Follow the Prophets

Sweet surprise message from the late President Ballard featured at RootsTech

It wasn’t until the late President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was 11 that he realized his grandfather was “someone very special” to many people.

As the young Russell rode in a car in his grandpa’s funeral cortege in 1939 in Salt Lake City, he saw the street near the Tabernacle jammed with people who had come to honor the life of his grandfather, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, who had served as an Apostle for the final two decades of his life.

“[I] saw the adoration that the people had for my grandfather,” President Ballard said in a video shown at the RootsTech 2024 Family Discovery Day on Saturday, March 2, 2024. “On both sides of the family, both grandfathers were Apostles. I didn’t understand what that meant because in those days my parents were not active [in the Church].”

His maternal grandfather was Elder Hyrum M. Smith (1872–1918).

From that point on, President Ballard said, “I learned everything I could learn about [Grandpa Ballard]. And that stimulated an interest in wanting to learn everything I could about my mother’s father [and] her mother.”

The video, filmed before President Ballard’s death in November 2023, shows him at several important Church historical sites. For it was in these places — the Kirtland Temple and Carthage Jail — where his great-great-grandfather (Hyrum Smith) and great-great uncle (Joseph Smith) worshipped and lost their lives.

President Ballard said knowing your roots helps you better grasp your identity — and pay a necessary debt of gratitude.

“It’s very important for people to seek out and know what they can about those who laid the groundwork for them to have what they have in their lives,” President Ballard said. “It’s a wonderful thing to know about your forefathers, many of which paid a big price for our personal existence in this world. I hope when I die there’ll be a few over there that’ll say thank you for maybe a little good I did along the way. That’s what I’m trying to do is to help where I can.”

You can watch a recap of the entire RootsTech weekend in the video player below.

You can also read more about President Ballard’s message on Church Newsroom.

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