Melvin J. Ballard

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Melvin J. Ballard, Mormon Apostle

Melvin J. Ballard was born in 1873 in Logan, Utah Territory, the child of Henry and Margaret Ballard. His mother, Margaret McNeil Ballard became very ill during her pregnancy with Elder Ballard. While alone in the house one day, she prayed for help, having lost two children as infants and more through miscarriages.

“A voice spoke plainly to her, saying, ‘Be of good cheer. Your life is acceptable, and you will bear a son who will become an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.’” (Sketches from the Life of Margaret McNeil Ballard, p. 3.). When she died, her record of this event was discovered in her personal papers. She had written it down, but hadn’t told anyone about it. She died a year before he was ordained as an apostle.

He graduated from Mormon-owned Brigham Young University in 1884. In 1896, he married Martha A. Jones.

He served a mission while his wife was pregnant with their first son. (Today, missionaries who are married are not sent on missions without their spouses, and serve when they are of retirement age.) He served in the Midwest and in the eastern states. Elder Ballard served as a mission president over the Northwestern States Mission, where he worked to open up missionary work among Native Americans.

In 1917, Elder Ballard had the following experience after praying for guidance about a serious question:

“That night I received a wonderful manifestation and impression which has never left me. I was carried to this place—into this room. I saw myself here with you. I was told there was another privilege that was to be mine; and I was led into a room where I was informed I was to meet someone. As I entered the room I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious being I have ever conceived of, and was taken forward to be introduced to Him. As I approached He smiled, called my name, and stretched out His hands toward me. … He put His arms around me and kissed me, as He took me into His bosom, and He blessed me until my whole being was thrilled. As He finished I fell at His feet, and there saw the marks of the nails; and as I kissed them, with deep joy swelling through my whole being, I felt that I was in heaven indeed. The feeling that came to my heart then was: Oh! If I could live worthy … so that in the end when I have finished I could go into His presence and receive the feeling that I then had in His presence, I would give everything that I am and ever hope to be!” (Melvin R. Ballard, Melvin J. Ballard: Crusader for Righteousness [1966], 66).

Melvin J. Ballard was ordained an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on January 7, 1919. He was given responsibility for the church Music Committee and helped to prepare a new hymnbook.

In 1925, Heber J. Grant, then the president and prophet of the Mormons, sent Melvin J. Ballard, Rey L. Pratt, and Rulan S. Wells to South America to dedicate that land for the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Melvin J. Ballard was an apostle. In the dedication given on Christmas morning, he said, “The work of the Lord will grow slowly for a time here just as an oak grows slowly from an acorn. It will not shoot up in a day as does the sunflower that grows quickly and then dies. But thousands will join the Church here. It will be divided into more than one mission and will be one of the strongest in the Church. The work here is the smallest that it will ever be” (in Melvin R. Ballard, Melvin J. Ballard: Crusader for Righteousness [1966], 84). There were only four Mormons in South America that year. When the three arrived, they found the work very difficult. Newspapers were unwilling to print their ad, so Elder Pratt, who spoke Spanish, created a handbill, which Elder Ballard then distributed to those who would take it. He did not speak Spanish. Elder Pratt used his time translating Church materials into Spanish. Elder Wells had to return home due to illness. For almost eight months, Elder Ballard walked through the streets handing out his handbills, working seven days a week. Despite this effort, only one person was converted. However, the seeds were planted, and today there are many thousands Mormons in South America.

In 1936, Elder Ballard became General Chairman of the Welfare Committee, which was then a new program designed to help Mormons become more self-reliant and to help those who needed temporary assistance in the necessities of life.

After touring the Eastern states to preach the gospel in 1939, he drove himself home and collapsed in his driveway. He was taken to the hospital where he died from leukemia. Just before dying, he rose up on his elbows, and spoke as if the room were full of people, saying, “And above all else, brethren, let us think straight.”

Melvin J. Ballard is the paternal grandfather of M. Russell Ballard, a Mormon apostle today.