Nov 14, 2023 - News

Latter-day Saint apostle M. Russell Ballard dies

M. Russell Ballard sits in a dark suit and blue striped tie

M. Russell Ballard in 2017. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

M. Russell Ballard, a top leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Sunday at age 95.

Details: Ballard was acting president of the church's leading Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and was a general authority in the church for 47 years.

  • He became an apostle in 1985.
  • He previously worked in car sales and real estate.

What they're saying: Ballard "was never indecisive," church president Russell M. Nelson said in a news release. "He knew exactly what the Lord taught and how it could be applied in one's personal life and bring joy and happiness."

Flashback: Gov. Spencer Cox declared July 23, 2021, "President M. Russell Ballard Day" in Utah for his role in shaping new attractions at This Is the Place Heritage Park and advocacy for Utah's Days of '47 celebrations and rodeo arena.

Context: With Ballard's death, the church is "entering only the second era in which there are no Smith family members as apostles," Mormon historian Benjamin Park wrote on X.

  • "Just a reminder how despite how global and large the Latter-day Saint church has become, it is still not too far from its origins as a family faith," Park wrote.

Zoom in: Ballard helped develop the church handbook "Preach My Gospel," which guides how the faith's missionaries teach prospective converts.

Of note: In the weeks before his death, Ballard became central in the controversies surrounding anti-sex-trafficking crusader Tim Ballard (no relation) and the nonprofit he founded, Operation Underground Railroad.

  • In September, church officials said Tim Ballard "betrayed" M. Russell Ballard by allegedly claiming the apostle endorsed Tim Ballard's business ventures, per a written statement the church shared with Axios.
  • The statement acknowledged Tim Ballard and the apostle were friends, but accused Tim Ballard of "unauthorized use" of the apostle's name for his "personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable."
  • Last month, Tim Ballard was accused of sexual misconduct in a lawsuit filed by five women who worked with OUR's missions.

The latest: In new documents filed last week, the plaintiffs alleged that M. Russell Ballard and other church leaders provided tithing information about wealthy potential donors to OUR.

  • The church said the apostle "never released tithing records" to the nonprofit.

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