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Sunday, February 01, 2015

Snubbing Benson

To snub means to rebuff, ignore, or spurn disdainfully, and that is exactly what the LDS blog Approaching Justice (hereinafter, "A.J.") did last September when it commemorated Constitution Day with a short animated cartoon and summed up the U.S. Constitution this way:

"It is about how to make laws. Really, that is it. It is rules about how laws are made and who has the power to make what laws."

Click on the image below to visit A.J.'s post.

Meanwhile, Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was a modern apostle and prophet who explained the U.S. Constitution over and over and in detail throughout his 51 year ministry. In fact, no Prophet has taught the principles and importance of the U.S. Constitution more thoroughly or more often than did Ezra Taft Benson.

So here's the snub: After setting forth its own oversimplified, 28-word explanation of the Constitution, A.J. arrogantly asserts:

"Anyone that adds anything to that is selling you something. DO NOT BUY IT."

But Ezra Taft Benson did add something to that, a lot in fact, and he was sent by God to do it. Hence, today I am answering A.J.'s post. My response is in three parts. The first two parts were posted here on this blog last month.

Part one (click here): Preparation for his prophetic calling included Ezra Taft Benson's worldwide experience as a government official. It was not just a coincidence that he presided over the Church during the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.

Part two (click here): According to Ezra Taft Benson, verses 77 and 80 of section 101 in the Doctrine and Covenants are fundamental to a correct understanding of the Constitution. Over the years, he quoted these two verses of scripture again and again as he urged the Saints to defend and preserve the U.S. Constitution.

Part three: Every Latter-day Saint with interest in the U.S. Constitution should listen to this 1986 speech by then Church President Ezra Taft Benson. It is titled, "The Constitution—A Heavenly Banner." (Note the introduction by Jeffrey R. Holland.)



There is no animation. It is audio only. And it might seem a little long compared to A.J.'s animated cartoon. But unlike the cartoon, it is a message from a Prophet and it actually talks about the U.S. Constitution.

If you wish, you can follow along, reading the text of the speech as you listen (click here). Or you might just quickly skim over the text and call that good enough.

But whatever you decide, don't forget who established the U.S. Constitution and don't forget who prepared a modern Prophet to teach us what it is really "all about."

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Do Mormons want their prophets to keep still on politics?

In a First Presidency Message published in the Church's international magazine, Ezra Taft Benson said:

"The world prefers that prophets either be dead or worry about their own affairs. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on." (Liahona, June, 1981.)

Do Mormons want their prophets to keep still on politics? No, not all of their prophets, just the one who was most uniquely and thoroughly prepared by God to be His spokesman on politics and on the U.S. Constitution (see "Ezra Taft Benson, A Uniquely Prepared Prophet").

Thomas S. Monson has highlighted the special connection that existed between Ezra Taft Benson and the U.S. Constitution:

"I think it is the inspiration of Almighty God that at this particular time [1989] we have serving as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Ezra Taft Benson, one of the greatest advocates of freedom, and one of those who loves most the Constitution of this land." (Church News, Dec. 30, 1989.)

Ezra Taft Benson was called to general Church leadership in 1943, became Church President in 1985, and died in 1994. A persistent theme throughout his 51-year ministry as apostle and prophet was our individual responsibility to defend and preserve the United States Constitution.

Ezra Taft Benson saw significance in verses 77 and 80 of section 101 in the Doctrine and Covenants. Over the years, Ezra Taft Benson quoted these two verses of scripture again and again as he urged the Saints to defend and preserve the U.S. Constitution.

This year’s Teachings of Presidents manual notes:

"In April 1948, Elder Benson gave his first of many general conference addresses focusing on ‘the prophetic mission’ of the United States of America and the importance of freedom." (p.21.)

In that "first of many" addresses, Ezra Taft Benson cited D&C 101:77, 80, something he did repeatedly throughout the remainder of his ministry.

Please listen to the audio while you read the following paragraph from a 1973 speech Ezra Taft Benson gave to the students at BYU. Notice how he emphasizes one particular word.



"I am grateful that the God of heaven saw fit to put his stamp of approval upon the Constitution and to indicate that it had come into being through wise men whom he raised up unto this very purpose. He asked the Saints, even in the dark days of their persecution and hardship, to continue to seek for redress from their enemies 'according,' he said, 'to the laws and constitution ... which I have suffered [or caused] to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh' (D&C 101 :77). And then he made this most impressive declaration: 'And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood' (Ibid., 101:80)." ("This Nation Shall Endure," BYU Speeches, 1973; see also Conference Report, Oct. 1954.)

This year’s Teachings of Presidents manual points out that Ezra Taft Benson "observed the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States by speaking on the subject in the October 1987 general conference of the Church." (p.32.)

In that general conference, Ezra Taft Benson spoke as God’s mouthpiece to the Church and to the world as he emphasized that the U.S. Constitution "'belongs to all mankind' (D&C 98:5) 'and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh' (D&C 101:77)." (Ensign, Nov. 1987; italics Benson’s.)

Then, in the last talk he was able to personally deliver in general conference (see Teachings of Presidents, p.xi), he cited D&C 101:77, 80 one more time as he testified that God Himself established the U.S. Constitution:

"God raised up the founding fathers of the United States of America and established the inspired Constitution. (See D&C 101:77–80.)" ("I Testify," Ensign, Nov. 1988.)

Harold B. Lee, a boyhood friend and apostolic associate, lauded Ezra Taft Benson's loyalty to the U.S. Constitution:

"The two ruling passions of his life might be said to be, first, his unshakable faith in the intervention of an Omnipotent Power in the affairs of men; and second, his certainty that the Constitution of the United States was divinely inspired." (So Shall Ye Reap, p.viii.)

Regarding the U.S. Constitution, there are no surprises in this year's Teachings of Presidents manual. Ezra Taft Benson was President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he spoke to the students at Brigham Young University and made this prophetic statement:

"We must learn the principles of the Constitution and then abide by its precepts.... The Church will not tell us how to do this, but we are admonished to do it." ("The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner," Sep. 16, 1986; emphasis added.)

What Ezra Taft Benson taught about the U.S. Constitution was grounded in the standard works. Throughout his life, he referred repeatedly to verses 77 and 80 from section 101 in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Do Mormons want their prophets to keep still on politics? No, not all of their prophets, just the one who traveled the world as a political leader and conducted official Government business with the kings and rulers of this world—just the one who was most uniquely and thoroughly prepared by God to be His spokesman on politics and on the U.S. Constitution (see "Ezra Taft Benson, A Uniquely Prepared Prophet").

(read more...)

Ezra Taft Benson: A Uniquely Prepared Prophet

God prepares His prophets. Joseph Smith declared: "I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain;... with all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there, and thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty." [1]  Indeed, the life of every prophet is filled with experiences that prepare him for his prophetic calling.

So it was with Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994). His biographer, Sheri L. Dew, recently explained: "President Ezra Taft Benson's life is remarkable by any measure—and almost impossible to do justice to in a full-length biography, let alone in one article. Studying the life of a prophet is more, much more, than simply recounting events. It is an opportunity to see the hand of the Lord in action as He prepares and tutors a man to be ready when the moment comes that He anoints him as His mouthpiece on the earth." [2]

Preparation for his prophetic calling included Ezra Taft Benson's keen interest in government combined with worldwide experience as a government official. It was not just a coincidence that he presided over the Church during the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. He was this dispensation's Prophet specialist on politics.


Becoming a National Political Figure

In 1939, Ezra Taft Benson became the executive secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. In this capacity, he was the Council's chief operating officer.

For the next four years, he represented the cooperatives on Capitol Hill. He also coordinated efforts to educate cooperative leaders nationwide about agricultural issues. In addition, he published a monthly bulletin for the Council and attended Council meetings throughout the country.

During this important period of his life, Ezra Taft Benson regularly had close contact with high U.S. government officials and learned to navigate the murky waters of national politics.

When he left Washington in 1943, he had become a national political figure. [3]


An International Statesman

At the end of World War II, Ezra Taft Benson supervised the Church's relief effort in Europe. In just ten months, he traveled more than 60,000 miles and met with high ranking government officials in 13 nations as he delivered food, clothing, and medical supplies to the people of post-war Europe. [4]

With headquarters in London, England, Ezra Taft Benson organized Mormon relief efforts in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, and Poland. [5]

Everywhere he went, there was a constant struggle with bureaucratic red tape. Completion of this assignment required his utmost faith and diplomacy. [6]

While he was in Europe, Ezra Taft Benson again represented the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, this time at the International Conference of Agriculture Producers in London, England. Many delegates to this Conference invited him to contact them again when he visited their countries. [7]

He also participated with the American delegation to the Conference of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Copenhagen, Denmark. [8]

By the time he returned from this mission, Ezra Taft Benson had become an international statesman. [9]


United States Secretary of Agriculture

Then came his experience as the first Mormon to serve in the cabinet of a United States President. Newspapers from coast to coast headlined the news that Eisenhower had named the first clergyman in the century to a cabinet post. [10]

In a later article, the New York Times Magazine praised his integrity: "He acts like a man whose conscience is always clear—his testimony [before Congress] today will be the same next week or the week after or a year from now. He doesn't have to remember what he said to an opposition Senator at their last meeting. This is a built-in ulcer-saving device not always found in Washington." [11]

Secretary Benson traveled internationally, as he sought to increase agricultural exports abroad. He visited Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Trinidad, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Columbia, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico. In each nation he met with presidents, ministers of agriculture, and ambassadors. [12]

He represented the United States in Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Italy, and Switzerland, calling on government officials and observing agriculture in these nations. In Rome, he delivered the keynote address at the International Federation of Agricultural Producers. [13]

His work took him to Japan, India, Pakistan, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, England, and Hong Kong, meeting with such world leaders as Jordan's King Hussein, and Israel's Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. [14]

When Nikita Khrushchev visited Washington, Ezra Taft Benson supervised his visit to the USDA Beltsville Experiment Station in Maryland. [15]

On a trip through Yugoslavia, West Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union, Finland, Sweden, and Norway, Secretary Benson met with Yugoslavia's President Tito and the Soviet Minister of Agriculture. [16]

Toward the end of his service as Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson made yet another trip to Europe and the Middle East. [17]

His last official trip was to the Orient and South Seas. He visited Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and New Zealand. [18]  When it was over he had visited more than forty nations as an official of the United States government. [19]


More International Statesmanship

Three years after his return from Washington, Ezra Taft Benson was back in Europe supervising the Church's missionary work there. As he traveled from country to country, he renewed acquaintances with heads of state, ministers of agriculture, and other high ranking officials. [20]  During one visit to Italy, for example, he was greeted with open arms by the U.S. Ambassador and the Italian Minister of Religion in Rome [21]  and by the time he was called back to Salt Lake City, missionaries were proselyting in Italy for the first time. [22]

During this period of his life he gave his greatest number of talks about freedom and the U.S. Constitution. [23]  It is apparent that everywhere he went, his feelings and concerns about America and freedom were confirmed by what he saw and heard. His political education had been gradual but firsthand. [24]


Patriotism and the Book of Mormon

For Ezra Taft Benson, patriotism and love of country were neither old-fashioned nor incidental—they were an integral part of his ministry.

He will be remembered as one of the greatest patriots of our time—a patriot of international stature. [25]  A tribute entered in the Congressional Record called him "intensely patriotic." [26]  In 1965, he was named to the American Patriots Hall of Fame. [27]

Ezra Taft Benson has explained his patriotic motivation as follows: "From the time I was a small boy I was taught that the American Constitution is an inspired document. I was taught that we should study the Constitution, preserve its principles, and defend it against any who would destroy it. To the best of my ability I have always tried to do this. I expect to continue my efforts to help protect and safeguard our inspired Constitution." [28]

He explained his emphasis on the Book of Mormon this way: "What is the essential message of the Book of Mormon that is so vital to our time? It is a witness to our generation. It prophesied the founding of this nation and how we may survive as a free country." [29]

From his early youth, Ezra Taft Benson devoured the Book of Mormon. He read it on trains and planes and late in the evening before retiring. Often, he sent copies of the Book of Mormon to people he met while traveling, to national and world leaders. [30]

It was his stated opinion that "a person can learn more about what is really happening in America from the Book of Mormon than he can from ... newspapers." [31]


A Uniquely Prepared Prophet

The general officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do a lot of traveling. They regularly see much of the world as they meet with Church members around the globe.

But Ezra Taft Benson did something most Mormon leaders do not do, something no other Mormon Prophet has ever done. Ezra Taft Benson traveled the world as a political leader. He conducted official Government business with the kings and rulers of this world. He knew them by name. And they knew him.

Any man with Ezra Taft Benson's patriotism and experience deserves our careful attention. Considering his stature as a Latter-day Prophet, Ezra Taft Benson's political viewpoint should be important to every Latter-day Saint.

_______________

Notes

1.  As quoted by Gordon B. Hinckley in Ensign, Jan. 1974, p.124.

2.  "2015 Curriculum to Focus on Ezra Taft Benson," LDS Church News, December 3, 2014.

3.  Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography, Deseret Book, 1987, pp.143-180; herinafter cited as Biography.

4.  Frederick W. Babbel, On Wings of Faith, Bookcraft, 1972, pp.1-190; see also Biography, pp.197-227.

5.  Ibid.; see also New Era, Jan. 1986, p.7.

6.  Biography, p.216.

7.  Biography, p.217.

8.  Biography, p.217.

9.  Biography, pp.420 & 507.

10.  Biography, p.256.

11.  Biography, p.295-296.

12.  Biography, p.303.

13.  Biography, p.305.

14.  Biography, p.325.

15.  Biography, p.338.

16.  Biography, p.340-341.

17.  Biography, p.349.

18.  Biography, p.353-354.

19.  Biography, p.364.

20.  Biography, p.375.

21.  Biography, p.377.

22.  Biography, p.382.

23.  Biography, pp.366-367.

24.  Biography, p.363.

25.  Biography, p.507.

26.  Biography, p.359.

27.  Biography, p.385.

28.  The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Bookcraft, 1988, pp.614-615; see also pp.50-51.

29.  Ibid., p.576.

30.  Biography, pp.59, 195, & 498.

31.  Biography, p.366.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

The politics of Ezra Taft Benson in 2015

Did God Himself establish the Constitution of the United States? Does it belong to all mankind? Should it be maintained today? (See D&C 98:5; 101:77, 80.)


God's word shall not pass away

Ezra Taft Benson was President of the Church from 1985 to 1994. Malcolm S. Jeppsen was a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1989 to 1994.

In 1991, while serving as a Counselor in the Utah North Area Presidency (and while Ezra Taft Benson was still Church President), Malcolm S. Jeppsen was the visiting authority in several stake conferences and gave a talk (click here) wherein he counselled against using the "writings and speeches of President Benson given years ago when world conditions were different."

Specifically, he counselled against using Ezra Taft Benson's writings to warn about "individuals or conspirators in our government as being ready to subvert our constitution."

Malcolm S. Jeppsen gave this talk in my own stake and I heard it in person. I challenged him in writing (click here) about his claim that changes in world conditions had invalidated the Prophet's words. The issue wasn't really world conditions. The issue was whether Ezra Taft Benson spoke God's word in the past.

"Though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away." (D&C 1:38.) The passing away of the heavens and the earth would be an extreme change in world conditions, yet God's word would not be effected.


Ezra Taft Benson and the U.S. Constitution

All Latter-day Prophets, from President Joseph Smith to President Thomas S. Monson (click here), have affirmed God's hand in the founding of the U.S. Constitution. Even if that is viewed as less relevant to members living outside the United States, yet it is based on scripture that has not been rescinded. Specifically, three verses (D&C 98:5; 101:77, 80) declare God's approval of and support for the U.S. Constitution.

What, then, about Ezra Taft Benson's so-called political teachings, those related to the Constitution? For decades, some of us have sidestepped the Constitution and at the same time have accused Ezra Taft Benson of being political. But Ezra Taft Benson has only asked us to do what scripture demands: Maintain and preserve the Constitution which God Himself established.

A significant portion of Ezra Taft Benson's 51-year ministry as apostle and prophet was devoted to defending the Constitution against its domestic and foreign foes. And this is another fact that may be considered less relevant to members living outside the United States. But surely the rest of us dare not just forget Ezra Taft Benson's teachings and watch from the sidelines while the U.S. Constitution is dismantled and discarded.

Dare we?

(read more...)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Prince and Wright and the Demise of Communism

In their book, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (University of Utah Press, 2005), Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright discuss the Church's 1966 statement on Communism which was issued by David O. McKay. The excerpt quoted by Prince and Wright includes the following:

"We consider [Communism] the greatest satanical threat to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God's work among men that exists on the face of the earth." (p.313.)

Thus, McKay said the greatest threat to missionary work in 1966 was Communism. At the time, Communist governments did not allow missionaries or even Church materials into their countries. McKay's assessment was well grounded.

But what about today, half a century later?


The demise of Communism

On page 321 of their book, Prince and Wright trumpet this heading:

THE DEMISE OF COMMUNISM

The common English definition of the word "demise" is as follows:

demise: noun   1. a person's death. synonyms death, dying, passing. 2. the end or failure of an enterprise or institution. synonyms end, breakup, disintegration, fall, downfall, collapse

According to Prince and Wright, McKay had overstated the threat of Communism. They claim that, although he was "willing to go to war to fight Communism, the war never came." (p.321.)


Throughout the world

And lest anyone think this was merely a regional demise, Prince and Wright emphasize:

"Communism as a successful form of government quickly became discredited throughout the world." (p.321; emphasis added.)

Communism, discredited "throughout the world," would no longer be the greatest threat to missionary work. So what is that threat today?


The greatest threat to missionary work

Contrary to the opinion of Prince and Wright, David O. McKay's 1966 assessment of Communism's effect on missionary work is still accurate today. Consider the following:

The People's Republic of China (PRC) has existed since 1949 when it was founded by the Communist Party of China, the country's sole governing political party.

The reader is invited to visit the LDS Church's "Newsroom" and view "Facts and Statistics" for a few of the countries of the world. The chart below shows "Newsroom" statistics for China and two of its neighbors.

Notice that statistics for Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China are listed by the Church separately. This may be in part because they each have their own money, passports, legal system, and language(s). It may also be due to the fact that LDS missionaries freely proclaim the gospel in Hong Kong but not in China. Even online missionaries are presently asked by the Church to avoid crossing into China:

"Online proselyting should not cross international borders into countries where the Church has chosen or agreed not to proselyte. This currently includes the People's Republic of China." (Official LDS web page, Mormons and China).


Go ye therefore, and teach all nations

Today, nearly 1.4 billion people live in the People's Republic of China, approximately 20 percent of the world’s population. In order to illustrate what it means for one country to have one-fifth of the world’s population, this map divides the world into five regions, each with the same population as China.

Source: The Atlantic, Aug. 14, 2013.


McKay's assessment still valid

In 1966, Communism prevented the Church from reaching a large percentage of God's mortal children. At that time, President David O. McKay identified Communism as the greatest threat to the spread of God's work among men that existed on the face of the earth.

Today, one in five of earth's inhabitants live where missionary work is prohibited by Communism. It seems clear to me that McKay's 1966 assessment of Communism's effect on missionary work is still valid.

And it also seems clear to me that the demise of Communism throughout the world is a Prince and Wright myth.



The image below was added on 2014-11-29 in response to an anonymous comment claiming that "China is categorically no longer a communist country." Anonymous might want to share that critical piece of news with BBC News (among others).

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Prince and Wright stumble over civil rights

Nine years ago, Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright co-authored a 512-page book titled David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (University of Utah Press, 2005). Seven years ago, and again four years ago, my blog accused Prince and Wright (here) of maligning Bruce R. McConkie in their book.

Today we will evaluate a section of the Prince and Wright book that discusses "McKay's Inner Circle" of advisers on civil rights (pp.63-66). According to Prince and Wright:

"Nearly all of the voices [McKay] heard on a regular basis were opposed to expanded civil rights for blacks." (p.63.)


THOSE WHO OPPOSED CIVIL RIGHTS

Prince and Wright name eight of McKay's advisers who opposed civil rights. WARNING: Some of the opinions of these men, as described by Prince and Wright, have been deceptively misrepresented. For this reason, the names are here abbreviated.

1.  Brother C. consistently discouraged the expansion of civil rights, authorized local church leaders in Salt Lake City to join a civic organization whose purpose was to restrict and control negro settlement, and wanted to allow using LDS chapels for meetings to prevent Negroes from becoming neighbors.

2.  Brother M. openly opposed the deployment of troops to an army base near Salt Lake City because such a deployment would likely include two hundred or more Negro families, and spoke strongly against Kennedy's proposed civil rights legislation.

3.  Brother S. had been quoted in a national magazine as saying, "Darkies are wonderful people, and they have their place in our Church."

4.  Brother L. was an outspoken opponent of civil rights and was in favor of barring blacks entirely from Brigham Young University.

5.  Brother B. stated publicly that the civil rights movement in the South had been fomented almost entirely by the communists and that the whole civil rights movement was phony.

6.  Brother P. addressed the issue of civil rights in a CES talk and said, "I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation?"

7.  Brother W. said the Lord himself created the different races and urged in the Old Testament and other places that they be kept distinct and to themselves.

8.  Brother D. taught that Negroes had rejected the Priesthood in the pre-existence.


THE LONE SUPPORTER OF CIVIL RIGHTS

After naming eight advisers who opposed civil rights, Prince and Wright name one adviser who was...

"...the sole voice of moderation on the subject of civil rights within McKay's inner circle" (p.65).

This Brother, we are informed, urged the church to speak out in favor of civil rights.


NOTHING WRONG WITH CIVIL RIGHTS

The fifth man named above, Brother B., is Ezra Taft Benson. And according to Prince and Wright, he opposed civil rights. But quote that with caution.

In a paragraph on page 64 that references McKay's personal diary, Prince and Wright point out that Benson was authorized by David O. McKay to address the subject of civil rights in the October 1967 general conference. A few pages later, a quotation from the same diary affirms again that McKay authorized Benson's conference talk on civil rights (p70).

What Prince and Wright neglect to mention in their book is that Benson's talk included an important clarification about his position on civil rights:

"Now there is nothing wrong with civil rights; it is what's being done in the name of civil rights that is alarming.

"There is no doubt that the so-called civil rights movement as it exists today is used as a Communist program for revolution in America just as agrarian reform was used by the Communists to take over China and Cuba." (General Conference, Oct. 1967.)


BENSON OPPOSED COMMUNISM, NOT CIVIL RIGHTS

In the same page 64 paragraph, Prince and Wright describe a 1963 Benson talk in such a way as to create the illusion that Benson said something the opposite of what he did in fact say:

"Speaking publicly against proposed federal civil rights legislation in 1963, Benson 'charged ... that the civil right's movement in the South had been "fomented almost entirely by the communists,"' and went on to say that 'the whole civil rights movement was "phony."'" (p.64.)

Here is what Ezra Taft Benson actually said in his talk:

"The whole slogan of 'civil rights' as used to make trouble in the South today, is an exact parallel to the slogan of 'Agrarian reform' which [the communists] used in China. The pending 'civil rights' legislation is, I am convinced, about 10% civil rights and about 90% a further extension of socialistic Federal controls. It is part of the pattern for the Communist takeover of America. 'The whole civil rights' program and slogan in America today is just as phony as were the 'Agrarian reform' program and slogan of the Communists in China 20 years ago."

This is from a speech delivered in the Logan Tabernacle on December 13, 1963. The speech is published on pages 42-60 of Ezra Taft Benson's book, Title of Liberty (Deseret Book, 1964) and the above paragraph is found on page 58 of that book.

Notice that, contrary to what we are led by Prince and Wright to believe, Ezra Taft Benson said he opposed that part of the legislation which was NOT civil rights but was, instead, an extension of socialistic Federal controls.

Now it does not matter whether we agree that the civil rights movement had been taken over by the communists. The important thing is that that is what Ezra Taft Benson believed and taught. He was opposed to the communists using the civil rights movement to take over the United States. He never said he was opposed to civil rights. On the contrary, he declared in general conference:

"There is nothing wrong with civil rights."


BENSON AND THE JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY

In 1963, President David O. McKay received an invitation from a former U.S. Congressman, asking that Ezra Taft Benson be authorized to give a patriotic speech at a testimonial dinner for Robert Welch, founder of the anti-Communist group, the John Birch Society.

President McKay carefully considered the ramifications of the invitation and then told Benson he should take the talk and that he (Benson) had his (McKay's) permission and blessing.

This talk was perhaps the most controversial speech of Benson's career. Newspapers all over the country expressed surprise that the former secretary of agriculture would call Robert Welch, founder and leader of the John Birch Society, "one of the greatest patriots in American history."

Some Church members and leaders complained that Benson, as a Church official, had no business speaking at the Welch dinner.

According to Prince and Wright, President McKay told his side of this story in a meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Quoting McKay's personal diary, Prince and Wright report that McKay told the Brethren he had given Benson permission to take the talk:

"I mentioned that some people had said that that was one activity wherein Brother Benson went contrary to the counsel of the Presidency and General Authorities. I said that Elder Benson had full permission to give that lecture and he gave a good talk." (pp.301-302.)

Prince and Wright report that Robert Welch contacted President McKay on three occasions, asking McKay to allow Benson to join the National Council of the John Birch Society, but that McKay had all three times denied Welch's request (pp. 294-295, 317-318).


VILIFYING BENSON

With this background in mind, let us consider the following excerpt from the paragraph by Prince and Wright that describes Benson's opposition to civil rights:

"A friend and confidant of Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, Benson tried unsuccessfully to obtain McKay's permission to serve on its board of directors. Undaunted by McKay's consistent refusals, he repeatedly endorsed in public settings the racist agenda of Welch." (p.65.)

These two short sentences contain three vilifications of Ezra Taft Benson:

1. It is astonishing that Prince and Wright would brazenly accuse Benson of endorsing racism. This charge is not substantiated anywhere in their book, nor has such a charge been substantiated anywhere else for that matter.

2. There is no evidence in the Prince and Wright book that Ezra Taft Benson, even once, tried to obtain McKay's permission to serve on the John Birch Society National Council. According to Prince and Wright, it was Robert Welch who made those requests.

3. Benson walked lockstep with McKay through the 1960s as they both promoted freedom and opposed Communism. Prince and Wright have provided no evidence of Benson doing anything that McKay had asked him not to do.


CONCLUSION

I had a personal interview with Ezra Taft Benson in 1967 when I was a missionary in Germany. I had a similar experience again in 1978 in his office at Church headquarters.

I began my collection of his general conference talks long before the days of home computers and I've spent hundreds of hours studying all 114 of them. I own copies of and have carefully studied the following books he authored:

So Shall Ye Reap (1960),
The Red Carpet (1962),
Title of Liberty (1964),
An Enemy Hath Done This (1969),
God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties (1974),
This Nation Shall Endure (1977),
Come unto Christ (1983),
The Constitution, a Heavenly Banner (1986), and
The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (1988).

I've also given careful attention to the authorized story of his life, written by Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography (1987).

I am convinced that anyone who studies Ezra Taft Benson the way I have will gain a profound testimony of his unwavering integrity and his prophetic calling, as I have.

Every prophet has critics. And I've decided that those who are the most critical of Ezra Taft Benson have paid less attention to his speeches and books, and more attention to the prejudices and opinions of his earlier critics.

This, I believe, is how it is with Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, who deceptively misrepresent Ezra Taft Benson's views on civil rights in their book, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.

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