Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ezra Taft Benson

Ezra Taft Benson
Biographical Sketch:
Born on August 4, 1899 in Whitney, Idaho, (Benson was the thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1985 until his death (May 30, 1994) and was United States Secretary of Agriculture for both terms of the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ezra Taft Benson learned early the principle of hard work on the family farm. He served a mission to Great Britain and after his return was married to his sweetheart, Flora Amussen, in 1926. He received his education in agriculture and went on to hold many important positions within the industry. He was called to be an Apostle after having been president of two stakes. From 1953 to 1961, he served as Secretary of Agriculture in the cabinet of U. S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. On November 10, 1985, he became President of the Church. Having a resolute testimony of the power of the Book of Mormon, he emphasized the importance of it in daily scripture study, missionary efforts, and gospel teaching. His love of freedom, home, and family were also evident in his addresses and counsel to Church members. Despite his failing health, the Church continued to grow under his administration, temples were dedicated, and missionary work expanded around the world, particularly in eastern Europe. He died in Salt Lake City on May 30, 1994, at the age of 94.

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


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 the older of the two, he was given seniority over Benson in the Quorum. Succession to the presidency of the church is by chronological order of ordination to apostleship, allowing Spencer W. Kimball to become president of the church years earlier than Benson. Upon Spencer W. Kimball's death in 1985, Benson became the president of the church.

Political Career

In 1953, Benson was appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by President Eisenhower. Benson accepted this position with the permission of Church President David O. McKay and therefore served simultaneously in the United States Cabinet and in the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve.

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 survived 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 a member of the John Birch Society, and an outspoken opponent of communism and socialism. He generated controversy by refusing to disavow statements by JBS founder Robert W. Welch, Jr. that Eisenhower was a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy", a position for which former Vice-President Richard Nixon rebuked Benson for.[citation needed]

Church presidency

Benson succeeded Kimball as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1973, and as President of the Church 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 his general conference sermon condemning pride.[2]


Benson was a lifelong supporter of Scouting. He started in 1918 as assistant Scoutmaster. On 23 May 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 Scouting—the Silver Beaver, the Silver Antelope, and the Silver Buffalo—as well as world Scouting’s international award, the Bronze Wolf.[3]

Health problems and death

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 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 under the direction of Gordon B. Hinckley. He was buried near his birthplace in Whitney, Idaho, at the Whitney City Cemetery.

Published works

—  (1960). So Shall Ye Reap: Selected Addresses of Ezra Taft Benson. Deseret Book Company. ISBN B0007E7BME.
— (1962). The Red Carpet. Bookcraft. ISBN B0007F4WJI.
— (1964). Title of Liberty. compiled by Mark A. Benson. Deseret Book Company.
— (1969). An Enemy Hath Done This. Bookcraft. ISBN 0-88494-184-1.
— (1974). God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties. Deseret Book Company. ISBN B0006CF3MC.
— (1976). Cross Fire: The Eight Years With Eisenhower. Doubleday. ISBN 0-8371-8422-3.
— (1977). This Nation Shall Endure. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87747-658-6.
— (1983). Come Unto Christ. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87747-997-6.
— (1986). The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87579-216-2.
— (1988). The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson. Bookcraft. ISBN 0-88494-639-8.
— (1988). A Witness and a Warning: A Modern-Day Prophet Testifies of the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87579-153-0.
— (1989). A Labor of Love: The 1946 European Mission of Ezra Taft Benson. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87579-275-8.
— (1990). Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87579-351-7.
— (1990). Missionaries to Match Our Message. Bookcraft. ISBN 0-88494-779-3.
— (1992). Elect Women of God. Bookcraft. ISBN 0-88494-838-2.
— (2003). Sermons and Writings of President Ezra Taft Benson. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Speeches By Ezra Taft Benson (external LINK)

The Role of Proper Govt.

Stand Up For Freedom

Our Immediate Responsibility

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