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What President Ballard's Ancestor's Near-Death Experience Teaches About Seeing the Hand of Lord

by | Nov. 01, 2019

Mormon Life

While speaking to Church members in Boston, Massachusetts, President M. Russell Ballard shared how his ancestor's near-death shows the hand of the Lord in his life and American history. 

President Ballard's ninth great-grandfather, John Howland, was a passenger on the Mayflower. During his voyage to America, Howland fell overboard in the middle of a storm. Though he could have drowned in the storm-tossed seas, "it pleased God that he caught hold of [a rope and] held on," an account of the incident reads, according to President Ballard.

After arriving in America, Howland married Elizabeth Tilley and together they had 10 children and nearly 90 grandchildren. 

"But that is not where the story ends," President Ballard shared in an Instagram post. "Today, an estimated two million Americans trace their roots to John and Elizabeth. Their descendants include U.S. presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush; American poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; and two influential 19th-century American religious leaders—the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith."

 




 

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I was grateful for the opportunity to address Church members tonight in Boston. I shared how looking for the Lord’s hand in the early history of the United States might help us recognize His hand in our own lives—no matter when or what country we call home. I shared the story of my ninth great-grandfather, John Howland, who was a passenger on the Mayflower. In the middle of one turbulent storm, young John fell overboard. One account reads, “But it pleased God that he caught hold of [a rope and] held on.” By a miracle, John made it to the New World and married Elizabeth Tilley. They had 10 children and nearly 90 grandchildren. But that is not where the story ends. Today, an estimated two million Americans trace their roots to John and Elizabeth. Their descendants include U.S. presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush; American poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; and two influential 19th century American religious leaders—the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith. Think about it for a moment—the existence of these political leaders, poets, and prophets hinged on this one young man finding and grabbing a rope in the ocean and holding on tight to be saved. It was a miracle! I see the hand of the Lord in John Howland’s life. Brothers and sisters, please look for the Lord’s hand in your lives and in the lives of your family. Expect it. Do not dismiss it. Do not relegate the experiences in your lives to coincidences. As you see the hand of the Lord in your lives, thank Him for it. Please record and share your stories. The more you recognize the Lord’s hand in your lives, the more you will see it in your lives today.

A post shared by  M. Russell Ballard (@mrussellballard) on

Had Howland drowned in the ocean, the lives of key politicians, poets, and religious leaders could have been altered. 

"Think about it for a moment—the existence of these political leaders, poets, and prophets hinged on this one young man finding and grabbing a rope in the ocean and holding on tight to be saved," President Ballard shared. "It was a miracle! I see the hand of the Lord in John Howland’s life."

President Ballard shared this experience to illustrate how we can see the Lord's hand in our lives and the lives of our families and how we should, "Expect it. Do not dismiss it. Do not relegate the experiences in your lives to coincidences."

"As you see the hand of the Lord in your lives, thank Him for it," President Ballard shared. "Please record and share your stories. The more you recognize the Lord’s hand in your lives, the more you will see it in your lives today."

Lead image from Instagram
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