How M. Russell Ballard taught a lasting lesson without saying a word

This week I made time to peruse one of my old church journals. Like many of you, I capture impressions and highlights during meetings and often refer back to them when my spiritual tank runs low. I love turning the pages and bumping into notes from Sunday services or firesides and feeling the rush of familiarity.

It’s like running into and throwing your arms around long-lost friends. In an instant, you’re reminded why they meant so much and how you treasured them from the moment you first met.

Near the center of my tired leather journal, I flipped through five pages of notes taken at a leadership conference presided over by then Elder M. Russell Ballard at a chapel in the shadows of the Washington D.C. Temple. Today he serves as President Ballard — acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

That memorable day, he and other leaders taught powerfully about a dozen topics or more. They took questions, told stories, clarified policies and taught pure doctrine. I scribbled as much as possible in my sloppy, scratchy handwriting and wondered whether future generations would be able to read my notes without special spiritual gifts — or a Urim and Thummim.

I savored the impressions I’d had and heeded the counsel to “remember, remember” the words of an apostle. But what most stood out from my notes didn’t have anything to do with the inspired words that flowed from President Ballard’s mouth — it had everything to do with the words he held in his hands
In three different places in my journal, I noted that every single time this prophet, seer and revelator rose to the pulpit, he didn’t come alone. He carried with him his personal scriptures. They appeared to be large print format and well-loved.

Whether standing alone or next to another leader, he never approached the pulpit without his trusted scriptures. Even if only rising to address a question for a few seconds, he had them in his wise hands.

As the morning whizzed by, President Ballard flipped through the pages to add light, truth and context to doctrines and principles. But even when he didn’t open them, he clung to them like the solution to every problem and the cure for every disease.

What a powerful example for the rest of us!

Here is a man with decades of leadership experience in the church who has answered countless questions, often the same ones from meeting to meeting in spots around the globe.

Here is an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who lives as a witness of His reality and atoning sacrifice.

Here is a scriptural scholar literally clinging to the word of God.

It’s easy to imagine that this image of President Ballard is exactly what Christ intended of his original apostles when he invited them to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Can’t you see it? The Lord’s anointed spreading out after His Ascension, teaching of Christ to all who would gather and clinging to His words?

I can only wonder how many other similar meetings President Ballard has led since his visit to our corner of the Lord’s vineyard. But I don’t have to wonder what he relied on when his moment of truth arrived.

Just now as I study my notes once again, the memory brought both a smile and a nudge from the Holy Ghost. While he wasn’t standing on a riverbank or sitting on a dusty boulder dressed like Peter, James or John, President Ballard truly taught that day as if he were.

Isn’t that what witnesses of Christ do? By living their lives in harmony with the Savior and His word, they teach without even realizing it.

And if it’s right for them, it might be for the rest of us, too.

Courage to Be You
Jason’s new book, written with Gail Miller,
is now available from Amazon and DB

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