Mormon leader Russell Ballard, the longtime head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died on Sunday at age 95. His death leaves a big hole in the leadership of the church, KUTV in Salt Lake City reports. Ballard held a high position, leading the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as its acting president for almost six years.
It comes at a precarious time for the church with polls showing young Mormons leaving the religion. The church recently agreed to sell almost half of its 4,000 of acres of undeveloped land in a major Kansas City suburb.
“It is a significant leadership loss,” said Paul Reeve, chair of Mormon Studies at the University of Utah. “He is the one that directs the activities and sets the agenda for the Quorum of the Twelve.”
The faith’s most senior apostle, Dallin H. Oaks, currently is serving in the church’s governing First Presidency. With Ballard’s passing, a new apostle will take over the duties of acting president. Next in line is Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, but the 82-year-old has had health struggles of his own, including a lengthy hospital stay earlier this year.
“I think people who are observing this process wonder if Elder Holland will fill the role of acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” Reeve said, “or if it will become Dieter F. Uchtdorf, the next person in line, simply because of health issues.”
Reeve said a similar scenario happened in the 1980s. At the time, senior apostle Marion G. Romney was in failing health. Howard W. Hunter was next in line, and he took over as acting president of the quorum because Romney was unable to fill the role. Hunter eventually became leader of the church.
The church has not released any information yet about when a new acting president of the Twelve will take over. “My expectation would be that the announcement would be made within weeks, probably, in terms of who becomes the next acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” Reeve said.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney called President Ballard “a great leader, a spiritual giant and a dear friend,” and said the church leader had offered him and his wife personal counsel. “To him we owe decades of our extraordinary journey through life,” he said. “United with his beloved wife Barbara, he is home again.”
Utah Sen. Mike Lee said President Ballard’s life “was a testament to his devoted service to the church and its members.” He said the apostle’s “legacy of service and love” will continue to bless people.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice
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