Over the last 48 years, President M. Russell Ballard, who was Acting President of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has given 89 general conference addresses.
His very first message was only three-and-a-half minutes long.
According to Church News, in April 1976, President Ballard and his wife had been leading the Toronto Canada Mission when he and three other brethren were called and sustained to the Seventy. Then-President Marion G. Romney was unable to give his message at the Saturday evening priesthood session, so the four men—M. Russell Ballard, Carlos E. Asay, John H. Groberg, and Jacob de Jager—were all called on to share their testimonies.
“No notes, no preparation, just called on,” President Ballard told Church News. “I was told I had four minutes … . I have no idea what I said; I think it was OK—nobody got after me, so I guess I did all right.”
“[Elder] Paul Dunn [of the Seventy]...—a very dear friend—he had overheard that the four of us were going to get called on, and he called me over and he said, ‘Russ, I want to tell you something. ... When you get up to the pulpit, there’s a little man that stands on the side and puts cotton balls in your mouth.’ What he was saying is, ‘Your mouth, you’re gonna get so dry, you’re going to wonder how you’re going to even say any words.’ You have to understand—Paul Dunn had such great wits. Funny man.”
You can watch President Ballard’s first general conference address in the player below or read a transcript of his message here.
In a Church News podcast, President Ballard shared how he hopes members of the Church prepare for general conference.
“Well, I would hope you get all your fussing done so that you could have a little quiet time for the two days and be able to listen to what will be presented. I don’t think the membership of the Church have any idea how much prayer and effort goes into the preparation of a general conference talk by a general authority. And it’s not that we’re interested about being eloquent, but we are desperately interested in being able to tell and say to the Church membership what the Lord would like to have them hear in this day and time in which we’re living. It’s His Church. It has to be His voice that is being sent out to the world ... the best way we know how to do it.”
You can also read more about President Ballard’s insights on past conferences, sustaining Church leaders, and writing conference talks on the Church News podcast in the player below.