Ezra Taft Benson and Politics

In most political discussions in the US church, if one starts to advocate the liberal policies which most liberals feel are abundant throughout our standard works, many of our conservative sisters and brothers will cite Ezra Taft Benson in ‘denouncing’ such views. While we have a great love for the service President Benson gave, especially while President of the church, we strongly disagree with his political opinions. We often hear that his opinions were not his opinions, but rather ‘the truth’ or ‘doctrine.’ In an effort to address the view that Ezra Taft Benson’s political opinions were doctrine, we present this condensed (and admittedly cherry-picked) summary of the reactions and interactions of Elder Benson with his church leaders on the topic of politics.

Benson was more moderate politically at the beginning of his tenure as Sec. of Agriculture, even criticizing senator McCarthy. 1 By the end of his time as Sec. of Agriculture his ideology was almost identical with the Birch Society, which views were described by such right-wingers as Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk, and Ronald Reagan as “ultra-conservative,” “extremist,” “paranoid,” “fanatic fringe,” or “lunatic fringe.” 2 Elder Benson said the following in October 1961 general conference: “No true Latter-day Saint and no true American can be a socialist or a communist or support programs leading in that direction.” 3 After this he was chastised by the First Presidency. 4 In the talk he also claimed there was a “secret alliance” between the Social Democrats and the hard-core Communist conspiracy.” 5

As a result of the Birch Society rhetoric and ideology being used in conference the First Presidency issued a statement saying “we do not think dividing our own people, casting reflections on our government officials, or calling everybody a Communist who do[es] not agree with the political views of certain individuals” and added that church “leaders, or even members, should not become hysterical or take hasty action, engage in discussions, and certainly should not join these [anti-Communist] groups, some of whom, at least, are in for the money they can make out of it.” 6

Benson and his son (who was employed by the Birch Society and was the head person of the Utah branch 7) continued insinuating that the Birch ideology was the most in harmony with the gospel, which led the First Presidency again in 1963 to issue this statement:

“We deplore the presumption of some politicians, especially officers, co-ordinators and member of the John Birch Society, who undertake to align the Church or its leadership with their political views.” 8

Rex E. Lee (founder of BYU Law School and future President of BYU), wrote in September 1963 about the difficulty of separating Benson’s partisan statements from his church position. He observed, “It is regrettable, however, that Brother Benson has detracted from his effectiveness as a Church leader through his active support of the John Birch Society.” He continued, “I have found myself periodically called upon to remind my friends, usually without success, that when Elder Benson acts to promote the ends of extremist organization and leaders he is not declaring Church doctrine.” 9

In October 1963 Conference Benson called the members to “come to the aid” of anti-Communist “patriots, programs and organizations” contrary to the earlier First Presidency message. 10 As a result, he was called to preside in the European mission starting in December of that year. 11 The day after this call was extended, President Brown of the First Presidency warned BYU students against “extremists and self-styled patriots who label all those who disagree with them as Communists.” 12 In a more obvious allusion to Benson, Brown said that the First Presidency “deplore any attempt made by individuals to ascribe to the Church personal beliefs which they entertain.” 13 The Deseret News also noted that President Brown said to BYU students: “A lot of this nonsense gets disseminated by the professional, self-styled anti-Communists who make a comfortable living scaring people all over the country and who have a financial stake in making the Communists look stronger than we.” 14

President McKay’s son said in a letter:

“We shall all be relieved when Elder Benson ceases to resist counsel and returns to a concentration on those affairs befitting his office. It is my feeling that there will be an immediate and noticeable curtailment of his Birch Society activities.” 15

At his farewell, Reed Benson complained to BYU president Ernest Wilkinson that his father had been “‘stabbed’ in the back.” 16 Nine days after the farewell Joseph Fielding Smith (then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) said in a letter:

“I am glad to report to you that it will be some time before we hear anything from Brother Benson, who is now on his way to Great Britain where I suppose he will be, at least for the next two years. When he returns I hope his blood will be purified.” 17

When this letter was picked up by the press he clarified by saying “I meant that when he returned he would be free of all political ties.” 18

At his farewell 24% of Benson’s talk quoted verbatim from the Blue Book of the John Birch Society and another 10% paraphrased this publication. 19 Benson’s talk repeated such views as the American civil rights movement was “phony” and actually “part of the pattern for the Communist takeover of America.” 20 He predicted that within ten years the United States would be ruled by a Communist dictatorship which “will include military occupation, concentration camps, tortures, terror and all that is required to enable about 3% of the population to rule the other 97% as slaves.” 21 He promised such dire consequences “unless we join with those small but determined and knowledgeable patriots.” He added: “Words will not stop the communists.” 22 Benson said that the U.S. government was becoming so infiltrated that American citizens “can no longer resist the Communist conspiracy as free citizens, but can resist Communist tyranny only by themselves becoming conspirators against established government.” 23

In 1965 President McKay approved the new official church position that endorsed “full civil rights for any person, regardless of race, color or creed.” 24 However, Elder Benson then said the following in General Conference:

“Before I left for Europe I warned how the communists were using the civil rights movement to promote revolution and eventual takeover of this country. When are we going to wake up?… Now, Brethren, the Lord never promised there would not be traitors in the Church. We have the ignorant, the sleepy and the deceived who provide temptations and avenues of apostasy for the unwary and the unfaithful.”

His talk was censored as parts referring to LDS “traitors” as well as his assessment of the civil rights movement as Communist and revolutionary were removed. 25

On 2 September 1965 Reed Benson issued the following memorandum to Birch Society members:

“It is common knowledge that the Civil Rights Movement is Communist controlled, influenced and dominated… Our founder and guide, Mr. Robert Welch, has instructed us that when necessary we must adopt the communist technique in our ever present battle against Godless Communism. It is urged that in the coming weeks the Utah Chapters begin a whispering campaign and foster rumors that the Civil Rights groups are going to organize demonstrations in Salt Lake City in connection with the forthcoming LDS conference… A few well placed comments will soon mushroom out of control and before the conference begins there will be such a feeling of unrest and distrust that the populace will hardly know who to believe. The news media will play it to the very hilt. No matter what the Civil Rights leaders may try to say to deny it the seed will have been sown and again the Civil Rights movement will suffer a telling blow.” 26

In January 1966 Benson endorsed the Birch Society and its program at stake conferences and at the LDS institute in Logan, Utah. 27 He was again chastised. 28 From the First Presidency meeting minutes:

“President McKay suggested that Elder Benson might not be assigned to stake conferences if he referred to the John Birch Society. The President then said that Elder Benson should be instructed not to discuss the Birch Society in any meeting, and that he should not advocate this group.” 29

President McKay then authorized Elder Peterson of the Twelve to publicly attack the Birch Society. 30 In his editorial he proclaimed that the church had “nothing to do with racists, nothing to do with Birchers, nothing to do with any slanted group” and further warned Mormons to “avoid extremes and extremists.” 31 Elder Lee, like Elder Peterson, was frustrated with Elder Benson’s actions. He told Ernest Wilkinson that Elder Benson labelled as a Communist “anyone who didn’t agree with Brother Benson’s mind.” 32 Elder Lee in 1966 General Conference said: “We hear vicious attacks on public officials without the opportunity being given to them to make a defense or a rebuttal to the evil diatribes and character assassinations.” He added “that the sowing of the seeds of hatred, suspicion, and contention in any organization is destructive of the purpose of life and unbecoming to the children of God.” Then pointedly: “I would that all who are called to high places in the Church would determine, as did the Apostle to the Gentiles, to know and to preach nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” “The absolute test of the divinity of the calling of any officer in the Church is this: Is he in harmony with the brethren of that body to which he belongs? When we are out of harmony, we should look to ourselves first to find the way to unity.” Apostles Smith, Lee, and Petersen had already indicated that Benson was not in harmony with his quorum. 33 Elder Lee concluded his talk with this assessment:

“A President of the Church has told us where we may expect to find false leaders: First, the hopelessly ignorant, whose lack of intelligence is due to their indolence and sloth. Second the proud and self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamp of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings.” 34

Elder Lee’s statements were an intentional insinuation concerning Elder Benson. 35

In October 1966 Elder Benson gave a response to his critics in his General Conference talk:

“There are some who apparently feel that the fight for freedom is separate from the Gospel. They express it in several ways, but it generally boils down to this: Just live the gospel; there’s no need to get involved in trying to save freedom and the Constitution or stop communism. Should we counsel people ‘Just live your religion-there’s no need to get involved in the fight for freedom? No we should not, because our stand for freedom is a most basic part of our religion. We will be given a chance to choose between conflicting counsel given by some,”

and observed:

“All men are entitled to inspiration, but only one man is the Lord’s mouthpiece. Some lesser men have in the past, and will in the future, use their offices unrighteously. Some will, ignorantly or otherwise, use it to promote false counsel; some will use it to lead the unwary astray; some will use it to persuade us that all is well in Zion; some will use it to cover and excuse their ignorance.” 36

The First Presidency and the Twelve’s president regarded Benson’s conference sermon as a criticism of every general authority except David O. McKay. “From this talk,” Counselor Tanner noted, “one would conclude that Brother Benson and President McKay stand alone among the General Authorities on the question of freedom.” 37 Joseph Fielding Smith “agreed heartily with Tanner’s objections to the talk in general.” 38 Brown added that Benson’s “talk is wholly objectionable because it does impugn the rest of us and our motives when we have advised the people to live their religion and stay away from extremist ideas and philosophies.” 39 Benson asked for approval to “mimeograph his talk for wider distribution” which the First Presidency disapproved. 40

A few weeks later Benson repeated the talk and added:

“Sometimes from behind the pulpit, in our classrooms, in our Council meetings, and in our Church publications we hear, read or witness things that do not square with the truth. This is especially true where freedom is involved. He concluded, “Some lesser men [have] in the past, and will in the future, use their offices unrighteously. Some will lead the unwary astray… Learn to keep your eye on the Prophet. Let his inspired words be a basis for evaluating the counsel of all lesser authorities. I know I will be abused by some for what I have said.” 41

When published this BYU devotional was censored. 42

Also in 1967 Benson approved the use of a recent talk as a foreward to an overtly racist book which featured the decapitated (and profusely bleeding) head of an African-American on its cover, titled “The Black Hammer: A Study of Black Power, Red Influence and White Alternatives, Foreward by The Honorable Ezra Taft Benson” 43

A month after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination Elder Benson gave a BYU devotional in which he accused the US Supreme Court of treason and quoted from the Birch Society’s magazine about “the Communists and their Black Power fanatics.” 44 Ten days later President Brown delivered BYU’s commencement address saying “Beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others,” and concluded his remarks saying “At a time when radicals of right or left would inflame race against race, avoid those who preach evil doctrines of racism.” 45

In October 1968 General Conference Benson described US government “welfare-state programs” as a “Communist-planned program of deception.” 46 When a mormon director of a government welfare program asked the First Presidency he was told: “Be assured, however, of this, that what this man said does not represent the position of the Church with respect to the subject of government aid, etc.” and emphasized that Benson’s “statements do not represent the church.” 47

When President McKay died in 1970, his successors were two apostles who had been privately and publicly critical of Benson’s political ideology. As a result Elder Benson’s political activism was notably muted from 1970 to 1973. 48 When this period of silence began (right after McKay’s death and prior to General Conference), many ultra-conservatives were convinced that an anti-conservative First Presidency had muzzled him. Then many local LDS leaders received letters which began: “There are dangerous sinister trends developing within the church due to the liberal factions gaining control.” 49 The announcement urged all “those of the conservative mind” to “cast a dissenting vote against the liberal factions” of “the First Presidency with its social-democrat thinking” when the church met on 6 April 1970. This would remove from office the new presidency of Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, and N. Eldon Tanner, all of whom opposed Benson’s ultra-conservative activism (Tanner was a socialist and served 20 years in Alberta’s Legislature in the Social Credit party which advocated the “alleviation of poverty” through “redistribution of income” and government establishment of “a just price for all goods.” 50)

In place of the First Presidency this proposal claimed that “Brother Benson will sound the trumpet [-] and thousands, yes tens of thousands, will heed his call and stand forth ready to sustain and support the fight for truth, right and liberty.” Thus they hoped that a general conference vote of ultra-conservatives would propel Benson into the office of church president in place of the current president and ahead of other senior apostles. 51

Rather than dismissing this document as the work of a lone crank and giving it no further attention, Lee publicly denounced it two days before the sustaining vote of April 1970 conference. He told the general priesthood meeting that “there is one vicious story to the effect that one of our General Authorities is allegedly being urged to present himself to lead the Church contrary to the Lord’s revelation.” Lee indicated that this petition and its supporting documents “are finding their way into our Relief Society meetings, into priesthood quorums, firesides, institutes, and seminaries.” 52 President Smith was voted as President and many people noted that for the first time in “many years” Benson gave “his first non-political sermon” which many inferred was a result of specific instruction from the First Presidency. 53

Henry D. Taylor, an Assistant to the Twelve, told of an incident in which Lee gave Benson an embarrassing rebuke during a meeting. 54 He said that individual apostles were giving formal presentations on various subjects. Benson’s assigned topic was the youth program, but he began presenting charts and quotes to show Communist influence in America and the need to teach anti-Communism to Mormon youth. Lee walked out while Benson was speaking, soon followed by the other apostles. Taylor and the other Assistants to the Twelve were the only ones who remained seating during Benson’s presentation. 55

However, as sharply as Lee criticized Benson’s ultra-conservatism, he warmly expressed his personal friendship. 56

When Spencer W Kimball became church president in 1973, Benson’s political crusade re-emerged. During the twelve years he presided at the weekly temple meetings of the apostles as President of the Twelve, Benson shared his political views whenever he chose. 57

In 1980 Benson gave a BYU devotional on the “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophets.” In the talk he proclaimed the right of the LDS prophet to speak and act politically. The First Presidency immediately issued a statement that Benson was misquoted. 58 However it was difficult to finesse his words for the capacity BYU audience in the 25,000-seat Marriot Center or for the thousands of other Utahns who listened to the broadcast on radio and television. 59 Within a week the First Presidency released a statement “reaffirm[ing] that we take no partisan stand as to candidates or political parties, and exercise no constraint on the freedom of individuals to make their own choices in these matters.” 60

President Kimball’s son affirms that the church president bore no ill feeling toward his longtime associate but “was concerned about Elder Benson’s February 1980 talk at BYU.” 61 The president wanted “to protect the Church against being misunderstood as espousing ultra-conservative politics, or-in this case-espousing an unthinking ‘follow the leader’ mentality.” President Kimball asked Benson to apologize to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but they “were dissatisfied with his response.” 62 Kimball required him to explain himself to a combined meeting of all general authorities the following week. 63

The moral of all this? Benson’s political talks were barely tolerated by church leaders and certainly do not represent the views of the church itself. Even if as President of the Church he had said “Thus saith the Lord…” and proceeded to issue ultra-conservative ideology, I wouldn’t just accept it without investigating it first. This is in harmony with church teachings:

“President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when ‘Thus saith the Lord’, comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.” -Apostle Charles Penrose (Millennial Star 54:191)

Not only do my investigations and studies lead me to reject Benson’s politics, but even if I felt like he was right, the frequency with which he was rebuked for promulgating such views would give me pause on embracing them myself.

Notes:

  1. “Benson Aims New Blast At M’Carthy,” Salt Lake Tribune, 23 June 1954, 1; also see “Joe” McCarthy, McCarthyism: The Fight For America (New York: Devin-Adair Co., 1952); Arthur V. Watkins [U.S. senator from Utah], Enough Rope: The Inside Story of the Censure of Senator Joe McCarthy By His Colleagues: The Controversial Hearings that Signaled the End of a Turbulent Career and a Fearsome Era in American Public Life (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1970); Allen J. Matusow, Joseph R. McCarthy (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1970); Thomas C. Reeves, The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy: A Biography (New York: Stein and Day, 1982); Robert Griffith, The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate, 2d ed. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987); Richard M. Fried, Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990); Diana Trilling, “How McCarthy Gave Anti-Communism a Bad Name,” Newsweek 121 (11 Jan 1993): 32-33.
  2. “Goldwater Disagrees With John Birch Theories, Is Impressed by Members,” Sacramento Bee, 30 Mar. 1961, A-16; Russell Kirk’s statement about “fanatic fringe” appears in his and Benjamin L. Masse, “The Birchites,” America: National Catholic Weekly Review 106 (17 Feb. 1962): 643-45; Barry Goldwater introduced into Congressional Record 109 (1 Oct. 1963): 18453-55 a talk which lumped the Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan with the “so-called radical right” (18454); “Barry Disagrees With 3 Bircher Stands,” Sacramento Bee, 22 Oct. 1963, A-6; William F. Buckley, Jr., “Real Responsibility Lacking Still With Bircherite Members,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 6 Aug. 1965, A-4 [which dropped “paranoid” from his description of Birch “drivel” in his syndicated column]; “Bouquet for Buckley,” Christian Century 82 (25 Aug. 1965): 1028; Buckley [with supporting contribution by Goldwater, Kirk, and others], “The John Birch Society and the Conservative Movement,” National Review 17 (19 Oct. 1965): 914-20, 925-29; Ronald Reagan’s statement about the Birch Society’s “lunatic fringe” is in “Reagan Criticizes Birch Society and Its Founder,” Los Angeles Times, 24 Sept. 1965, I, 3, also quoted in Fletcher Knebel, “The GOP Attacks The John Birch Society,” Look 29 (28 Dec. 1965): 74; Goldwater to Harvey B. Schechter, 31 Oct. 1966, endorsing Schetcher’s pamphlet How to Listen To A John Birch Society Speaker, copy in J. D. Williams papers, Marriott Library. These anti-Birch critics had established their anti-Communist credentials in Buckley and L. Brent Bozell, McCarthy and His Enemies: The Record and Its Meaning (Chicago: H. Regnery Co., 1954); Buckley, The Committee and Its Critics: A Calm Review of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (New York: Putnam, 1962); Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative (Shepherdsville, KY: Victor Publishing Company, 1960); Russell Kirk, A Program for Conservatives (Chicago: H. Regnery, 1954); Kirk, The American Cause (Chicago: H. Regnery Co., 1957); Ronald Reagan, with Richard G. Hubler, Where’s the Rest of Me? (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1965), 157-84, 192, 199-200, 297-312. The books by Buckley, Kirk, and Goldwater appeared in the lists of “Approved Books” following The John Birch Society Bulletin (July 1961) in The White Book of The John Birch Society for 1961 (Belmont, MA: John Birch Society, 1961).
  3. Ezra Taft Benson, “The American Heritage of Freedom: A Plan of God,” Improvement Era 64 (Dec. 1961): 955.
  4. Hugh B. Brown statements, as quoted and paraphrased in Frederick S. Buchanan diary, 27 Oct. 1961. Buchanan walked into Brown’s office just as Benson was leaving.
  5. Ezra Taft Benson, “The American Heritage of Freedom: A Plan of God,” Improvement Era 64 (Dec. 1961): 955.
  6. Brown to Mrs. Alicia Bingham, 28 Dec. 1961, carbon copy in “Hugh B. Brown’s File on the John Birch Society.”

  7. “Benson Son Leads Rightists in Utah,” New York Times, 19 May 1963, 55; “Benson’s Son Claims He Has Tripled Utah Birch Membership,” Washington Post, 20 May 1963, A-1; T. George Harris, “The Rampant Right Invades the GOP,” Look 27 (16 July 1963): 20; “Benson and Birch: Politics or Religion?” University of Utah Daily Utah Chronicle, 3 Dec. 1964, 2; “Utahn Heads Birch Office in Capital,” Deseret News, 16 Dec. 1964, A-13; Jules Witcover, “Bircher Benson,” The New Republic 152 (8 May 1965): 8-9; “Washington Report…Birchers Settle In,” Life 58 (18 June 1965): 43; “Birch Society Opens Washington Office Friday,” New York Times, 14 Sept. 1965, 20; “John Birch Society Representative Reed Benson,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 19 Sept. 1965, A-6; “Mormons and Politics: Benson’s Influence Helps Keep Growing Church on Conservative Track,” Wall Street Journal, 8 Aug. 1966, 1; “Gets Birch Job,” Salt Lake Tribune, 19 May 1967, B-4; Bryon Cannon Anderson, “Church and Birch in Utah,” senior paper, Univeristy of Utah, June 1966, 20, photocopy, Western Americana, Marriott Library; Reed A. Benson to Dean M. Hansen, 22 May 1967, in Dean Maurice Hansen, “An Analysis of the 1964 Idaho Second Congressional District Election Campaign,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1967, 50,221.

  8. “Church Sets Policy on Birch Society,” Deseret News, 4 Jan. 1963, B-1; also “Mormon Head Clarifies Stand on Birch Society: McKay Lashes at Those Who Try to Align Church With Group’s Partisan Views,” Los Angeles Times, 4 Jan. 1963, Pt. I, 5; “LDS Leaders Reject Any Idea of Link Between Church, Birch Society,” Sacramento Bee, 4 Jan. 1963; “Reprint of Statement From the First Presidency,” The Messenger: Distributed By the Presiding Bishopric of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 1963, 1.

  9. Rex E. Lee to Ralph R. Harding, 30 Sept. 1963, and Ralph A. Britsch to Ralph R. Harding, 8 Oct. 1963, photocopies in fd 2, box 4, King papers.
  10. “Elder Benson To Direct Europe Mission,” Deseret News, 24 Oct. 1963, A-1; Improvement Era 66 (Dec. 1963): 1065; “Mormons to Send Benson Overseas,” New York Times, 25 Oct. 1963, 18; “Apostle Benson Denies Being Sent Into ‘Exile’ for Political Views,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 20 Oct. 1963, A-7; “Mormon Church Sends Benson to Europe,” U.S. News and World Report 55 (Nov. 1963): 12; “Mormon Church Is Gaining in Strength Despite Tensions,” New York Times, 27 Dec. 1965, 18; Hansen, “Analysis of the 1964 Idaho Second Congressional District Election Campaign,” 52; Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 372.
  11. “Elder Benson To Direct Europe Mission,” Deseret News, 24 Oct. 1963, A-1; Improvement Era 66 (Dec. 1963): 1065; “Mormons to Send Benson Overseas,” New York Times, 25 Oct. 1963, 18; “Apostle Benson Denies Being Sent Into ‘Exile’ for Political Views,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 20 Oct. 1963, A-7; “Mormon Church Sends Benson to Europe,” U.S. News and World Report 55 (Nov. 1963): 12; “Mormon Church Is Gaining in Strength Despite Tensions,” New York Times, 27 Dec. 1965, 18; Hansen, “Analysis of the 1964 Idaho Second Congressional District Election Campaign,” 52; Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 372.
  12. “Church Leader Rebuffs Self-Styled Patriots,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 26 Oct. 1963, 9.
  13. “Church Leader Rebuffs Self-Styled Patriots,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 26 Oct. 1963, 9.
  14. “President Brown Supports U.N., Hits Extremists,” Deseret News, 26 Oct. 1963, B-1.
  15. Robert R. McKay to Ralph R. Harding, 18 Oct. 1963, photocopy in fd 2, box 4, King papers, and in fd 22, box 5, Buerger papers; quotes from letter first published in “Ike, LDS Leaders Thank Harding,” 1; “Ike Praises Idaho Solon,” A-4; also Anderson, “Church and Birch in Utah,” 12. Robert McKay’s letter was printed in full in “Bill Hall’s Political Scratchpad,” Idaho State Journal, 23 Feb. 1964, 4. For 18 October as the date on which McKay told Benson of his mission assignment, see Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 372. For Robert R. McKay, see Gibbons, David O. McKay, 333; Improvement Era 69 (Dec. 1966): 1131, 1152; Improvement Era 70 (June 1967): 22, 80, 109; Improvement Era 70 (Dec. 1967): 33, 87, 107; Improvement Era 71 (Dec. 1968): 34, 108; Improvement Era 72 (June 1969): 116; Improvement Era 72 (Dec. 1969): 24, 110.
  16. Ernest L. Wilkinson diary, 14 Dec. 1963; Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 372, gives a very different view of the Bensons’ reaction to this mission assignment.
  17. Ernest L. Wilkinson diary, 14 Dec. 1963; Joseph Fielding Smith to Congressman Ralph Harding, 23 Dec. 1963, photocopy in fd 2, box 4, King papers, in fd 3, box 42, Poll papers, and in fd 22, box 5, Buerger papers. Apostle Smith’s letter was first quoted in “Ike, LDS Leaders Thank Harding,” 1; “Ike Praises Idaho Solon,” A-4; also Anderson, “Church and Birch in Utah,” 12.
  18. “Ike Praises Idaho Solon,” A-4.
  19. B. Delworth Gardner, N. Keith Roberts, E. Boyd Wennergren preface to an annotated typescript of Benson’s “We Must Become Alerted and Informed,” Utah State Historical Society. In the margins are the page number of the Blue Book from which Benson’s talk quoted or paraphrased.
  20. Ezra Taft Benson, “We Must Become Alerted and Informed,” 10; also “Elder Benson Links Reds to [Civil] Rights Furor,” Deseret News, 14 Dec. 1963, B-5; “Communism Moving In on U.S., Benson Warns,” Salt Lake Tribune, 14 Dec. 1963, 28. Compare Ross R. Barnett, governor of Mississippi, “The Rape Of Our Constitution and Civil Rights,” in the Birch Society’s American Opinion 6 (Sept. 1963): 20-23; John Rousselot, “Civil Rights: Communist Betrayal Of A Good Cause,” American Opinion 7 (Feb. 1964): 1-11.
  21. Benson, “We Must Become Alerted and Informed,” 8,9,10.
  22. Benson, “We Must Become Alerted and Informed,” 8,9,10.
  23. Benson, “We Must Become Alerted and Informed,” 8,9,10.
  24. “Give Full Civil Equality to All, LDS Counselor Brown Asks,” Salt Lake Tribune, 7 Oct. 1963, 1; Hugh B. Brown, “The Fight Between Good and Evil,” Improvement Era 66 (Dec. 1963): 1058; Sterling M. McMurrin, “A Note on the 1963 Civil Rights Statement,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 12 (Summer 1979): 60-63; “Benson Ties Rights Issue to Reds in Mormon Rift,” Washington Post, 13 Apr. 1965, A-5.
  25. “President McKay Emphasizes Individual,” with subheading for Elder Benson’s talk: “Restored Gospel,” Salt Lake Tribune, 7 Apr. 1965, A-5; compare Improvement Era 68 (June 1965): 539. In 1968 Deseret Book Co. published (and reprinted in 1969) Benson’s Civil Rights: Tool of Communist Deception, 3, which stated: “The so-called civil rights movement as it exists today is used as a Communist program for revolution.” The addition of “used as” softened his original words as reported in “Mormon Leaders Heard By 25,000,” New York Times, 2 Oct. 1967, 52.
  26. Reed A. Benson, “Memo to the Utah Chapters,” 2 Sept. 1965, on letterhead of the Birch Society, photocopy in Williams papers; Quinn G. McKay to J. D. Williams, 20 May 1966, Williams papers.
  27. “LDS Apostle Backs Up Birch Group,” Salt Lake Tribune, 16 Jan. 1966, B-14; “Speak Up! Says Ezra to Save Your Soul and Maybe Your Country,” Fact Finder 24 (28 Feb. 1966); Anderson, “Church and Birch in Utah,” 6.
  28. “Copy of First Presidency minutes digest 3-3-66,” in “Hugh B. Brown’s File on the John Birch Society.”
  29. Campbell and Poll, Hugh B. Brown, 259; minutes of meeting on 15 Mar. 1966 with David O. McKay, N. Eldon Tanner, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Mark E. Peterson in Huntsville, Utah. In view of his access to these minutes and those of 3 Mar. 1966, First Presidency secretary Francis M. Gibbons has made the curiously emphatic overstatement that McKay gave Benson “unqualified support, which included agreement with Elder Benson’s strong views about the dangers of international Communism, an agreement that continued without change until the time of his death and that included encouragement for his associate to continue to speak out on the subject” (Gibbons, David O. McKay, 372).
  30. Meeting minutes of 15 Mar. 1966.
  31. “Politics and Religion,” Deseret News “Church news,” 26 Mar. 1966, 16. Although opposed to the Birch Society, Peterson also warned Mormons against “creeping socialism and its companion, insidious, atheistic communism.” See his “New Evidence for the Book of Mormon,” Improvement Era 65 (June 1962): 457.
  32. Ernest L. Wilkinson diary, 13 May 1963.
  33. Meeting minutes of 15 Mar. 1966.
  34. April 1966 Conference Report… (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1966), 64-65,66,67,68. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 372, 385, observes that Benson saw no difference between his religious beliefs and his political convictions.
  35. Telephone conversation, 7 Nov. 1992, between D. Michael Quinn and L. Brant Goates, who described his father-in-law’s April 1966 address as “an insinuation” concerning Benson.
  36. Ezra Taft Benson, reading copy of general conference talk, 2 Oct. 1966, photocopy in “Hugh B. Brown’s File on the John Birch Society.”
  37. N. Eldon Tanner to Joseph Fielding Smith, 31 Oct. 1966, Hugh B. Brown to David O. McKay, 9 Nov. 1966, with notation in Brown’s handwriting of First Presidency decision on 16 Nov. 1966, all attached to Benson’s reading copy of his October 1966 conference talk, and all in “Hugh B. Brown’s File on the John Birch Society.”
  38. N. Eldon Tanner to Joseph Fielding Smith, 31 Oct. 1966, Hugh B. Brown to David O. McKay, 9 Nov. 1966, with notation in Brown’s handwriting of First Presidency decision on 16 Nov. 1966, all attached to Benson’s reading copy of his October 1966 conference talk, and all in “Hugh B. Brown’s File on the John Birch Society.”
  39. N. Eldon Tanner to Joseph Fielding Smith, 31 Oct. 1966, Hugh B. Brown to David O. McKay, 9 Nov. 1966, with notation in Brown’s handwriting of First Presidency decision on 16 Nov. 1966, all attached to Benson’s reading copy of his October 1966 conference talk, and all in “Hugh B. Brown’s File on the John Birch Society.”
  40. N. Eldon Tanner to Joseph Fielding Smith, 31 Oct. 1966, Hugh B. Brown to David O. McKay, 9 Nov. 1966, with notation in Brown’s handwriting of First Presidency decision on 16 Nov. 1966, all attached to Benson’s reading copy of his October 1966 conference talk, and all in “Hugh B. Brown’s File on the John Birch Society.”
  41. Audio tape of Ezra Taft Benson, “Our Immediate Responsibility,” devotional address to students of Brigham Young University, 25 Oct. 1966, available from BYU Media Services.
  42. Ezra Taft Benson, “Our Immediate Responsibility,” Speeches of the Year (Provo, UT: Extension Publications, Division of Continuing Education, Brigham Young University, 1966), esp. 8, 13-14.
  43. Wes Andrews and Clyde Dalton, The Black Hammer: A Study of Black Power, Red Influence and White Alternatives (Oakland, CA: Desco Press, 1967), 13, copy in library, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  44. Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon Warns America,” address at BYU devotional, 21 May 1968, transcript, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, Vertical File, Special Collections, Marriott Library, and transcript in Moss papers; also “Road to Anarchy: Benson Blisters Supreme Court,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 22 May 1968, A-11; “Benson Warns on Commies in Talk at BYU Assembly,” Provo Daily Herald, 22 May 1968, 24.
  45. Campbell and Poll, Hugh B. Brown, 259-60.
  46. Ezra Taft Benson, “The Proper Role of Government,” Improvement Era 71 (Dec. 1968): 53.
  47. Hugh B. Brown to Philip D. Thorpe, Director of the Community Action Program in Provo, Utah, 18 Oct. 1968, carbon copy in Campbell papers, with attached copy of Benson’s October 1968 conference address, “The Proper Role of Government,” Improvement Era 71 (Dec. 1968): 51-53, with underlined passage (53), also typed copy of letter in fd 1, box 51, Poll papers.
  48. However, the Mormon-Birch Utah Independent announced Benson’s addresses at Boston rallies “for the American Idea” in 1970 and 1972 where all the other speakers were either staff members of American Opinion or longtime authors of its articles. See “Benson, Skousen Speak at New England Rally,” Utah Independent, 9 July 1970, 1, and “Benson Is Guest of Honor,” Utah Independent, 30 June 1972, 8, and compare to table of contents pages in previous issues of American Opinion, also list of the Birch Society’s national council in “The John Birch society: A Report,” Advertising Supplement to Los Angeles Times, 27 Sept. 1964, 7.
  49. “TO ALL STAKE PRESIDENTS INTERESTED IN TRUTH AND LIBERTY THIS CALL IS MADE,” photocopy of typed document, undated, in fd 22, box 5, Buerger papers, with signed copies by J. Wilson Bartlett in LDS archives, and in fd 3, box, 124, Hinckley papers.
  50. G. Homer Durham et al., N. Eldon Tanner: His Life and Service (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982), 57-89; Encyclopedia of Canada, 6 vols. (Toronto: University Associates of Canada, 1948), 6:41; Encyclopedia Candaiana, 10 vols. (Ottawa: Canadiana Co./Grolier Society of Canada, 1957-58), 9:353.
  51. “TO ALL STAKE PRESIDENTS INTERESTED IN TRUTH AND LIBERTY THIS CALL IS MADE,” photocopy of typed document, undated, in fd 22, box 5, Buerger papers, with signed copies by J. Wilson Bartlett in LDS archives, and in fd 3, box, 124, Hinckley papers.
  52. Harold B. Lee, “To the Defenders of the Faith,” 4 Apr. 1970, Improvement Era 73 (June 1970): 64.
  53. Frederick S. Buchanan diary, 21 July 1970; Ezra Taft Benson, “A World Message,” Improvement Era 73 (June 1970): 95-97, whose only political reference was prophetic: “The time must surely come when the Iron Curtain will be melted down and the Bamboo Curtain shattered.”
  54. Statement of Henry D. Taylor to his friend Mark K. Allen as reported in Allen interview, 3 May 1984, by Alison Bethke Gayek.
  55. Statement of Henry D. Taylor to his friend Mark K. Allen as reported in Allen interview, 3 May 1984, by Alison Bethke Gayek.
  56. Harold B. Lee to Ezra Taft Benson, 12 Feb. 1972, in Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 422.
  57. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 439.
  58. Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals In Following the Prophets,” transcript, 26 Feb. 1980, fd 24, box 5, Buerger papers; Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year: BYU Devotional and fireside Addresses (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1981), 26-30; “Prophet’s Word ‘Law’ Benson Tells Group,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 26 Feb. 1980, A-2; “Benson Backs Prophet on Politics,” Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Feb. 1980, B-3; “Mormon Leader’s Word Is Law-Benson,” San Jose Mercury News, 27 Feb. 1980, A-2; “Interpretations of Speech Not Correct, Church Says,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 26 Feb. 1980, C-1; “Mormon Professor Says Benson Speech Was Plea Anticipating Rise to LDS Presidency,” Idaho State Journal, 28 Feb. 1980, A-2; “U. Teacher Replies To Benson” and “Savant Hits ‘Theocracy’ He Says Benson Wants,” Salt Lake Tribune 28 Feb. 1980, B-1, B-3; “Pres. Benson Outlines Way to Follow Prophet,” Deseret News “Church News,” 1 Mar. 1980, 14; “No. 2 Mormon Says Leader’s Word is Law,” Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 1980, Pt. I, 35; “Benson Speech Stirs speculation on LDS Changes,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 2 Mar. 1980, A-1, A-5; Sterling M. McMurrin, “Case for Vigilance,” Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Mar. 1980, A-9; Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 468-69.
  59. Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals In Following the Prophets,” transcript, 26 Feb. 1980, fd 24, box 5, Buerger papers; Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year: BYU Devotional and fireside Addresses (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1981), 26-30; “Prophet’s Word ‘Law’ Benson Tells Group,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 26 Feb. 1980, A-2; “Benson Backs Prophet on Politics,” Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Feb. 1980, B-3; “Mormon Leader’s Word Is Law-Benson,” San Jose Mercury News, 27 Feb. 1980, A-2; “Interpretations of Speech Not Correct, Church Says,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 26 Feb. 1980, C-1; “Mormon Professor Says Benson Speech Was Plea Anticipating Rise to LDS Presidency,” Idaho State Journal, 28 Feb. 1980, A-2; “U. Teacher Replies To Benson” and “Savant Hits ‘Theocracy’ He Says Benson Wants,” Salt Lake Tribune 28 Feb. 1980, B-1, B-3; “Pres. Benson Outlines Way to Follow Prophet,” Deseret News “Church News,” 1 Mar. 1980, 14; “No. 2 Mormon Says Leader’s Word is Law,” Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 1980, Pt. I, 35; “Benson Speech Stirs speculation on LDS Changes,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, 2 Mar. 1980, A-1, A-5; Sterling M. McMurrin, “Case for Vigilance,” Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Mar. 1980, A-9; Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 468-69.
  60. First Presidency statement, 5 Mar. 1980, Deseret News “Church News,” 8 Mar. 1980, 3; “Church Policies and Announcements,” Ensign 10 (Aug. 1980): 79.
  61. Edward L. Kimball to D. Michael Quinn, 14 Aug., 20 Aug. 1992. In 1980 Kimball’s wife Camilla also described “his displeasure with the speech” to her brother-in-law George T. Boyd (Boyd to Quinn, 24 Sept. 1992).
  62. In 1980 a general authority reported to George T. Boyd the apologies which Kimball required of Benson. Boyd’s letter to Quinn, 24 Sept. 1992, requested that Quinn not reveal the source. Boyd (an in-law of Spencer and Camilla Kimball) also reported this conversation to BYU professor Duane Jeffery early in 1980. Telephone interview of Jeffery in David John Buerger diary, 14 Aug. 1980, fd 4, box 1, Buerger papers. These reproofs were also reported in “What Mormons Believe,” Newsweek 96 (1 Sept. 1980): 71, in “Thus Saith Ezra Benson,” Newsweek 98 (19 Oct. 1981): 109; in Allen interview (with Henry D. Taylor as a general authority source different from the above), 3 May 1984, by Alison Bethke Gayek, and in Quinn interview, 5 Sept. 1992, with Rodney P. Foster, assistant secretary in the First Presidency’s Office from 1974 to 1981.
  63. In 1980 a general authority reported to George T. Boyd the apologies which Kimball required of Benson. Boyd’s letter to Quinn, 24 Sept. 1992, requested that Quinn not reveal the source. Boyd (an in-law of Spencer and Camilla Kimball) also reported this conversation to BYU professor Duane Jeffery early in 1980. Telephone interview of Jeffery in David John Buerger diary, 14 Aug. 1980, fd 4, box 1, Buerger papers. These reproofs were also reported in “What Mormons Believe,” Newsweek 96 (1 Sept. 1980): 71, in “Thus Saith Ezra Benson,” Newsweek 98 (19 Oct. 1981): 109; in Allen interview (with Henry D. Taylor as a general authority source different from the above), 3 May 1984, by Alison Bethke Gayek, and in Quinn interview, 5 Sept. 1992, with Rodney P. Foster, assistant secretary in the First Presidency’s Office from 1974 to 1981.

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27 Responses to “Ezra Taft Benson and Politics”

  1. Mikel Borg
    October 5, 2012 at 6:59 am #

    Thank you for this article. Well researched. I was a missionary from 1980 – 1982. Bogota Colombia Mission. It is good to know that some members of the Church Leadership had a lick of sense about them. Very revealing. I know that I don’t have to sit and take it when members at church put politics in Religion.

  2. BJ Spurlock
    October 20, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    I think we are missing the political statements that other General Authorities have made. I am happy of the church’s political diversity but I don’t know what to think when I know many members of the church who are self-proclaimed “communists” and “socialists”. President David O. Mckay, Joseph Smith (in history of the church he debates a socialist from Britan), President J. Reuben Clark, Elder McConkie, President Harold B. Lee, Elder Maxwell, and many others decried such views. The church put out an official church statement on such views back in the 60′s. When I hear members of the church say that being Patriotic of America is to be nationally racist is beyond me. In light of church doctrine of the role of the constitution of the United States during the Thousand Year Reign I just don’t understand some individuals views.
    The Book of Mormon is full of examples of how politics and religion coincided. It was the political figures in their day that formed secret combinations in order to destroy freedom. It is Christ who will set up a political kingdom when he returns. Many things i just do not understand about the far far left members of the church.

  3. James L. carroll
    October 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    You wrote: “Not only do my investigations and studies lead me to reject Benson’s politics, but even if I felt like he was right, the frequency with which he was rebuked for promulgating such views would give me pause on embracing them myself.”

    More importantly, they should give us even more pause with regard to teaching them as doctrine. Even if they are true, they aren’t what the Lord seems to want taught in His Church, in order to preserve the ability of people of all political persuasions to feel comfortable in the Church, and come to Christ. Ultimately that is the purpose of the Church after all.

  4. wilt
    November 2, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    BJ Spurlock said:
    2012/10/20 at 11:30 am | Reply
    “… I don’t know what to think when I know many members of the church who are self-proclaimed “communists” and “socialists”.

    I’ve never met any LDS folks claiming to be communists. Do you have a source for that? Also – the boogyman ‘socialism’ of the Cold War is hardly the same concept nor for the same purposes as social justice and social mercy seen today.

    wilt

  5. Duke
    March 16, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    Whoever created this web page. You are very misleading.
    You use the scriptures to say that our views are liberal. Remember that those times in the scriptures where Times spent in most cases without freedom. It depended the leader at the time. you mislead people to think that Pre Benson was a radical. And that the leadership of the church was liberal. now there are traditional liberal views like the United order that do work provided the leader of it is Christ himself. Remember this was Gods view long before they were liberal. History has taught us that man cannot handle leadership in similar situations. They alway exercise unrighteous dominion. If you were in the 12 apostles or first presidency you would be reprimanded as well. You are doing the same thing that Pres. Benson did. You are just pushing the other side of the coin. The leaders at that time where staying neutral. As they always have. Pres Benson may have been wrong for trying to mix church and state. But what he said must of been so radical back then. Well he is dead on today. obama who I will not call President. Is doing all the things that Pres. Benson said. His timeline was off. At this point I dont really push either party as I think that politicians for the most part are evil. So I will stand behind the President of our church. The moment you try to tell people how they can do things based on your liberal views. The people are not free. Our church would have never survived under a dictator. Thats why the founders won just as it was prophesied.

    • moroni
      March 18, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      I don’t think Geoff was being misleading here at all. He says at the beginning of the article that he’s addressing a very specific issue:

      “In an effort to address the view that Ezra Taft Benson’s political opinions were doctrine, we present this condensed (and admittedly cherry-picked) summary of the reactions and interactions of Elder Benson with his church leaders on the topic of politics.”

      Nothing in this article suggests that other church leaders were liberal, just that they did not like Elder Benson’s extremist views, nor his vocal repetition of those views.

      We try very hard here at MormonLiberals.org to /not/ do what Elder Benson did–we repeat, over and over, the idea that we are open to alternative viewpoints, that we do not think ours is the only way to interpret the scriptures/history, and that people can disagree with us and still be good Mormons.

      Keep in mind, also, that we are not “pushing a party” or “telling people how they can do things based on our views.” We are merely pointing out that there is ample room in the Gospel for liberals as well as for conservatives.

    • Christine
      April 3, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

      What President Benson said was not radical at that time. HE was very aware of the evils that were going on in our government. He saw them first hand. The Constitution was ordained of God and he expects us to uphold it. Ezra Taft Benson was right to warn us of these dangers. They were in plain sight back then and we can certainly see them now. Without these freedoms we can not worship God freely. Joseph Smith also warned us of the Constitution hanging by a thread. The moment our Free Government was formed, Satan was there to attack it. We must stand up for freedom. The Book of Mormon is all about Secret combinations in government. You can not separate freedom from church.

      • geoffsn
        March 24, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

        During the 1960s then Elder Benson was considered politically radical by many Republicans (let alone Democrats). Joseph Smith did emphasize the importance of the constitution, but the “hanging by a thread” quote (often tied in with the white horse prophesy) is more folklore than fact (i.e. we have no historic documents claiming Joseph said that). Additionally, most discussions of secret combinations in the Book of Mormon more closely mirror anti-masonic dialogue than government conspiracies. However, I’m glad you’re able to use this post to voice your views.

  6. Christine
    April 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    I am thankful to President Benson and his teachings as are proclaimed in the Book of Mormon. It is a book for our time and talks of secret combinations and the unrighteous governments taking away the liberties of the people. If you would educate yourselves on the role of our government and the Constitution of the United States, you will find it has been trampled on. Ezra Taft Benson has spoken the truth and he was truly aware of the evils inside our government. Socialism and Communism has no place in God’s plan. The John Birch Society teaches truth and is not an extremist group. They fight for our Liberty and we should be thankful for groups like this who truly only want to stand up for freedom. God walks a straight path and that path is narrow. It does not have room for diverse views. There is only room for truth and righteousness. Thank you Ezra Taft Benson for standing up for freedom and truth.

    • geoffsn
      March 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

      You’re conflating your political ideology with ‘truth and righteousness.’

      Please remember the words of a living prophet:

      “A disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our social, cultural, and political preferences. The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples.”

      We’re not saying you must agree with our political views; just that you should allow us to have them without your condemnation.

  7. Bob
    April 13, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    This is a very interesting presentation on the conflict within the Church on this subject; a subject on which I find most members to be either ignorant or complacent. I suppose it was likewise so in our pre-mortal life. Consequently, one-third fell to the deceit of Lucifer and many more are doing likewise today. Only those who are actively engaged really understand the issues, or rather because they understand the issues they cannot remain complacent.

    I have studied the issues and find myself in complete agreement with President Benson. (Not that my agreement with him strengthens either his stature, nor mine.)

    I believe that the Lord designed historic parallelism to the account contained within The Book of Mormon. Perhaps, that is why President Benson was so emphatic about members studying The Book of Mormon. If so, we are living in the days when the Gadianton robbers are in control. In fact, they have been in control for a long time. (I contend, that Ezra Taft Benson was our equivalent of the book of Helaman’s Nephi, who warned about the secret combinations in government. That would place us somewhere near 3 Nephi 3, by now.)

    Here is my synopsis of the parallelism:

    As we are told to liken the scriptures unto ourselves, we would find:
    1. We are the Nephites.
    2. A free society is established, without kings.
    3. The society starts off with righteous men leading them.
    4. Antichrists (Korihor and Nehor) come among the Nephites and teach false ideas, which are contrary to the gospel.
    5. In contrast, Alma discovers that preaching the gospel had a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword. (Alma 31:5)
    6. Among those, who adhere to these false teachings, are some affluent individuals. (Amlicites, and later, Zoramites) These individuals come to believe, that they are better than the Nephites at large. In particular, they believe, that they are better than the members of the Lord’s church.
    7. The disciples of the antichrists believe, that it is their right to be rulers over everyone else. They begin to study to destroy the freedom of the people. “Unrighteous lawyers and judges lay the foundation of the destruction of the people.”
    7. They seek to establish themselves as kings, to destroy the freedom of the Nephites, and to destroy the Lord’s church. They become known as the kingmen.
    8. Being the weaker part of the Nephites and unable to obtain their objectives on their own power; the kingmen enter into agreements with the Lamanites and stir up the Lamanites to battle against the Nephites, with the agreement, that after the Nephites are defeated, the kingmen would be placed in power over the Nephites.
    9. The kingmen establish secret combinations. They deceive the Nephites into supporting them in government. They even commit murders in order to gain power in government. They become known as the Gadianton robbers.
    10. They even fight among themselves for control of government.
    11. The prophets (Nephi, Lehi, Moroniha, Samuel the Lamanite, and others) call upon the Nephites to repent of supporting the Gadianton robbers.
    12. The Nephites, for the most part, ignore the prophets.
    13. The Gadianton robbers gain exclusive control of the Nephite government.
    14. The Gadianton robbers seek to destroy the church and those, who oppose the Gadianton robbers. (3 Nephi 1)
    15. Many desent from the Nephites and join the Gadianton robbers.
    16. The Gadianton robbers become so strong, that they demand the surrender of the Nephites.
    17. The Gadianton robbers deceitfully invite the righteous Nephites to “yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us – not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance.” (a lovely Marxist statement)
    18. The righteous are commanded to gather all of their substance, except their lands, and meet together where they will unite against the Gadianton robbers.
    19. The Gadianton robbers are defeated.
    20. The Nephites begin to rebuild the secret combinations of the Gadianton robbers.
    21. The Lord comes and destroys the Gadianton robbers and all who do wickedly.

    If such a parallelism does exist, one should be able to study our modern history and find the existence of secret combinations and be able to historically trace back their origins to the teachings of antichrists.

    I have done so. I, therefore, believe Ezra Taft Benson.

    And, if we are indeed nearing 3 Nephi 3, we shall soon see.

  8. Rick Davis
    May 11, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    A very, very misleading article. If I chose to take the time I could prove each.and.every point if thus article is misleading and false and supported by hearsay evidence and totally false information. But I won’t take the time. This type of article usually falls on deaf ears anyway – except to those who already have the spirit of apostasy and are desperately seeking something, no matter how false, to justify their positions.

    • moroni
      May 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

      The research done here is carefully documented and well-sourced. Feel free to dispute any of the points in the article. We respect your opinion and would love to hear your point of view on the matter.

      • Rick Davis
        May 12, 2013 at 7:01 am #

        i wont take the time. Like I said apostasy articles usually are harmless to anyone except those who already have the seeds of apostasy within themselves.

        I will mention a couple of items: 1. You repeatedly “quote” unnamed sources and unnamed general authorities., 2. You “quote” sources and material that the avg person has no access to and no way to verify. 3. Many of your “facts” are just plain false.

        Using these methods ANYONE can write ANYTHING and claim it is substantiated.

        But apostasy is apostasy and trying to misrepresent and falsify the teachings of, and to harm the reputation of a “prophet, seer, and revelator” fits the definition of an apostate.

        • geoffsn
          May 12, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

          There are ample footnotes. Please tell us which ones you take issue with and we’ll attempt to give better sources for it. The church history department is very willing to work with people and if you contact them about access to any of the documents listed here, they are quite helpful in getting access. Please list what facts you feel are false.

          You keep shouting accusations of apostasy, but you are unwilling to explain what you feel is wrong. What is presented here is a documented account of what happened in history. Telling the truth is not apostate.

  9. Rick Davis
    May 14, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    “To PUBLISH differences we may think we have with the leaders of the Church, to create strife and division, is the SURE road to apostasy.” First Presidency. Emphasis added.

    And you are doing just that – all in an effort to justify your own political beliefs and to convince others to accept those beliefs.

    And, no, I will not get in a “quote bash” with apostates.

    • moroni
      May 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      Do you think our goal is to create strife and contention? That is not our intent, and we apologize if strife or contention are the result of this article. We are, in fact, trying to avoid the strife aimed at many liberal members who are told they are apostates because they do not agree with Elder Benson. This article simply demonstrates the historical fact that many good members and leaders of the church throughout time have disagreed with Elder Benson and his teachings.

  10. Maggie
    August 4, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    First off he was President Benson when he died and calling him Elder, to me, seems like you are trying to discredit him. Isn’t that what the wicked always want to do? Also, people doing what is right do not have to make web sites telling people that they are doing what is right. Communism and socialism do not work. Why has the U.S. been the number one country to come to? It is because we had been a land of opportunity. Communism tries to take God out of people’s lives. When there is o God there stops being right and wrong and life stops being respected. Why can the Chinese government kill any of its people who try and rebel? Why can they let their baby girls die in piles of other baby girls, called the dying rooms? Read history and you will see over 1,000 years proved what the prohpet of God was saying, and that the warnings are coming to pass.

    • Chad
      October 5, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

      Time to turn the television to something other than FOX News

    • geoffsn
      March 24, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

      The time period covered in this article is prior to his time as Church President, when he was known as ‘Elder Benson.’ If your rubric for saying that communism and socialism don’t work is that societies which had those forms of government eventually collapsed, then we don’t have any models that work because governments of all forms have collapsed. The U.S. was “the number one country to come to” in the post WWII period until the late 20th century. Since that time, a number of industrialized, socialized countries have pushed us pretty far down the list. Recognizing this is vital fixing the problem and working to make the U.S. a place where there is more socio-economic mobility. Thanks for your thoughts.

  11. rick davis
    August 8, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    The answer to your question is “yes”. You are deliberately trying to sow the seads of dissension in a public forum.Nice rationalization and splitting hairs on wording. The First Presidency statement above plainly states that publishing differences with church leaders leads to apostasy. Your purpose is to motivate others to agree with your political views and disagree with many presidents of the church. You are simply trying to spread your poison.

    You’re main article supposedly quotes misc individual authorities who supposedly disagreed with President Benson. You dont quote the many Presidents of the Church who supported him. You dont tell your audience that many of those authorities you quoted, including Joseph Fielding Smith, were called to repentance by the First Presidency for their statements.

    It is NOT your place to try to influence members of the church especially with doctrine that differs with the First Presidency. That is apostasy. If you have differences with the authorities of the church you take it to them perdonally through letters etc. You do not try to it in a public forum. That is apostasy.

    To teach members of the church that they should support same sex marriage (and other topics) – when the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have unitedly, publicly and repeatedly said otherwise – is not your place nor your authority and is apostasy.

    It is not your place to try to influence doctrine for the church and motivate other members to do the same. That is apostasy. Doctrine of the church lies entirely with the Savior and His ordained servants.

    My advice to you is to repent and close down this site, to spend more time reading your Book of Mormon and Conference Reports and less time with liberal writings.

    My advice to those reading this site is to remember the warning to David Whitmer in D&C 30: “You’re mind has been on the things of the earth more than on the things of me, your Maker. You have not given heed to those who were set over you, but have been persuaded by THOSE WHOM I HAVE NOT COMMANDED.”

    • Chad
      October 5, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

      Rick,

      Members like you are the reason the Brethren are now having to employ “The Great Rescue” to bring good people back into the fold who have felt alienated in the church. People expressing their views and opinions have to fear that they will be called apostates by their peers. You give a quote by the First Presidency about the road to apostasy, I can give you many more by Presidents of the Church and members of the First Presidency advocating a questioning mind and spirit.

    • Chris Burt
      April 3, 2014 at 5:04 am #

      Brother Rick,
      I think the tone (and substance) of your post betrays you. A few scriptures come to mind:

      Luke 6:42
      Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

      Luke 6:45
      A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

      Matthew 6:21
      For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

      It’s disappointing that you chose to contribute to a discussion about aspects of Christ’s church without any degree of Christian love, kindness or civility. A willingness or ability to articulate disagreement in a Christ-like way would not only benefit you but those who read your comments, especially if you honestly feel like those who read this blog need repenting.

      Joseph Smith History 1:28
      …and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me…

  12. Michael
    December 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    I’m all for honest evaluation and expression of viewpoints, and I absolutely agree that there are times when church leaders speak as a mouthpiece of the Lord and there are times when they might express views as an individual.

    However, there is a very fine line one must walk when addressing sensitive matters, particularly those of this nature. Elder Oaks gives an excellent talk in admonition to members of the church as to where to draw this line. If you took the time to read this article, its worth taking the time to see what the apostles have to say about handling the matters this article endeavors to treat.

    http://www.lds.org/ensign/1987/02/criticism

    • Michael
      December 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      Note, this talk was given in the early years of President Bensons time as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

  13. John R
    January 27, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    I loved and sustained President Benson and know he was a man of God. He was vindicated when he was sustained as prophet.

    • moroni
      January 27, 2014 at 10:36 am #

      What do you mean “vindicated”?

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