Ezra Taft Benson, 1962

-- 1962
"It was Flora's ideas and courage—her positive influence and determination— more than anything else, which added steel to my spine to fight it out for principle against the nearly overwhelming pressures of political expediency." (1)

Ezra Taft Benson wrote privately to former President Dwight Eisenhower that Rachael Carson, author of the environmental science book Silent Spring (noting adverse affects of pesticides) - was "probably a communist" and wondered why a "spinster was so worried about genetics". (2)

Published Volume - The Red Carpet. Bookcraft (3)

-- 20 Jan 1962
Professor Richard Poll had ... published a detailed critique of W. Cleon Skousen's anti- Communist book, The Naked Communist. Aside from skewering Skousen, Poll had also repudiated the American anti-Communist movement.

Listed his objections to the book as "the inadequacy of its scholarship. The incorrectness of its analysis of Communism. The inaccuracy of its historical narrative. The unsoundness of its program for governmental action. The extreme partisanship of its program for individual action. The objectionable character of the national movement of which it is a part." On the ultra-conservative, anti-Communist movement, Poll wrote on pages 12-13: "Much of the market for The Naked Communist is in connection with "Anti-Communist Seminars," "Freedom Forums," and "Project Alerts," in which inaccurate history and negative programs are expounded in an evangelical blend of fear, hatred and pulse-pounding enthusiasm. Participants are admonished to study Communism, and they end up buying tracts by Gerald L. K. Smith and his racist cohorts, confessionals of ex-Communists, spy stories and other volumes which excite more than inform. They are aroused to fight Communism, and they end up demanding U.S. withdrawal from the UN and the firing of teachers who advocate federal aid to education. They are solicited to contribute to the Anti-Communist crusade, and they end up subsidizing pamphlets calling for the repeal of the income tax and the impeachment of Chief Justice Warren."

Unknown to the public, Hugh B. Brown had encouraged Poll to prepare this published condemnation of Skousen's book "in the hope that we may stem this unfortunate tide of radicalism." This despite the fact that President McKay had already recommended The Naked Communist to a general conference: "I admonish everybody to read that excellent book of [Salt Lake City Police] Chief Skousen's." (4)

-- Feb 15, 1962
Benson's anti-Communist activities became the focus of an hour-long discussion within the First Presidency. McKay's two counselors, both of whom were Democrats, felt that Benson was too extreme in his tactics. Henry D. Moyle felt that it was not proper to discuss such controversial matters in church meetings, particularly when "the people were not well enough informed to discuss it" and when there had not yet been an official First Presidency statement on the subject to guide church members. Referring to Benson's talk in the October general conference, he noted that it had taken on the stature of an official church position without having been formally endorsed. McKay, who was consistently more concerned with the overall fight against Communism than with tactics, deflected this concern: he "knew nothing wrong with Elder Benson's talk, and thought it to be very good." Brown pointed out one consequence for church members of Benson's broad-brush attack: "All the people in Scandinavia and other European countries are under Socialistic governments and certainly are not Communists. Brother Benson's talk ties them together and makes them equally abominable. If this is true, our people in Europe who are living under a Socialist government are living out of harmony with the Church." (5)

-- Feb 19, 1962
[David O. McKay] "The First Presidency agreed that now was not the time for the Church to make a statement as to its stand against Communism, but that such a statement could be made at a later date." (6)

-- 22 February 1962
[Ezra Taft] Benson cancelled at the last minute his appearance on a television program titled, "Thunder on the Right." Some Mormons credited this to [Hugh B.] Brown's influence. (7)

-- 20 March 1962
A ward bishop (and future general authority [Richard P. Lindsay]) had complained that Reed [Benson] violated the First Presidency's policy against political use of chapels by speaking to a stake meeting about the "currently popular, militantly anti-communist movement of which the speaker is the leading spokesman." Lindsay noted to J. D. Williams "I'm sure this sounds soap boxish but the latter talk referred to cost me one whole night's sleep. Everyone seems to profit in the hard sell book business—One of these days write a sequel called 'Conscience of a Liberal.'" (8)

1 - 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)
2 - "The personal attacks on Rachel Carson as a woman scientist", http://www.environmentandsociety.org/exhibitions/silent-spring/personal-attacks-rachel-carson
3 - Wikipedia: "Ezra Taft Benson"
4 - Brown & Benson; Richard D. Poll, 77ns Trumpet Gives An Uncertain Sound: A Review of W. Cleon Skousen's THE NAKED COMMUNIST. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
5 - McKay diary; Greg Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
6 - David O. McKay diary as referenced in Greg Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
7 - Buchanan diary, 22 Feb. 1962. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
8 - Brown & Benson; Richard P. Lindsay, on letterhead of Taylorsville Second Ward Bishopric, to David O. McKay, Henry D. Moyle, and Hugh B. Brown, 20 Mar. 1962, carbon copy in Williams Papers; Lindsay's handwritten note to J. D. Williams at the end of the carbon copy. 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