SALT LAKE CITY — A top Latter-day Saint leader said the United States is at a “crossroad” and pleaded for prayers on behalf of the country and its leaders during a recent ministry tour through New England, according to a news report from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Our nation was founded on prayer, it was preserved by prayer, and we need prayer again,” said President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — one of the church’s top governing bodies.
“I plead with you this evening to pray for this country, for our leaders, for our people and for the families that live in this great nation founded by God. Remember, this country was established and preserved by our founding fathers and mothers who repeatedly acknowledged the hand of God through prayer,” he said during a Sunday broadcast devotional at an arena in Worcester, a city located about an hour west of Boston.
President Ballard then asked the thousands of Latter-day Saints watching across New England to join a movement of prayer for the country.
“Invite your neighbors, your colleagues, your friends on social media to pray for this country,” he said. “Let it begin today that we take leadership … to pray for this country that we all love much.”
President Ballard noted that his duty as an apostle, or mouthpiece, of God is to share His message. This time, that message included not only words of encouragement and love, but words of warning, he explained.
The 91-year-old church leader said the U.S. and other nations “are at another crossroad.”
Looking for God’s hand in the early history of the U.S. might help American members recognize His hand in their own lives, he added. Those who founded the United States, from the time they signed the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution, relied upon divine providence, he said.
“We must stand boldly for righteousness and truth, and must defend the cause of honor, decency, and personal freedom espoused by Washington, Madison, Adams, Lincoln and other leaders who acknowledged and loved God,” President Ballard said.
The Sunday meeting was broadcast to congregations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The apostle’s supplications concluded his ministry tour of New England where he and fellow apostle Elder D. Todd Christofferson congregated with members in the area and visited sites of early church history, including Sharon, Vermont, the birthplace of church founder Joseph Smith.
"What strikes me is to see the progress of the church here,” Elder Christofferson said. “It’s exciting just to contemplate a couple hundred years later where things have grown to in this location as well as the rest of the world.”
The visit to the historical sites also held a special, personal significance for President Ballard, who is the great-great-nephew of Joseph Smith and great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith, an early church leader and brother to Joseph Smith.
“I can’t get anywhere near this birthplace without having deep affection and love for the prophet Joseph Smith,” said President Ballard, according to a news release from the church.
He also said he felt a personal charge from his ancestors, Joseph and Hyrum.
“I think I hear them say, ‘Get going, boy and do something worthwhile. Tell the world what’s happened,'" he said in a video produced by Church News, his voice catching with emotion.
During their visit to New England, President Ballard and Elder Christofferson also met with young adults, missionaries, local religious leaders and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
In the meeting with Baker, the group spoke about politics, the impact of social media, the power of strong families and the importance of religious freedom.