News Release

Apostle Building Bridges of Understanding in New York City

President Ballard visits foreign diplomats and Rabbi Soloveichik

President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, visited the United Nations Friday morning in New York City, meeting with representatives from the office of the president of the U.N. General Assembly.

Downloadable video from Friday U.N. visit: B-roll | SOTs
Downloadable b-roll from Saturday visits with diplomats and NAACP representatives
Downloadable SOTs from interview with President Ballard and Elder Gerard

The meeting came as part of a three-day trip to New York where the 91-year-old Church leader is meeting with government diplomats, faith leaders, national media and local Latter-day Saints. President Ballard was joined by Elder Jack N. Gerard, General Authority Seventy.

“This is a very important place for people of all nations, all cultures, to gather together and try to resolve worldwide problems in the lives of our Heavenly Father‘s children,” said President Ballard. “It’s possible to fix things if everybody that sits in these seats, when they’re together, can think in terms of what is best for the human family and not necessarily what they’re just concerned about for their own constituency.”

During a meeting between President Ballard and His Excellency Dr. Jerobeam Shaanika, deputy chef de cabinet of the 74th General Assembly of the United Nations, the pair discussed several shared priorities including eradicating hunger and poverty and improving education.

“The meeting was very fruitful, and we discussed the way and manner in which we can cooperate,” said Shaanika, adding the visit was about building “bridges of understanding and, of course, tolerance and cooperation with faith-based organizations because they have a role to play.”

President Ballard also met Friday with Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and toured his Congregation Shearith Israel (the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States).

The meeting with Rabbi Soloveichik is the latest in a long line of interfaith outreach efforts by senior leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just this year, President Russell M. Nelson visited Pope Francis at the Vatican, engaged in constructive dialogue with several Muslim leaders from New Zealand and Saudi Arabia, and welcomed the affable archbishop of New York to Temple Square.

The Church’s association with Rabbi Soloveichik goes back several years. In 2017, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on marriage at an interfaith gathering hosted by the Congregation Shearith Israel. And in 2016, Rabbi Soloveichik joined a Latter-day Saint and Jewish delegation in Jerusalem to commemorate the 175th anniversary of an early Church apostle’s journey to the Holy Land.

Later Friday afternoon the Apostle met with Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United Nations, Rodrigo Alberto Carazo Zeledón. Their meeting focused on a variety of topics including freedom of religion, family history work and how to address the increasing polarization in society.

President Ballard also participated in separate interviews Friday with journalists from the Associated Press and the New York Times.

“We’ve had a very open and candid dialogue. We’ve had a chance to explain without hesitation who we are,” said President Ballard. “There’s always some risk when you are willing to put yourself in front of the press, but I think our experiences so far today have been very positive.”


The apostle’s busy schedule continued Saturday with meetings with the Mexico ambassador to the United States, Martha Bárcena; the consul general of Mexico in New York, Dr. Jorge Islas Lopez; Niger ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.), Abdou Abarry; and the Economic Community of West African States representative to the U.N., Kone Tanou Leon.

In addition, he visited with representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a group with which the Church has developed a deep and meaningful relationship. The groups have met several times to pursue joint education efforts in Chicago and San Francisco and other initiatives in Houston and Charlotte. They have customized the Church’s self-reliance services materials and programs to be most effective for the initiative.

“Today was just super special,” said Karen Boykin-Towns, NAACP national board vice chair, of her meeting with President Ballard. “We continue to deepen the relationship and the partnership and [are] really excited that the self-reliance projects that we had started…earlier this year did fantastic.” She said the organization plans to expand the program to additional locations in 2020. 

President Ballard and Elder Gerard also spoke Saturday evening at a devotional at the Church’s Lincoln Square building. 

President Ballard called his trip to New York a “special time.” At each visit, he said that he tried to share a message that will help people’s lives. 

“Many of the problems of this world, wherever people may live, will be lessened and maybe even eliminated,” said President Ballard, “as they really turn their hearts to the Savior of the world.”

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