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,


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

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