Ezra Taft Benson, 1976-10-22

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-- 1976-10-22
First Presidency statement against the ERA

The First Presidency issues its first of several statements on the ERA. While they "deplore" the "injustices" women have experienced and acknowledge that "there are additional rights to which women are entitled," they conclude that the ERA "could indeed bring [women] far more restraints and repressions. We fear it will even stifle many God-given feminine instincts. It would strike at the family, humankind’s basic institution. ERA would bring ambiguity and possibly invite extensive litigation. Passage of ERA, some legal authorities contend, could nullify many accumulated benefits to women in present statutes. We recognize men and women as equally important before the Lord, but with differences biologically, emotionally, and in other ways."

[Another reason for its opposition was the fear that the ERA would result in "an increase in the practice of homosexual and lesbian activities".] (1)

-- November 18, 1976
... Benson says working women "weaken the stability of the home" and contribute to juvenile delinquency, drug abuse and crime. "There is no satisfactory substitute for mother, and no one can take care of her children as she can. ... The father's place at the head of the home is being challenged..." (2)

-- 1977
Published Volume - This Nation Shall Endure. Deseret Book (3)

-- April 13, 1977
Ezra Taft Benson told Brigham Young University Students Tuesday it was better for them to drop out of school than accept government food stamps. "You did not come to this university to become a welfare recpient or freeloader." (4)

-- 26 Oct 1977
Some students in Brigham Young University's Washington, D.C., seminar were recruited to "spy" on professors there. One of the student reports of faculty surveillance intended for Ezra Taft Benson's office instead ended up on the desk of Mark E. Petersen. After being informed of this "spy ring" by Apostle Petersen, BYU's president Dallin H. Oaks angrily referred to "that Birch Mafia that surrounds ETB." Apostle Benson had put William O. Nelson in charge of this most recent effort at BYU espionage. Nelson was Benson's secretary in the Church Administration Building. (5)

-- Fall, 1977
Jack Carlson, former Undersecretary of the Interior (with his wife Renee) was asked by President Kimball, "What do you think would happen if we changed the policy [regarding blacks and the priesthood]? Give me a scenario." President Kimball expressed his own concerns about internal dissent, particularly from members in the American South or even from the Quorum of the twelve. He said "I don't know that I should be the one doing this, but if I don't my successor won't." Benson was in line to become the next president of the church. (6)

-- 7 Dec 1977
President Kimball resolved "spy scandal" with a decisiveness lacking in the more famous episode of 1966. He made the following statement to the school's Board of Trustees in December 1977: "We understand that a member or members of the Board directly, or through others, have sought evidence about alleged statements made by faculty members in courses taught on the BYU campus and have stated or implied that such evidence is to be used by a Church official in a so-called `hearing.'" The church president's blunt statement concluded with a clear disapproval of such "surveillance of BYU employees." (7)

-- 1978
Church membership reached 4 million. (8)

-- 22 Feb 1978
First Presidency letter to all stake and mission leaders: "The fact that there may be some question as to man's ancestry cannot be rightfully considered as evidence that he has Negro blood. . . . If there is no evidence to indicate that a man has Negro blood, you would not be justified in withholding the priesthood and temple blessings from him, if he is otherwise worthy." This stops denial of priesthood merely on the basis of black African appearance and is significant prelude to the end of the ban altogether less than four months later.

-- June 1, 1978
Spencer W. Kimball receives a revelation granting the priesthood to black men, and temple blessings to black men and women. Elder Benson recorded in his journal: “Following the prayer, we experienced the sweetest spirit of unity and conviction that I have ever experienced. . . . Our bosoms burned with the righteousness of the decision we had made.” He also said he “had never experienced anything of such spiritual magnitude and power.” (9)

-- 1 Jun 1978
Spencer W. Kimball's proposal to resolve "the Negro issue," is sustained by apostles after prayer circle in Salt Lake temple. This answer ends policy since 1852 of denying priesthood to those of black African ancestry. Urgency of Kimball's inquiry involves upcoming dedication of temple in Brazil, where centuries of racial intermarriage have always posed problems in administering LDS ban on priesthood to those of black African ancestry. Kimball later describes the meeting: "I offered the final prayer and I told the Lord if it wasn't right, if He didn't want this change to come in the Church that I would be true to it all the rest of my life, and I'd fight the world against it if that's what he wanted . . ." First Presidency announces this change on Jun 9, and general conference accepts it on Sep 30. This announcement becomes "Document 2" in 1981 edition of D&C. First Presidency secretary Francis M. Gibbons writes that this change "seemed to relieve them of a subtle sense of guilt they had felt over the years." (10)

-- 1978, June 8
First Presidency issued letter announcing revelation granting the priesthood to worthy men of all races. (8)

1 - Mormon Women's History Timeline, http://www1.chapman.edu/~remy/MoFem/mormonwomen.html
2 - "Apostle Ezra T. Benson Criticizes Working Women," Provo Daily Herald, Nov 18, 1976 (provided by Joe Geisner)
3 - Wikipedia: "Ezra Taft Benson"
4 - The Browsville, Browsville Texas, "Students Told Better TO Drop out Than Accept Food Stamps," April 13, 1977 (provided by Joe Geisner)
5 - Duane E. Jeffery memorandum, 26 Oct. 1977, folder 28, box 6, Buerger Papers.; 299. "LDS Official Acknowledges Church Monitors Critics," Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Aug. 1992, D-l; "LDS Leaders Say Scripture Supports Secret Files on Members," Salt Lake Tribune, 14 Aug. 1992, B-1. 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 - Renee Pyott Carlson interview, Gregory A. Prince, Potomac, Md., June 2 1994, (Kimball Papers), as referenced in Edward Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride, The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (working draft) chapter 21, page 9
7 - Minutes of Combined Boards of Trustees, 7 Dec. 1977, archives, Lee Library; Bergera and Priddis, Brigham Young University, 223. 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
8 - Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Daniel H. Ludlow (editor), New York: Macmillan, 1992, Appendix 2: A Chronology of Church History
9 - Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 457;. McConkie, “New Revelation,” 128, quotes Ezra Taft Benson -- as referenced in Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Working Draft)
10 - On This Day in Mormon History, http://onthisdayinmormonhistory.blogspot.com

LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson

Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson

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