“When President Tanner called to invite us to general conference, we never expected to receive a new call,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard, Jr., newly called member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Although the call may have come as a surprise to Elder Ballard, it did not find him unprepared. Born in Salt Lake City on October 8, 1928, he is a grandson of the apostle Melvin J. Ballard through his father, and a descendant of the apostle Hyrum Mack Smith, President Joseph F. Smith, and President Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph, through his mother.
“Knowing I was born into a goodly family and realizing the sacrifices my forefathers made for the gospel gave me a greater desire to do what is right and accept callings. The association and direction of my parents and the practical teachings of life gained from my father were also very important to my early development.”
Lineage does not qualify a man to serve, however. Brother Ballard has many years of Church service to his credit. In 1948–50, he filled a mission to England where he served as counselor to two mission presidents. He has served as bishop of Salt Lake City’s Holladay Twelfth and Monument Park Thirteenth wards and considers experience in a bishopric as “one of the greatest schooling grounds of the Church for learning to understand people and to help them with their problems in a loving way.” As a bishop he also learned to rely on the Lord: “Many problems arose that I could not solve without the Lord, and my relationship with him was strengthened because of them.”
Elder Ballard has also served on the high councils of Salt Lake City’s Mt. Olympus and Monument Park stakes, and as a priests quorum adviser for eight years.
Since mid-1974 he has presided over the Canada Toronto Mission. He says the experience has been an invaluable preparation for his new calling and “one of the most refining periods of my life.”
As the owner of several business firms, Elder Ballard also brings to his new assignment a broad business background that has “tempered” him and helped him develop patience. He advises, “Keep your financial affairs in order, but never become so involved in business that you feel unable to accept a Church calling.”
In speaking of the influences that have helped prepare him to accept his new call, Elder Ballard says, “Marrying a good wife is the key to any man’s success.” He is married to the former Barbara Bowen of Salt Lake City. “My seven children—Clark Russell, Stacey, Brynn, Holly, Meleea, Tamara, and Craig—have also taught me a lot!”
The Ballards will be returning to Canada to finish their mission. Elder Ballard remarks, “I will return to the mission a much different person than when I left—sobered, awed, fully aware of my dependence on the Lord, and prayerful that I will fulfill my new calling in a way pleasing to him.”