SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Associates and children of one of the highest-ranking leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, M. Russell Ballard, remembered him Friday as a principled and compassionate man who stood as an exemplar of the faith for decades.
Ballard, who was second-in-line to become church president as the second-longest-tenured member of a top governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, died Sunday surrounded by family at his home. He was 95.
“The centerpiece of the church’s missionary effort has always been the doctrine of Jesus Christ and the restoration of the Lord's church. No one has taught this more powerfully or thoroughly than President Ballard over the last 50 years,” quorum member Quentin L. Cook said at Ballard's funeral at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. “He has been a strong leader and has left the quorum in a great place.”
Ballard was acting president of the quorum for the past five years and a quorum member for 38 years. The leadership body sits below the First Presidency and helps set church policy and oversees the faith’s business interests.
Church leaders named Jeffrey R. Holland, a quorum member since 1994, the quorum's acting president Thursday.
The longest-tenured member of the quorum becomes the new president in a church tradition established in 1889 to prevent lobbying and ensure a smooth transition in the faith known widely as the Mormon church.
Ballard was a great-great grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of church founder Joseph Smith. Beginning as a young missionary in England, Ballard rose through church leadership ranks, becoming a bishop, president of the Toronto mission and member of the Presidency of the Seventy. He joined the Quorum of the Twelve in 1985.
One of Ballard's seven children, Craig B. Ballard, remembered him as a busy man who nonetheless always made time for his children.
“My father’s ability to tackle complex issues was remarkable. He always knew how to get to the heart of a difficult problem quickly. He had incredible vision to know what needed to be done and wisdom and fortitude to do it,” Ballard said.
He remembered how his father would often come home exhausted from assignments but would still take him to give people blessings at homes and hospitals.
“Dad, you have fought a good fight. You have finished your course. You have kept the faith. I love you, Dad," Ballard said.
Daughter Holly B. Clayton remembered Ballard as a supportive father who was “quick with a joke and ready for a laugh” and who encouraged his children to take a “lighter view of life.”
M. Russell Ballard was born in Salt Lake City in 1928 to Melvin R. and Geraldine Smith Ballard. His wife, Barbara, died in 2018. Besides his children, he is survived by 43 grandchildren, 105 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.