President M. Russell Ballard dies at age 95

Nov 13, 2023, 7:10 AM | Updated: Nov 14, 2023, 7:49 am

SALT LAKE CITY – President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has died.

After a recent brief hospital stay, President Ballard returned to his home where he attended to duties as he was able to before he died at approximately 11:15 p.m. on Sunday surrounded by loved ones. He was 95.

“President Ballard was never indecisive,” said Church President Russell M. Nelson. “He knew exactly what the Lord taught and how it could be applied in one’s personal life and bring joy and happiness.”

“We worked together closely, and I always loved his warm manner,” said President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency, who sat beside President Ballard in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for more than three decades. “He was a man to be trusted. And he was a man who trusted you.”

President Ballard is survived by his seven children, 43 grandchildren 105 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

Funeral details are pending.

President Ballard was born in Salt Lake City on Oct. 8, 1928, to Melvin R. and Geraldine Smith Ballard. After attending the University of Utah, he married Barbara Bowen in the Salt Lake Temple on Aug. 28, 1951. They are the parents of two sons and five daughters.

President Ballard couldn’t talk about his family without praising Barbara, who died on Oct. 1, 2018. “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 that getting her to agree to marry me was the greatest sales job I ever did.”

President Ballard praised Barbara as a wonderful mother whose calm approach made home life more like heaven. Their second child, Holly, agrees, saying her parents’ love and respect for each other influenced her and her siblings’ behavior in life-shaping ways.

“We felt like the best place to be was to come home and be there in that environment because our parents were very good with each other,” she said. “I learned that you need to treat everybody with respect. And they were very good about doing that with us as children.”

President Ballard’s ecclesiastical service included his time as a young missionary in England, bishop, president of the Canada Toronto Mission, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy and more than three decades as an Apostle.

“I would not do this for money,” President Ballard said. “You could not hire me for money to do what I’m asked to do as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. But for the Lord, it’s the greatest privilege that could ever be given to a man. We are witnesses of the reality of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

President Ballard also served as chairman of the Church missionary council, which included work to develop the missionary instruction guide “Preach My Gospel.”

He was called as an Apostle on Oct. 6, 1985, and was sustained and set apart as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles by President Nelson on Jan. 14, 2018.

Through all his experiences as a husband, father and Apostle, Church officials said President Ballard looked to Jesus Christ for inspiration and assurance in all things. In fact, he often carried a small image of the Savior in his lapel pocket for encouragement on difficult days.

“Whenever he would get discouraged, he would pull that out and look at [the image of Jesus Christ] and think, ‘I can do this. I can do anything for Him,’” Holly said.

President Ballard came to know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is an anchor in a world of shifting values. “I have strong convictions that those who are really anchored in their faith in the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ 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.”

Church members described President Ballard as leading a life of legacy.

“I love Joseph Smith and the Restoration, and so he kept bearing witness, and that really made a mark on me,” said Latter-day Saint Cheryl Gerstner. “He’s gonna be missed because he is kind of a gentle type of man and I do appreciate his character for that.”

Those KSL TV spoke with say they vividly remember President Ballard speaking in October’s general conference and said they will miss him greatly moving forward.

Sheri Dew shares thoughts on President Ballard

Sheri Dew, executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation, spoke with KSL TV Monday night. She had known President Ballard for 35 years.

She said he loved all people.

“He loved people, he could connect to anyone. And I thought how interesting that his final message now, he testified of Joseph Smith, and he said, thank you to all these members that he’s seen around the world.”

Dew also said President Ballard had a passion for missionary work.

“He absolutely had a zeal for missionary work and for teaching, the restoration.”

Contributing: KSL TV’s Dan Rascon and Karah Brackin

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President M. Russell Ballard dies at age 95