Ezra Taft Benson, circa 1962-1970

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-- circa 1962-1970
[Hugh B.] Brown's grandson and biographer notes:

As President McKay became increasingly impaired by age, some church functionaries, with allegiances to the radical political right, tried to influence the president in ways that Grandfather [Hugh B. Brown], President [N. Eldon] Tanner, and Elder Harold B. Lee thought unwise and improper. These three men--Grandfather in particular--were often but not always successful in blocking those efforts to influence church policy. (1)


-- 18 Jan 1970
[Quorum of the Twelve] David O. McKay dies. (2)


-- January 1970
Ezra Taft Benson's political activism went into decline in the years following McKay's death in January 1970. His successors as church president were two apostles who had privately and publicly expressed their criticism of Benson. Presidents Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee severely restricted Apostle Benson's political activism from 1970 through 1973. (3)


-- 23 Jan 1970
[Quorum of the Twelve] The First Presidency is reorganized, with Joseph Fielding Smith President, Harold B. Lee First Counselor, and N. Eldon Tanner Second Counselor. Harold B. Lee becomes President of the Quorum, with Spencer W. Kimball Acting President of the Quorum. (2)


-- 4 Mar 1970
[Some] ultra- conservative Mormons ... were outraged by the First Presidency's official condemnation of Mormons who had formed "Neighborhood Emergency Teams" in Utah. Apostle Benson announced that he had "no comment" about this March 1970 Presidency statement. (4)


-- 13 Mar 1970
President Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency and Elders Ezra Taft Benson and Gordon B. Hinckley conduct the dedication of the Mormon Pavilion at the World's Fair in Osaka, Japan. Some 6.65 million people attend the pavilion in the first six months of the fair.


-- 4 Apr 1970
Shortly after the presidency's statement against the ultra- conservative NET organizations, all local LDS leaders received an announcement which began: "There are dangerous sinister trends developing within the church due to the liberal factions gaining control." The announcement urged all "those of the conservative mind" to "cast a dissenting vote against the liberal factions" of "the First Presidency with its social-democrat thinking" on 6 April 1970. This would remove from office the new presidency of Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, and N. Eldon Tanner, all of whom were known as opponents of Benson's ultra-conservative activism. In their place, this proposal claimed that "Brother Benson will sound the trumpet and thousands, yes tens of thousands, will heed his call and stand forth ready to sustain and support the fight for truth, right and liberty." Thus a general conference vote of Mormon ultra-conservatives would propel Benson into the office of LDS church president in place of the current president and ahead of other senior apostles.

Rather than dismissing this document as the work of a lone crank and giving it no further attention, Counselor Harold B. Lee publicly denounced it two days before the sustaining vote of April 1970 conference. He told the general priesthood meeting that "there is one vicious story to the effect that one of our General Authorities is allegedly being urged to present himself to lead the Church contrary to the Lord's revelation and to make people think there is some division among the authorities of the Church." Lee indicated that this petition and its supporting documents "are finding their way into our Relief Society meetings, into priesthood quorums, firesides, institutes, and seminaries." That was an extraordinary acknowledgement by Lee of the threat to the LDS church he perceived from ultra-conservative Mormons. (5)


-- 6 Apr 1970
Rank-and-file Mormons noted that for the first time "in many years," Benson gave "his first non-political sermon" ... They regarded this non-partisan talk as a result of specific instructions the apostle had received from the First Presidency. (6)


"Despite continued threats of demonstrations," Harold B. Lee's biography observes, "not a single hand was raised in opposition" to the First Presidency on 6 April 1970. After the vote, Lee spoke against "the possibility of using political devices or revolutionary methods that could cause much confusion and frustration in the work of the Lord." The official photograph showing the Twelve's vote for the current First Presidency showed only three apostles, and the photograph centered on Ezra Taft Benson. (7)

Endnotes:
1 - Firmage, An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, 142 -- 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 - Wikipedia, Chronology of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (LDS Church), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_Quorum_of_the_Twelve_Apostles_(LDS_Church)
3 - However, it did not cease altogether. The Mormon-Birch Utah Independent announced Benson's addresses at Boston rallies in 1970 and 1972, where all the other speakers were either staff members of the Birch Society's American Opinion or long-time authors of its articles. See "Benson, Skousen Speak at New England Rally," Utah Independent, 9 July 1970,1, and "Benson Is Guest of Honor," Utah Independent, 30 June 1972, 8, and compare to table of contents pages of previous issues of American Opinion, also the list of the Birch Society's national council in "The John Birch Society: A Report," Advertising Supplement to Los Angeles Times, 27 Sept. 1964, 7 -- 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
4 - "Shun Vigilante Groups, LDS Urges Members," Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Mar. 1970, B-l -- 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 - "TO ALL STAKE PRESIDENTS INTERESTED IN TRUTH AND LIBERTY THIS CALL IS MADE," photocopy of typed document, undated, in folder 22, box 5, Buerger Papers, with signed copies by J. Wilson Bartlett in MS 2461, LDS archives, and in folder 3, box 124, Hinckley Papers; Lee, "To the Defenders of the Faith," 4 Apr. 1970, Improvement Era 73 (June 1970): 64. 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 - Buchanan diary, 21 July 1970; Ezra Taft Benson, "A World Message," Improvement Era 73 (June 1970): 95-97, whose only political reference was prophetic: "The time must surely come when the Iron Curtain will be melted down and the Bamboo Curtain shattered." 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
7 - Goates, Harold B. Lee, 414; Lee, "The Day in Which We Live," and photograph of "Council of the Twelve" vote in "The Solemn Assembly," Improvement Era 73 (June 1970): 28,20. 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

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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