Ezra Taft Benson, 1973, December 26

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-- 1973, December 26
President Harold B. Lee d. Salt Lake City, age 74. (1)


-- 26 Dec 1973
Brown had already been released as counselor. With the deaths of Smith and Lee, the First Presidency's most strident voices against Benson's ultra- conservatism were stilled. (2)


-- December 30, 1973
The fourteen members of the Quorum of the Twelve met at 3 PM to determine whether to reorganize the First Presidency immediately, and, if so, who should succeed as president. They decided to act immediately and Ezra Taft Benson moved that the First Presidency be reorganized with Spencer W. Kimball, the apostle senior in service, as president of the Church, prophet, seer, revelator, and trustee-in- trust. (3)


-- Dec 30, 1973 - 23 July 1981
Spencer W. Kimball N. Eldon Tanner Marion G. Romney Reorganization of First Presidency after death of Harold B. Lee (4)


-- During 1973
In 1973 Benson was set apart as president of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. He worked to streamline church policies and procedures. (5)


-- 1974
Published Volume - God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties. Deseret Book (6)


-- January 11, 1974
The Mormon Church said Saturday a letter from Ezra Taft Benson, president of the Council of the Twelve, opposing low-cost housing in Heber City was accidently sent on official church stationary. ... [Benson] said subsidized housing for low income families was socialistic and attracted "undesirable" persons. (7)


-- February 22, 1974
Shortly after Spencer became President, Elder Benson was asked in an interview whether a good Mormon could be a liberal Democrat. He replied, “I think it would be very hard if he was living the gospel and understood it.” When the comment appeared in print, along with a statement by Elder Benson that the Church might at some point endorse political candidates, it stirred a buzz of concern and a flood of protests to the Presidency. Spencer waited several days before discussing the matter with Elder Benson, who expressed regret that he had allowed the interview and apologized for the embarrassment his statements had caused the Church. Spencer understood his worthy motives and patriotic spirit, but reminded him that as president of the Council of Twelve he should avoid involvement in politically sensitive and potentially divisive matters. The interview closed on a cordial note, although Spencer observed a bit too sanguinely in his journal, “I doubt if he will get into politics any more.” President Benson’s biography by Sheri Dew does not mention the incident. (8)


-- 22 Feb 1974
SALT LAKE TRIBUNE article, "Support for Candidate Possible Some Day, LDS Apostle Says," quotes Ezra Taft Benson as saying that a liberal Democrat could not be a good Mormon "if he was living the gospel and understood it."


Benson resumed partisan warfare by announcing that the church might officially support political candidates. Then on the eve of the November election he publicly endorsed the ultra-conservative American Party and spoke at its rally on the Saturday before the election. This required the First Presidency to issue an immediate statement that "we take no partisan stand as to candidates or parties, and any person who makes representations to the contrary does so without authorization." (9)


-- Spring 1974
General Authorities, particularly Elder Benson, sent President Kimball marked copies of publications containing statements by Church members they considered critical or impolitic. For example, Elder Benson forwarded a Dialogue interview with Juanita Brooks about her book on the Mountain Meadows massacre and a BYU Daily Universe article mentioning Dialogue favorably. Spencer chose not to respond to such matters. Many other items forwarded to Spencer W. Kimball were ultraconservative expressions of concern for subversion of democracy in the United States. (10)


-- 11 Apr 1974
L. Tom Perry is ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, replacing Spencer W. Kimball, who had been called to the First Presidency.

Endnotes:
1 - Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Daniel H. Ludlow (editor), New York: Macmillan, 1992, Appendix 2: A Chronology of Church History
2 - 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
3 - Bruce R. McConkie, “Succession in the Presidency,” Speeches of the Year: BYU Devotional and Ten-Stake Fireside Addresses, 1974 (Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 1975), 20–23; N. Eldon Tanner, “The Sustaining of Church Officers,” Ensign 9 (November 1979): 18 -- as referenced in Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Working Draft)
4 - Wikipedia, First Presidency (LDS Church), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Presidency_(LDS_Church)#Chronology_of_the_First_Presidency
5 - Utah History Encyclopedia: Ezra Taft Benson, http://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/
6 - Wikipedia: "Ezra Taft Benson"
7 - "Says Spokesman: Benson Wrote Letter As Wasatch Citizen, Not as LDS Official" Provo Daily Herald, Jan 11, 1974 (provided by Joe Geisner)
8 - Spencer W. Kimball, Journal, February 22, 1974 -- as referenced in Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Working Draft)
9 - "Support for Candidate Possible Some Day, LDS Apostle Says," Salt Lake Tribune, 22 Feb. 1974, B-l; "Benson Tells Party Support," Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Nov. 1974, 29; "Church Says Elder's Speech on Third Party 'Unauthorized,'" Ogden Standard-Examiner, 4 Nov. 1974, A-10; "American Party told, 'Stand Firm,'" Deseret News, 4 Nov. 1974, B-14. 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
10 - Kimball Papers -- as referenced in Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Working Draft)

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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