Friend to Friend


Elder M. Russell Ballard

“My grandfather on my father’s side is Melvin J. Ballard. He died when I was ten, so I didn’t really appreciate what it meant for him to be an apostle. However, I do remember that he was very interested in me. On my eighth birthday he picked me up at my home and took me to see a movie. As I recall, he slept through most of it, but it was evident that he cared enough about me to spend some time with me. I am grateful that I have such special memories of Grandfather, and I would encourage children to take advantage of any experience with their grandfathers or grandmothers that can become a happy memory for them.”

In recalling his early years, Elder Ballard said, “I was born in Salt Lake City and raised in Salt Lake City, and I lived in the same home and the same ward in Salt Lake City until I was married. I remember being a Trail Builder in Primary and being in a Guide Patrol. I had to learn the Articles of Faith before entering the Aaronic Priesthood, as all boys did in those days. I didn’t pay much attention to my responsibility to learn the Articles of Faith, so my Primary teacher, Sister Snow, who really cared about us, had our class over to her home where we practiced and memorized them. She had snow-white hair and was a very special person. In my mind I can still see her as though it were yesterday, sitting down with us in class or at her home.

“In speaking of my father, who is now in his eighties, I would have to say that he is one of the most brilliant men I have ever known. He is a strong-willed man who can do anything he puts his mind to. A repairman was never called to our home because Father fixed everything. Father always emphasized the importance of work, and he always had chores available for me to do. When I was ten and eleven, I swept floors at my father’s automobile agency, where there was usually more work than I could get done. I used to think Father was a little tough on me, but looking back now, I believe the hard work was a great blessing.

“My mother is the oldest daughter of Hyrum Mack Smith, who was the oldest son of Joseph F. Smith, the sixth president of the Church. Both of my grandfathers were apostles. Hyrum Mack Smith died when he was only forty-four years old, and Grandmother Smith, my mother’s mother, passed away a year later. I never knew either one.

“Mother is a very soft, sweet, tenderhearted person. She has always been a good listener. I think that during my growing up years she was probably my best friend. She is now seventy-eight years old. My mother and I had many good talks. She has always been a good cook, and there was homemade bread or cookies for us to eat whenever we came home from school. The best thing, however, was that Mother was always there after school to greet us.

“One of my fondest childhood memories is of my dog. Mother and Father bought me a collie, and I named him Scotty. Collies are smart, but this dog had an uncanny ability to know what time it was. Every morning Scotty walked with me through the park to the corner and left me there to cross the street on my way to school. He seemed to sense that that was as far as he should go. I live close to school and came home for lunch, and every day at noon Scotty was there to walk home with me and then back to the corner after lunch. At 3:30 he was there again to walk home from school with me. He was as faithful a companion as you would ever want to have. Scotty lived with us many, many years. He and I were inseparable. He was my protector, and ours was a great relationship. I was very sad when he died. I never had a brother, but it didn’t seem to matter because my best pal was Scotty. I hope that other children have pets that mean as much to them as Scotty did to me.”

Elder Ballard concluded our interview by saying, “There are two messages that I would like to give to the children of the world. The first is that even though you are young, you must always strive to do all you can to live the teachings of the gospel and to be as close to the Lord as possible. We never know what the Lord may call upon us to do, and we must be prepared. Some of you may have received special ordinations and challenges before you ever left Heavenly Father’s presence. You must never lose sight of what your destiny is in helping to build the kingdom of God.

“The second thing to remember is that you are never too young to begin thinking about the kind of companion you will marry. To find a girl or boy who is worthy to go to the temple to be married is a very special quest. No decision, as far as I am concerned, is more important than your decision about whom you will marry.

“When you are a child, you can begin developing concepts of what a righteous and loving eternal companion should be. By staying active in the Church, it will be easier and more natural for you to find that right person. It was very clear in my young mind whom I was looking for, and when I found her, I knew that I had found her.”