-- February 9, 1966
[David O. McKay] Met by appointment Elder Ezra Taft Benson who said that the editors of the American Opinion magazine would like to have my portrait on the cover of their April issue. He said this magazine is published in Belmont, Massachusetts, and is a high-class publication. He showed me several past issues with pictures of Senator Barry Goldwater, the Honorable J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, and other prominent Americans. Brother Benson said that they needed a colored photograph and some biographical material, and I asked him to get these from my secretary, Clare. After discussing the matter, I could see no reason why I should not grant permission for the editors to use my picture.
[Benson did not inform McKay that American Opinion was the montly magazine of the John Birch Society]. (1)
-- 11 Feb 1966
Benson spoke about the Birch Society to a standing-room-only crowd at the Assembly Hall on Salt Lake Temple Square. He charged that "a minority bloc of American liberals [had] formed a propaganda coalition with the Communists . . . [and] drew the line of fire away from the Communist Conspiracy and to focus the heat of attack on the patriots." Benson added that this conspiracy of liberals and Communists "decided to level practically their entire arsenal on The John Birch Society."
These remarks had already been published by the Birch Society's national headquarters two years before Benson delivered them on Temple Square. They were a verbatim restatement of a speech Benson had prepared for an Idaho "Freedom Forum" as he was about to depart for his European Mission presidency in December 1963.
Benson then told this February 1966 meeting on Temple Square that he had read the Birch Society's Blue Book, Robert Welch's The Politician, and recommended that the audience subscribe to the Birch Society's official magazine American Opinion. His talk even included the mailing address. Of his support for the Birch Society, the Deseret News added Benson's comment to the Mormons on Temple Square: "It has been very unpopular to defend this group," he said, "But I can remember when it was unpopular to defend my own church." (2)
-- 18 February 1966
[T]he First Presidency decided that a picture "of Pres. McKay not to appear on cover of American Opinion Magazine." ... Benson had obtained McKay's permission for the church president's photograph to appear on the cover of the April issue of this official magazine of the Birch Society. (3)
-- February 18, 1966
[David O. McKay] Apostle Mark E. Petersen stated that the Church Information Service had received a bill for $25 for a color photograph of McKay for the cover o f American Opinion, "which is the John Birch Society organ…. Elder Petersen said that if my picture is so published it will certainly look as though the Church is endorsing the John Birch Society. ... I said that my picture should not appear on this magazine; that the Church has nothing to do with the John Birch Society. I authorized Brother Petersen to tell Brother Benson that he had brought this matter to my attention, and had been told by me to stop the printing of my picture on this magazine; that I do not want it used in that way. I said to Brother Petersen, "You are ordered in the presence of these men to stop it." I further said that I do not want to have anything to do with the John Birch Society; that the Church has had nothing to do with it in the past, and that so far as Brother Benson is concerned, I do not think we would hear anything more about it. (1)
-- February 19, 1966
Benson avoided the issue of American Opinion being a John Birch Society publication, nor did McKay bring it up. Instead, he repeated that "the magazine is considered a high-type magazine" on whose cover the pictures of Senator Barry Goldwater, J. Edgar Hoover, and other prominent men had appeared. Furthermore, he reminded McKay that he had given his word on the matter. Although McKay had been adamant only two days before, he now decided "that they had better go ahead with it since I had given my permission for this to be done." McKay did not tell any of his other associates that he had reversed field on the issue. (1)
-- 22 Feb 1966
During a visit at church headquarters the last week of February, Senator Moss found "a number of the Brethren boiling pretty good" about Benson's recent talk. These general authorities "decided that Brother Benson's Assembly Hall speech should not be printed in the Church News. This was the decision until it was found that President McKay had already approved its printing and his office had directed the Deseret News to print it." (4)
-- Feb 26, 1966
A temple-square talk by Apostle Ezra Taft Benson is printed in the DESERET NEWS. However references to the John Birch Society are deleted without Apostle Benson's permission. In the talk he said that he had read the Birch Society's Blue Book, Robert Welch's The Politician, and recommended that the audience subscribe to the Birch Society's official magazine American Opinion. His talk even included the mailing address."
-- 26 Feb 1966
Benson's opponents in the hierarchy did manage to delete "without permission" the Birch Society references from the version of Benson's talk published in the Church News. (5)
1 - David O. McKay diary as referenced in Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Write, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press (2005)
2 - Ezra Taft Benson, "Stand Up For Freedom," address to the Utah Forum for the American Idea, Assembly Hall, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, 11 Feb. 1966, typescript, 9, 11, Vertical File, Special Collections, Marriott Library; "Benson Hits Liberals' 'Conspiracy': Assails Plots, Propaganda," Salt Lake Tribune, 12 Feb. 1966,17. These are referenced in in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992) and Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
3 - "Copy of First Presidency minutes digest 2-18-66," in "Hugh B. Brown's File on the John Birch Society." From D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992) also in Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
4 - Reported by U.S. senator Frank E. Moss to U.S. representative Ken W. Dyal, 2 Mar. 1966, folder 5, box 184, Moss Papers. Moss wrote that this assessment was based on conversations a week earlier with "the Brethren." However, his Daily Activity Log refers to meeting with only one current general authority—Hugh B. Brown on 22 February (box 713, Moss Papers) -- as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992) and Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
5 - "Stand Up For Freedom: Partial Text Of Talk Given to S.L. Group By Elder Benson," Deseret News "Church News," 26 Feb. 1966,10-12; Duane Price to D. Michael Quinn, 9 Aug. 1992, summarizing his meeting with Benson in April 1966. Price was a supporter of Benson's position on the Birch Society. Anderson, "Church and Birch In Utah," 35n29, alluded to the censorship of the talk in the Church News. These are referenced in in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992) and Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson
Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson