M. Russell Ballard
Melvin Russell Ballard was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 8, 1928. He was an only son with three sisters. In 1948 he was called to serve a Mormon mission to England. He was a counselor in the mission presidency and served honorably. He returned in 1950 and met Barbara Bowen at a dance held at the University of Utah. They dated for eleven months. Elder Ballard said,
She was not only beautiful, but had a sparkling personality. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to marry her, but she didn’t share the same feelings. It was a little hard convincing her. I kid her now that getting her to marry me was the greatest sales job I ever did.
They were married on August 28, 1951, and eventually had two sons and five daughters.
After he and Barbara were married, Elder Ballard was called into a bishopric, then in 1974 he was called to be the President of the Toronto Canada Mission. In 1976 he was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, where he has served as the Executive Director of the Curriculum Department, Executive Director of the Correlation Department, Executive Director of the Missionary Department, and as President of the International Mission. In 1980 he was called into the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
On October 6, 1985, M. Russell Ballard was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. His wife recounted the call,
It came as such a surprise. We were just ready to leave the house to go to conference. The phone rang, and it was President Gordon B. Hinckley, who asked my husband to come to the office. He thought he would perhaps be called on to speak in conference, since one of the speakers was ill. We were relaxed on the way to President Hinckley’s office and discussed what Russell might talk about if called to speak. When we got to the office, President Hinckley called my husband to be an Apostle. I almost thought, please say that again. I don’t know if I heard correctly. Russell looked at me with tears in his eyes. It was a sobering experience.
He accepted the call that morning and that afternoon was sustained by the Church in the closing session of General Conference.
His wife said of him “I don’t know how he cares for so many people. I wonder sometimes, when is it his turn? He has this deep reservoir of care; he just gives and gives and gives.” He has a strong testimony of the truth of the gospel,
I would tell Church members to keep their eyes riveted on the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve and to stay close to the scriptures, reading and pondering and praying over the word of the Lord. That will give the strength that the individual member of the Church needs to live in today’s world. I have strong convictions that those who are really anchored in their faith in the Restoration and the mission of the Prophet Joseph, and in the revelations that have come to the Church through him, which confirm and declare that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that the gospel is upon the earth, will be able to handle whatever life passes to them.
Quotes from Kathleen Lubeck’s “Elder M. Russell Ballard: True to the Faith,” Ensign, Mar. 1986, p. 6 and from lds.org.