Ezra Taft Benson (August 4, 1899 – May 30, 1994) was the thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1985 until his death and was United States Secretary of Agriculture for both of the administrations of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Born on a farm in Whitney
, Benson was the oldest of eleven children. Beginning his academic career at Utah State University
, he was a 1926 graduate of Brigham Young University
(after serving a church mission
from 1921 to 1923). He received his masters degree from Iowa State University
and did preliminary work on a doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley, but never completed this degree. Benson pursued a career in agriculture and later served in many church leadership positions. Just after receiving his masters he returned to Whitney to run the family farm, but later became the county agriculture extension agent.
In 1939, when he was president of the church's Boise, Idaho, stake and working for the University of Idaho Extension Service, he moved to Washington, D.C. to become Executive Secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and became the first president of a new LDS Church stake there.
On October 7 1943
, both Benson and Spencer W. Kimball
(1895–1985) became members of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
, filling two vacancies created by the deaths of apostles
that summer. Because Kimball was the older of the two, he was given seniority over Benson in the Quorum. Succession to the presidency of the church is by chronological order of ordination to apostleship, allowing Spencer W. Kimball
to become president of the church years earlier than Benson. Upon Spencer W. Kimball's
death in 1985, Benson became the president
of the church.
In 1953, Benson was appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by President Eisenhower. Benson accepted this position with the permission of Church President David O. McKay
and therefore served simultaneously in the United States Cabinet
and in the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve.
Benson opposed the system of government price supports and aid to farmers which he was entrusted by Eisenhower to administer, arguing that it amounted to unacceptable socialism . Nonetheless, he survived in his cabinet position for all eight years of Eisenhower's presidency. He was selected as the administrator-designate of the Emergency Food Agency, part of a secret group that became known as the Eisenhower Ten. The group was created by Eisenhower in 1958 to serve in the event of a national emergency.
Benson succeeded Kimball as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
in 1973, and as President of the Church
in 1985. During his early years as Church President, Benson brought a renewed emphasis to the distribution and reading of the Book of Mormon
, reaffirming the LDS scripture's importance as "the keystone of [the LDS] religion." He is also remembered for his general conference
sermon condemning pride
Benson was a lifelong supporter of Scouting. He started in 1918 as assistant Scoutmaster. On 23 May 1949 he was elected a member of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America
. He received the three highest national awards in Scouting—the Silver Beaver
, the Silver Antelope
, and the Silver Buffalo
—as well as world Scouting’s international award, the Bronze Wolf
Health problems and death
Benson suffered poor health in the last years of his life from the effects of blood clots in the brain, strokes, and heart attacks, and was rarely seen publicly. He was hospitalized in 1992 and 1993 with pneumonia
Benson died of congestive heart failure in his Salt Lake City apartment at the age of 94. Funeral services were held June 4, 1994 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle under the direction of Gordon B. Hinckley. He was buried near his birthplace in Whitney, Idaho, at the Whitney City Cemetery.
- Ezra Taft Benson (1990). Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87579-351-7.
- — (1983). Come Unto Christ. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87747-997-6.
- — (1986). The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87579-216-2.
- — (1976). Cross Fire: The Eight Years With Eisenhower. Doubleday. ISBN 0-8371-8422-3.
- — (1992). Elect Women of God. Bookcraft. ISBN 0-88494-838-2.
- — (1969). An Enemy Hath Done This. Bookcraft. ISBN 0-88494-184-1.
- — (1974). God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties. Deseret Book Company. ISBN B0006CF3MC.
- — (1989). A Labor of Love: The 1946 European Mission of Ezra Taft Benson. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87579-275-8.
- — (1990). Missionaries to Match Our Message. Bookcraft. ISBN 0-88494-779-3.
- — (1960). So Shall Ye Reap: Selected Addresses of Ezra Taft Benson. Deseret Book Company. ISBN B0007E7BME.
- — (1988). The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson. Bookcraft. ISBN 0-88494-639-8.
- — (1977). This Nation Shall Endure. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87747-658-6.
- — (1962). The Red Carpet. Bookcraft. ISBN B0007F4WJI.
- — (2003). Sermons and Writings of President Ezra Taft Benson. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- — (1964). Title of Liberty. Deseret Book Company.
- — (1988). A Witness and a Warning: A Modern-Day Prophet Testifies of the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87579-153-0.
(Grandson and Pulitzer Prize Winning Cartoonist)