Elder Ballard Makes New Friends during Visit to Baltic States and Ukraine

  • 15 June 2016

Elder M. Russell Ballard, center of front row, poses for a photo with members of the Kyiv Ukraine Stake after a musical performance.

Twenty-three years ago, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the country of Lithuania for the preaching of the gospel. Recently, he visited Latvia and Estonia, which, in addition to Lithuania and Georgia, comprise countries of the Baltic Mission.

Especially meaningful for Elder Ballard was the opportunity to reunite with David P. Harding, president of the Baltic Mission. When President Harding was a young missionary, he served in the Canada Toronto Mission and Elder Ballard was his mission president. Elder Ballard said, “David Harding was a tremendous young missionary, and now he is a superb mission president. I was thrilled to again preach the gospel with him.” Accompanying Elder Ballard to the Baltic countries was Elder Bruce D. Porter and his wife, Sister Susan Porter. Elder Porter is a General Authority Seventy and serves as President of the Europe East Area.

Elder Ballard was accompanied to the Europe East Area by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Diane Hallstrom, and Bishop Dean M. Davies of the Presiding Bishopric and his wife, Sister Darla Davies. Following their visit to Russia (see related story) and Elder Ballard's trip to the Baltic States, the group traveled to Ukraine. Their time there included a visit to the Kyiv Ukraine Temple and meeting with missionaries of the Ukraine Kyiv Mission. The mission president is President Kenneth B. Packer, grandson of President Boyd K. Packer, who dedicated the country of Ukraine in 1991.

Elder M. Russell Ballard, center, Elder Bruce D. Porter and Sister Susan Porter, at left, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, standing at left behind Elder Ballard, and Sister Diane Hallstrom and others pause outside the Kyiv Ukraine Temple during a visit the Brethren made while traveling in Eastern Europe.

A priesthood leadership conference was held on Saturday, June 11, in Kyiv that included (in person or by broadcast) leaders from throughout Ukraine and from the countries of Armenia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Even with groups of leaders in diverse locations and the meeting being translated in several languages, a spirit of unity prevailed in this unique meeting.

Elder M. Russell Ballard visits with Kyiv Ukraine Mission President Kenneth B. Packer and his wife, Sister Cari Packer, and their children.

Missionaries serving in the Ukraine Kyiv Mission on the grounds of the Kyiv Ukraine Temple.

On Sunday, June 12, Elder Ballard presided at a special stake conference of the Kyiv Ukraine Stake. Over 1,000 members attended, the largest gathering in the history of this stake. Elder Ballard commended the members for their faith and devotion and encouraged them, just as he had throughout the entire Europe East Area visit, to invite their friends to learn about the restored gospel. He asked each member to find one person before next general conference.

Throughout the visit, Elder Ballard invited individuals he met in hotels, restaurants, airports, and on the street to learn about the Church; many accepted his invitation. All along the way, mission presidents were left with contact information to follow up with Elder Ballard's several “new friends.”

Elder Hallstrom presided at a special conference and other meetings in the Dnepropetrovsk Ukraine District on June 12. Elder Larry S. Kacher, Sister Pauline Kacher, and Sister Hallstrom also attended. This district is geographically closest to the civil unrest that continues in eastern Ukraine, and many of those in the meetings had left their home cities due to the conflict. “It is inspiring to witness Latter-day Saints who face temporal upheaval and yet their faith never wavers,” said Elder Hallstrom. “Ukraine is a stronghold of the Church in Eastern Europe.”

Bishop Davies visited the L'viv Ukraine District on June 12 with Elder Jorg Klebingat, Sister Julia Klebingat, and Sister Davies. They attended a special district conference and participated in a missionary, youth, and young single adult meeting. Bishop Davies observed that members came from long distances and rejoiced in the opportunity to be together. He also noted that a large number of investigators attended the district conference, evidence of the outstanding work being done by the members and the missionaries.

Reflecting on the entire Europe East Area visit, Elder Ballard stated, “I was impressed that there are many of our brothers and sisters in this part of the world who are ready for the gospel. In speaking with people every day during our travels, in different countries and in varying circumstances, I saw it and felt it firsthand. I take from this trip a great optimism for the Church in Eastern Europe.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard waves to members during an assignment in Eastern Europe.

Elder M. Russell Ballard pauses to speak to a couple on the grounds of the Kyiv Ukraine Temple during an assignment in Eastern Europe.

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom and Elder M. Russell Ballard walk on the grounds of the Kyiv Ukraine Temple while traveling in Eastern Europe.

Elder M. Russell Ballard greets members during an assignment in Eastern Europe.

Elder M. Russell Ballard speaks during a special conference of the Kyiv Ukraine Stake on June 12. With more than 1,000 in attendance it was the largest gathering in the history of the stake.

Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Bruce D. Porter with Primary children in Tallinn, Estonia.

Elder M. Russell Ballard with Baltic Mission President David P. Harding and Sister Kaylene P. Harding. President Harding served in the Canada Toronto Mission when Elder Ballard presided over that mission.

Elder M. Russell Ballard, third from left, and Elder Bruce D. Porter, second from left, pose for a photo with members on the grounds of the Kyiv Ukraine Temple.

Members gather for a meeting in Riga, Latvia.