-- 6 Mar 1976
Undoubtedly, Kimball's opposition was behind Benson's non-acceptance of the U.S. presidential nomination from the Concerned Citizens Party in 1976. Involving former members of the American Party (which Benson had publicly endorsed) and LDS members of the Birch Society, the "Concerned Citizens party will be dedicated to individual rights under the Constitution," and proposed to bring God "back into government." (1)
-- Spring-fall 1976.
In separate addresses Elder Ezra Taft Benson defines "historical realism" as "slander and defamation," denounces those who "inordinately humanize the prophets of God," and instructs CES personnel: "If you feel you must write for the scholarly journals, you always defend the faith. Avoid expressions and terminology which offend the Brethren and Church members." He also warns them not to buy the books or subscribe to the periodicals of "known apostates, or other liberal sources" or have such works on office or personal bookshelves. (2)
-- 1976, April 3
Two revelations added to Pearl of Great Price. Later became D&C 137 and D&C 138, 1981. (3)
-- 03 Apr 1976
In general conference, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles propose to the Church to include Joseph Smith's vision of the celestial kingdom and Joseph F. Smith's vision of the redemption of the dead in the standard works of the Church. The vote is unanimous in the affirmative.
-- May 1976
Benson carefully questioned BYU's president Dallin H. Oaks whether BYU was "friendly to solid conservative constitutionalists." A few days later Oaks told fellow administrators about "BYU's tenuous position in the silent contest with extremists of the right wing." (4)
-- August 26, 1976
Some General Authorities, including Elders Benson and Petersen, assigned others to read publications about the Church and mark for them passages that they considered questionable. (5)
Elders Benson, Petersen, and Packer were the primary spokesmen for the view that it was not right for church-paid historians to write in a way that they felt inordinately humanized the prophets and underplayed revelation and God's intervention in human affairs. For example, Benson noted: "Members of our staff have carefully read . . . and in accordance with your request, these are our impressions." They were very disappointed with lack of spirituality, reliance on sources like Dialogue, portrayal of Joseph Smith as affected by the political, economic, and religious environments in which he lived, not taking the conservative side on issues like evolution, and calling the "black issue" a matter of "policy" (paraphrase of several pages).
According to Elder Benson's grandson, Elder Benson had strong personal anti-evolution views but "acknowledged that 'the Lord may not have revealed enough to create unanimity among the Brethren.' . . . Any such statement would . . . be 'unwise'. . . and serve only to 'widen differences.'"
Leaders who spoke most pointedly in opposition to evolution were Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, Mark E. Petersen, Ezra Taft Benson, and Boyd K. Packer. The reluctance of General Authorities to disagree in public caused many Church members to assume that statements left uncontradicted were reliable.
President Benson also said to his grandson, "Stand by the Brethren. Even if someday they are proven in error or inaccurate, it will be attributed to you for righteousness and the Lord will bless you. This is a basic principle." (6)
-- 18 Sept 1976
Former BYU president Wilkinson gave the invocation before Benson spoke at this dedicatory service of the Freemen Institute on 18 September 1976. ... Skousen, Wilkinson, and Benson had been allied as advocates of the Birch Society for more than a decade. Now, for the first time, all three participated at an ultra-conservative political meeting also attended by the secretary to the LDS church president. The evident news black-out of this meeting in all the regular newspapers of Provo, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, Utah, apparently resulted from the fact that newspaper reporters were excluded from this dedicatory service of the Freemen Institute. Even the Mormon-Birch Utah Independent reported only Benson's attendance at the dedicatory service.
D. Arthur Haycock, President Kimball's secretary, specifically linked the Birch Society with this ceremony at the Freemen Institute in September 1976. After Wilkinson gave the prayer at the Freemen dedication, Haycock confided to him on this day that "nearly all of them believed in the concepts of the John Birch Society." That may have been an overstatement, but more importantly it showed that the Birch Society and Benson in particular had a partisan friend in the First Presidency's office. Haycock had been private secretary to Benson as Secretary of Agriculture and was a confidant and significant influence on President Kimball. (7)
-- 18 Sep 1976
After a string of talks which echoed themes of the Birch Society, Benson spoke at the dedication of W. Cleon Skousen's Freemen Institute at Provo, Utah, in September 1976. (8)
-- 1 Oct 1976
Members of the First Council of the Seventy and the Assistants to the Twelve were released in general conference and called to the new First Quorum of the Seventy. Franklin D. Richards was named the first senior president. (9)
1 - "Party Qualifies For Utah Ballot," Salt Lake Tribune, 6 Mar. 1976, B-5; "LDS Official Says 'No' to Politics," Salt Lake Tribune, 25 Mar. 1976, B-4, and "Party Clarifies Stand on Benson Selection," Salt Lake Tribune, 29 Mar 1976, 38. 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
2 - Anderson, Lavina Fielding, "The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology," Dialogue, Vol.26, No.1
3 - Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Daniel H. Ludlow (editor), New York: Macmillan, 1992, Appendix 2: A Chronology of Church History
4 - Bergera and Priddis, Brigham Young University, 221-22 -- 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 - Leonard J. Arrington, Adventures of a Church Historian (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 101, 143, 145, 147; Ezra Taft Benson to First Presidency, memo, "New History, The Story of the Latter-day Saints," August 26, 1976: "Members of our staff have carefully read . . ." -- as referenced in Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Working Draft)
6 - Stephen Benson, "Ezra Taft Benson: A Grandson's Remembrance," Sunstone 17, no. 3 (December 1994): 31–32; Ezra Taft Benson to First Presidency, August 26, 1976, Kimball Papers -- as referenced in Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Working Draft)
7 - Wilkinson diary, 18 Sept. 1976 -- 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
8 - Wilkinson diary, 18 Sept. 1976; "Pres. Ezra Taft Benson Speaks At Freeman. 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
9 - Church News: Historical Chronology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, http://www.ldschurchnewsarchive.com/articles/58765/Historical-chronology-of-The-Church-of-Jesus-Christ-of-Latter-day-Saints.html
LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson
Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson