Ballantyne was born on August 26, 1817, in Whitridgebog, Scotland. He was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ in December 1842 and he and members of his family joined the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1843. After his marriage to Hulda Mariah Clark, they immigrated to Utah with the Pioneers.
He had been a Sunday School teacher in the Relief Presbyterian Church in his native Scotland and felt a spiritual call to establish a Sunday School and teach children the gospel. After receiving permission from his bishop, he added a room to his home and held the first meeting on December 9, 1849, with about fifty children in attendance. Eventually the children’s Sunday School was moved to the Salt Lake 14th Ward building and Ballantyne formed other Sunday Schools in the Salt Lake Valley as well as Weber and Juab counties. Sunday School was organized churchwide in 1867. he also founded a Sunday School for the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind.
In addition to his work with children in the Church, he organized the Eden School District and became a Weber County Commissioner. He also served on the Ogden City Council. He had many business ventures, including merchandising, railroads, and a newspaper.
Ballantyne was called to serve a mission to India in 1852, where he served for three years.
He was the father of twenty-three children, having practiced plural marriage with three wives. He died on November 8, 1898, in Ogden, Utah.