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In general sessions and devotionals, President Ballard cited speeches, poems, and other literary works sixteen times

President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, walks next to the River Ribble in England on Oct. 27, 2021.

President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, walks next to the River Ribble in England on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

On Sunday night, President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died at age 95.

President Ballard served as a general authority in the church for nearly five decades. Throughout his life, he showed devotion to God, his family, a love of missionary work, the ability to build bridges between faith communities and above all, faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, as Jay Evensen wrote for the Deseret News.

Throughout his tenure as a senior leader for the church, President Ballard offered sermons that touched the lives and hearts of millions of members. He quoted liberally from the scriptures and had a special gift for including words from the Prophet Joseph Smith and his contemporaries.

In these sermons, President Ballard also would quote poets, both famous and unknown, as well as literary works and world leaders. Here’s a list of 16 of these references compiled from general conference addresses and BYU Speeches.

‘The Oak Tree’ by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr.

VIDEO: Praise to the Man | M. Russell Ballard | October 2023 General Conference
General Conference
I like this poem; it applies to all of us. It is entitled The Oak Tree by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr.

A mighty wind blew night and day.

It stole the oak tree’s leaves away,

Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark

Until the oak was tired and stark.

But still the oak tree held its ground


Until today, I wasn’t sure

Of just how much I could endure.

But now I’ve found, with thanks to you,

I’m stronger than I ever knew.

My beloved young brothers and sisters, be like the strong oak tree. Come to know how strong you are. Push your faith and trust in God and Christ down deep in gospel soil. Always be aware of the artificial flies being presented to us by the counterfeit fisher of men, Lucifer. May we have the wisdom and spiritual insight to discern and refuse his many dangerous offerings.

Live the doctrine of Christ, the simple and basic principles of the gospel, each day—have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repent, honor the covenant of baptism, live worthy of the Holy Ghost as your companion, and endure to the very end. Do this every day, and the Spirit of the Lord will be with you to keep you safely on the pathway that leads to eternal life.

— Nov. 7, 2010, BYU Devotional, “Follow the Doctrine and Gospel of Christ.”

‘After I Was Sixty’ by Lord Thomson of Fleet

VIDEO: Think Celestial! | Russell M. Nelson | October 2023 General Conference
General Conference
Fact finding sometimes requires patience, time, and very careful consideration. A longtime friend of the Church who has since past away was Lord Thompson of Fleet. Lord Thompson, at the age of sixty-seven, started out to build a great empire. In a very short time, the Thomson Enterprises consisted of 464 different independent businesses. It is one of the most successful business ventures in the entire world. He wrote a book in the twilight of his life and said that we are all averse to thinking; that to be successful, one must think until it hurts. Thinking is the process of worrying about a solution to a problem and considering every possible aspect. He went on to say that if we learn to make good decisions in our youth, we will build up a bank account on which we can draw in later years, and decision-making becomes less painful.

Sloppy, inconclusive thinking becomes a habit. The more one does it, the more one is unfitted to think a problem through to a proper conclusion.

I like those words. We can learn to be careful, fact-oriented thinkers, or we can become sloppy, inconclusive thinkers. We are living in a world which is crying out as never before for sound, solid, well-grounded thinkers.

— Nov. 29, 1983, BYU Devotional, “Let Us Think Straight.”

‘I Have a Dream’ by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

VIDEO: Remember What Matters Most | M. Russell Ballard | April 2023 General Conference
General Conference
In January this country honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the great civil rights leader. Dr. King said the following in his famous I Have a Dream speech, given on August 28, 1963, I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Dr. King dreamed of a day when people would look beyond the narrow categories that often separate us from each other and instead focus on higher ends. He dreamed of a day when his children would be seen for who they are and who they are becoming—for their character. Through discrimination, racism, sexism, and other social ills, we will often impose false identities on others that keep them and us from progressing.

This can stop when we see all people as children of God. We consider every person divine in origin, nature, and potential. Each possesses seeds of divinity. And each is a beloved spirit (child) of heavenly parents.

— March 3, 2020, BYU Devotional, “Children of Heavenly Father.”

‘The Quote Verifier’ by Ralph Keyes

VIDEO: Overcome the World and Find Rest | Russell M. Nelson | October 2022 General Conference
General Conference
Now, mothers, I understand that it sometimes appears that our children aren’t paying attention to the lessons we’re trying to teach them. Believe me—I’ve seen that glazed-over look that comes to the eyes of teenagers just when you’re coming to what you think is the best part of your instruction. Let me assure you that even when you think your daughter is not listening to a thing you say, she is still learning from you as she watches you to see if your actions match your words. As Ralph Waldo Emerson is believed to have said, What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.

— April 2010, General Conference, “Mothers and Daughters.”

‘Vital Quotations’ from William James

VIDEO: Remembering the Life of President M. Russell Ballard
Church Newsroom
Let me share an example from my own life that demonstrates the importance of attitude. When I returned from my first mission, I went to work for my father as a salesman. I was attending the University of Utah and working part-time. I had a bad two-week period in which I earned less than ten dollars. My father handed my paycheck to me at a sales meeting in the presence of all the salesmen.

At the time, I thought he was being very hard on me. But later, I could see that this was his way to help me take a second look at myself. I was having a good time and not paying attention to my sales work. I determined that never again would I be the lowest paid person. My income increased from that day.

Now, what happened? I was selling the same merchandise from the same store in the same season of the year. What had changed? My new attitude made the entire difference. William James said that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.

— April 1981, General Conference, “Providing for Our Needs.”

‘The Winds of Fate’ by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Becoming firmly grounded to these simple truths and focusing your attention on the lessons of eternity will keep your life moving in the right direction at all times and in all situations, regardless of which way the winds of current worldly trends may be blowing.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox made this observation while she was a passenger on a steamship and noticed that one ship went west and another east in the same wind:

One ship drives east and another drives west

With the self-same winds that blow;

’Tis the set of the sails

And not the gales

That tells them the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the winds of fate

As we voyage along through life;

’Tis the set of the soul

That decides its goal

And not the calm or the strife.

Sept 6, 1992, BYU Devotional, “Anchor to the Soul.”

‘Because I Have Been Given Much’ by Grace Noll Crowell

VIDEO: Missionary Service Blessed My Life Forever | M. Russell Ballard | April 2022 General Conference
General Conference
Every member can give his time and talents freely to the building up of the kingdom of God upon the earth. No member of the Church should miss this opportunity to exercise his faith and feel the spirit that comes from humble sacrifice. Seeing the great good that the Saints in South America do with their meager means helps me realize how much more many of us in other parts of the world could do. We should never forget the Savior’s teaching: Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required (Luke 12:48). He has blessed us abundantly. I think of the teaching words of one of our hymns:

Because I have been given much, I too must give;

Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live

I shall divide my gifts from thee

With ev’ry brother that I see

Who has the need of help from me

Oct. 1987, General Conference, “Sacrifice and Self-Sufficiency.”

‘Vicki Ann’ by Ed Joyner, unpublished

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Called to Share
Just this month a lovely family shared with me this poem written for their little girl:

She looks into the world darkly,

Though spiritual things do not hide.

Chosen to affliction bear,

As viewed from the mortal side.

Her spirit is not burdened;

To Heavenly Father she’s perfectly whole.

Who, and how great she is,

On this side, cannot be told.

She’s a very special spirit,

In a very special place.

Those who have looked upon her,

Have seen an angel’s face.

I stand in awe when I consider the great confidence Heavenly Father has placed in you and me when he allows us the privilege of being the mortal fathers and mothers to his eternal spirit offspring. We must never forget that he has a vested interest in every one of us, and we must realize how important each human soul is in God’s eternal plan. When we understand the importance of each soul, we can go before him confidently in prayer to seek his guidance and direction in our sacred assignment as parents. He said, This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). This seems to me to best sum up the important role that mortal parents have in the great eternal plan of life for each member of our families.

— Oct., 1978, General Conference, “Spiritual Development.”

‘Poor Richard’s Almanac’ by Benjamin Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin said, Where sense is wanting, everything is wanting (Poor Richard’s Almanac). Not using common sense can be fatal. Consider the pharmacist who was compounding a prescription that called for as much strychnine as you could put on the face of a dime. He didn’t have a dime so he used two nickels. We don’t need that kind of common sense. I could tell you story after story after story of those kinds of exercises of common sense. What I hope happens in your thinking process, as you study and try to become the very best you, is that you learn to think straight, the foundation being the building of a bank that causes you to instinctively have good judgment and common sense.

— Nov. 29, 1983, BYU Devotional, “Let Us Think Straight.”

‘All the Water in the World’ by unknown

VIDEO: “Lord, I Believe”
General Conference
I like this simple little poem:

All the water in the world

No matter how it tried

Could never sink the smallest ship

Unless it got inside.

All the evil of the world

And every kind of sin

Could never damn a human soul

Unless we let it in.

We can live in the world, brothers and sisters, without letting the world into us. We have the gospel message that can carry men and women buoyantly through the mist of darkness (1 Ne. 8:23) to the source of all light. We can raise children who have been taught to discern and to make personal righteous decisions.

— April 1989, General Conference, “The Effects of Television.”

‘How Great Thou Art’ by Carl Boberg

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Elliot Morrell
Astronauts viewing the earth from space have stated how incredibly beautiful it is and how alive it appears. United States Senator Jake Garn wrote of his experience in space: It is impossible for me to describe the beauty of the earth. It is a breathtaking, awe-inspiring, spiritual experience to view the earth from space while traveling at twenty-five times the speed of sound. I could also look into the blackness of the vacuum of space and see billions of stars and galaxies millions of light-years away. The universe is so vast as to be impossible to comprehend. But I did comprehend the hand of God in all things. I felt his presence throughout my seven days in space. I know that God created this earth and the universe. I know that we are his children wherever we live on the earth, without regard to our nationality or the color of our skin. Most important, I know that God lives and is the Creator of us all (letter to M. Russell Ballard, March 2, 1988).

Again, the words of the hymn came to mind:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder

Consider all the worlds thy hands have made,

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy pow’r thruout the universe displayed;

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee,

How great thou art! How great thou art!

— April 1988, General Conference, “God’s Love for His Children.”

‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo

VIDEO: The Answer Is Always Jesus Christ | Russell M. Nelson | April 2023 General Conference
General Conference
Grateful and humbled, Jean vows to live a life of service to God and his fellowmen. Years later, in a case of mistaken identity, a man is brought to trial in Valjean’s place. Jean now must make a seemingly impossible choice. He reviews in his mind the consequences if he chooses to step forward, identify himself, and serve his own sentence. By now, he has become very successful. He employs thousands; they will be jobless. He is the mayor; his town will suffer. He has been benefactor to many; they will have no advocate. Surely he is justified if he remains silent. From the depth of his soul, we hear the song’s refrain:

Can I condemn this man to slavery,

Pretend I do not see his agony, …

Can I conceal myself forevermore?

If speak I am condemned. If I stay silent,

I am damned.

And out of despair we hear his decision:

My soul belongs to God, I know.

I made that bargain long ago.

He gave me hope when hope was gone.

He gave me strength to journey on.

Faced with the ageless question Who am I? and recognizing that if he does not speak, the one betrayed will be himself, he answers, Who am I? I’m Jean Valjean!

Now, my dear sisters, each one of you will be required repeatedly to ask the question Who am I? I know of no better answer for the women of the Church than the one found in the Young Women theme.

— Oct. 1991, General Conference, “Be an Example of the Believers.”

‘I Saw Tomorrow Passing On Little Children’s Feet’ by unknown

VIDEO: Peacemakers Needed | Russell M. Nelson | April 2023 General Conference
General Conference
I said to the audience that perhaps the world’s troubles could be solved if we could turn over the leadership of nations to the children for a few days. Through love they would find solutions to the misunderstandings, mistrust, and misconduct of adults in the world. I had the clear impression that night that if all men and women could love Jesus Christ as these lovely children do, many world problems could be solved. Sooner, perhaps, than we realize, the fate of nations will be in the hands of today’s children. An anonymous author penned it this way:

I saw tomorrow passing on little children’s feet

And on their forms and faces her prophecies complete.

And then I saw tomorrow look at me through little children’s eyes.

And I thought how carefully I must teach if I am wise!

— April 1991, General Conference, “Teach the Children.”

‘Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace’ by St. Francis of Assisi

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General Conference
Once we have tasted the sweet fruit of God’s peace, we are naturally inclined to share it with others. Francis of Assisi was known as the lover of creation who lived most of his life ministering to the poor and the needy who were around him—including the animals. The peace he found in his service energized him and made him yearn to embrace others with it. He wrote:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

On more than one occasion, the Lord urged His followers to be peacemakers, promising that such would be called the children of God.

— April 2002, General Conference, “The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom.”

‘I Stand All Amazed’ by Charles H. Gabriel

VIDEO: In the Path of Their Duty | David A. Bednar | October 2023 General Conference
General Conference
We often sing a hymn that expresses what I feel when I consider the Savior’s benevolent, atoning sacrifice:

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,

Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.

I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,

That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind, is not dead. He lives—the resurrected Son of God lives—that is my testimony, and He guides the affairs of His Church today.

— April 2004, General Conference, “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul.”

‘Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln’ by Abraham Lincoln

VIDEO: “Then Will I Make Weak Things Become Strong” | Kevin S. Hamilton | April 2022 General Conference
General Conference
The Holy Bible is well named. It is holy because it teaches truth, holy because it warms us with its spirit, holy because it teaches us to know God and understand His dealings with men, and holy because it testifies throughout its pages of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Abraham Lincoln said of the Bible: This Great Book … is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong.

It is not by chance or coincidence that we have the Bible today. Righteous individuals were prompted by the Spirit to record both the sacred things they saw and the inspired words they heard and spoke. Other devoted people were prompted to protect and preserve these records. Men like John Wycliffe, the courageous William Tyndale, and Johannes Gutenberg were prompted against much opposition to translate the Bible into language people could understand and to publish it in books people could read. I believe even the scholars of King James had spiritual promptings in their translation work.

— April 2007, General Conference, “The Miracle of the Holy Bible.”


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