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President M. Russell Ballard

President M. Russell Ballard
President Ballard
Acting President M. Russell Ballard has served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since October 6, 1985, traveling throughout the earth to instruct Church members and direct day-to-day affairs of the worldwide Church. On January 14, 2018, he was sustained and set apart as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

President M. Russell Ballard was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 8, 1928, to Melvin R. and Geraldine Smith Ballard. He attended the University of Utah.

As a young man, he served a mission to England for the Church where he was a counselor in the mission presidency. He has also served as a bishop twice.

In 1974, he was called as president of the Canada Toronto Mission where he was serving when called to the First Quorum of the Seventy in April of 1976. As a member of the Seventy, he supervised and trained leaders in his assigned geographic regions. He later served as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy from February 1980 to October 1985, overseeing the Church’s Quorums of the Seventy. Much of his ministry has been focused on missionary work.

Prior to his call as a full-time Church leader, President Ballard had interests in the automotive, real estate, and investment businesses. He has served on many Church and civic committees and boards.

He married Barbara Bowen in the Salt Lake Temple on August 28, 1951. They are the parents of two sons and five daughters.

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Be Still, and Know That I Am God

My dear young friends, it is a pleasure to be at this devotional with you. We are all participating through various means of technology at this unique time in the history of the world. Technology is a tremendous blessing; I will talk more about technology in a moment.

We welcome all you young adults today—whether you are single, married, a returned missionary, or preparing to serve soon.

I want you to know that the Lord loves you and trusts you. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles believe in you and pray for you often. You are the future of the Church, and the Lord has many wonderful blessings for you as you live your lives.

Let me emphasize that point—you will lead the Church in 10 or 20 or 30 years from now. Some of you will serve as bishops; stake presidents; mission presidents; Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society presidents; and temple presidents and matrons. Yes, within the reach of my voice tonight are those who will most likely become leaders in communities and nations of the world. There will be those who will be members of the general women’s presidencies or even a General Authority Seventy or perhaps a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Today you do not know what a remarkable future is before you!

Church Leaders
I have heard that some people think the Church leaders live in a “bubble.” What they forget is that we are men and women of experience, and we have lived our lives in so many places and worked with many people from different backgrounds. Our assignments have literally taken us around the globe, where we meet the political, religious, business, and humanitarian leaders of the world. Although we have visited leaders of nations throughout the world, we have also visited the most humble homes on earth, where we have met and ministered to the poor.

When you thoughtfully consider our lives and ministry, you will most likely agree that we see and experience the world in ways few others do. You will realize that we live less in a “bubble” than most people.

Others say we are too old. Well, it is true that six of the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles are over 80 years of age! Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf will turn 80 in three days. I just turned 92 last month and President Nelson is 96!

However, there is something about the individual and combined wisdom of the Brethren that should provide some comfort. We have experienced it all, including the consequences of different public laws and policies, and disappointments, tragedies, and deaths in our own families. We are not out of touch with what is happening in your lives.

Let me also observe that none of the Twelve are shrinking violets. We each have strong personalities. So, when we are unified in a decision, you can rest assured that we have counseled together and come to that decision after much prayer and thoughtful discussion. We are young at heart, and the Lord blesses us to move His work forward in remarkable ways. As I mentioned earlier, I would like to discuss the use of technology.

Use of Technology
In 2007 and 2008, I spoke to the graduating students at BYU–Hawaii and BYU–Idaho. On those occasions I said, “We cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches.”1  At that time I urged the graduates to use the advances in technology to become involved in the worldwide conversation about the Church. I thought I was rather up to date when I suggested that they share their views on blogs. Since then, I have been introduced to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, and Snapchat. And recently, I have heard on the news much about TikTok. Wow! It seems like the world of technology cannot stand still for even a few minutes.

My cell phone is amazing, it is truly smart! Smartphones provide us so many wonderful opportunities, including accessing information, getting directions, sharing photos and messages, and even once in a while actually talking to someone.

Differences between the Past and the Present
The modern world in which we now live is ever changing. From the days of Adam and Eve until the days of Joseph and Emma Smith, the world changed rather slowly from one generation to another.

People living in the past enjoyed an abundance of natural heavenly light and comfortable darkness, without streetlights, headlights, and light pollution found in all our cities across the world. In the cities of today, it is almost impossible to see the night sky as Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Elisabeth, Jesus, and the early Latter-day Saints did.

They also enjoyed a natural silence, with few man-made sounds interrupting their days and especially their nights. Modern noise from cars, planes, and music has completely drowned out the natural world. You can no longer go to a restaurant without music being played in the background. Even in remote forests in the world, the silence is often broken by the flight of a jet above in the sky.

Finally, the people of earlier times experienced solitude in ways we cannot imagine in our crowded and busy world. Even when we are alone today, we can be tuned in with our mobile devices, laptop computers, and televisions to keep us entertained and occupied.

As an Apostle, I now ask you a question: Do you have any personal quiet time? I have wondered if those who lived in the past had more opportunity than we do now to see, feel, and experience the presence of the Spirit in their lives.

Seemingly, as our world gets brighter, louder, and busier, we have a greater challenge feeling the Spirit in our lives. If your life is void of quiet time, would you begin tonight to seek for some?

Prophetic Counsel
It is important to be still and listen and follow the Spirit. We simply have too many distractions to capture our attention, unlike any time in the history of the world.

Everyone needs time to meditate and contemplate. Even the Savior of the world, during His mortal ministry, found time to do so: “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.”2

We all need time to ask ourselves questions or to have a regular personal interview with ourselves. We are often so busy and the world is so loud that it is difficult to hear the heavenly words “be still, and know that I am God.”3 We need this reassurance in this troubling time.

Mobile electronic devices are a blessing, but they can also distract us from hearing the “still, small voice.” They need to be our servants, not our masters. For example, if later tonight you share inspiring thoughts from this devotional on social media, your smartphone is a servant. If you randomly surf the Internet, and especially if you are looking for inappropriate content, your smartphone is a master.

Remember what Elijah learned: “The Lord was not in the wind; … the Lord was not in the earthquake: … the Lord was not in the fire,” but the Lord spoke in the “still small voice.”4

Our Use of Technology
Another question: Honestly, how much time do you spend every day on your smartphone or tablet, not including for school or Church work?

Their use is appropriate, and they are a blessing. However, when smartphones begin to interfere with our relationships with friends and family—and even more importantly, with God—we need to make a change. For some of you, the adjustment will be slight; for others, it may be significant.

I am also concerned that excessive text messaging, Facebooking, tweeting, and Instagraming are replacing talking—talking directly one to another and talking in prayer with our Heavenly Father; and thinking about the things that matter most in life.

Too often, young people find themselves in the same room with family or friends but are busy communicating with someone not present, thereby missing an opportunity to visit with those nearby. When this happens, maybe you need to send a text message to them to get their attention!

What I have learned most in my life came from listening to those with great experience, those who had lived longer and learned many important things that I needed to know. Please take advantage to visit and talk with your parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents while they are still with you.

I also worry that some of you check your email, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts or send text messages during the most important gathering in the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—our sacred sacrament meeting. In this important meeting we should be focusing on the Lord through praying, singing hymns, and partaking the emblems of His body and blood instead of checking social media, the news, or the score of an athletic event. You cannot connect to the Spirit during the presentation of the sacrament while looking at or sending a message on your smartphone or your tablet. This spiritual connection requires the Light of Christ, settling from your minds into your hearts with burning love and devotion.

I know that many of you have your scriptures and other Church resources on your phones and tablets. And I’ve even heard that some parents and Church leaders are concerned about this development, but I am not.

The Church has always adopted advances in technology to help push the work of the Lord forward, especially in missionary work.

For example, currently 98% of missions throughout the world have missionaries using smartphones as part of their work. This has been a great blessing, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and has greatly enhanced their ability to connect with others as they work to find, teach, and baptize. Missionaries have used mobile devices for several years; however, during this pandemic, missionaries have been blessed in miraculous ways.

History does repeat itself in the most interesting ways. In the past, Israel preserved the words of the prophets on scrolls. At some point, the early Christians adopted the codex, the early version of the modern book.

Here we are 2,000 years later, and you young people are reading your scriptures on smartphones or tablets—reading them as Jesus did when He was given an Isaiah scroll to read from in Nazareth. You too can “scroll”5 —but please, do not “scroll” during the presentation of the sacrament. Surely, during those few minutes you can focus on the Atonement of the Savior as you seek the Spirit of the Lord to bless you for the coming week.

Consider putting your smartphone or your tablet in airplane mode for the entire Sunday block. You will still have access to the scriptures, general conference talks, hymns, and manuals in the Gospel Library app, but you will not be distracted by incoming text messages or other notifications.

Refuge from the Storm
In addition to finding time to contemplate and meditate, we also need to find a place, as mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants, that will be “a defense, and … a refuge from the storm.”6

We need a special place of refuge where we can wean ourselves from the distractions of our electronic devices by turning them off so we can connect to the Spirit of God.

One of the best places to connect with the Spirit is in the temple—the house of the Lord. Of course, the same can be said of our other dedicated Church buildings, including seminary and institute classrooms. We can find refuge in our homes or apartments when we choose to simply shut things off and be still and know of the things of God.

To help us discover the world where Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and Joseph and Mary found God, and to help us find a place to feel and hear the voice of the Lord today, I invite you to go to the temple. We look forward to when temples can be opened again for all proxy ordinances. Once they are, I invite you to go as often as possible and turn off your smartphones and put them away before you enter the temple grounds.

In all the ordinances in the house of the Lord, you will hear beautiful language, words, and promises given by the Lord to His children. It is the only place you can hear those beautiful, inspiring words.

If you do not qualify for a temple recommend right now, I invite you to prepare yourself to be worthy of a temple recommend and come to the temple as soon as you can. May you have a desire to get a recommend and attend the temple regularly.

Satan, on the other hand, does not want you to go to the temple or even to stand in the shadow of a temple. He wants you to avoid even getting close to the temple because the temple is the house of the Lord.

During this pandemic, the work of temple building has not stopped. You will recall that President Nelson announced six temples at the October 2020 general conference. With that announcement, there are 160 dedicated temples, 8 under renovation, 22 under construction, and 40 that have been announced. That adds up to 230 temples. We want to get temples closer to all members of the Church so you can attend the House of the Lord.

I assure each of you that as you go to the temple or visit the temple grounds, you will walk on sacred, holy ground.

You can hear the still, small voice of the Spirit in the temple or on its sacred grounds in ways you never will at the mall, in restaurants, and in public places. In fact, the temple is a wonderful place to receive answers to your prayers.

The Opposition
The world in which we now live is moving very rapidly away from the teachings of Christ in its laws and its customs. As a result, Satan is working overtime to confuse God’s sons and daughters and to divert the very elect from fulfilling their duty and receiving a fulness of the Lord’s blessings.

Satan wants you to stop practicing good habits you learned at home, in seminary and institute, and on your missions—such as having daily scripture study, praying daily, worthily partaking of the sacrament weekly, and giving genuine, heartfelt service. He also wants you to stand on the sidelines in today’s important and crucial battles.

Remember, my dear young people, we are at war—a continuation of the one that began in the premortal world. Keep practicing those important habits and don’t just stand on the sideline. “Put on the whole armor of God” as Paul invited us to do. He said, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”8

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I invite all of you within the sound of my voice, in the vast world that we now live in, to “put on the whole armor of God” and join the battle today, like the sons of Helaman did so many years ago. Don’t wait until you get married or start your lifelong career or get older. The Church needs our young adults now. The Lord needs you now!

You will recall that 2,000 stripling warriors “entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites.”9  The Church needs modern stripling warriors who have made a covenant “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.”10

The Book of Mormon describes these stripling warriors as follows:
“They were all young . . ., and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were . . . true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.

“Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.”11

You young women and young men are the modern daughters and sons of Helaman. May it be said of you as it was said of them: “They became now at this period of time . . . a great support.”12

Using Technology to Bless Lives
We invite you to get involved and use the social media platforms you prefer to share the gospel and stand as modern sons and daughters of Helaman in the great battles of the last days. The Lord wants you to become the modern stripling warriors who stand strong and united to defend the truth. He wants you to be courageous and stalwart in the face of the enemy’s advances. We know that in the end the Lord will win the day and Satan will be defeated.

Through various social media platforms, you can have gospel conversations with family, friends, and, for you returned missionaries, even with former investigators and new members. You can stand as witnesses to the truth and defend the kingdom.

Testimony and Witness
May the Lord bless you with wisdom beyond your years, that you will wisely realize that we are in this battle and we must stand together, young and old. I pray our Heavenly Father will watch over you and bless you. Please, again, know how much we love you. And I ask our Heavenly Father to bless each and every one of you, wherever you are in this world, with the peace of the Lord in your hearts, with the calm witness and assurance that Jesus Christ does live, that He is the Son of God, and that this is His Church. May that peace and power be with you. May our Heavenly Father watch over you. May you never forget, in this journey you are on, you are precious, every one of you, to the future of preparing the world for that day when Jesus Christ will say “It is enough” and will return and rule and reign as the Savior, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the Redeemer of the world, who I testify lives. Today, we have been talking about those things that are important to Him. May we leave this devotional filled with love for the Lord and a desire to serve Him is my humble prayer, in the sacred and in the beloved name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes:
1. M. Russell Ballard, “Using New Media to Support the Work of the Church” (Brigham Young University–Hawaii commencement address, Dec. 15, 2007); devotional.byuh.edu; see also M. Russell Ballard, “Making Your Influence Felt” (Brigham Young University–Idaho commencement address, Apr. 11, 2008); byui.edu/Presentations).

2. Matthew 14:23 .

3. Psalm 46:10 ; see also Doctrine and Covenants 101:16 .

4. 1 Kings 19:11–12 .

5. See Luke 4:17 .

6. Doctrine and Covenants 115:6 .

7. “A Refuge from the Storms of Life,” Church News, Mar. 9, 2014, 5.

8. Ephesians 6:11–12 .

9. Alma 53:17 .

10. Mosiah 18:9 .

11. Alma 53:20–21 .

12. Alma 53:19 .

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