1. President Ballard comes from a family heritage full of church leadership.
Both of his grandfathers were members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at one point. His paternal grandfather, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, served on the Council of the Twelve from 1919 to 1939. His maternal grandfather, Hyrum Mack Smith, served in the Quorum of the Twelve from 1901 to 1918. Furthermore, President Ballard is related to Prophet Joseph Smith through his grandfather Hyrum.
2. He served his mission in England.
President Ballard was called to serve in England in 1948. After six months he became the president of the Nottingham district. He finished his mission serving as a counselor to President Boyer and to President Richards. Reflecting on his mission experience, he said, “A mission is the greatest thing a young Church member can perform. It not only helps the work of the Lord, but it gives the missionary the emotional and spiritual maturity he needs to face life.”
3. He met his wife at the University of Utah.
After returning home from his mission, President Ballard enrolled at the University of Utah. Just a few days after starting school he met a young student named Barbara Bowen at a dance. He said of this experience, “I had danced with her only two seconds at the ‘Hello Day’ dance, and I knew she was for me.” He married Barbara in the Salt Lake Temple on August 28, 1951.
4. He had a wide variety of business experiences.
Immediately following his mission, President Ballard worked for his father’s car company. His experience branched out into other fields from there. He worked in mining, automotive business, real estate, and other forms of investing.
5. He’s had a variety of church callings.
M. Russell Ballard has served as a bishop and a high councilman in the Mt. Olympus and Monument Park stakes. He served as president of the Canada Toronto Mission from 1974-1976. He was called to be a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy on February 22, 1980. When he met with Presidents Kimball and Tanner to receive this calling, he said, “It was an awesome experience, not only to be invited to become a General Authority but to be in the presence of the prophet of the Lord. It was one of the highlights of our lives to be those two wonderful men. There is no more meaningful, in-depth brotherhood anywhere in the world than among the General Authorities.” He is currently serving as acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
6. He dreamed of sitting behind the pulpit as a young boy.
When President Ballard was a young teenager in the Aaronic Priesthood, he stood by the stairs next to the pulpit in the Conference Center with a friend. Before the General Priesthood meeting started, President George Albert Smith saw they had nowhere to go, and invited them to sit on the stairs by the pulpit during the session. Of the experience, President Ballard said, “I remember that I said to my friend when we left the conference, “It sure would be nice to be a General Authority, then you would have one of those big red chairs to sit in.” After being called as a General Authority, he said, “I would like to say, my brethren, that I have been sitting in a big red chair for just a few minutes, and the greatest desire of my heart is that I will learn through my obedience and service to become comfortable that big red chair.”