Published Volume - Reed A. Benson., ed. So Shall Ye Reap: Selected Addresses of Ezra Taft Benson. Deseret Book Company. (1)
Reed Benson had ... organized student surveillance at the University of Utah during the 1959-60 school year. For example, he asked a conservative freshman to provide him with the names of students who were active in liberal causes on the state campus. This student also enrolled in a political science course taught by professor J. D. Williams in order to monitor this liberal Democrat's classroom statements. This student-spy adds that "I transferred to Brigham Young University, where I was involved in the same sorts of things." (2)
-- Jan 1960
Eisenhower readily admitted Benson's expertise in agricultural is sues even as he was forced to acknowledge the secretary's potential liability on the campaign trail. "Many Republicans think that any public appearance by him [Benson] would be a detriment in the Middle West," Eisenhower advised Nixon in early January 1960. "Nevertheless it is possible that he could be used efficiently in the metropolitan areas because his viewpoint is that of the nation and not of the local voters." Agreeing, Nixon "redoubled his efforts to prepare a political scenario geared to soften" [his stance differentiating himself from Benson on agricultural issues].
According to Benson's biographers, Nixon and his supporters "tried to put together a farm plank that would for all intents and purposes bypass Ezra Taft Benson without repudiating his farm policy."
The problem, as Nixon and others saw it, was Benson's seemingly imperious, autocratic persona. "Some way, somehow, our Democratic friends have done such a good job on Ezra Benson," Nixon commented, "that they have the farmers thinking he and the Republican party are against them. We took the worst shellacking [in 1958] in the farm states." (3)
-- 1 Jan 1960
[Apostle Harold B.] Lee had publicly endorsed Benson's campaign against "radical and seditious voices." (4)
-- March 17, 1960
As Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson says he supports Richard Nixon for president because he has no other choice. (5)
-- During 1960 March
The First Presidency requested the General Priesthood Committee, with Elder Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve as chairman, to make a study of Church programs and curriculum with the object of providing for better "correlation." (6)
-- June 1960
After a particularly disturbing cabinet meeting in June 1960, during which Benson felt he had stood alone in supporting Eisenhower's call for fiscal restraint, Benson fretted: "I could not but fear for the future of our country unless influential voices were raised in crescendo, calling not only for a halt but a reversal of this trend." In fact, some hard-line conservatives, especially in the Republican Party, had al ready begun to view Benson as a spokesperson for concerns they (and, to a growing degree, he) believed were being ignored by party elite. Knowing that his chances for legislative success in a Democratically controlled Congress were small—"like trying to move the ball against a team that out-weighed us 50 pounds to the man," —Benson found his political voice expanding beyond farming issues as concerned conservatives began actively seeking his opinions on a wide range of hot-button public policy topics. (3)
In their 1960 national platform, Democrats countered [Benson's views] that America's farmer had the "right" to "raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living." "We will no longer view food stockpiles with alarm," they continued, "but will use them as powerful instruments for peace and plenty." "These goals," Democrats explained, "demand the leadership of a Secretary of Agriculture who is conversant with the technological and economic aspects of farm problems, and who is sympathetic with the objectives of effective farm legislation not only for farmers but for the best interests of the nationas a whole." (3)
-- 5 Jun 1960
J. Reuben Clark complained that "Sec'y Benson's policies have about extinguished the small farmer and small cattleman." Clark's view was shared by the other counselor in the First Presidency, Henry D. Moyle. (7)
1 - Wikipedia: "Ezra Taft Benson"
2 - Byron Cannon Anderson interview; Directory: University of Utah, 1959-1960: Faculty, Students, Employees (Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1959), 34. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
3 - Gary James Bergera, "Weak-Kneed Republicans and Socialist Democrats": Ezra Taft Benson as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, 1953-61, Part 2, Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought, (Winter 2008, vol 41)
4 - Lee, introduction to Benson, So Shall Ye Reap, vii. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
5 - David Pietrusza, "1960 Election Chronology," http://www.davidpietrusza/.com/1960-election-chronology.html
6 - Church News: Historical Chronology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, http://www.ldschurchnewsarchive.com/articles/58765/Historical-chronology-of-The-Church-of-Jesus-Christ-of-Latter-day-Saints.html
7 - D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992)
LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson
Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson