Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke at the Ogden LDS Institute Aug. 24.

OGDEN — Live a Christ-anchored life. Make time for self-evaluation. Find and befriend a lonesome person. Say thanks to your parents. Don’t forget to pray. And never take life too seriously — it’s OK to have fun.

Sounds like the sort of advice a man with a life’s worth of experience might share with his grandchildren. And in many ways, Elder M. Russell Ballard’s devotional Sunday at the Ogden LDS Institute was just that — an evening filled with gently directed and often humorous counsel.

Classes start soon for students at Weber State University. On Sunday, several thousand decided to kick off their fall semester by spending the evening with Elder Ballard, a member of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The veteran leader anticipated that many in his audience expected to hear some sort of counsel on marriage. So he offered some advice to the many “handsome men” in attendance.

“Get busy, find your companion and get married,” he said, drawing laughter.

Elder Ballard said that when he was a young college student and courting his future wife, Barbara, he asked her out on dates either face-to-face or over the telephone. Texting an invitation for a date was not an option then — and it remains a poor option today, he said.

“Pick up the telephone and be a real live person on the other end.”

Busy college students also need to find time to keep their “spiritual sensitivities” sharp, he added. Stay connected to the scriptures, to fellow ward members and to family members.

Elder Ballard then told the students that many unknown responsibilities and duties await them. Don’t do anything that would delay or undermine such opportunities.

“You are preparing yourself for those things that, over time, will prove to matter most,” he said.

He warned of the dangers of pornography and emphasized the importance of setting worthwhile priorities.

“If you stay anchored to the gospel of Jesus Christ, I promise that you will not have any challenge that you can’t deal with.”

Learn now the lifelong skill of properly managing finances and look out for people who are alone and need a friend, he counseled.

“There shouldn’t be anyone on this campus that is lonely,” he said.

Remember, he added, to stay in regular contact with parents. Let them know you are thankful for all they do.

Exercise, relax and don’t forget to have fun. “Never get so serious that you don’t have a chance to laugh or see the funny side of something.”

Elder Ballard concluded with an apostolic invitation to take “the journey to Gethsemane.”

Come to know the Lord by studying the scriptures and those essential moments in the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ atoned for the sins of the world, he said.

“You will have an experience that will change your life forever.”

Jesus Christ, he added, wants to be your friend. Let him in. “Turn your eyes to Gethsemane and you will find inner strength and power to carry on and do whatever it is that faces you.”

Weber State University President Charles A. White also shared brief remarks at the devotional. He welcomed the students back to school and challenged them to prioritize their busy lives. Have fun, he said, but don’t waste time on trivial matters.

“Take care of yourself spiritually and physically."