LOCAL NEWS

RootsTech: A ‘wicked’ Broadway finale, plus message from late church Apostle M. Russell Ballard

Mar 3, 2024, 2:32 PM

Singer and Actress Kristin Chenoweth, right, and Mary-Mitchell Campbell perform during RootsTech at...

Singer and Actress Kristin Chenoweth, right, and Mary-Mitchell Campbell perform during RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday. (Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News)

(Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — On the final day of the RootsTech 2024 conference, attendees braved a windstorm to listen to Broadway actor Kristin Chenoweth speak about faith, family and her experience as an adopted child.

To end the conference, organizers shared a video of late President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, filmed just months before his death in November, speaking on the eternal nature of family.

The largest family history conference in the world — with the theme “Remember”— saw thousands of attendees at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, with an estimated 4 million more joining online, representing every U.S. state and over 240 countries and territories and being broadcast in over 20 languages.

Chenoweth, interspersed with performances of some of her favorite songs like “For Good” from the musical “Wicked,” used the final day of RootsTech 2024 to reflect on the role her adoptive parents and biological mother has played in her life.

“A week before I was born, the woman that was supposed to adopt me found out she was pregnant,” Chenoweth said, “And she wanted somebody else to have the opportunity to have a child. I don’t really ever talk about this.”

The Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor felt divine intervention played a role in her placement with “a darn good” set of parents, instilling a sense of self-esteem from an early age. “There’s nature versus nurture. I had nature and nurture,” she said.

While working on the set of the TV show “The Good Wife” in 2012, Chenoweth was seriously injured when lighting equipment fell and struck her, fracturing her skull. It was during the recovery she felt she needed to connect with her past and seek out her biological mother. When the two met, on Dec. 12, 2012, “it could not have gone better,” she said.

“We were very, very close from the minute I met her.

President Ballard’s family history

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles introduced a 25-minute video of the late President Ballard filmed in September of last year, with many members of the Ballard extended family in attendance Saturday.

“We know in retrospect, how precious it was to film President Ballard when we did,” Elder Gong said. Days before he died, Nov. 12, 2023, he was to see the video. “He loved it,” Elder Gong said. “In some ways, it is President Ballard’s last testimony of Jesus Christ, eternal family, and remembering what matters most.”

President Ballard — whose great-great grandfather was Hyrum Smith and great-great uncle was church founder Joseph Smith — visited a series of historical church sites, including the Kirtland Temple and Carthage Jail with a film crew from RootsTech.

Late President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles M. Russell Ballard stands in front of the Kirtland Temple in Ohio, for a video presented to RootsTech 2024 attendees in Salt Lake City, Saturday. (Photo: FamilySearch)

“It’s very important for people to seek out and know what they can about those who laid the groundwork for them to have what they have in their lives,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing to know about your forefathers, many of which paid a big price for our personal existence in this world.”

“Family history is just — ‘Who am I? What makes me M. Russell Ballard?'” said President Ballard, who was 94 at the time of filming, “If we ever lose sight of our forefathers and those who made it possible for us to have what we have, we will have lost something that’s irreplaceable.”

The family discovery day at RootsTech 2024 finished off with a shootout with former BYU basketball player Jimmer Fredette, and a professional exhibition pickleball game.

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RootsTech: A ‘wicked’ Broadway finale, plus message from late church Apostle M. Russell Ballard