-- Feb 23, 1958
Benson's daughter Beth remembered that during these years "Dad put on a lot of weight, which was part of his stress relief." (1)
-- March 6, 1958
In Congress, both houses rejected the 60 percent parity proposal and voted to freeze parity at current levels, thereby postponing any movement downward (though the House of Representatives called for a one-year freeze only). "Thoroughly disgusted," Benson "ripped into Congress," taking them "to task for their attempt to hamper the transition to a more flexible system of price supports."
"This was more than nearsighted," he insisted. "It was cross-eyed." Benson also hinted, correctly, that Eisenhower would veto the joint resolution.
Subsequently explaining his rejection of the bill, Eisenhower asserted: "It would have been a 180-degree turn—right back to the very problems from which our farm people are beginning to escape." Privately, however, Eisenhower had hoped to avoid such a show-down and delivered a "mild spanking" to Benson for his "advanced positions of inflexibility." Eisenhower's "little treatise," Benson remembered, "was so obviously well intended, I could not resent his giving it."
As eventually signed into law, the 1958 Agriculture Act set a floor for parity at 65 percent (not 60); froze acreage allotments for cotton and rice; mandated price supports for feed grains; and allowed farmers to decide if they wanted restrictions on corn production. Benson thought the compromise, in general, was a positive step and looked especially to farmer-oriented cooperatives to replace much of government's role in agriculture.
Other observers saw the compromise as a Republican victory, as tangible evidence of Benson's "remarkable political comeback," and now credited the Agriculture Secretary with being "the most influential member of the Eisenhower Cabinet." (1)
-- 7 Mar 1958
Apostle Harold B. Lee said that Benson needed "humbling" to serve "properly . . . as a member of the Council of the Twelve." (2)
-- Apr 6, 1958
Gordon B. Hinckley is named an Assistant to the Twelve (3)
-- Apr 10, 1958
Hugh B. Brown is ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, replacing Adam S. Bennion, who had passed away.
-- 7 July 1958
Ernest L. Wilkinson, Brigham Young University's president, wrote that Benson "espouse s] certain principles which are utterly inconsistent with the feeling of the Brethren." (4)
-- July 8, 1958
Hugh B. Brown was invited to give the keynote address at the Utah Democratic state nominating convention. He met with McKay and "asked if it would be in keeping with the policy of the Church and his office as an Apostle to accept the invitation." McKay responded: "Since some think we are one-sided in politics (having a member of the Twelve as Secretary of Agriculture during a Republican administration) it might be a good thing for him to accept this assignment and let the members of the Church know that both political sides are represented in the Church." (5)
-- Summer-Fall 1958
Apostle Hugh B. Brown actively (and successfully) campaigned for the Democratic candidate in Utah's U.S. senatorial race, and against Benson's support of the incumbent Republican. [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. (6)
-- October 12, 1958
Regarding suggestions that Benson run for President, McKay said "A Just keep on as you are, and we'll wait for the Lord to tell us what the future holds." "A Do not seek the candidacy; let them come to you and if they do, we shall consider it." (1)
-- Early November 1958
In Arizona, he championed the reelection of Senator Barry Goldwater, a like-minded Republican conservative: "This nation will soon decide whether it shall have a truly American or a left-wing dominated Congress for the next two critical years," Benson told enthusiastic crowds. But when the polls closed in early November, despite his Herculean efforts, Benson had misjudged the voters' resentment and was heartsick at the election "disaster."
Republicans lost forty-seven House races. Democrats won across the board. (1)
-- December 1958
Founded in December 1958, the [John] Birch Society was named for an American soldier killed by Chinese Communists ten days after the end of World War II. Philosophical heir of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and of U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy, the Birch Society became the most significant grass-roots organization to express the "Great Fear" of Communist triumphs internationally and of Communist subversions in America after World War II. [27 Oct 1962] Benson described the Birch Society as "the most effective non-church organization in our fight against creeping socialism and godless Communism." (7)
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 - Ernest L . Wilkinson diary, 7 Mar. 1958. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
3 - Madsen, Truman G., The Presidents of the Church
4 - Wilkinson Diary, 7 July 1958. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
5 - David O. McKay diary as referenced in Greg Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
6 - J. Reuben Clark farm diary, 5 June 1960. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
7 - Brown & Benson; Benson's first official public endorsement of the Birch Society appeared in "Reed A. Benson Takes Post In Birch Society," Deseret News, 27 Oct. 1962, B-5. 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