Stay Anchored in Gospel, Elder Ballard Tells Military Families

Contributed By By Gerry Avant, Church News editor, and Jace Whatcott, Church News staff writer

  • 2 June 2014

Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong greet Abigayle Allred in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake Center on Sunday, May 18, 2014.  Photo by Christina Tomlinson.

Article Highlights

  • Heavenly Father will be with military families in trying circumstances if they have faith in Him.
  • Seek the Lord in prayer so they know they are never alone.
  • Those who seek to serve God and their countries anywhere in the world are are appreciated.

“None of us will ever travel any road in the military or anywhere else as important as the road we travel in mortality. Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we know we are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. In mortality, we are fighting to return to Him. The things you do to secure our freedom also secure the agency that makes that possible.” —Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve

WASHINGTON, D.C.

On assignment in the Washington, D.C., area to conduct a leadership training conference and preside at stake conferences, Elder M. Russell Ballard and two General Authority associates added another meeting to their schedule: a special devotional held expressly to thank LDS active duty, reservist members, and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and National Guard and their families.

Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy, and Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong of the First Quorum of the Seventy spoke and bore testimonies during the special devotional held May 18 in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake Center.

In his remarks, Elder Ballard expressed the love and support of Church leaders for those serving in the military.

Elder Ballard assured those serving in the military and their families who are often separated from them that their Heavenly Father will be with them in trying circumstances if they have faith in Him.

“Stay anchored in the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Elder Ballard counseled.

He spoke of “those serious moments you face, those dangerous moments,” and then encouraged them to seek the Lord in prayer. “May He bless you to know that you are never alone.”

Elder Ballard counseled the congregation to see their service in a broader perspective. “None of us will ever travel any road in the military or anywhere else as important as the road we travel in mortality,” he said. “Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we know we are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. In mortality, we are fighting to return to Him. The things you do to secure our freedom also secure the agency that makes that possible.”

Elder Clayton expressed gratitude for the men and women who, at great sacrifice, make themselves available in the service of their country. He expressed gratitude also for the time they spend away from their families and acknowledged how difficult it is for the families they leave behind as well as for those in the service who leave their families behind. He bore testimony of the love of God for all of His children and expressed his desire that they be blessed by the opportunities afforded to them in a free land.

Elder Wong, who is from Hong Kong, SAR, China, bore his testimony. He mentioned that Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told him how his wife, Sister Carol Lu Wong, was “a critical reason why I was called as an Area Seventy six years ago.” Elder Wong spoke of the importance of family, of how a husband and wife should be supportive to each other, and the importance of the gospel in his own family.

Paul A. Yost Jr., the second Latter-day Saint to attain four-star rank in the U.S. armed services and retired commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, bore his testimony, as did Washington D.C. North Mission President Peter S. Cooke, who retired from the U.S. Army Reserves with the rank of major general, and Mitch Butikofer, who was promoted May 5 to brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force.

Army SSG Brandon Allred, third from left, and his wife, Jennifer, in striped dress, attend the devotional May 18, 2014, in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake Center. Photo by Christina Tomlinson.

From left: Sister Heather Cooke; Washington D.C. North Mission President Peter Cooke; President Raul Matos of Mount Vernon Virginia Stake presidency, President John Jackson of the Annapolis Maryland Stake, President Kyle Sampson of the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake presidency; President Keith Davey of the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake; Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong of the Seventy; and Elder Ralph Hardy, Area Seventy. Photo by Christina Tomlinson.

Members of the U.S. military and their family members listen to Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak during a devotional May 18, 2014, in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake Center. Photo by Christina Tomlinson.

In a telephone interview with the Church News, President Cooke commented on the special devotional. “Any time that you have an Apostle in a room, there’s a sense of the Spirit,” he said.

Of the large number in attendance—more than 650—he said, “It was a stake [center] full to the brim with military people.” He said it was great to have Elder Ballard and the other Brethren speak and bear their testimonies and to “realize that we are a group within the Church who are serving our country. … As military people, we all felt proud not only to be serving our country, but also serving the Lord.”

As president of the host stake, President Keith A. Davey said he was pleased that members of the military and their families could take away three things from the devotional:

1. The knowledge that the Brethren are aware of and understand who members of the military and their families are, what they’re doing, and what sacrifices they make—both the families and the military.

2. The testimonies of those in high ranks of service and how living the gospel has been very supportive and helpful in conducting their lives.

3. Elder Ballard’s personal experiences and his understanding of the sacrifices made by military personnel and their families.

Army SSG Brandon Allred, who attended the devotional with his wife, Jennifer, said, “It was great to be able to listen to Elder Ballard talk about the love the First Presidency has for those in the military. He had some wonderful messages of encouragement and instruction on how to better ourselves in our personal, family, and military lives.”

In a visit with the Church News after he returned to Salt Lake City, Elder Ballard said, “Although we were in Washington, D.C., we want those who serve anywhere in the world who seek to serve God and their countries to know that they are appreciated, particularly during this Memorial Day season here in America.”