Benson demonstrating the "milk before meat" doctrine
Benson being sworn in as Secretary of the Agriculture with President Dwight Eisenhower looking on
A counter Mormon culture rock band popular in Utah during the 1980's
A comic book used in LDS Primary around the world duing the 1980's challenging the children to improve upon themselves. Original copies in re-formed Eygptian are now a collector's treasure.
Notes on Benson From a Biographer of President Dwight Eisenhower
Eisenhower had called his cabinet members, and Nixon, to meet with him there for two days to discuss various aspects of the transition, to finalize inaugural arrangements and to hear the draft of his inaugural address. As the waiters cleared the table after lunch, he asked Ezra Taft Benson to open what amounted to his first cabinet meeting with a prayer. A surprised and delighted Benson did so. p 429
Cabinet meetings became fixed, regular events: nearly every Friday morning for eight years, he met with the cabinet. Ezra Taft Benson urged him to have each meeting open with a prayer. Eisenhower said a prayer was a good idea and a silent one would be best. So each meeting began with a minute of silence, except for the morning when he launched straight into discussion. His assistant charged with civil rights issues, Maxwell Rabb scribbled a short note and passed it to him. Eisenhower glanced down at the note, then looked up, slightly flustered, "Goddammit! We forgot the silent prayer!" p 437
In his youth Ezra Taft Benson had sought converts to Mormonism on the wet, dreary streets of towns in northern England. In maturity, he had been a county farm agent and had taught agricultural economics. His energetic salesmanship had made him the ideal public relations agent for the Idaho potato. And as old age approached, he was on of the twelve apostles of the Mormon Church, looking forward to a life of spiritual concerns. And then he received a summons to meet with Dwight D. Eisenhower, the President -elect.
Eisenhower intended to offer the post of secretary of the agriculture to Benson for two reasons-because is would please Robert A. Taft the Senate majority leader (who just happened to be Benson's cousin - see Ensign note below) and because Benson was not a prisoner of the farm lobby. When they met, he told Benson, "I want you to help me to do a job of utmost importance to the nation. I'm concerned at the growing control of agriculture by government."
Benson said he felt the same way. "Farmers should be permitted to make their own decisions on their own farms, with a minimum of government interference."
What neither man was prepared to face up to was the blindingly obvious fact that agriculture was being transformed even as they met and the government wasn't any more responsible for that than it was for the shape of the clouds. Eisenhower's past made him hostage to an almost Jeffersonian belief that America's best values were expressed in the lives of sturdy small farmers, that rural life was superior-more authentic, somehow-to an urban existence. He'd bought a Gettysburg farm for his retirement; he was the gentleman-farmer-in-waiting.
Yet farming was less a way of life these days than a business, and like businesses everywhere, the big outfits were squeezing out the little guys. Only five percent of all farms accounted for half of all farm acreage and more than half of agricultural output. Year after year, the big farms were growing even bigger. Large-scale farming wasn't driven by government but by new technologies, which in turn were driven by the voracious demands of agribusiness.
Only ten percent of the nation now lived on farms, and the figure fell from year to year. Despite the dramatic decline in the number of American farmers, there remained a large surplus. With perfect logic, farm surpluses were blamed on surplus farmers. In practice, however, marginal farmers consumed all they produced. The surpluses were produced by superior organization and advanced technologies. To prise the bottom third of farmers off the land would have resulted not in less food but in longer welfare rolls.
Eisenhower never faced up to such realities, lost as he was in the idealized world of his youth. When I was growing up, he told the cabinet, farmers in central Kansas made a good living without government help. Benson, too, was living in another world. There was as much religious fervor in Agriculture under Benson as there was in State under Dulles. (John Foster Dulles - Secretary of State whom the author describes as "repellantly self rightous.")
The principal tool for propping up farmers was parity payments, which guaranteed them a fixed price at which the government would buy their surpluses.
Benson saw parity for what it was-welfare for farmers-and was impolitic enough to say so. He talked about farmers "feeding at the public trough" and criticized farm-belt congressmen for encouraging them to push their snouts in even deeper. Eisenhower repeatedly had to reassure those same congressman that Benson wasn't going to get rid of price supports.
He also gave Benson a lesson tactics. Taking a yellow legal pad one day, he made a big black X at the top of the page. Then he drew a square at the bottom, explaining to Benson what he was doing. "Ezra, in the military, you always have a major objective. The X is our objective." He tapped the square he'd drawn. "Here are our forces. Now, it might seem that the simplest thing to do is go straight toward the objective. But that is not always the best way to get there." He drew lines that went out to the edge of the page, came back again, made sudden twists and loops. "You may have to move to one side or the other. You may have to move around some obstacle. You may have to feint, to pull the defending forces out of position. You may encounter heavy enemy forces, and temporarily have to retreat. That may be the way you have to work at this farm problem."
It was a lesson that Benson remembered but not one he chose to absorb. Nor would he play by the same rules as his cabinet colleagues. The cabinet could discuss a farm issue, get a decision from Ike, Benson would agree with it, only to go back to his department and think of ways to avoid implementing the decision he'd just said he'd support.
There was for example, a decision to continue taking large amounts of Cuban sugar, because the U.S. had advised Cuba to become a major exporter of sugar. That was sure to be unpopular with western states that produced sugar beets, but Eisenhower felt the U.S. had an obligation to keep its word, that it would buy Cuban sugar. Benson, however, tried to get of implementing the policy. Such things happened repeatedly, yet when it was put to him that Benson was untrustworthy, Eisenhower testily replied, "People may think he's a goddam fool, but he's a man of integrity." He was convinced that anything Benson did, he did only because he was convinced God wanted him to act that way. Besides, Benson outperformed the rest of the cabinet in one important respect. Eisenhower determined agricultural policy, but it was Benson who was reviled. Farmers loved Ike and voted for him gladly, but they burned Benson in effigy and pelted him with surplus tomatoes.
Eisenhower resented the unremitting pressure to provide ninety percent parity, fixed by law. The basic crops, the ones that got the most support, he cuttingly called "the political crops." Even so, he worried that if market forces were allowed to prevail, farm prices would collapse. The resulting depression in agriculture might spread from the farms to the rest of the economy, in much the same way that a fire can leap from one side of the street to the other. "Some investment now in our farming areas could be much cheaper than to risk a farming collapse," he told Sherman Adams. (White House chief of staff)
As things turned out, "some investment" turned out to be a huge, if hidden, increase in welfare. Parity payments rose from roughly $800 million a year under Truman to more that $5 billion a year under Eisenhower. Washington provided more than half the net income of American Farmers.
He wanted to give the surpluses away, but Benson persuaded him to export them instead. The trouble was, years of subsidy had pushed the price of American farm products so high that they stood no chance on world markets. Egyptian cotton was cheaper; so was Canadian wheat and New Zealand butter and so on. To overcome this problem, in 1954 Eisenhower got Congress to pass Public Law 480. This provided generous compensation to American farmers for whatever losses they may suffer in export markets.
Dulles tried to educate Benson on what this exercise in agricultural dumping was doing to America's relationships, and not only with allied countries such as Britain, Australia and France. It was also crushing farmers in the countries of the Third World. But Benson, "enveloped in a kind of celestial optimism," in Sherman Adam's phrase claimed PL 480 was providing "friendly competition and fair competition," and no doubt he believed it.
Actually, for Elder Benson, the time in Washington was not really an interruption in his service to God. He was a patriot who found in the Book of Mormon answers for his country’s needs. He loved the choice land where the gospel had been restored, he revered its Constitution, and he took very seriously his responsibility to help preserve it. Twenty years later, one of the choicest assignments of President Benson’s life was to review the St. George Temple records showing ordinances performed there for the founding fathers of the United States.
Throughout the Cabinet years, Elder Benson maintained a calm in the face of criticism so fierce that it amazed even those who disagreed with his policies.
A plaque on his desk reading "O God, give us men with a mandate higher than the ballot box" explained one reason for his equanimity: Ezra Taft Benson merely did what he thought was best, not what might have been politically expedient. He later told the other reason: “I have prayed—we have prayed as a family—that we could avoid any spirit of hatred or bitterness” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1961, p. 112). - Ensign July 1994/President Ezra Taft Benson: A Sure Voice of Faith
I was working for a major Salt Lake hospital when Ezra Taft Benson was presiding over the church. We had a very elderly woman come it to our department who later fainted.
As she awoke, we began to ask her questions. "Mrs. Smith (not real name) do you know where you are?" Cussing. Confusion. "Mrs. Smith, you're in the hospital. Can you tell me what day of the week it is?" More cussing and confusion. "Mrs. Smith, It's Tuesday. Can you tell me who the president is?" EZRA TAFT BENSON!!! Came back the replay louder than a jet aircraft.
We didn't have any Mormons in the group, so we all snickered a bit, figured she would probably recover and got back down to business.
My father who is 81 years old and still alive was caught up in all this John Birch crap in the 60's because of ETB. My dad felt and still does that because ETB was an Apostle and prophet, it was from God and was proof the last days were here and that the second coming would happen before or during the year 2000. (must of missed it). Crap like this from a man that claimed to be the voice of God on earth has ruined my fathers life in a lot of ways. (sorry Steve)
In my late teens I was caught up in it for a time but slowly it didn't add up. Then for many years I struggled with how a prophet of God could espouse such wrong views and a the same time I should not question his words as I was being taught in the 80's and 90's. Now I know! I just wish I would have been smarter to figure it out sooner (I guess evaluation does work) and maybe save part of my dads life.
Recently, I came across President Eisenhower's baptismal after death in the Mormon Temple in Provo. They forgot Mamie. Benson didn't give the O K? - 07/17/2001 - email@example.com
Like many people who rise to the top, Benson was eccentric, dogmatic, independent and often offensive. Obedience to his own opinion allowed him to rationalize disobedience to Eisenhower and even to his own senior apostles who often tried in vein to rein in Benson's ceaseless John Birch activities. Many of the brethren were secretly grateful that by the time Benson became prophet he was too senile to continue his radical activities and would not be able to embarrass the church.
Thanks for providing an outsider's peak at Benson. It's amazing how the church puts a public positive spin on its leaders no matter how odd ball they are. - 10/23/2000 - exmo from the 80's
Question: What do you get when you cross a John Bircher with a Utah Mormon?
Answer: An Ezralite of course. - 10/23/2000 - Henry Kissenger
Until I read the article, I guess I had some sort of an idea that actual prayers were said out loud on a regular basis. It makes more sense that it was actually silent prayers. I remember very distinctly hearing talks in Sacrament Meeting where the speaker told a story about how Ezra talked President Eisenhower into having a prayer before each cabinet meeting, and Eisenhower liked the idea. However, the speaker neglected to mention anything about "silent prayer" so all these years I thought they had a regular prayer like a Mormon prayer at the beginning of Priesthood meeting. This is a good example of where the speaker was not telling a lie, and was not intentionally making up a false story, but by leaving out the detail that it was silent prayer, and not regular Mormon-style prayer, the audience gets the wrong idea due to important facts omitted. I think it's safe to say that missionaries are expected to leave out important details about the LDS church when teaching investigators. In most cases, LDS missionaries don't even know about the strange aspects of early Mormonism and LDS leaders like to keep it that way. (how many 19 years old missionaries are hiding the fact that JS had over 33 wives, many teenagers 25 years younger, and about 10 already married to other LDS men?? Typically, a 19 year-old has never even heard about any of this stuff, and the church wants to keep it that way.) - 10/23/2000 - Mr X
Ezra T. used to visit an old friend of his who lived up the street from me. This was about 30 years ago when I was a kid. We would see Ezra's big black Lincoln roaring past our house and know that our righteous neighbor had been priviledged with a visit from one of the Lord's annointed.
One Fall day my brother and I were experimenting with these green willow sticks and some recently frozen vegetables from the Bishop's garden. It was amazing how far we could fling these rotten tomatoes. Well, you can guess the rest of the story. We let fly this big jucy tomato and it went right on the windshield of the big black Lincoln from about 3/4 of a block away. It was a miracle shot and we couldn't repeat it in a thousand years. (I thought the Lord protected his servants?) The car screeched to a stop in front of our house and both the driver and the then, not so elderly Apostle took after us on foot, calling us "a damned pair of little bastards" and a few other choice words which we did not stay around to hear.
It was a good thing we could run fast, jump the fence like deer and that our parents were not home. Also that we got back home to destroy the incriminating note they left on the front door before our parents returned.
A week later we got a stiff lecture from our Bishop in the deacons quorum meeting on the subject, but all efforts to extract a confession proved fruitless. I guess if he really wanted to get us, he could have done so. But wouldn't it have been easier to just wash the tomato off the car and take a different route ?
Extra-Terrestrial Benson became president of the church a few years after I joined. He was well on his way to dotage by then so he was generally harmless I suppose. He spent most of his time in the Hotel Utah being attended to by his nurses and normally wasn't seen or heard from except at conferences when he would be trundled out to show the membership that he was still viable.
I remember well his last public address. A day or two into conference (he attended only one session due to his health but was supposedly watching the rest of the proceedings on TV) he got up to make his obligatory address. By this time the poor guy was very feeble and spoke in a quavering voice. He struggled with his text and there was no question about him using a teleprompter. The TV director made the mistake of showing an over the shoulder shot of ET while he was speaking and the viewer could see the text of his speech on the podium, the letters printed in huge type I guess so he could see them. He rambled on for awhile and then sat down. I told my wife that she would never see him speak in public again and I was right. Benson was trucked back to his hotel and lingered there for the rest of his days.
The church then put forward the lie that he was actively running the church and of course God would never allow a senile man to be in charge of anything. The church made full use of his autopen signature machine to "sign" all of the documents Benson needed to put out. Noticably though the Brethern took the unusual step of making Howard Hunter "Acting" president of the Twelve, leapfrogging him over Marion Romney who was the actual presdient and most senior Apostle. Only no one questioned that Romney was even more senile than Benson was. Romney's last public address at conference was totally embarrassing as he also tottered to the podium and didn't even try to read any text but instead just rambled in a disjointed way until somehow he made it back to his seat to sit down.
In 1968, Ezra Taft Benson (an apostle who would be President of the 12 in 1973 and finally promoted to prophet in 1985) gave a BYU devotional talk where he promoted the radical anti-communistic John Birch Society, accused the U.S. Supreme Court of treason, and tried to claim the "civil rights" and "Black Power" movements were communist plots. Benson made references to "black Marxists" and "Black Power communist fanatics." Benson didn't hide his segregationist philosophy and desire to keep the races separate. An LDS Institute teacher (41 year Institute veteran) described Benson's sermon as "spreading his hate and fear."
About 10 days later, Hugh B. Brown (Counselor in the LDS First Presidency) went to BYU and gave an address stating, "At a time when radicals of right or left would inflame race against race, avoid those who preach evil doctrines of racism." Many people recognized this statement as partially or fully aimed at Benson. Brown and Benson had many serious disagreements and President McKay had difficulty controlling the feud.
In Brown's speech, he not only advised listeners to "avoid those who preach evil doctrines of racism" but also stated "beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others." Without question, Brown's speech was a direct attack against Benson's regrettable sermon 10 days earlier.
Now we go back in time to 1967 when Ezra Taft Benson thought about running for President of the USA. Thousands of promotional packets were sent out.
In 1967, the infamous "Black Hammer" book was published. The full title was: BLACK HAMMER: A STUDY OF BLACK POWER, RED INFLUENCE AND WHITE ALTERNATIVES, FOREWARD BY THE HONORABLE EZRA TAFT BENSON Benson's foreword discussed the civil rights movement as a Communist program for revolution in America. Benson praised segregationist theories of Hargis and others. The cover of this racist book featured the decapitated and bleeding head of an African-American man.
As a result of the "Black Hammer" and his popularity in the Birch Society, Benson tried to link up with George Wallace, a Southern segregationist (and well-known "racist") who declared his bid for the Presidency in February 1968. Benson flew to Alabama to discuss Wallace's candidacy and promote himself as a possible running mate. Wallace sent a letter to President McKay in February requesting that Apostle Benson be allowed to be the Vice Presidential candidate in Wallace's third party bid. McKay refused and sent a denial letter to Wallace.
On April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his last speech "I've been to the Mountaintop". On April 4, King was shot and killed in Memphis. President Johnson declared a national day of mourning on April 7.
Meanwhile, Apostle Benson released and circulated a statement accusing Martin Luther King, Jr. of affiliating with at least 3 officially recognized communist organizations, and then made the distasteful claim that "the Communists will use Mr. King's death for as much yardage as possible."
At the April 1968 LDS General Conference, the unfortunate slaying of Martin Luther King, Jr. was fresh in everybody's mind. LDS members expected a message of regret and condolence from the Brethren. King was an ordained minister, promoted peace, and detested unnecessary violence. To the surprise of many, not one single word of condolence was spoken during the entire conference.
One decade after King's death, the LDS church finally gave in to public pressure, and the administrative problems of unknown ancestry of mixed-blood members, and gave the priesthood to Blacks. When the 1978 "revelation from God" was published in The Church News, the First Presidency ordered the newspaper to print a prominent article on the front page which explained that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continued to be strongly opposed to inter-racial marriages.
My grandparents, William and Gertrude Mahar were citrus ranchers. Their ranch was on Padua Road north of Highway 66, near Claremont, California. My grandparents' groves were at the foot of Mt. Baldy, covering at least 400 acres. They were very active in the Citrus Growers' Association, and in May 1939, Ezra Taft Benson was invited to speak at a large meeting of the Association at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds. There were citrus ranchers from Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties attending the meeting. Even though we were still in the Depression, the citrus growers were very productive and were considered a very important part of the agricultural scene. Benson, I believe, was the Director of the Dept. of Agriculture under the FDR Administration.
My grandparents and my father and mother arrived early to prepare for Mr. Benson's arrival. I was there too, in a sense, for I was born in June of that year. My family and the vast majority of the Association were very much in favor of the Roosevelts. My grandmother had heard through the "grape vine," Benson was not a Roosevelt fan, but she was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. At the front door of the building were many boxes of assorted citrus fruit on display with the grower's labels in full view.
Benson arrived with the driver, in a black four door Cadillac sedan. He was in the back seat. The driver had been furnished by the Association, as Benson had arrived in Pomona by train. When he arrived at the fairgrounds, he was somewhat distant toward the women, but talked freely to the men. There were approximately 200 people there. My mother stayed seated by the refreshment table and had no contact with Benson. She was watching him from a distance, and viewed him to be somewhat hyperactive and opinionated.
My grandmother was the hostess, and when the program started, she announced Benson would be speaking after the awards were given out to citrus growers' wives in the counties mentioned for their dedication to their ranches and the Association, etc. My grandmother and all the wives were very much a part of the citrus business, not only being involved with the home, but with the banking, bookkeeping, and the ordering of supplies, because the men were out in the vast acres of groves usually early in the morning until dark. This is why they were prosperous because of the co-operation between husbands, wives and other family members. Benson started off on the wrong foot. The first thing that came out of his mouth---in a sanctimonious, sarcastic manner---was this was the first time he had been introduced by a hostess instead of a host. My grandmother took her seat and I am sure she gave him "The Look." As his speech progressed, he was amazed the men would allow the women so much responsibility, that women in Utah only took care of the home and children and his wife was given an allowance to take care of the home. My grandfather looked at my grandmother, and he knew Benson was in serious trouble. Her Scot-Irish temper was beginning to come to a boil. He felt a woman's place was in the home, raising the children and taking care of her husband's needs. He started in on the Roosevelt Administration, not in favor of certain policies and not too keen on the WPA. He started in on Eleanor Roosevelt. That is where he made his biggest mistake.The women in the audience were becoming more hostile. He stated that she was really running the White House, probably writing all of FDR's fireside talks and speeches. She had been very curt to him when he had offered suggestions, and always had a note pad taking down her observations of everyone in the immediate area. My grandfather spoke up, and tried to correct him, saying FDR needed Eleanor because of his polio and limited ability to travel. Benson came back with the remark that my grandfather had given the woman in his life too much authority, that my grandfather was "brain washed" in so many words. By this time, the women were out of their seats, and heading for the stage in the attack position.
Somebody knocked over the punch bowl, and Benson was ordered to leave. He went out the back door with the driver. The women headed out the front door, and as he was getting in the car, they started throwing citrus at him. Well, I guess it was quite a sight, watching those irate women, who had "brain washed" their husbands, bouncing lemons, oranges and grapefruit off the back of the car as it sped away out of the fairgrounds. The last they saw of him, was his face looking out the rear window. It was a good thing he left, for the punch was spiked with a generous serving of Jack Daniels. Second thought, maybe a good shot of Jack Daniels would have changed his attitude? The Association wrote a letter to FDR, telling of Benson's bad behavior. They received a letter apologizing, and stated that Benson had his own ideas and at times was hard to deal with. FDR and Eleanor both signed the letter. They thanked California for it's positive contribution to the citrus industry.
Pres Benson did put his foot in his mouth. I checked in his biograpy and that incident happened when he was executive secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.. He was Secretary of Agriculture under Pres. Eisenhower which was 1952.. - 04/27/2001 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Post your story or comments in this text box.
Home - Site Map