Ezra Taft Benson, Jun 6, 1960

-- Jun 6, 1960
[David O. McKay Office Journal] "Received a courtesy call from United States Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. He was accompanied by Bishop Thorpe B. Isaacson. He impressed me as a good man, and one who is favorable to the Mormons. Senator Goldwater thought it would be a wise thing to have Brother Benson come home as he fears he is going to be embarrassed by both the Republicans and the Democrats. I told the Senator that some time ago the Church had a good place for Brother Benson if he felt to come home at that time. This information was conveyed to President Eisenhower so that he might have an excuse to release Brother Benson if he desired to do so, but President Eisenhower felt that he needed Brother Benson's services, and did not feel to release him at the time." (1)

-- July, 1960
"It doesn't matter whether we give [the "low income farmer"] 100 or 200 per cent of parity through the price-support programs," he concluded with his trademark bluntness, "his income problem will not be solved. His problem is one of volume, not price. He does not have an economic farm unit. He is not able to grow the volume of crops to benefit substantially by price supports. What he needs is an opportunity for full employment. Undersized, under capitalized, and underequipped farms cannot furnish such employment, nor can those who operate them possibly earn an adequate income without part-time work in other occupations." (2)

-- August 10, 1960
A reporter from the Chicago Daily News asked Eisenhower: "Do you regret having kept Ezra Taft Benson on as Secretary of Agriculture in view of the unresolved farm problem that is giving Mr. Nixon such a hard time in his campaign?" "Ezra Benson has, to my mind," replied Eisenhower, who had also deliberately limited his own involvement, "been very honest and forthright and courageous in trying to get enacted into legislation plans and programs that I think are correct. And, therefore, for me to regret that he has been working would be almost a be trayal of my own views in this matter. I think we must find ways to give greater freedom to the farmer and make his whole business more responsive to market, rather than just to political considerations." (2)

-- Late August, 1960
At Nixon's urging, Eisenhower agreed to absent his divisive Secretary of Agriculture from the unfolding political drama by sending him on several trade missions in exchange for which Nixon would not publicly disavow either Benson or his farm policy. At first, Benson apparently did not comprehend that he was being deliberately sidelined, for he returned from Europe and the Middle East in late August 1960 itching for partisan battle. He publicly charged Kennedy with "flip-flopping" on agriculture, proclaimed the Nixon ticket as "the nation's best hope," and even asserted—despite some private misgivings—that Nixon would be a "great and beloved President."

Later that fall, however, when asked to spearhead a second overseas mission, Benson realized that party leaders were intentionally snubbing him. Benson then quietly withdrew from active politicking and instead focused on his department affairs. (2)

-- Sep 13, 1960
[David O. McKay Office Journal] [at regular meeting of the Presidency:] "I said that protests are coming to permitting the use of the Tabernacle for political meetings. We considered the part to be taken by the brethren of the General Authorities in the political meetings. It was decided that individual members of the General Authorities may attend these meetings as they please, but that they be advised to take no part. I stated that I had advised Elder Hugh B. Brown not to participate by offering prayer or by introducing the speaker. It was suggested that Elder Ezra Taft Benson refrain from participating in the campaign." (1)

-- Sep 21, 1960
[David O. McKay Office Journal] "While at my apartment at the Hotel, talked to Ezra Taft Beneon in Washington, D.C. Told him that we do not want him to enter the political campaigns this Fall." [Some had urged him to run for governer of Utah] (1)

-- 29 Nov. 1960
Immediately after his official trip with [a] Birch council member in [November] 1960, Benson proposed to Brigham Young University's president that his son Reed Benson be used for "espionage" on the church school campus. To Apostle Harold B. Lee, Reed explained that as a BYU faculty member, "he could soon find out who the orthodox teachers were and report to his father." After resisting Apostle Benson's proposal for Reed's employment, [BYU President] Ernest Wilkinson countered that "neither Brother Lee nor I want espionage of that character."

Apostle Benson's call in November 1960 for "espionage" at Brigham Young University reflected two dimensions of the national leadership of the John Birch Society. First, their long-time preoccupation with university professors as Communist- sympathizers ("Comsymps"). Second, the Birch program for covert "infiltration" of various groups. Apostle Benson's encouragement for espionage at BYU would be implemented periodically during the 1960s and 1970s by members and advocates of the John Birch Society.

Wilkinson's diary indicated that Ezra Taft Benson first made the proposal which Reed later outlined to Harold B. Lee. (3)

1 - McKay, David O., Office Journal
2 - 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)
3 - Brown & Benson; Wilkinson diary, 29 Nov. 1960. Gary James Bergera and Ronald Priddis, Brigham Young University: A House of Faith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 203, mention Reed Benson's offer but not his father's support of the "espionage" proposal. 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