President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and Elder Quentin L. Cook have all returned to what could be called their old “stomping grounds”—the British Isles.
Each of these senior Apostles served their missions as young men in these countries that are rich with Church missionary history. President Ballard arrived at the British Isles in 1948, and Elder Holland and Elder Cook were companions in 1962. During a trip that must have been full of nostalgia and tender memories, each Apostle reflected on their love for the land and their gratitude for their missions.
“I read the Book of Mormon with real intent on the RMS Queen Elizabeth coming across the Atlantic,” President Ballard told Church News. “What a tremendous thing my first mission was. It changed me.”
All three men consider the land their spiritual home. Elder Holland commented, “Physically, I was born in the United States. … But spiritually, I was born on this green and scepter’d isle.” He added later how special it was to be back with President Ballard and Elder Cook. Read about the messages they delivered to missionaries this week in Church News.
Over the years, all three Apostles have shared special experiences from their missions. Perhaps some of those memories have been especially fresh on their minds as they’ve spent time together in the countries that hold such a special place in their hearts. Read a few of our favorite stories below.
The High and Lows for President Ballard
Excerpted from Anxiously Engaged: The Biography of M. Russell Ballard.
On August 26, 1948, Elder Ballard wrote, “The roughest day tracting I have had since I came to the field. We had five doors slammed in succession, and I sure felt as if the world had come to an end.” It was not until two weeks later, on September 7, that he wrote:
“We can now see some of the fruits of our labors. Today a gentleman came up to us and said, ‘Are you two Mormon elders?’ We answered him, ‘Yes.’ He took one of our tracts and stated that he would contact the elders in Nottingham. He was a man who was really looking for the truth. He knew that none of the churches in England were the true church. He wanted to know about the LDS Church and the Book of Mormon.”
On another occasion, Elder Ballard and his companion were walking through the famous hedgerows in Hucknall. Elder Ballard had the distinct impression to go and visit Sister Hayes. “It was late,” he said of the impression, “and we decided it was probably inappropriate to go visiting right then.” So, first thing in the morning he and his companion knocked on the door of the Hayes home. Sister Hayes, with tears in her eyes, greeted them and said, “Elders, thank you for coming. I have been praying all night that you would come.” She asked Elder Ballard and his companion to bless her daughter Kathleen, who was suffering from a high fever. “We did and immediately her fever broke,” Elder Ballard said.
And so, the experiences of his mission changed from day to day. Whether tracting in the rain, holding street meetings or cottage meetings, suffering from stomachaches, teaching Relief Society, or listening to a man rant and rave about nothing, Elder Ballard knew that these were experiences he would never have known if he had not chosen to serve a mission.
Read more about President Ballard’s mission here: ‘That sweet and tender missionary experience’: M. Russell Ballard’s service in England
Elder Holland and Elder Cook as Companions
Deseret News shared the following account of Elder Holland and Elder Cook’s time as companions:
Most of their missionary work was centered in the greater London area, where they came to know Exhibition Road, the Hyde Park Chapel and the London Temple. One memory that stands out for both men was when an ill President David O. McKay came to dedicate the Hyde Park Chapel. The whole mission prayed that he would be able to dedicate the chapel and those prayers were answered, said Elder Holland who remembers seeing President McKay, with his distinguished white wavy hair, emerge from a car on Exhibition Road and preside over a wonderful dedicatory service.
Elder Cook wasn’t stationed in London for that event but later saw the prophet when he visited his mother’s humble home in Wales on the same trip.
“He went into his mother’s tiny home, and when he came out he just cried and talked about his precious mother,” Elder Cook said. “I will never forget that.”
As companions, Elder Cook recognized in Elder Holland a “fabulous” talent for teaching the gospel. Elder Holland was equally impressed by Elder Cook’s work ethic and no-nonsense approach. He recalled how Elder Cook recognized something special in one new elder and instead of letting him eat and rest, he immediately took him out to work in the rain. Elder Cook’s example inspired Elder Holland, who called him “the best missionary of our generation.”