Ezra Taft Benson, 27 Oct 1963

-- 27 Oct 1963
In an address to southern whites of the New Orleans Stake on 27 October, [Benson] condemned U.S. presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy for sending federal troops to aid school integration of African-Americans in the South. Then the apostle praised the Birch Society to the Louisiana conference. (1)


-- 29 Oct 1963
[Benson] told reporters that the [European Mission President] assignment was not a "rebuke." (2)


-- 30 Oct 1963
Student conflict erupted at the University of Utah over Benson's speech to the New Orleans Stake against federal integration of schools. One of Benson's defenders accused the university's newspaper of an "anti-rightist crusade." For almost a month the Utah Chronicle's editorial page was dominated by the Benson controversy, until President John F. Kennedy's assassination in November finally superseded it. (3)


Joseph Fielding Smith ... wrote to Harding on 30 October: "I think it is time that Brother Benson forgot all about politics and settled down to his duties as a member of the Council of the Twelve." Smith concluded this letter, "He is going to take a mission to Europe in the near future and by the time he returns I hope he will get all of the political notions out of his system." (4)


-- 31 Oct 1963
The Missionary Training Institute president (a son-in-law of Apostle Harold B. Lee) expressed concern about covert efforts to convert LDS missionaries to the Birch Society. He indicated that "he will resist efforts on the part of some of the young zealots among the missionaries to indoctrinate their colleagues in political extremism." (5)


-- During October 1963
Those of us who think ". . . all is well in Zion . . ." (2 Nephi 28:21) in spite of Book of Mormon warning might ponder the words of Heber C. Kimball when he said, "Yes, we think we are secure here in the chambers of these everlasting hills . . . but I want to say to you, my brethren, the time is coming when we will be mixed up in these now peaceful valleys to that extent that it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy against the people of God. Then is the time to look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall. For I say unto you there is a test, a Test, a TEST coming." (6)


-- 1 Nov 1963
[T]he Idaho representative who had repudiated Benson in Congress now gloated to the press: "The leadership of the Church was inspired in this calling. I think he'll make a wonderful mission president if he can get away from the Birch Society." (7)


-- 6 Nov 1963
Congressman Harding wrote that "prospects in the Church do look brighter with the assignment of Ezra Taft Benson to Europe." (8)

Endnotes:
1 - "Stake Conference Assignments," Deseret News "Church News," 19 Oct. 1963, 4; "Benson, Graham Rip Wheat Sale," Deseret News, 28 Oct. 1963, A-6; "Benson Says Black is Red," Daily Utah Chronicle, 29 Oct. 1963,1, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
2 - "Benson Says: New Duties Not 'Rebuke,'" Salt Lake Tribune, 29 Oct. 1963, A-4; "Church Denies Mission Rumors," Deseret News, 21 Feb. 1964, A-8; "Letter Denies Rebuke in Benson Call," Salt Lake Tribune, 22 Feb. 1964, C-ll, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
3 - Clark King and Richard Littlefield in Daily Utah Chronicle, 30 Oct. 1963, 4, answered by Frank G. Adams and Gary Henrichsen (who used the phrase) in 4 Nov. 1963, 2, rebutted by King and Littlefield in 6 Nov. 1963,4, who were in turn rebutted by Corydon Hammond in 8 Nov. 1963, 4, who was answered by King and Littlefield in 14 Nov. 1963,: 2. Editorially, the Daily Utah Chronicle published a cartoon (31 Oct. 1963,4) which depicted Benson's mission assignment as a banishment by Uncle Sam, not the LDS church presidency, which Gary Henrichsen then criticized in his letter to the editor of 4 November. In response the editors published an even more insulting cartoon of Benson (21 Nov. 1963, 2), as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
4 - Smith to Harding, 30 Oct. 1963, photocopy in folder 2, box 4, King Papers, and in folder 22, box 5, Buerger Papers, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
5 - Reported in Richard D. Poll to Ralph Harding, 31 Oct. 1963, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
6 - Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, October 1963, p.16
7 - "Harding Says Benson Move 'Wise,'" Idaho Daily Statesman, 1 Nov. 1963, 20, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
8 - Ralph Harding to Richard D. Poll, 6 Nov. 1963, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3

LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson

Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson
http://lds-church-history.blogspot.com/

Ezra Taft Benson, 7 Oct 1963

-- 7 Oct 1963
[Hugh B.] Brown endorses "full civil rights for any person, regardless of race, color or creed." (1)


-- 8 Oct 1963
BYU professor of English [Ralph Britch] wrote: "Even my conservative friends on the faculty are disturbed by Elder Benson's Birch activities . . ." (2)


-- 18 Oct 1963
When his father [David O McKay] privately told Benson of the mission assignment [to Europe] on 18 October Robert McKay wrote to Congressman Harding: "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." Robert McKay was his father's secretary during trips to stakes and missions outside Utah, and would later read the ailing president's talks to general conferences. (3)


-- Oct 23, 1963
Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, president of Twelve, writes: "I am glad to report to you that it will be some time before we hear anything from Brother [Ezra Taft] Benson, who is now on his way to Great Britain."


-- 24 Oct 1963
The First Presidency announced they were assigning Benson to preside over the church's European mission in December. The media immediately described this as a "reprisal" or "exile" for Benson's virtual endorsement of the Birch Society at general conference. (4)


-- 25 Oct 1963
U.S. under-secretary of state W. Averill Harriman asked Hugh B. Brown how long Benson would be on this European mission. Brown reportedly replied: "If I had my way, he'd never come back!" (5)


[Hugh B.] Brown warned a BYU audience against "extremists and self-styled patriots who label all those who disagree with them as Communists." Then in a more obvious allusion to Benson, he said that the First Presidency "deplore any attempt made by individuals to ascribe to the Church personal beliefs which they entertain." Newspapers observed that Brown's "remarks were taken as a rebuff to Mormon apostle Ezra Taft Benson who has repeatedly expressed his admiration for the John Birch Society and its founder, Robert Welch." (6)


-- 26 Oct 1963
In introducing [under-secretary of state] Harriman to BYU students, [Hugh B.] Brown [said] ... "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." (7)

Endnotes:
1 - "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, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
2 - Ralph A. Britsch to Ralph R. Harding, 8 Oct. 1963, photocopies in folder 2, box 4, King Papers, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
3 - Robert R. McKay to Ralph R. Harding, 18 Oct. 1963, photocopy in folder 2, box 4, King Papers, and in folder 22, box 5, Buerger Papers; quotes from letter first published in "Ike, LDS Leaders Thank Harding For Anti-Birch, Benson Speech," Idaho State Journal, 20, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
4 - "Elder Benson To Direct Europe Mission," Deseret News, 24 Oct. 1963, A-l; 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, 29 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, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
5 - Brown statement to Harriman and Richard D. Poll in Salt Lake City, 25 Oct. 1963, quoted in Poll's letter to D. Michael Quinn, 13 Aug. 1992. For the visit of Harriman, Brown, and Poll in Provo, see photograph in Provo Daily Herald, 27 Oct. 1963, 3, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
6 - "Church Leader Rebuffs Self-Styled Patriots," Ogden Standard-Examiner, 26 Oct. 1963,9; also "President Brown Supports U.N., Hits Extremists," Deseret News, 26 Oct. 1963, B-l, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
7 - "President Brown Supports U.N., Hits Extremists," Deseret News, 26 Oct. 1963, B-l, as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992). See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3

LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson

Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson
http://lds-church-history.blogspot.com/

Ezra Taft Benson, 25 Sept 1963

-- 25 Sept 1963
Representative Ralph R. Harding told Congress in September that Benson was "a spokesman for the radical right." The congressman charged Benson with using his apostleship to give the false impression that the church and its people "approve of" the Birch Society. (1)


-- 30 Sept 1963
BYU's former student body president [Rex E. Lee] wrote in September 1963 about the difficulty of separating Benson's partisan statements from his church position. Rex E. Lee 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." This future president of Brigham Young University 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 organizations and leaders he is not declaring Church doctrine." (2)


[Senator] Harding ... privately lobbied liberal Mormons to "let President McKay and the other leaders of the Church know of your opposition to Ezra Taft Benson's activities on behalf of the Birch Society." (3)


-- Oct 4, 1963
Thomas S. Monson is ordained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (4)


Nathan Eldon Tanner: Second counselor to David O. (5)


-- October 4, 1963
[Hugh B. Brown] became ... First Counselor in 1963. His record of earlier service, his effective writings and sermons, and his long friendship and ideological affinity with LDS Church President David O. McKay probably accounted for his rapid advancement in the church hierarchy. McKay's failing health and his own policy differences within the church leadership later weakened Brown's influence, though his popularity remained great. (6)


-- 4 Oct 1963
Immediately after [Hugh B.] Brown was sustained as first counselor, Benson's conference sermon relayed a covert subtext to both supporters and detractors. On the surface, the talk referred to the excommunication of early church leaders and warned of the need to detect error today: "For even the Master followed the will of the Father by selecting Judas." In warning current Mormons not to be deceived, Benson quoted Brigham Young against deception by persons "speaking in the most winning tone, attended with the most graceful attitudes." Benson warned against those who "support in any way any organization, cause or measure which, in its remotest effect, would jeopardize free agency, whether it be in politics, government, religion, employment, education, or any other field." He then concluded with a long plea against the threats of socialism and Communism.

BYU's Ernest Wilkinson felt that the "Judas" reference specifically referred to Benson's "running controversy with President Brown." Brown was known as one of the most eloquent speakers in the church and as a defender of liberalism and socialism. Brown also recognized Benson's subtext. "I don't think I'm going to be excommunicated," the new first counselor told Wilkinson right after the conference session ended. Wilkinson saw Benson's October 1963 talk as further evidence of the animosity between Brown and Benson. "The feeling is very intense between them," BYU's president recorded; Brown wrote of being "surrounded by enemies or opponents." (7)


-- October 7, 1963
Dear Congressman Harding:

I am grateful for your letter and for the speech that you made in Congress concerning support and encouragement that the former Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Benson, has allegedly been giving to a Mr. Welch, said to be the founder and leader of the John Birch Society. Your honest and unselfish effort to set the record straight is something that warms my heart.

Frankly, because I rarely read such trash as I understand "The Politician" to be, I hever before read the specific accusations made against me by Robert Welch. But it is good to know that when they were brought to your attention you disregarded all partisan influences to express your honest convictions about the matter. It is indeed difficult to understand how a man, who professes himself to be an anti-Communist, can so brazenly accuse another -- whose entire life's record has been one of refutation of Communist theory, practice and purposes -- of Communist tendencies or leanings.

With my best wishes and personal regard,

Sincerely

<Signed: Dwight Eisenhower> ... (8)

Endnotes:
1 - Harding speech, Congressional Record—House 109 (25 Sept. 1963): 17208-209, reprinted as Ezra Taft Benson's Support of John Birch Society Is Criticized (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963); "Idaho Congressman Hits Benson Speech," and "Birch Official Gives Statement on Benson Talk," Deseret News, 26 Sept. 1963, A-3; "Legislator, a Mormon, Scores Benson for Birch Activities," New York Times, 26 Sept. 1963,; D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992)
2 - Lee to Ralph R. Harding, 30 Sept. 1963; D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992)
3 - For example, Ralph Harding to Richard Poll, 30 Sept. 1963; D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992)
4 - Wikipedia, 20th Century (Mormonism), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20th_century_(Mormonism)
5 - Cook, Lyndon W., The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants, Seventy's Mission Bookstore, Provo UT, 1985, http://amzn.to/RevelationsofJosephSmith
6 - Utah History Encyclopedia: Hugh B. Brown, http://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/
7 - Benson, "Be Not Deceived," Improvement Era 66 (Dec. 1963): 1063-65; Wilkinson diary, 4 Oct. 1963; Brown to Gustive O. Larson, 2 Oct. 1963, copy in folder 15, box 11, Larson Papers, also copy in Campbell Papers. Aside from Benson, Brown resented the influence on President McKay by Clare Middlemiss and Thorpe B. Isaacson who shared much of Benson's philosophy; D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson a nd Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992)
8 - President Dwight D. Eisenhower to Congressman Harding, October 7, 1963 (provided by Joe Geisner)

LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson

Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson
http://lds-church-history.blogspot.com/

Ezra Taft Benson, Jun 22, 1963

-- Jun 22, 1963
[Quorum of the Twelve] N. Eldon Tanner Second ordained 2nd Counselor to President David O. McKay. (1)


-- 3 July 1963
Reed Benson ... convinced the national Birch Council to open its meetings with prayer. (2)


-- July 31, 1963
...It is with some reluctance and deep regret that I extend t you a copy of "The Politician", by Robert Welch (founder of the John Birch Society), which I first read about two years ago.

This appears to be a factual account of the piecemeal surrender of America to the Communists by the hands of some of our fellow Americans. ...

All of us have been deceived, to a degree at least, by the adversary. ... (3)


-- 31 July 1963
[Ezra Taft Benson] sent copies of [John Birch leader Robert] Welch's anti-Eisenhower book to general authorities like Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith. (4)


-- August 1, 1963
Robert Welch "To Members of the COUNCIL": Welch sends each Council member a suggested letter which he asks them to send to Ezra Taft Benson, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, Sen. Strom Thurmond and Charles Edison – in order to encourage each of the 4 men to accept Welch's invitation to become members of the John Birch Society National Council. (5)


-- Sep 18, 1963
[Quorum of the Twelve] Henry D. Moyle dies. (1)


-- 23 September 1963
Benson gave a talk in Los Angeles praising Birch Society founder Robert H. Welch. Unlike his earlier praise for Welch, Benson delivered these remarks to a meeting officially sponsored by the Birch Society and attended by 2,000 Birchers. He began his talk by announcing: "I am here tonight with the knowledge and consent of a great spiritual leader and patriot, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President David O. McKay."

Welch had just published his most controversial book, The Politician. It accused former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower of being "sympathetic to ultimate Communist aims, realistically and even mercilessly willing to help them achieve their goals, knowingly receiving and abiding by Communist orders, and consciously serving the Communist conspiracy, for all of his adult life."Benson publicly implied endorsement of the allegation. (6)


-- September 23, 1963
Robert Welch (founder of the John Birch Society) had published the following in The Politician:

"Dwight Eisenhower ... became, automatically and immediately, captain and quarterback of the free-world team, in the fight against Communism. In our firm opinion he had been planted in that position, by Communists, for the purpose of throwing the game."

Benson was asked his opinion of Welch's statement, and replied simply that Eisenhower:

"supported me in matters of agriculture. In other areas we had differences." (7)


-- September 24, 1963
[Senator Ralph Harding] I was on the House floor when that report [of Benson's L.A. Speech] came in over the wires, the Associated Press and UPI. I was upset, and I stayed up there all night, taking that report and the information I had, and I wrote a speech criticizing Brother Benson for using his Church position to promote the John Birch Society. Then I called Milan Smith, who was a staunch Republican and my stake president then. [Smith had been Benson's chief of staff during his eight years in the Department of Agriculture.] I told him I would appreciate it if he would come up to my office, that there was something that I needed to discuss with him. He did. I let him take the speech, and he went through it. He was crossing out things here and writing more there, and he toughened it up! He made it even tougher than I had. He, [former stake] President J. Willard Marriott and most of the leaders of the Church back here were very, very upset about Brother Benson's actions. Then I called President [Hugh B.] Brown. We didn't have faxes, so we sat right there in my office, with Milan Smith on an extension, and I read the speech to President Brown. After I finished he said, "Well, Brother Harding, can you stand the brickbats?" I said, "I think so, President Brown." But he said, "No, I mean can you really stand the brickbats?" I said, "I think so." He said, "You know this speech will probably defeat you." I said, "I realize there is a chance of that." He said, "Well, if you are willing to take that chance, and you are wide [sic] aware of the brickbats that are going to come your way, you can do the Church a real service by going ahead and delivering that speech." I said, "That's all I wanted to know, President Brown." So I gave it the next day. It broke loose, especially in Utah and Idaho! (8)

Endnotes:
1 - Wikipedia, Chronology of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (LDS Church), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_Quorum_of_the_Twelve_Apostles_(LDS_Church)
2 - Reed A. Benson to Tom Anderson, "PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL," 3 July 1963, Anderson Papers, Knight Library, University of Oregon at Eugene. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
3 - Ezra Taft Benson to President Joseph Fielding Smith, July 31, 1963 (provided by Joe Geisner)
4 - Benson to Smith, 31 July 1963, in copy of Welch's The Politician, Special Collections, Lee Library; Hansen, "Analysis of the 1964 Idaho Second Congressional District Election Campaign," 50. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
5 - Ernie Lazar, Documentary History of the John Birch Society, https://sites.google.com/site/ernie1241b/home
6 - Benson, "Let Us Live to Keep Men Free": An Address . . . at a Patriotic Testimonial Banquet for Robert Welch , sponsored by Friends and Members of TJte John Birch Society at the Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, California, September 23, 1963 (Los Angeles: N.p, 1963). See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
7 - Greg Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
8 - Ralph R. Harding interview, October 24, 2000 as referenced in Greg Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson

Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson
http://lds-church-history.blogspot.com/

Ezra Taft Benson, 14 Mar 1963

-- 14 Mar 1963
Benson published an acknowledgement that his support of the Birch Society was "my personal opinion only." Benson's statement went on to quote the church president as being "opposed to anyone's using the Church for purposes of increasing membership" of the Birch Society or other anti-Communist organizations. (1)


-- 21 Mar 1963
Newspapers reported that more than a thousand LDS members of the Birch Society had written church headquarters with complaints or requests for clarification. The media may have obtained that information from McKay's secretary, Clare Middlemiss, who supported the Birch Society. In fact her pro-Birch orientation became the source of complaints by rank-and-file Mormons to the First Presidency. (2)


-- 10 Apr 1963
An LDS bishop visiting from Scotland was "shocked at Ezra Taft Benson's attack on socialists" in his conference talk. "If socialists are the same as communists, then all we're left is the Tories." The bishop vowed "to tell the people in Scotland about Ezra's comments." (3)


-- 1 May 1963
Ezra Taft Benson publically endorses Robert Welch, head of the John Birch Society] in Washington State. (4)


-- 13 May 1963
By 1963 [Apostle Harold B.] Lee privately said Benson labelled as a Communist "anyone who didn't agree with Brother Benson's mind." (5)


[F]irst counselor Moyle said Benson "just didn't have any reason" in his anti-Communist crusade. (6)


-- May 13, 1963
[Wilkinson received a phone call from Benson] "who read me the riot act for having invited a Communist to speak to our students ... Brother Lee commented that anyone who didn't agree with Brother Benson's mind was, indeed, a Communist. Brother Moyle said that he was happy that I was finding Brother Benson out, that when it came to this subject, he just didn't have any reason." (7)


-- 19 May 1963
Benson had identified Martin Luther King as a Communist. (8)


Someone ... burned a Nazi swastika in the lawn of Reed Benson's house shortly after his appointment as state coordinator for the John Birch Society. (9)


-- 20 May 1963
[T]he Birch Society's Utah membership tripled in the next six months after Reed Benson's appointment as state coordinator. (10)


-- 21 May 1963
Although Mormon Birchers later became famous for "espionage" at Brigham Young University, anti-Birch Mormons were also involved in similar subterfuge. LDS bishop and political scientist J. D. Williams referred in May 1963 to "one of my `spies' in the local Birch Society in Salt Lake City." He felt justified in this approach toward "the Birchers, who hate me . . ." (11)


-- Jun 22, 1963
[Hugh B. Brown] became ... First Counselor in 1963. His record of earlier service, his effective writings and sermons, and his long friendship and ideological affinity with LDS Church President David O. McKay probably accounted for his rapid advancement in the church hierarchy. McKay's failing health and his own policy differences within the church leadership later weakened Brown's influence, though his popularity remained great. (12)

Endnotes:
1 - "Benson Declares His Birch Society Support Has No Bearing on Church, Sacramento Bee, 14 Mar. 1963, A-2; "Elder Benson Makes Statement," Deseret News "Church News," 16. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
2 - "CROSS REFERENCE SHEET," Mrs. Joyce M. Sowerwine letter, 25 Nov. 1966, "re: Claire Middlemiss & John Birch Society," in "Hugh B. Brown's File on the John Birch Society." See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
3 - Quoted in Buchanan diary, 10 Apr. 1963. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
4 - Remarks to students at the University of Washington in "Ezra Taft Benson Sees Reds 'Everywhere,' Lauds Birchers," Seattle Times, 1 May 1963,15. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
5 - Wilkinson diary, 13 May 1963. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
6 - Wilkinson diary, 13 May 1963. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
7 - Ernest L. Wilkenson diary as referenced in Greg Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
8 - "Benson Ties Rights Issue to Reds in Mormon Rift," Washington Post, 19 May 1963, E-l, E-7. Benson told BYU students that the American civil rights movement was "Communist inspired" and that its unnamed leader was a Communist sympathizer, if not an actual Communist. The publication of this talk identified King in the index as this Communist civil rights leader. See Benson, An Enemy Hath Done This, ed. Jerreld L. Newquist (Salt Lake City: Parliament Publishers, 1969), 310,361. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
9 - "Vandals, Reds, Loaded Queries Plague Utah's Bircher Benson," Portland Oregonian, 19 May 1963, 16, with photo of Reed beside the swastika vandalism. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
10 - "Benson's Son Claims He Has Tripled Utah Birch Membership," Washington Post, 20 May 1963, A-l. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
11 - J. D. Williams to James M. Whitmire, 21 May 1963. Reed Benson had already targeted Williams for classroom surveillance at the University of Utah. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
12 - Utah History Encyclopedia: Hugh B. Brown, http://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/

LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson

Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson
http://lds-church-history.blogspot.com/

Ezra Taft Benson, January 23, 1963

-- January 23, 1963
[David O. McKay] "Elder Benson said the statement seemed to be leveled against him and his son, Reed, and also Brother [W. Cleon] Skousen. I told Brother Benson that it was intended to apply to them. I said that the statement made by him (Elder Benson) in favor of the John Birch Society was made by him, one of the Twelve, who is an international character and received international publicity, and that that is one reason the Presidency had to make the announcement in the newspapers." (1)


-- 31 Jan 1963
... President McKay [always sensitive to criticism] ... expressed concern by 31 January that "the First Presidency probably went a little too far" in its Birch statement. McKay's personal secretary confided that he was disturbed by "at least 25 letters vigorously protesting the statement of the First Presidency on the John Birch Society--many of them very intelligent letters." (2)


-- February 1963
The Birch Society's Bulletin for February 1963 gave [Hugh B.] Brown a reason to attack Benson's support of the group. The last "agenda" item was titled, "Write to President McKay." The Bulletin urged Mormon Birchers to write letters (in envelopes marked "Personal and Confidential") explaining why they had joined the society. The Birch Bulletin further suggested that the letters thank McKay for his own anti-Communist statements and praise "the great service Ezra Taft Benson and his son Reed (our Utah Coordinator) are rendering to this battle, with the hope that they will be encouraged to continue." The Birch Society saw this as a defensive response to the First Presidency's recent statement. However, to anti-Birch Mormons the February Bulletin appeared as an effort to subvert the statement and to encourage continued criticism of the presidency by Mormon Birchers.

Benson added an ironic personal touch to the February Birch announcement. That same month he sent newly-called apostle N. Eldon Tanner a copy of Benson's The Red Carpet: A Forthright Evaluation of the Rising Tide of Socialism--the Royal Road to Communism. As a Canadian cabinet officer, Tanner had been a member of the Social Credit Party. He therefore fell under the book's blistering condemnation for "Social Democrats" and even moderate socialists like Tanner. (3)


-- 15 Feb, 1963
[T]he church president instructed his secretary, Clare Middlemiss, to send a reply to Mormon Birchers who criticized the First Presidency statement. The letter affirmed: "The Church is not opposing the John Birch Society or any other organization of like nature; however, it is definitely opposed to anyone using the Church for the purpose of increasing membership for private organizations sponsoring these various ideologies." (4)


-- circa Mar 1963
One of [Hugh B.] Brown's biographers [Eugene Campbell] wrote, "[I]n the minds of quite a number of the Church members the goals of the Church and the John Birch Society were identical and they joined the John Birch Society feeling that they were in a religious crusade against communism and had the blessing of the President of the Church and other Church leaders in so acting." (5)


-- March 3, 1963
[Ernest Wilkenson] "I found out [from Cleon Skousen] that despite the manner in which he [Benson] is being criticized by President Hugh B. Brown, President David O. McKay is squarely behind him and has told him to keep up his good work." (6)


-- 5 Mar 1963
[Hugh B.] Brown told reporters that Benson was not "entitled to say the church favors the John Birch Society." Brown added that "we [the First Presidency] are opposed to them and their methods." (7)


-- March 6, 1963
[In a First Presidency meeting, McKay gives his version of his meeting with Benson]:

Following the publication of the [First Presidency] statement, I was asked to apologize for what was said against Brother Benson and his son Reed because if we had called them "we [Ezra and Reed] would have done anything that you suggested." I [McKay] said, "Yes, and nobody in the Church or in the world would have known that you were doing that, but everybody knew that you are a national character and everybody knew that you favor the Birch Society and that you approve your son representing it in Utah, and when the First Presidency gave that statement it received the same publicity which your statement received, and we offer no apology." (1)


-- March 12, 1963
Lela Benson, wife of Ezra Taft Benson's son, Mark, sent a handwritten request to McKay Secretary Clare Middlemiss. The letter gives the appearance of having been engineered by other Bensons: "Yesterday I talked to a Bishop who said he would like to see one of 'those' letters that President McKay has sent out regarding the John Birch Society. However he claims that it won't hold much weight unless it is signed by the President and not you. (I disagreed of course—but he stands firm!) Therefore, could you possibly send me one and have it signed by President McKay himself? I understand from Father Benson and his family that you are a dear, sweet, loyal, true blue soul." (8)

Endnotes:
1 - David O. McKay diary as referenced in Greg Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
2 - Wilkinson diary, 31 Jan. 1963. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
3 - The John Birch Society Bulletin (Feb. 1963): 28-29; also summarized in George Rucker memorandum, 17 June 1963, folder 5, box 636, Moss Papers. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
4 - "Bircher" and "Birchers" are terms members of the Birch Society apply to themselves, as in Vie John Birch Society Bulletin (Oct. 1992): 6,14, 20. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
5 - Eugene Campbell's typed draft of Hugh B. Brown biography, chapter titled, "Responsibility Without Authority—The 1st Counselor Years," 11, Campbell Papers. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
6 - Ernest L. Wilkenson diary as referenced in Greg Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
7 - '"LDS Oppose' Birch Group," Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Mar. 1963,5; "Brown Says Church Opposed To Birch Society, Methods," Provo Daily Herald, 5 Mar. 1963,12. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
8 - Lela (Mrs. Mark A.) Benson to Clare Middlemiss; Greg Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson

Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson
http://lds-church-history.blogspot.com/

Ezra Taft Benson, Jan 10, 1963

-- Jan 10, 1963
[Reed Benson to President David O McKay, with John Birch literature included] Reed defends himself stating he does not talk about politics "almost without exception" in the "over one hundred [unsolicited] Sacrament Meeting talks this past year" but does briefly discuss communism, secret combinations, a John Birch Society member conversion story, and quotes from David O McKay. He has "never made Communism the central theme" even though asked by bishoprics.

Reed says he has given MIA Firesides on Communism, but declined invitations to debate why he is a republican in church settings, and does not speak about the John Birch Society in church "though I sometimes feel traps have been laid for me, yet I believe I have avoided most of them."

"President Moyle talked on the phone to a member of the Stake Presidency and passed on some false information about my father and me... You also know of President Brown's charge that I have said in various meetings that I speak for my father and my father speaks for the Church. I did not make this statement."

"I do not feel your counselors should repeat the false charges to others, which they have heard about me ... I am not afraid to face by accusers..."

"I appreciated the opportunity to talk with Presidents Moyle and Brown last Friday ... to point up several false assumptions ... I did not have the time to correct several of the false charges."

He wonders why the recent statement of the First Presidency "generally interpreted as being directed mainly at chastising one individual, namely myself" was released. "As the TV newscaster on Channel 2 ... said -- this is a direct slap at Reed Benson."

Attacks on the John Birch Society by certain papers are "according to plans designated by the Communists and issued as a manifesto from Russia in December, 1960."

"Before I joined the Society I established, I believe, the most extensive library on the John Birch Society ... in the state of Utah."

"Robert Welch (founder of the John Birch Society) continually advises the members never to do anything contrary to their judgment or conscience. ... "

"I shall see that from now on you will receive each monthly [Birch Society] bulletin."

Reed Benson said "Welch never called Eisenhower a Communist, though" the idea that Eisenhower "was conscious of all that he had done to assist Communism" -- "fit him best."

Ezra Taft Benson "discussed the Society with President Eisenhower" and had "made a study of the Society."

Reed noted he was "shocked" when hearing about the First Presidency statements as it "was the first time I had heard about the statement. ... this seems a strange way for a faithful member to get the first reproval. ... I could see where I could be chastised if I belonged to some Communist fronts like some of our Mormons have ..." or "the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, both of which number Mormons today among their membership" or chastised "if like a certain prominent national political figure and active Church member [George Romney]" or "certain political candidates in Utah and many other so called 'active Mormons' ... saying that in due time the Church will catch up like they finally did on Social Security."

"I could see where I could be chastised if I held John Birch meetings in churches, even though P.T.A.'s have held meetings there and have gone on record promoting Fluoridation and Federal Aid to Education."

"On December 13 I held a meeting in the Marriott Motel, on The John Birch Society ... arranged by Hartman Rector, President of the Washington Stake Y.M.M.I.A and my former counselor in the Stake Mission Presidency." Reed includes the name and a newspaper clipping of an inactive Mormon quoted in a newspaper report of the meeting, as well for several letters to the editor by Mormons who were in opposition to Reed's conservative positions. He also provided the ward for one of these individuals.

"Why should the statement, as it's being interpreted by the Saints--and it's hard to see how it could be interpreted any other way -- cast reflections on one man, myself, and on my father, an apostle. ... through a statement ... cast its shadowy implication."

"Many have interpreted this statement as being written with a personal prejudice and vindictiveness in mind ... [which] looked with favor on the false charges without risking the chance of having the evidence verified."

"What are the false statements and unwarranted assumptions ... most people believe this refers to some statements made by my father or me. ... A letter ... by your secretary on your behalf ... goes a lot father towards a Church endorsement of the Society..." "President Joseph F. Smith, in the Relief Society magazine, encouraged the Saints to support Taft. President Grant praised Hoover in Conference in 1931, etc."

"This line of attack on us originated in Moscow, and in our meeting with President Prown (sic) [Brown] it was amazing to hear him say that the Birch Society not only renders disservice to the anti-communist cause, but that it was one of the greatest helps that the Communists had."

"The Deseret News captioned its front page column carrying the statements: 'Church Sets Policy on Birch Society.' It is not hard to see why people feel this is a Church repudistion (sic) [repudiation] of both the John Birch Society and an official reprimand to Reed Benson and his father, Elder Benson."

"When I met with your counselors they were laboring under some false assumptions. Several false charges were made. ... President Brown read excerpts from a letter about a Sacrament service I spoke at in Washington recently, which charged I had used the meeting to recruit membership in the Society. This is false... (1)


-- 10 Jan 1963
Some Mormon members of the Birch Society criticized the First Presidency for its January 1963 statement [regarding the Birch Society]. For example, one pro-Birch Mormon informed President McKay that she loved him as a prophet, but that the church president had inadvertently "given much aid and comfort to the enemy." She concluded that "this statement by the First Presidency regarding the John Birch Society and Reed Benson . . . might have an ill effect on the Missionary work." Such letters stunned even the normally hard- crusted first counselor Henry D. Moyle, who wrote: "When we pursue any course which results in numerous letters written to the Presidency critical of our work, it should be some evidence we should change our course." Only five days after the statement's publication, the first counselor apparently now had second thoughts about the First Presidency's anti-Birch statement. (2)

Endnotes:
1 - Reed Benson to President David O McKay, 1/10/63 with John Birch literature included (provide by Joe Geisner)
2 - Nancy Smith Lowe to David O. McKay, 10 Jan. 1963, MS 5971 #1, LDS archives. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.

LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson

Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson
http://lds-church-history.blogspot.com/