Ezra Taft Benson

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Ezra Taft Benson
Ezra Taft Benson.jpg
13th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
November 10, 1985 (1985-11-10) – May 30, 1994 (1994-05-30)
PredecessorSpencer W. Kimball
SuccessorHoward W. Hunter
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
December 30, 1973 (1973-12-30) – November 10, 1985 (1985-11-10)
End reasonBecame President of the Church
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
October 7, 1943 (1943-10-07) – November 10, 1985 (1985-11-10)
Called byHeber J. Grant
End reasonBecame President of the Church
LDS Church Apostle
October 7, 1943 (1943-10-07) – May 30, 1994 (1994-05-30)
Called byHeber J. Grant
ReasonDeaths of Sylvester Q. Cannon and Rudger Clawson[1]
Reorganization
at end of term
Jeffrey R. Holland ordained
15th United States Secretary of Agriculture
In office
January 21, 1953 – January 20, 1961
PredecessorCharles F. Brannan
SuccessorOrville L. Freeman
Political partyRepublican Party
Personal details
Born(1899-08-04)August 4, 1899
Whitney, Idaho, United States
DiedMay 30, 1994(1994-05-30) (aged 94)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting placeWhitney Cemetery
42°04′40″N 111°50′28″W / 42.0778°N 111.84110°W / 42.0778; -111.84110 (Whitney Cemetery)
SpouseFlora Smith Amussen Benson (1926 - 1992, her death)
ChildrenMark Benson
Reed Benson
Barbara Benson
Beverly Benson
Bonnie Benson
Flora Beth
ParentsGeorge T. Benson
Sarah D. Benson
Signature 
Signature of Ezra Taft Benson
 
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For the Mormon religious leader (1811–1869) and great-grandfather of Ezra Taft Benson, see Ezra T. Benson.
Ezra Taft Benson
Ezra Taft Benson.jpg
edit data
13th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
November 10, 1985 (1985-11-10) – May 30, 1994 (1994-05-30)
PredecessorSpencer W. Kimball
SuccessorHoward W. Hunter
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
December 30, 1973 (1973-12-30) – November 10, 1985 (1985-11-10)
End reasonBecame President of the Church
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
October 7, 1943 (1943-10-07) – November 10, 1985 (1985-11-10)
Called byHeber J. Grant
End reasonBecame President of the Church
LDS Church Apostle
October 7, 1943 (1943-10-07) – May 30, 1994 (1994-05-30)
Called byHeber J. Grant
ReasonDeaths of Sylvester Q. Cannon and Rudger Clawson[1]
Reorganization
at end of term
Jeffrey R. Holland ordained
15th United States Secretary of Agriculture
In office
January 21, 1953 – January 20, 1961
PredecessorCharles F. Brannan
SuccessorOrville L. Freeman
Political partyRepublican Party
Personal details
Born(1899-08-04)August 4, 1899
Whitney, Idaho, United States
DiedMay 30, 1994(1994-05-30) (aged 94)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting placeWhitney Cemetery
42°04′40″N 111°50′28″W / 42.0778°N 111.84110°W / 42.0778; -111.84110 (Whitney Cemetery)
SpouseFlora Smith Amussen Benson (1926 - 1992, her death)
ChildrenMark Benson
Reed Benson
Barbara Benson
Beverly Benson
Bonnie Benson
Flora Beth
ParentsGeorge T. Benson
Sarah D. Benson
Signature 
Signature of Ezra Taft Benson

Ezra Taft Benson (August 4, 1899 – May 30, 1994) was an American farmer and religious leader, serving as United States Secretary of Agriculture during both presidential terms of Dwight D. Eisenhower and as thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1985 until his death.

Biography[edit]

Born on a farm in Whitney, Idaho, Benson was the oldest of eleven children. He was the great-grandson of Ezra T. Benson, who was appointed by Brigham Young a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1846. Benson began his academic career at Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University), where he first met Flora Smith Amussen. The Bensons alternated quarters at USAC and work on the family farm.[2]

Benson served an LDS Church mission in Britain from 1921 to 1923. It was while serving as a missionary, particularly an experience in Sheffield, that caused Benson to realize how central the Book of Mormon was to the Restored Gospel message and converting people to the LDS Church.[2] He later served as president of the Newcastle Conference.

After his mission Benson studied at Brigham Young University and finished his bachelor's degree there in 1926. That year he married Flora Smith Amussen, shortly after her return from a mission in Hawaii. They were the parents of six children. He received his master's degree from Iowa State University. Several years later he did preliminary work on a doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley, but never completed it.

Just after receiving his master's degree he returned to Whitney to run the family farm. He later became the county agriculture extension agent for Oneida County, Idaho. He later was promoted to the supervisor of all county agents and moved to Boise.

In 1930, Benson moved to Boise, Idaho where he worked in the central stake extension office connected with the University of Idaho Extension Service. He also founded a farmers cooperative. He was superintendent of the Boise Stake Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association and later a counselor in the stake presidency. In 1939 he became president of the Boise Idaho Stake. That year he moved to Washington, D.C. to become Executive Secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and became the first president of a new church stake there.[3]

In August 1989, he received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President George H. W. Bush.

Apostle[edit]

In 1943 Benson went to Salt Lake City to ask church leaders for advice on whether to accept a new job. They unexpectedly told him that he would join them.[3] On October 7, 1943, both Benson and Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) became members of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, filling two vacancies created by the deaths of apostles that summer. Because Kimball was ordained first, he was given seniority over Benson in the Quorum. Upon Kimball's death in 1985, Benson became the president of the church in his place.

Political career[edit]

Benson while Secretary of Agriculture

In 1948 Republican presidential nominee Thomas E. Dewey approached Benson before the election that year about becoming the United States Secretary of Agriculture. Although Benson had supported his distant cousin Robert A. Taft over Dwight D. Eisenhower for the 1952 Republican nomination and did not know Eisenhower, after his election Eisenhower nevertheless appointed Benson as Secretary of Agriculture. Benson accepted with the permission and encouragement of church president David O. McKay and therefore served simultaneously in the United States Cabinet and in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.[3]

Benson opposed the system of government price supports and aid to farmers which he was entrusted by Eisenhower to administer, arguing that it amounted to unacceptable socialism. Nonetheless, he served in his cabinet position for all eight years of Eisenhower's presidency. He was selected as the administrator-designate of the Emergency Food Agency, part of a secret group that became known as the Eisenhower Ten. The group was created by Eisenhower in 1958 to serve in the event of a national emergency.

Benson was an outspoken opponent of communism and socialism, and a supporter, but not a member, of the John Birch Society, which he praised as "the most effective non-church organization in our fight against creeping socialism and Godless Communism."[4] He published a 1966 pamphlet entitled "Civil Rights, Tool of Communist Deception".[5][6] In a similar vein, during a 1972 general conference of the LDS Church, Benson recommended that all Mormons read Gary Allen's New World Order tract "None Dare Call it A Conspiracy".[7][8]

Church presidency[edit]

Benson succeeded Kimball as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1973, and as church president in 1985. During his early years as church president, Benson brought a renewed emphasis to the distribution and reading of the Book of Mormon, reaffirming this LDS scripture's importance as "the keystone of [the LDS] religion." He is also remembered for a general conference sermon condemning pride.[9]

Scouting[edit]

Benson was a lifelong supporter of Scouting. He started in 1918 as assistant Scoutmaster. On May 23, 1949 he was elected a member of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America. He received the three highest national awards in the Boy Scouts of America — the Silver Beaver, the Silver Antelope, and the Silver Buffalo — as well as world Scouting’s international award, the Bronze Wolf.[10]

Health problems and death[edit]

Benson suffered poor health in the last years of his life from the effects of blood clots in the brain, dementia, strokes, and heart attacks, and was rarely seen publicly in his final years. He was hospitalized in 1992 and 1993 with pneumonia.

Benson died May 30, 1994 of congestive heart failure in his Salt Lake City apartment at the age of 94. Funeral services were held June 4, 1994 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle and conducted by Gordon B. Hinckley. He was buried near his birthplace in Whitney, Idaho, at the Whitney City Cemetery.

Published works[edit]

Benson also wrote the foreword to The Black Hammer, a book by Wes Andrews and Clyde Dalton. In the foreword, Benson alleges that the civil-rights movement is a communist plot for revolution in America.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Benson and Spencer W. Kimball were ordained on the same date to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve resulting from the deaths of Sylvester Q. Cannon and Rudger Clawson.
  2. ^ a b biographical article on Benson Ensign, July 1994
  3. ^ a b c Pusey, Merlo J. (1956). Eisenhower, the President. Macmillan. pp. 67–69. 
  4. ^ Confounding Fathers: The Tea Party’s Cold War Roots by historian Sean Wilentz, The New Yorker, October 18, 2010
  5. ^ Civil Rights, Tool of Communist Deception by Ezra Taft Benson
  6. ^ Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 2005, ISBN 0-87480-822-7) pp. 72–73, 92–93, 473.
  7. ^ D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26(2):1–87 (Summer 1992) at p. 72.
  8. ^ Fringe Mormon Group Makes Myths with Glenn Beck’s Help by Alexander Zaitchik, Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, Spring 2011, Issue Number: 141.
  9. ^ "Beware of Pride". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  10. ^ Church Educational System (2005). "Chapter 13: Ezra Taft Benson, Thirteenth President of the Church". Presidents of the Church: Student Manual. LDS Church. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Spencer W. Kimball
President of the Church
November 10, 1985 — May 30, 1994
Succeeded by
Howard W. Hunter
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
December 30, 1973–November 10, 1985
Succeeded by
Marion G. Romney
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
October 7, 1943–November 10, 1985
Succeeded by
Mark E. Petersen
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles F. Brannan
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
Served under: Dwight D. Eisenhower

1953–1961
Succeeded by
Orville Freeman