“Elder J Ballard Washburn Of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 1990, 108
Sitting in a testimony meeting as a little boy in his hometown of Blanding, Utah, J Ballard Washburn heard his stake patriarch explain that the members of the Church in that area were there not just to raise cattle and go about other worldly business, but to take the gospel to the Lamanites. “His comment touched a chord in my heart,” says Elder Washburn.
That chord was to be touched again and again as the little boy grew to manhood, became a foster parent to Lamanite children, and eventually was called to preside over the Arizona Phoenix Mission—a mission that encompasses three Indian reservations and part of a fourth. He had a few months left to complete that mission when he was called as a member of the Seventy.
Born 18 January 1929, J Ballard Washburn served from 1948 to 1950 in the New England Mission under Elder S. Dilworth Young. “I learned from him that you have to give the missionaries experiences that will teach them to love the Savior,” he says. “I’ve tried to do that as a mission president.”
Elder Washburn learned to love the Savior early in life. “As a boy, I worked one summer on a ranch. We couldn’t go into town on the weekends, so I spent the time reading a small, pocket-sized edition of the New Testament. That summer, I felt I got to know the Savior. More particularly, I also felt that he knew me. It was another spiritual moment in my life that helped build my testimony.”
One of ten children, Elder Washburn was a small boy when his father, Alvin, died. “My mother, Wasel Black Washburn, moved the family to Provo, Utah, so that all the children could go to school. She also made sure that we all went to Brigham Young University. After she put us through college, she went to school herself and graduated from BYU.”
As a freshman student, Elder Washburn majored in music, but on his return from his mission, he switched to medicine and became a doctor, but not before marrying Barbara Harries in 1951 in the Salt Lake Temple.
“We met at BYU,” explains Sister Washburn. “I was born in Salt Lake City, but my family moved to Columbus, Ohio. I went to Ohio State University and then transferred to BYU.”
After completing his professional training at the University of Utah Medical School, Elder Washburn set up practice as a family doctor in Page, Arizona. “My profession has helped build my testimony,” he says, “because it’s based on service. Not many professions can offer that opportunity.” Part of that service has included delivering two generations of babies.
The Washburns are familiar with babies. They’ve had ten of their own: two girls—Kay (Pearce) and Rebecca (Rudder); and Mark, Jay, Andrew, James, Richard, David, Daniel, and Joseph. Joseph is in the Missionary Training Center preparing to serve in the Italy Rome Mission. All his brothers and sisters have served missions, the first five overlapping. “We went through a period of seven years before the family was all together again,” says Sister Washburn.
In addition to their own children, the Washburns have had twelve foster Indian children in their home over the years, some for just a few months and some for longer stays.
Being active in Church callings—including counselor in a bishopric, stake president, and regional representative—Elder Washburn still has had time to serve twenty years on a school board. He also enjoys music and basketball.
His life of activity will serve him well. “I think he brings the attributes of hard work and obedience to his new calling,” says Sister Washburn. “He has always been obedient to the Lord and to the Brethren.” That obedience has developed a strong testimony. “I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior,” he says. “He loves us.”