Ezra Taft Benson, February 1969

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-- February 1969
In February 1969, W. Cleon Skousen instructed his niece to recruit BYU students as spies. As a student herself, she claimed that her uncle "had discovered there was an active communist cell on campus whose goal it was to destroy this university by 1970." She asked one student to infiltrate BYU's Young Democrats on Skousen's behalf. Anti-Birch professor Louis Midgley was also among the BYU faculty who "were `high on the list' of suspects as being communist sympathizers on this campus and her words were that I was to `talk with them and to try to get them to commit themselves.'" Cleon Skousen gave the information "to his `superior' in Salt Lake City." (1)


-- February 12, 1969
[David O. McKay] I asked what conclusion the brethren had reached regarding the matter. President Tanner said the same conclusion that was arrived at about two years ago, that Elder Benson should discontinue this kind of thing [political extremism], and particularly in stake conferences, and should limit himself to talking about the gospel and its applications. President Tanner said that he thought I made as clear a statement on the subject as he had heard made in the meeting of the Council of the First Presidency and the Twelve at that time. I said that there is no reason why we should not continue that understanding. (2)


-- 11 Mar 1969
David Ben-Gurion, Israel's former prime minister, tells Apostle Ezra Taft Benson: "There are no people in the world who understand Jews like Mormons." Benson replies: "Mr. Ben-Gurion, there are no people in this world who understand the WORLD like the Mormons."


-- April 14, 1969
Dedicates Singapore for the preaching of the gospel. (3)


-- 1 May 1969
Apostle Ezra Taft Benson writes to LDS Hotel-magnate J. Willard Marriott, "The kindest thing that could be said about Martin Luther King is that he was an effective Communist tool. Personally, I think he was more than that."


-- 12 May 1969
Regarding an inflammatory speech at BYU by Benson in which he criticized U.S. Government officials and the United Nations, McKay authorized Hugh B. Brown to go to BYU and give a strong rebuttal, stating, “I did not think that any government officials should be accused of these things.” (2)


-- 13 May 1969
Ernest Wilkinson: "If President McKay was vigorous enough to do it, I am sure he would call both of them in [Benson & Brown] and talk to them about this, and especially President Brown for his critical personal [a]llusions." (4)


-- 27 May 1969
Skousen's efforts at campus espionage in 1969 collapsed after a faculty member wrote a memo urging him "to give the lie to this rumor . . . that you have organized a `spy' ring to check on the alleged pro-Communist sympathies of professors."

Only one of these agent provocateurs, a political science major, confessed the espionage. This student stopped spying because he found no Communist sympathizers at BYU, and "I decided that I was involved in a questionable activity and that I should withdraw and cease to function as an agent in any way." (5)


-- 29 May 1969
[David O. McKay] N. Eldon Tanner inquired in May 1969 “if a man were an avowed communist, would our position be to excommunicate him or disqualify him for any position in the Church,” McKay responded that he should not hold any church position, but allowed that he might remain a member of the church." (2)


-- October 26, 1969
Dedicates Indonesia for the preaching of the gospel. (3)


-- Dec 1969
Benson's October 1969 sermon warned the LDS general conference against "Communist conspiracy, fellow travelers, and dupes." Those remarks appeared in the official report of the conference. (6)


-- During 1969
President Hugh B. Brown proposes that the Church-s policy be reversed and that Blacks be given the Priesthood. This policy was approved by the Quorum of Twelve and the First Presidency with President McKay and Harold B. Lee absent. (President McKay was disabled due to age and President Lee was traveling on Church business.) When President Lee returned, he called for another vote and the measure was defeated this time. President Brown wrote about the issue: - "A serious problem that has confronted us, especially during the past few decades has been our denying the priesthood to the Negro. Personally, I doubt if we can maintain or sustain ourselves in the position we have adopted but which has no justification in the scriptures, as far as I know. The president says it can only come by revelation. If that is true, then change will come in due course. It seems to me that if we had admitted the Negro to the church as a full member, at the time of Joseph Smith, we would have had more trouble with the government than we then had. Holding ourselves aloof from that until after the Civil war gave us the opportunity to establish the church without that question coming to the front. It was, in other words, a policy, not necessarily a doctrine" (7)

Endnotes:
1 - Phares Woods statement, 27 May 1969,1-2, folder 16, Hillam Papers, and box 34, Buerger Papers. Daughter of Cleon Skousen's brother Ervin M., Cynthia Skousen was a first cousin of the 1966 student-spy, Mark A. Skousen. See Skousens In America, 86 -- 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
2 - 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)
3 - Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, Intellectual Reserve, Inc. (2014)
4 - Wilkinson diary, 13 May 1969 -- 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 - Undated, handwritten memo from "M. G. F." (poss. Merwin G. Fairbanks, director of student publications) to "Cleon Skousen," with copies to ELW (Ernest L. Wilkinson), RKT (Robert K. Thomas), BEL (Ben E. Lewis), RJS (Robert J. Smith), and "Dan Ludlow," folder 16, Hillam Papers; emphasis in original; Woods statement, 27 May 1969, 4; BYU Directory, 1968-69, s.v. "Phares Quincy Woods." 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
6 - Improvement Era 72 (Dec. 1969): 69 -- 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
7 - Crapo, Richley, Chronology Pertaining to Blacks and the LDS Priesthood; 1988. Edwin B. Firmate, editor. The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. P. 129

LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson

Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson
http://lds-church-history.blogspot.com/

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