Listen: How Surrounding Himself with Darkness Has Taught Ex-CIA Agent Tim Ballard the Power of Angels

Tim Ballard is a member of a church that often teaches the importance of “standing in holy places,” but in his fight against child slavery, he spends a lot of time in dark spaces. However, in the second episode of All In, Tim Ballard told LDS Living host Jamie Armstrong that he often feels the Spirit most in those moments. In fact, Ballard went as far as to say that he wouldn’t be able to do what he does in his work with Operation Underground Railroad if he didn’t have “a powerful faith in the Atonement and in the Savior.”

JA: You’re interacting with evil people, and you’re seeing the darkest things in the world. How do you not fall apart?

TB: I’ve watched guys and girls in this line of work who quit and they lose their faith. How could a loving God allow this to happen? There must not be a God. You’ve got to understand the things we see. It’s incomprehensible. . . . People used to ask me, how do you do this? How do you sit toe-to-toe with a trafficker and buy and sell children and not become dark? And I couldn’t answer that question for a long time, because if I gave my honest answer, they would think I was crazy because the answer was, ‘Man, I feel really good when I’m doing that’ and [they’d think], ‘What are you? Some kind of crazy nut that you feel good doing that?’ It wasn’t until later, I was reading the scriptures and pondering and I started learning or relearning and internalizing the doctrine of angels and what [an] angel’s job is. If you read the Book of Mormon and you pick the five principles that the Lord definitely wants us to believe, the five doctrinal truths, angels has to be on that list. Think of how many times we are taught, ‘This is real; I send them to you. These are real people.’ So, I started recognizing, ‘Oh, that’s what I’m feeling. That’s why I feel actually closer to God as I’m witnessing the worst things.’ I mean I’m toe-to-toe with a trafficker, the kids are in the back room, he’s talking to me about what he’s done to these kids, showing me videos, and I’ve got to look at those videos and laugh and act like I’m his friend. It’s the only way I’m going to get these kids out. And I’m feeling, what I now recognize, the whole time the Spirit and light. And the closer I get to the dark, the brighter those angels are because they’re with those kids and they’re sitting encouraging me and blocking him, the trafficker, so he doesn’t see me, what’s in my eyes. Once I opened up to that doctrine and then you go in with that knowledge, then you recognize it in a way that’s sure. And then you start praying for it. It’s a lesson for everybody, really. You don’t have to be working in the darkness of sex slavery to apply this principle. This is something that everybody can and should employ because there’s darkness around all of us.

For the conversation in its entirety, including how Ballard was led to adopt two of the children he rescued, check out the new LDS Living podcast, All In, by visiting www.ldsliving.com/podcasts.

Lead image by Jed Wells.  
Comments and feedback can be sent to feedback@ldsliving.com