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On Sunday, Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke frankly and powerfully from the BYU Marriott Center to 235 Stakes of the Utah South Area. He called this area of Utah “the heart of the Church,” and quoted from a Gallup Poll that gave the designation to Provo/Orem as the most religious metro area in the United States. Elder Ballard said that the “Saints in Utah helped pump gospel truths through the entire world.” He called the Utah South Area (which extends from Alpine and Heber Valley on the north to St. George on the south) one of the most generously blessed areas in the history of the earth. But he said as the heart it needs regular checkups and he had some recommendations.

He said “I would be shrinking from my duty if I did not warn you of the challenges we face today. There are two powers in the universe. One invites us to choose the right and experience eternal joy and happiness. And the other invites us to choose the opposite, bringing sadness and regret.”

He spoke of a small grove of giant Sequoia trees planted on the BYU campus some 50 years ago. He said these trees can grow to between 164 and 279 feet high in the wild and live to be over a thousand years old. He said “that their unique and resilient bark protects the trees from forest fires and also repel bugs and fungi that can damage and kill a tree.” He then talked of one of these trees that died last year. The campus arborist wanted to know what killed the tree. He found that the construction of the nearby Life Sciences Building shifted the underground aquifer and the feeder roots no longer were able to obtain the water that was needed, therefore the tree died.

Elder Ballard said, “this is a perfect analogy to what happens when stalwart Church members, the very elect from all appearances, seek to stand tall and erect in faith, but die spiritually.” He counseled the Saints to always let their feeder roots obtain their nourishment from the well of living water, even from Jesus Christ.

He then talked about simple, personal habits that keep us “rooted, grounded and connected” to the Lord Jesus Christ. He said these habits seem to be the ones that easily slip away in the rush of our busy lives. He said they include:

Sincere daily prayer.

Faithful fasting.

Regular study and pondering of the scriptures and the words of the living prophets.

Making the Sabbath Day a delight, partaking of the sacrament with humility and always remembering the Savior.

Worshipping in the Temple as often as possible.

Reaching out to the needy, poor, lonely; both those close by and across the world.

Elder Ballard ended with an apostolic testimony and blessing: “This is the Church of Jesus Christ. He is the Head of it. We know His will. We fight His battles. May God bless you, my beloved brothers and sisters to join the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders as we fight the battle, preparing for that day when the Savior and Redeemer of the world will come once again.”