-- September-October 1959
Benson took Thomas J. Anderson with him as a member of his entourage on an official trip to Europe, including a visit to the Soviet Union. At that time, Anderson was publisher of Farm and Ranch magazine as well as an influential member of the new Birch Society. By the time he accompanied Benson on a trip to the Far East in November 1960, Anderson was a member of the national governing council of the Birch Society. (1)
-- Late September to Early October 1959
Secretary Benson's visit into among other European countries, the Soviet Union made a profound and lasting impact upon him. "Of all the trade trips," he later wrote, "this one left the deepest imprint on me . . . because it put before my eyes the pitiful faces of a people enslaved and into my ears the mournful cry of those bemoaning their lost liberty." Benson scrutinized Soviet-style collective farming and returned home more persuaded than ever of the "superiority of our agricultural system of privately owned family farms, the profit motive, competitive markets, and freedom for the farmer to decide what he wants to grow and market." (2)
-- Oct 1959
Less than a year after the organization of the Birch Society, McKay told general conference: "The conflict between Communism and freedom is the problem of our times. It overshadows all other problems. This conflict mirrors our age, its toils, its tensions, its troubles, and its tasks. On the outcome of this conflict depends the future of mankind." (3)
-- Oct 15, 1959
[Quorum of the Twelve] Howard W. Hunter ordained. (4)
-- Late 1959
Benson began to look increasingly to New York's Republican governor Nelson A. Rockefeller as a preferable alternative to Nixon and also entertained the possibility of becoming Rockefeller's vice presidential candidate. He was disappointed when Rockefeller announced his withdrawal from the presidential race in late 1959.
In a section of Benson's memoirs deleted at McKay's request prior to publication in 1962, McKay continued:
"If it should come to pass," he [McKay] said, "Governor Rockefeller and Brother Benson would be a great team. We are all proud of the way you have stood for principle—but then you had to do this to be true to your own father and [great-] grandfather." (2)
-- December 4, 1959
By this time, Benson's critics included at least one high-ranking LDS Church leader. J. Reuben Clark, first counselor to David O. McKay, opined privately in late 1959 that Benson A had done and was doing more to destroy the small farmer than anyone else had done. (2)
At some point shortly before he left government service, Benson experienced what was later described as a demonic attack. As his youngest daughter, a teenager at the time, subsequently wrote she "had a fall and hurt my leg quite badly so we decided to stay a day or two longer till I was in better shape. That night Daddy went into town to get some medication for me. As he was driving home he had some experiences with evil forces! He somehow lost power over the car and lost consciousness—and when he suddenly came to he was in the middle of a field just ready to hit some cattle. Another time he had gone off the road just before crossing a bridge over the river and got control just before the car was about to go over the edge into the river.
That night Mother slept in a bedroom downstairs with me because of my leg and Daddy slept upstairs. In the middle of the night Daddy came down the stairs. I could see him from my bed. He was crying and shaking. He came into our room and saton the edge of mybed still crying and shaking and very pale. He told us he had just had an experience that he wanted to tell us. Mother said are you sure Beth should hear this and Daddy said yes he wanted me to. He said that all of a sudden he felt like he was strongly restricted—that he was bound and couldn't move or caged in a box and unable to move his muscles to free himself. It was a very dark and evil feeling. He seemed to fight with all his might to free himself but could not. Then he prayed for deliverance from this evil spirit and suddenly he was free—the box and bounds were lifted and the darkness was replaced with light.
"Then a very beautiful feeling came over him—he felt calm and peaceful and felt the explanation come to him: the Lord loves him very much and loves our entire family. But the devil is trying and will continue to try to destroy us—to do all he can to thwart us and stop us from doing good. The Lord wants us to know this to be on guard and aware of the devil's desires so that we will recognize and protect ourselves. And if we remember the Lord he will help us and all will be fine and we will be able to overcome the evil one.
"I will never forget this experience or the look and feeling I got from my dear father." (2)
1 - Brown & Benson; "Benson Took Birchite on Tours," Washington Post, 12 July 1961, D-ll; "The Council," Vie John Birch Society Bulletin (Feb. 1960): 2. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
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 - October 1959 Conference Report, 5; also David O. McKay, Statements on Communism and the Constitution of the United States (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964). See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
4 - Wikipedia, Chronology of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (LDS Church), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_Quorum_of_the_Twelve_Apostles_(LDS_Church)
LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson
Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson