-- 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)
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