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  , 2004

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Elder Ballard and Elder Jensen Address Atlanta Members

By David Winters

Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Marlin K. Jensen joined the saints in the Atlanta area on November 18, 2000 for a missionary meeting involving the full-time missionaries, ward mission leaders, Relief Society presidents, bishops, and stake presidents.  Both men, along with Sister Ballard, bore fervent testimony of the Savior and encouraged those in attendance to use a 'balanced effort' in building the kingdom in the Atlanta area.

Elder Jensen defined 'balanced effort' as members, leaders, missionaries, and stake missionaries all joining together to convert those seeking the truth, to retain converts, and to activate members of the Church. Elder Jensen emphasized that preaching the gospel with the Spirit is an essential element of all three of those activities.  In order to convert individuals, ordained individuals must "preach [the] gospel with the Spirit, even the Comforter" (see D&C 50:13-14).  Elder Jensen told a story of an elder who took that scripture to heart.  Elder Jensen had asked the young missionary if he had any questions for him.  Elder Jensen was touched to the core when the missionary asked, "When I talk with you, do you feel the Spirit?"

We learn in the Book of Mormon how to retain members of the Church.  In Moroni 6:4 we learn that new converts "were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way..." Elder Jensen explained that the 'word' is the gospel (see JST John 1:1).  Quoting Elder Packer, Elder Jensen stated, "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior" (see Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).

To activate current members of the Church, Elder Jensen said we could learn from Alma's mission to the Zoramites:

And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just--yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them--therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God (Alma 31:5).

Sister Ballard focused the majority of her brief remarks on the current President of the Atlanta Mission, Michael J. Glauser.  President Glauser had been an assistant to the president in Canada when Elder Ballard was called as Mission President there.  She spoke of some of the experiences they had shared together in Canada.  She closed with her testimony of the Savior and of the Church.

Elder M. Russell Ballard focused his remarks on how we should work to achieve a 'balanced effort.'  He shared a story of when he was in England for a stake conference.  He noticed a sister walking by with a tray of juice and biscuits to serve to members of the stake presidency between conference sessions.  Elder Ballard asked who she was.  She responded that she was the Stake Relief Society President.  Elder Ballard then asked her how she enjoyed her calling.  She said, "Do you really want to know?"  She then stated, "When will the brethren learn that the women of the Church can do more than wait on tables?"  Elder Ballard went on to say that that experience inspired him to write a book on councils (i.e. Counseling With Our Councils).

Elder Ballard encouraged the bishops to involve the sisters more fully in council meetings.  The ward council should be focused on "building the Kingdom of God."  Referring to his October Conference address, Elder Ballard encouraged bishops to hold ward council meetings as often as they were needed:

Perhaps in some cases, holding council meetings only once a month will not be sufficient to focus on the spiritual conversion of members and nonmembers alike who are under your ministering care. You are free to meet in council as often as deemed necessary. (Now Is the Time -- October 2000 Conference address).

"People need to feel they are part of the family of God," Elder Ballard counseled.  "Through ward councils we can reach out to individuals so they know that they are part of that family."

Elder Ballard closed by saying, "This is the Lord's work.  As we invite him into the work, we will reap great rewards." He bore his testimony of the Savior and promised that as we joined together in a balanced effort, the Atlanta mission could achieve its vision of converting over a 100 individuals each month.