In recognition of Latter-day Saint leader M. Russell Ballard’s “lifelong commitment and advocacy for the Days of ’47 organization and new rodeo arena,” Gov. Spencer Cox declared July 23, 2021, to be M. Russell Ballard Day in Utah.
More than 50 attendees — including members of Ballard’s large clan (seven children, 43 grandchildren, and 99 great-grandchildren) and some state leaders — crowded Thursday into the Gold Room at the Capitol for the ceremony and to hear about Ballard’s work.
Cox read the declaration about Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which praised the 92-year-old leader for:
• His continuing support of This Is the Place Heritage Park.
• His push to “share the story of the sovereign tribal nations” at the park, especially “the creation of a Native American village there.”
• His highlighting of Utah settlers’ “hard work, responsibility, faith, resilience, vision and perseverance.”
• His help with creating the “Walk of Pioneer Faiths” to note the contributions of members of the “Catholic, Jewish, Congregational, Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Greek Orthodox faiths,” along with the LDS Church.
• His continual work as “a bridge builder among people of all faiths and walks of life.”
Cox was followed by a parade of speakers, who lauded Ballard for his interfaith efforts (Pamela Atkinson, a Presbyterian and advocate for the homeless), his support of This Is the Place (Ellis Ivory, CEO of the state park), and his determination to maintain the Pioneer Day rodeo (Utah entrepreneur Kem Gardner, who quipped that if God was leading Mormon pioneers to Utah, why didn’t they arrive in September? “July is too hot for a rodeo”).
Scott Anderson, CEO and president of Zions Bank, called Ballard an “ardent champion of our community, our people, our state and our history,” and presented the senior Latter-day Saint apostle with a Navajo medicine man shawl as a “symbol of our love for you.”
For his part, Ballard expressed gratitude for his friends, supporters and the honor.
“I sometimes wonder when I am alone — [wife] Barbara’s not with me; she’s been gone for three years — have I done any good in the world today?”
He was embarrassed to have an M. Russell Ballard Day (“I don’t know what that means”) but thanked all those who have made Utah “the best state in the country.”