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Elder M. Russell Ballard visits Mormons in South America, offers blessing on Argentina

Published: Monday, March 17 2014 12:40 p.m. MDT

Elder M. Russell Ballard and other General Authorities greet participants in a priesthood leadership conference in Buenos Aires.

Photo courtesy of South America South Area

Almost nine decades have passed since Elder Melvin J. Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gathered with a small group in a park in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and dedicated South America for the preaching of the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The year was 1925. Only a handful of members from Europe could be counted in all of South America. Yet after 8 months there, Elder Ballard — an ordained prophet and seer — envisioned a prolific future for the LDS Church across the entire continent:

“The work (in South America) will go forth slowly for a time just as the oak grows slowly from an acorn. It will not shoot up in a day as does the sunflower that grows quickly and thus dies. Thousands will join here. It will be divided into more than one mission and will be one of the strongest in the church. The work here is the smallest that it will ever be. The day will come when the Lamanites here in South America will get the chance. The South American Mission will become a power in the church.”

The ongoing fulfillment of Elder Melvin J. Ballard’s prophecy remains one of the miracles of the restored LDS Church. Today there are some 4.5 million members living in South America. Fourteen temples operate on all ends of the continent — from Caracas to Buenos Aires — and several more are being built.

And as prophesied, there are scores of missions and stakes in the nations of South America.

“The day of the sons and daughters of Lehi is blossoming,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard, a grandson of Elder Melvin J. Ballard. “They will become even more prominent in the world as we watch what the Lord is doing with that seed.”

The younger Elder Ballard has been a frequent visitor to Argentina and to all of South America. He recently returned for a Feb. 13-24 visit to the South America South Area.

He was joined on his trip by his wife, Sister Barbara Ballard, along with Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Melanie Rasband.

While in southern South America, Elder Ballard and Elder Rasband presided at a variety of gatherings — including priesthood leadership conferences, stake conferences, missionary meetings, a seminar for mission presidents and their wives, a young single adult devotional and a meeting with local Area Seventies.

They were joined at several functions by the South America South Area Presidency: Elder Walter F. Gonzalez, Elder Jorge F. Zeballos and Elder Francisco J. Vinas and their wives, Sister Zulma Gonzalez, Sister Carmen Zeballos and Sister Cristina Vinas.

Joined with local leaders and their wives, and at the direction of the First Presidency, Elder Ballard dedicated the land of Argentina and promised a blessing on the country. Although there may have been an Apostle’s earlier dedication, there is no record of such in the LDS Church. Elder Ballard said “it was a great honor for me to dedicate and record a blessing for Argentina, a very special place for all of the Ballard family.”

It has been 89 years since Elder Melvin J. Ballard labored in Argentina, however the Ballard family name remains respected and loved across the continent, said Elder Rasband.

“To see that grandfather/grandson connection was very moving,” he added. “I was able to watch the eyes of the people as they paid close attention to whatever Elder Ballard said. It was a wonderful connection.”

Much has changed since Melvin J. Ballard visited Argentina. His travels from Salt Lake City to Buenos Aires demanded more than 30 days on a ship. Now an apostle can fly from church headquarters to Argentina in less than a day.