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HomeChurchFull Funeral Recap for President M. Russell Ballard + President Holland's Emotional Tribute

Full Funeral Recap for President M. Russell Ballard + President Holland’s Emotional Tribute

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Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and members worldwide gathered Friday to honor the life and legacy of President M. Russell Ballard. Ordained as an Apostle in 1985, President Ballard served faithfully for nearly 50 years. At the time of his death he was the third most senior leader of the Church. He passed away on Sunday, at the age of 95.

President Dallin H. Oaks presided over the meeting as President Russell M. Nelson viewed the proceedings from home. 

President Ballard’s daughter, Brynn Huntsman, opened the meeting with this powerful prayer:

“He’s been such a teacher to the world and to us, and we are so grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to learn from him, watch him serve others for over 50 years. He was never wavering in his love for the Savior, and we witnessed this on many occasions. I’m so thankful for the plan of salvation, for our Savior whom my father loved, and because of this knowledge and belief that we have in the plan of salvation, that he is not lost to us, that he is with our dear mother, and they are rejoicing together. We are so grateful for this beautiful soul that has loved people all over the world, has shared his testimony, and has given every minute he could to serve the Savior and thee.”

Brother Craig B. Ballard

Brother Ballard was only 4 years old when his father was called to be a mission president. He was 15 when President Ballard began his lifelong service as an apostle. Still, Brother Ballard said, “He was always busy, but he also took time for me.”

Brother Ballard shared some of the favorite pieces of advice his father would often say. “Cool your jets. Measure three times, cut once. Think straight,” Brother Ballard said. “One of Dad’s favorite sayings was ‘Keep it simple.’ My father’s ability to tackle complex issues was remarkable. He had incredible vision to know what needed to be done and the wisdom and fortitude to do it.”

“He wanted every Latter-day Saint to think deeply about the lives of faith lived by early church leaders, like his ancestors Hyrum and Joseph Smith, Joseph F. Smith, and Melvin J. Ballard, and he often testified of their faith,” he continued.

Brother Ballard spoke of President Ballard’s strong desire to serve the Lord and his willingness to do whatever the Lord asked of him.

“My dad was a doer. Two days before he passed, he was convinced he was going to the office on Monday. I’m sure he’s still hard at work, but now he has an office with an unbelievable view!” he said. “In fact, the last blessing he gave in his life was to someone when he was the patient in the hospital. He was just like that.”

At a meeting with missionaries, President Ballard began speaking about how he knew Jesus Christ. Brother Ballard anticipated his father would speak of some grand revelation.

“Instead, he simply said, ‘I know Jesus Christ because I serve Jesus Christ.’ I’ll never forget that moment. I knew he spoke the truth because I had witnessed his selfless service throughout my life.”

Brother Ballard also opened up about some of the last moments of President Ballard’s life.

“One of the last things my father said before he passed, I think, illustrated the life that he led. While he was transitioning from this life to the next, he first asked me, “Am I clean?” as though it was a question. After a lengthy pause, as though being assured from the other side, his question turned to a statement. He said emphatically, grasping my hand with strength, “I am clean. I am clean.”

Sister Holly B. Clayton

Sister Clayton, President Ballard’s daughter opened by saying he was like a mighty oak to his family—grounded, solid, and steady. “Dad was always there to wipe away our tears, calm our troubled hearts, and soothe our aching souls,” she said. “He has been our broad shoulder to cry on and his chest was a peaceful place to rest our weary heads.”

She talked about his desire to call down the powers of heaven for his family. When she was diagnosed with cancer, President Ballard gave her a powerful and tender blessing. Throughout his life, President Ballard made sure to prioritize his family.

“To each of his seven children, Dad was always a father first and foremost, and each of his 43 grandchildren knew him best as their grandpa,” she said.”

She spoke of the love President Ballard had for his beloved wife Barbara, who passed in 2018. He would joke with the family that if she was in heaven too long without him, she might find someone she liked better.

“We rejoice in the promised blessing that he and Mom are together again and that families are together forever. The Lord prepared Dad to do a great work here on earth, and the world is truly a better place because he was in it.”

“We love you daddy. Take mama dancing,” she ended tearfully.

Elder Quentin L. Cook

Elder Cook began his remarks by speaking of the love he had for the Ballard family and their faith. “I rejoice in his reunion with his precious Barbara. Since her passing, there was hardly a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when he did not mention how much he missed her. He encouraged us to be more attentive to our wives and children.”

Elder Ballard spoke of how President Ballard commissioned the hymn, “Faith in Every Footstep.” He desired to help build unity, charity, and chaired the Pioneer Sesquicentennial celebration in 1997 and provided ongoing support to This Is the Place Heritage Park.

“The principal message of the hymn ‘Faith in Every Footstep’ is an invitation to build faith in Jesus Christ. This was President Ballard’s life mission,” Elder Cook said.

This mission was deeply personal for Elder Cook. He and President Holland served in the same mission as President Ballard twelve years later. When all were in the Quorum of the Twelve, they desired to go back to their mission and teach together. They approached President Nelson about it. 

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“The precedent for all three of us going to visit our mission together, if there are three general authorities who served in the same mission over 60 years, then I will approve it.”

The three were able to travel there and teach. “What a missionary! What a teacher!” Elder Cook said. President Ballard showed them a spot near a stream where he had a spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of the gospel he was teaching.

Elder Cook referenced, as did many others, President Ballard’s lineage of faith.

“President Ballard never saw this heritage as a badge of honor or entitlement of any kind. He did see it as a responsibility to teach the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He believed strongly that he would be accountable both to the Lord and to Joseph and Hyrum. He had a sculptured bust of Hyrum and Joseph on his office shelf. I believe with this powerful motivation, M. Russell Ballard was the most dedicated missionary of our generation.”

Elder Cook closed by saying, “”He has been a strong leader and has left the quorum in a safe place. President M. Russell Ballard was a mentor to each of us in the quorum and many others. He was a warm bridge builder with a great sense of humor and was kind to everyone. He was wise and tried to keep things simple; he was inclusive and invited everyone into his circle. He exhibited great character and integrity in every aspect of his life. I am eternally grateful to have been blessed by the power of his testimony.”

President Jeffrey R. Holland

In his first public address after the death of his wife and a slew of health problems, President Jeffrey R. Holland began his remarks by speaking of when he was called as the “newly named and totally ignorant” president of the Europe North Area of the Church. 

He was told that “someone named M. Russell Ballard was going to be his first contact in the Quorum of the Twelve.” 

President Holland was stunned! He was frightened and frantic, and knew President Ballard the least. “I could have walked under a door with high heels on,” President Holland said, he felt so small. 

“What I did know was that [President Ballard] was one of the most remarkable missionaries of any era in the Church. And me? It has been 30 years since my mission, and I was pretty rusty on my door approach. I also knew that as a very young man, Brother Ballard had been an entrepreneurial whiz in the business and financial world. And there I was, I couldn’t balance a checkbook.”

President Holland went to the Lord, distraught.

“That night in my bedroom, I dropped to my knees in a state of despair. I knew I was going to disappoint Elder Ballard, the First Presidency, the Lord, myself, everyone, in this new assignment. I wept. I was young. I pled for peace and some reassurance. I then heard a voice so stunning that I stopped praying mid-sentence and considered every syllable I had heard. Like a handful of other similar experiences in my life, I don’t know whether it was an audible voice or one delivered directly to my mind, but that distinction doesn’t matter. What was communicated was this: ‘Jeffrey, this is my work, not yours, so rejoice in the arrangements I choose to make.'”

“I deserved that, but then I heard the unbelievable. “Russell Ballard will be one of the best friends you will ever have in this world. You will enjoy his company and seek his counsel for the rest of your life.'”

“That prayer has been fulfilled in every detail, a thousand times over,” President Holland said.

“May I say that during my recent five-week hospital stay, three weeks of which were spent in an unconscious journey to the doorstep of death, President Ballard gave me blessings, or visited, or called the hospital, every single day for those touch-and-go weeks while my life hung in the balance. How do you thank a man for that? I have since tried to do something in that way with reciprocal visits and calls to him every day during the last two or three weeks of his life.”

President Holland closed by speaking of a tender final moment with President Ballard. 

“I got to kiss President Ballard’s cheek for the last time just hours before he passed.”

President Dallin H. Oaks

President Oaks gave his message in two parts. First, he spoke directly to President Ballard’s family, offering his heartfelt condolences from the First Presidency. He leaves to you, his posterity, a legacy of enduring faith and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As was his hope, he passed from this life into the next with his testimony burning brightly.

President Oaks spoke of the tangible connection President Ballard had to the Restoration through his lineage to Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

“He has been a courageous warrior for truth!” President Oaks said. He spoke of his legacy as a missionary, especially in leading out in the creation of Preach My Gospel. He noted President Ballard’s final conference address and how he expressed his love to the world. He responded in kind.

“Oh, how we love President Ballard. How glorious it has been to associate with him, to be inspired by his loving care for his beloved Barbara, to hear his resounding witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Until we meet again, dear friend and brother, we thank you for a lifetime of tireless service, inspired teaching, and genuine kindness.”

In addition to that message to the Ballard family, President Oaks shared this message from the First Presidency to the body of the Church.

“Each of us loved this man. We were inspired by his fervent testimony. We learned from his many great leadership qualities, and we were blessed by his influence throughout the Church. He has been an exemplary leader of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during his many years in that capacity. We will miss him. The other leaders of the church will miss him. Our missionaries will miss him. The members of the Church will miss him.”

“Fortunately, our loss is a gain for innumerable loved ones and leaders who are greeting him on the other side of the veil. There, and here, his influence for righteousness is and will be profound and permanent. We bid him an affectionate farewell, for now.”

Watch the entire funeral services below:

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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