Ezra Taft Benson, 10 Oct 1985

-- 10 Oct 1985
M. Russell Ballard is ordained an Apostle, replacing Bruce R. McConkie, who had passed away.

-- Oct 15, 1985.
Steven Christensen and Kathy Sheets are killed by homemade bombs. Mark Hofmann, the killer, is injured the next day by a third bomb but lives to avoid trial through a successful plea-bargain after an agonizing investigation exposes misrepresentations on the part of general authorities and their representatives and leaves Mormon historians charged with gullibility. (1)

-- 5 Nov 1985
When Spencer W. Kimball passed away on 5 November 1985 Ezra Taft Benson became the thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At eighty-six years of age he became the second oldest man to succeed to the presidency. He called lapsed Mormons to return to the fold. In general conference addresses, he counseled church members to read and study the Book of Mormon. In a humanitarian gesture, he personally delivered a contribution of ten million dollars to President Ronald Reagan to be used to procure food for the world's hungry. (2)

-- 10 Nov 1985
The First Presidency is reorganized, with Ezra Taft Benson President, Gordon B. Hinckley First Counselor, and Thomas S. Monson Second Counselor. Marion G. Romney becomes President of the Quorum. Because Marion G. Romney was suffering from health and age difficulties, Howard W. Hunter was set apart as Acting President of the Quorum. (3)

By the time Ezra Taft Benson himself became church president in 1985, he no longer acted as a standard-bearer of the anti- Communist movement. After all, at eighty-six, Benson was the second oldest man to become LDS church president and already suffered dizzy spells, memory loss, and difficulty in public speaking.

Besides, the widespread paranoia and political passion of the 1950s and 1960s had died. Although still active in promoting anti-Communism in the 1980s, the John Birch Society now seemed irrelevant.

Benson's ascension occurred in the middle of America's conservative "Reagan Revolution." The church president saw this as a personal vindication.

Non-Mormon journalists astutely noted: "In the past Benson's heavy-handed political maneuvering has antagonized numerous members of the [LDS] church, leading to fears of a major schism if he became president."

When he ascended to that office in November 1985, church officials insisted that Benson's political activism was "in the past." (4)

-- 9 Dec 1985
The Birch Society's new magazine immediately heralded the appointment of "the long-time Americanist patriot" as the new LDS president. "As in numerous past attempts to smear him and distract from his anti-Communist message, recent news articles have linked Benson to The John Birch Society," the magazine noted two weeks later in its regular "American Hero" section. The Birch magazine then mentioned Reed Benson's affiliation and quoted President Benson: "I do not belong to The John Birch Society, but I have always defended this group." (5)

-- 22 Dec 1985
The First Presidency issued a special invitation to those members who had ceased activity or become critical of the Church to "come back" (Church News, Dec. 22, 1985, p. 3), and they opened the temples to worthy members married to unendowed spouses. (6)

-- During 1985
Special fasts raised $11 million for famine victims. (7)

The temple recommend question was simplified to, "Do you live the law of Chastity?" from "unnatural acts." (8)

-- 1986
Published Volume - The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner. Deseret Book (9)

-- January 2, 1986
... Congratulations on a job well done. I am deeply grateful for "The New American".

May the good Lord sustain you and bless you as you enjoy your work as editor. The magazine is needed and so are you . ...

Faithfully, your friend and brother,

<Signed: Ezra Taft Benson>

Ezra Taft Benson, President.


Will you be kind enough to send a subscription of "The New American", 'A Weekly Review of the News and American Opinion,' to D. Aurther Haycock [secretary to the First Presidency] at 47 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150; and bill me for it please. Thank You.

Will you also send copies of "The New American" to my associates, Thomas S. Monson and Gordon B. Hinckley, both at the same address I have, and also send me the bill. (10)

-- 05 Jan 1986
At the Annandale Virginia Stake conference, President Ezra Taft Benson addresses the Saints for the first time as President of the Church, testifying of the power of the Book of Mormon to change lives and lead people to Christ (a message that would become a recurring theme of his presidency).

1 - Anderson, Lavina Fielding, "The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology," Dialogue, Vol.26, No.1
2 - Utah History Encyclopedia: Ezra Taft Benson, http://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/
3 - 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)
4 - Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 486-87, 469-70 ; Bob Gottlieb and Peter Wiley, "Mormons to the Right," San Jose Mercury News, 1 Dec. 1985, 9; also "Possibility of Benson Heading Mormons Worries Some With Different Views," Los Angeles Times, 1 Apr. 1976, Pt. 1,32; "Mormon Church Faces A Fresh Challenge . . . But Now, A Change of Leaders May Bring A Split In Its Ranks," U.S. News & World Report 95 (21 Nov. 1983): 61; "Conservative Seeking Leadership Worries Some Mormons," Baltimore Sun, 11 Dec. 1983, A-3; Gottlieb and Wiley, America's Saints, 247, 257; "Mormon Church Council Meets To Pick New Leader," Dallas Morning News, 11 Nov. 1985, A-4; "New Chief of Mormons: Ezra Taft Benson," New York Times, 19 Nov. 1985, A-16; also Robert Lindsey, "The Mormons: Growth, Prosperity and Controversy," New York Times Magazine, 12 Jan. 1986, 46. 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
5 - "New Head of Mormon Church," The New American 1 (25 Nov. 1985): 9; Evans-Raymond Pierre, "The True Man of Principle: Ezra Taft Benson," The New American 1 (9 Dec. 1985): 56. 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
6 - Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "Ezra Taft Benson," Reed Benson and Sheri Dew, Daniel H. Ludlow (editor), New York: Macmillan, 1992
7 - Hemidakaota, "Church Chronology from 1800-2000," http://lds.net/forums/topic/10668-church-chronology-from-1800-2000-part-1/
8 - Exploring Mormonism: Bishop’s Interview Timeline, http://www.exploringmormonism.com/bishops-interview-timeline/
9 - Wikipedia: "Ezra Taft Benson"
10 - Ezra Taft Benson to Mr Jeffrey St. John, Editor, "The New American," Jan 2, 1986 (provided by Joe Geisner)

LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson

Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson