages. “[He] is someone whose life we can all view as an example of how to live our lives,” President Reese said. (Lynnette McConkie)

Elder Cook firmly pointed out that President Ballard never felt this heritage set him above anyone else, rather a responsibility to press forward with the cause of the Restoration of Jesus Christ.

“I believe with this motivation, M. Russell Ballard was the most dedicated missionary of our generation,” Elder Cook said. 

Elder Cook attributed his love for all people to his desire to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As such, he oversaw many of the major missionary initiatives including production of three editions of missionary training guides in 1985, 2004 and 2023.

Melvin and Janee Stover have known President Ballard for more than 40 years. Melvin was one of his missionaries in the Canada Toronto Mission. “He challenged us like crazy,” Melvin Stover said. “He would give us a mission goal and say ‘let’s do this.'” Janee Stover said one of the messages that stands out the most to them is “Stay faithful. Stay in the boat and then, stay on the path.” (Lynnette McConkie)

President Jeffrey R. Holland candidly shared how he first met Elder Ballard. As a general authority Seventy, Elder Holland was nervous and intimidated. In prayer, he felt the Spirit reassure him that it would all work out well.

“Russell Ballard will be one of the best friends you will ever have,” was the message President Holland said he received. “You will enjoy his company and seek his counsel for the rest of your life.”

President Holland said they cherished their time serving, laughing, crying and loving their work together. He said he has enjoyed his friendship and counsel for more than 29 years. 

“I celebrate President Ballard as one who will indeed come forth triumphantly on the morning of the first resurrection,” President Holland said. “He will do so as the recipient of a gift flowing from the great atoning sacrifice of the Holy Lamb of God.”

Chuck Rhodes, Alden Chiu and Ben Mallonee attended the funeral because they wanted to remember what President Ballard has taught and how he lived his life. “I think it’s just amazing how throughout his whole life he was able to powerfully, powerfully bear testimony of the Savior and the restoration,” Mallonee said. “I want to be able to do that.” (Lynnette McConkie)

President Holland testified that President Ballard “has been and still is … a special witness of the eternal plan of divine mercy.”

Extending condolences to the family from the First Presidency, President Oaks said President Ballard has left them with “a legacy of enduring faith and commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

In the final address of the funeral, President Dallin H. Oaks said President Ballard was a truly remarkable man whose connection to the prophet Joseph Smith inspired his life.

“He has been a courageous warrior for truth … a gifted leader,” President Oaks said. 

Clair Esplin said her grandparents and President Ballard were good friends. With President Ballard’s passing, she recalled a comfort he shared at her grandfather’s funeral. “President Ballard said, ‘Now we don’t speak of them as if they’re gone, because they’re here. We don’t say, I did love him, because we do. And he is here and he does live.’ And that’s what we know and we can hold on to.” (Lynnette McConkie)

President Oaks continued, “His tremendous energy and delightful sense of humor will be extremely missed by all who had the privilege of associating with him.”

In closing, President Oaks recalled President Ballard’s words from General Conference last October. 

“Oh, how I love you. What a glorious experience (it’s been) — to look into your faces, be in your presence, and feel your love that you have for the Lord and for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” President Ballard said.

“Oh, how we love President Ballard,” President Oaks said. “How glorious it has been to associate with him.”

President Ballard was laid to rest at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Clark R. Ballard, President Ballard’s son, dedicated the grave.

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