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Monday, April 27, 2015

Exposing the enemies of Christ

According to Ezra Taft Benson, exposing the enemies of Christ is the second of two basic ways that the Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. In a 1975 general conference talk titled, "The Book of Mormon is the Word of God," Ezra Taft Benson said the Book of Mormon brings men to Christ through two basic means. First, it tells in a plain manner of Christ and His gospel. And second, the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ.

Ezra Taft Benson gave this 1975 talk again during the April 1986 Regional Representatives' Seminar on the eve of his first general conference as Prophet. He subsequently gave the same talk more than twenty times in regional and area conferences during his first year as Church President (see Church News, Dec. 21, 1986, p.3). He gave a copy of this talk to the general authorities in a temple meeting on March 5th, 1987 (as reported in the Ensign, Mar. 1994, p.61). And he published this talk as his January, 1988, First Presidency message during his third year as Church President. Based on the number of times he repeated this talk, it's message is probably crucial to understanding his ministry as Prophet. He said:

"Second, the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time....

"The situation in the world will continue to degenerate unless we read and heed the words of God and quit building up and upholding secret combinations, which the Book of Mormon tells us proved the downfall of ancient civilizations." (Ensign, Jan. 1988 ; emphasis added.)

Below are six statements by Ezra Taft Benson regarding a secret combination that is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world. These warnings have come to us from God through Ezra Taft Benson. All six statements were made after his call in 1985 to be President of the Church. They cannot be safely ignored. Without an understanding of these prophetic warnings, we cannot correctly interpret national and world events.

In addition, Ezra Taft Benson's apostolic statements during the 42 years prior to his becoming President of the Church are also helpful as we seek to understand his counsel on this important subject. Remember, God does not call as Prophets men who teach false doctrine.


1. SECRET COMBINATIONS

1.1.  Oct. 1986: "From the Book of Mormon we see the evils of secret combinations portrayed in graphic and chilling reality. . . .

"We should constantly ask ourselves, 'Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?'" (Conference Report, Oct. 1986, Ensign, Nov. 1986, pp. 6-7; also The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 59.)

1.2.  April 1989: "Secret combinations . . . are built up to get power, gain, and glory of the world. (See Hel. 7:5; Ether 8:9, 16, 22-23; Moses 5:31.) . . . Secret combinations brought down both the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations and [have] been and will yet be the cause of the fall of many nations. (See Ether 8:18-25.)" (Conference Report, April. 1989, Ensign, May 1989, p. 6.)

1.3.  Jan. 1988: "The situation in the world will continue to degenerate unless we read and heed the words of God and quit building up and upholding secret combinations, which the Book of Mormon tells us proved the downfall of ancient civilizations." ("The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God," Ensign, Jan. 1988, p. 5.)

1.4.  April 1986: "Our nation will continue to degenerate unless we read and heed the words of the God of this land, Jesus Christ, and quit building up and upholding the secret combinations which the Book of Mormon tells us proved the downfall of both previous American civilizations." ("The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God," Regional Representatives' Seminar, Friday, April 4, 1986, pp. 3-4; as quoted in The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 61.)

1.5.  Oct. 1988: "Wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. (See D&C 1:14- 16; 84:49-53.) It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised, and more powerfully promoted than ever before. Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world. (See Ether 8:18-25.)" (Conference Report, Oct. 1988, Ensign, Nov. 1988, p. 87; italics added.)

1.6.  April 1987: "Secret combinations flourished because, as Helaman tells us, the Gadianton robbers 'had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils' (Helaman 6:38)." (Conference Report, April 1987, Ensign, May 1987, p. 4; italics added.)


2. MORONI'S URGENT APPEAL

2.1.  In a General Conference of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson said: "One of the most urgent, heart-stirring appeals made by Moroni as he closed the Book of Mormon was addressed to the gentile nations of the last days. He foresaw the rise of a great world-wide secret combination among the gentiles which 'seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries.' (Ether 8:25.)" (Conference Report, Oct. 1961, Improvement Era, Dec. 1961, p. 953; as quoted in God, Family, Country, p. 348.)

For more than thirty years, the modern prophet Ezra Taft Benson echoed the ancient prophet Moroni's warning that "each gentile nation of the last days [must] purge itself of this gigantic criminal conspiracy which would seek to rule the world." (Ibid.)

2.2.  Ezra Taft Benson said: "Moroni seemed greatly exercised lest in our day we might not be able to recognize the startling fact that the same secret societies which destroyed the Jaredites and decimated numerous kingdoms of both Nephites and Lamanites would be precisely the same form of criminal conspiracy which would rise up among the gentile nations in this day. . . .

"Moroni described how the secret combination would take over a country and then fight the work of God, persecute the righteous, and murder those who resisted. Moroni therefore proceeded to describe the workings of the ancient secret combinations so that modern man could recognize this great political conspiracy in the last days. (See Ether 8:23-25.)" (Conference Report, Oct. 1961, Improvement Era, Dec. 1961, p. 954; as quoted in God, Family, Country, p. 349.)

"Today the Christian constitutionalist mourns for his country. He sees the spiritual and political faith of his fathers betrayed by wolves in sheep's clothing. He sees the forces of evil increasing in strength and momentum under the leadership of Satan, the arch-enemy of freedom. He sees the wicked honored and the valiant abused. He senses that his own generation faces Gethsemanes and Valley Forges that may yet rival or surpass the trials of the early Apostles and the men of '76. And this gives him cause to reflect on the most basic of fundamentals—the reason for our existence. Once we understand that fundamental, the purpose for mortality, we may more easily chart a correct course in the perilous seas that are engulfing our nation." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 397.)

2.3.  In the April 1972 General Conference of the Church, President Benson stated: "Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was the 'keystone of our religion' and the 'most correct' book on earth. (DHC, vol. 6, p. 56.) This most correct book on earth states that the downfall of two great American civilizations came as a result of secret conspiracies whose desire was to overthrow the freedom of the people. 'And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking,' says Moroni, 'and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.' (Ether 8:21.)

"Now undoubtedly Moroni could have pointed out many factors that led to the destruction of the people, but notice how he singled out the secret combinations, just as the Church today could point out many threats to peace, prosperity and the spread of God's work, but it has singled out as the greatest threat the Godless conspiracy. There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon—it is a conspiracy fact." (Conference Report, April 1972, Ensign, July 1972, p. 60; as quoted in God, Family, Country, pp. 321-322.)

2.4.  Ether 8:22. President Benson emphasized over and over the ancient prophet Moroni's warning that "whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations . . . until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed." (See, for example, God, Family, Country, pp. 322 & 349; and An Enemy Hath Done This, pp. 331 & 333.)

2.5.  According to Ezra Taft Benson, we are "building up and upholding" this great world-wide conspiracy; we have been "seduced . . . to believe its words," and it is "flourishing" and "increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world." (See section 1 above.)


3. DECEIVING THE VERY ELECT

3.1.  2 Timothy 3:13. Ezra Taft Benson said of this verse: "The Apostle Paul saw our day. He . . . warned that 'evil men and seducers would wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived' (2 Timothy 3:13)." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 88; italics added.)

3.2.  Mark 13:22. "For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect." (Italics added.)

Matthew 24:24. "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."

Ezra Taft Benson said of this verse: "There is a conspiracy of evil. The source of it all is Satan and his hosts. He has a great power over men to 'lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken' to the voice of the Lord (Moses 4:4). His evil influence may be manifest through governments; through false educational, political, economic, religious, and social philosophies; through secret societies and organizations; and through myriads of other forms. His power and influence are so great that, if possible, he would deceive the very elect (see Matthew 24:24)." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 404.)

3.3.  Helaman 6:38. The Modern Prophet Benson, quoting the Book of Mormon Prophet Helaman, has noted that secret combinations flourish because they are able to seduce "the more part of the righteous" to "believe in their works and partake of their spoils." (Conference Report, April 1987, Ensign, May 1987, p. 4.)

This seduction happens by deception. And the greatest deceptions were not among the Nephites, but are among us today. Ezra Taft Benson said: "We are going through . . . the greatest propaganda campaign of all time. We cannot believe all we read." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 302; see also p. 90.)

3.4.  Ezra Taft Benson said: "It is from within the Church that the greatest hindrance comes. And so, it seems, it has been. Now the question arises, will we stick with the kingdom and can we avoid being deceived? Certainly this is an important question, for the Lord has said that in the last days the 'devil will rage in the hearts of men' (2 Nephi 28:20), and if it were possible he 'shall deceive the very elect' (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22)." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp. 406-407.)


4. WE MUST AWAKE

4.1.  Ezra Taft Benson said: "If you use the scriptures as a guide, you know what the Book of Mormon has to say regarding murderous conspiracies in the last day and how we are to awake to our awful situation today (see Ether 8:18-25). I find certain elements in the Church do not like to read the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants so much—they have too much to say about freedom." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 81; see also p. 42.)

Ezra Taft Benson continues: "The Book of Mormon warns us that when we see these murderous conspiracies in our midst, we should awaken to our awful situation (see Ether 8:24). Now, why should we awaken if the Lord is going to take care of us anyway? Let us suppose that it is too late to save freedom. It is still accounted unto us for righteousness' sake to stand up and fight. Some Book of Mormon prophets knew of the final desolate end of their nations, but they still fought on, and they saved some souls, including their own, by so doing. For, after all, the purpose of life is to prove ourselves, and the final victory will be for freedom." (Ibid., p. 660.)

4.2.  Ezra Taft Benson warned: "Our complacency as a nation is shocking—yes, almost unbelievable! We are a prosperous nation. Our people have high-paying jobs. Our incomes are high. Our standard of living is at an unprecedented level. We do not like to be disturbed as we enjoy our comfortable complacency. We live in the soft present and feel the future is secure. We do not worry about history. We seem oblivious to the causes of the rise and fall of nations. We are blind to the hard fact that nations usually sow the seeds of their own destruction while enjoying unprecedented prosperity.

"I say to you with all the fervor of my soul: We are sowing the seeds of our own destruction in America and much of the free world today. It is my sober warning to you today that if the trends of the past continue, we will lose that which is as priceless as life itself—our freedom, our liberty, our right to act as free men. It can happen here. It is happening here. . . .

"The sad and shocking story of what has happened in America in recent years must be told. Our people must have the facts. There is safety in an informed public. There is real danger in a complacent, uninformed citizenry. This is our real danger today. Yes, the truth must be told even at the risk of destroying, in large measure, the influence of men who are widely respected and loved by the American people. The stakes are high. Freedom and survival is the issue." (Ibid., p. 582.)

4.3.  "The fight for freedom is God's fight. . . . When a man stands for freedom he stands with God. And as long as he stands for freedom he stands with God. And were he to stand alone he would still stand with God—the best company and the greatest power in or out of this world. Any man will be eternally vindicated and rewarded for his stand for freedom." (Ibid., p. 656.)


CONCLUSION

This blog post brings together a number of statements by Ezra Taft Benson about an international conspiracy that seeks to overthrow freedom in all countries and rule the world. These warnings have caused embarrassment among some members of the Church and have received limited attention in Church curriculum materials. Some Church members go so far as to belittle the idea of a conspiracy to take over the world. Those who would mock the words of a Prophet should carefully consider the Lord's warning: "Fools mock, but they shall mourn." (Ether 12:26.)

Ezra Taft Benson is one of sixteen latter-day Prophets. To the extent that a person rejects what is taught by a Prophet, to that extent he or she rejects that Prophet. Only when so instructed by the living Prophet, may we safely discard the unpleasant or difficult counsel of earlier Prophets.

As we study the teachings of Ezra Taft Benson in our Sunday meetings, let us ask ourselves: Are we merely paying lip service to the memory of a former Church President or do we actually believe what this Prophet of God taught about the Book of Mormon and how it exposes the enemies of Christ?

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Counsel from modern prophets about drought

According to the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, "The 2015 water supply is considerably lower than average and reservoirs are not expected to fill. Weber Basin Water Conservancy District invites and urges you to continue to follow conservation practices and policies that have been previously implemented." (Downloaded Mar 28, 2015 from WeberBasin.com.)


The above statement by Weber Basin Water is confirmed by the following snowpack report, last updated Saturday, Mar 28, 2015.

(Downloaded Mar 28, 2015 from KSL.com.)


Two modern prophets, Spencer W. Kimball and Gordon B. Hinckley, have pointed to Sabbath observance as the cure for drought.


SPENCER W. KIMBALL

"Early this year when drouth conditions seemed to be developing in the West, the cold and hardships in the East, with varying weather situations all over the world, we felt to ask the members of the Church to join in fasting and prayer, asking the Lord for moisture where it was so vital and for a cessation of the difficult conditions elsewhere.

"Perhaps we may have been unworthy in asking for these greatest blessings, but we do not wish to frantically approach the matter but merely call it to the attention of our Lord and then spend our energy to put our lives in harmony.

"One prophet said:

"'When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them:

"'Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.' (1 Kgs. 8:35–36.)

"The Lord uses the weather sometimes to discipline his people for the violation of his laws. He said to the children of Israel:

"'If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;

"'Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

"'And your threshing shall reach into the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time; and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.

"'And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: ...neither shall the sword go through your land.' (Lev. 26:3–6.)...

"'The Lord gave strict commandments: "Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.' (Lev. 19:30.)

"Innumerous times we have quoted this, asking our people not to profane the Sabbath; and yet we see numerous cars lined up at merchandise stores on the Sabbath day, and places of amusement crowded, and we wonder.

"Numerous times have we quoted:

"'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

"'Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

"'But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: In it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

"'For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.' (Ex. 20:8–11.)

"But today numerous of the people of this land spend the Sabbath working, devoting the day to the beaches, to entertainment, to shows, to their weekly purchases.

"The Lord makes definite promises. He says:

"'Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.' (Lev. 26:4.)

"God does what he promises, and many of us continue to defile the Sabbath day." (Ensign, May 1977.)


GORDON B. HINCKLEY

[From the Church News, June 7, 2003.]

Tracts of newer housing are scattered around the cropland and cattle pastures of Eagle Mountain and the surrounding Cedar Valley. Population growth in the past five years has been so substantial that two stakes of the Church now bear the name Eagle Mountain.

It was the construction of a new stake center in the town that drew the attention of President Gordon B. Hinckley....

Thus the members of the Eagle Mountain Utah West Stake, formed last September from a division of the Eagle Mountain Utah Stake, had the treat of having the Church president dedicate their new building....

Perhaps it was natural that President Hinckley would touch on the five-year drought that has afflicted Utah and revisit a theme he spoke on at general conference.

"I think the Lord is trying us a little," he said. He quoted Leviticus 26:3-6, which promises, "If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season."

"What a magnificent promise," he exclaimed and added that as he traveled to the stake center that morning, "I looked at the store parking lots that were filling on the Sabbath day. I looked at the farms that were being tilled on the Sabbath day. I looked at some of the other activities that were going forth on the Sabbath day, and I said to myself, maybe the Lord is reminding us that we need to draw closer to Him and be more true and faithful and deserving of His great and good and marvelous blessings."

He went on to quote from Solomon's temple dedication: "When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against thee, if they pray toward this place and confess thy hand and turn from their sin when thou dost afflict them; Then hear thou from heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants" (2 Chronicles 6:26-27).

"I believe, my brothers and sisters, that the Lord is reminding us that we ought to be more faithful," President Hinckley said. "We ought to be more diligent. We ought to draw closer to Him. We ought to be more anxious to keep His commandments and do His divine will."


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Sunday, February 01, 2015

Snubbing Benson

To snub means to rebuff, ignore, or spurn disdainfully, and that is exactly what the LDS blog Approaching Justice (hereinafter, "A.J.") did last September when it commemorated Constitution Day with a short animated cartoon and summed up the U.S. Constitution this way:

"It is about how to make laws. Really, that is it. It is rules about how laws are made and who has the power to make what laws."

Click on the image below to visit A.J.'s post.

Meanwhile, Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was a modern apostle and prophet who explained the U.S. Constitution over and over and in detail throughout his 51 year ministry. In fact, no Prophet has taught the principles and importance of the U.S. Constitution more thoroughly or more often than did Ezra Taft Benson.

So here's the snub: After setting forth its own oversimplified, 28-word explanation of the Constitution, A.J. arrogantly asserts:

"Anyone that adds anything to that is selling you something. DO NOT BUY IT."

But Ezra Taft Benson did add something to that, a lot in fact, and he was sent by God to do it. Hence, today I am answering A.J.'s post. My response is in three parts. The first two parts were posted here on this blog last month.

Part one (click here): Preparation for his prophetic calling included Ezra Taft Benson's worldwide experience as a government official. It was not just a coincidence that he presided over the Church during the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.

Part two (click here): According to Ezra Taft Benson, verses 77 and 80 of section 101 in the Doctrine and Covenants are fundamental to a correct understanding of the Constitution. Over the years, he quoted these two verses of scripture again and again as he urged the Saints to defend and preserve the U.S. Constitution.

Part three: Every Latter-day Saint with interest in the U.S. Constitution should listen to this 1986 speech by then Church President Ezra Taft Benson. It is titled, "The Constitution—A Heavenly Banner." (Note the introduction by Jeffrey R. Holland.)



There is no animation. It is audio only. And it might seem a little long compared to A.J.'s animated cartoon. But unlike the cartoon, it is a message from a Prophet and it actually talks about the U.S. Constitution.

If you wish, you can follow along, reading the text of the speech as you listen (click here). Or you might just quickly skim over the text and call that good enough.

But whatever you decide, don't forget who established the U.S. Constitution and don't forget who prepared a modern Prophet to teach us what it is really "all about."

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Do Mormons want their prophets to keep still on politics?

In a First Presidency Message published in the Church's international magazine, Ezra Taft Benson said:

"The world prefers that prophets either be dead or worry about their own affairs. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on." (Liahona, June, 1981.)

Do Mormons want their prophets to keep still on politics? No, not all of their prophets, just the one who was most uniquely and thoroughly prepared by God to be His spokesman on politics and on the U.S. Constitution (see "Ezra Taft Benson, A Uniquely Prepared Prophet").

Thomas S. Monson has highlighted the special connection that existed between Ezra Taft Benson and the U.S. Constitution:

"I think it is the inspiration of Almighty God that at this particular time [1989] we have serving as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Ezra Taft Benson, one of the greatest advocates of freedom, and one of those who loves most the Constitution of this land." (Church News, Dec. 30, 1989.)

Ezra Taft Benson was called to general Church leadership in 1943, became Church President in 1985, and died in 1994. A persistent theme throughout his 51-year ministry as apostle and prophet was our individual responsibility to defend and preserve the United States Constitution.

Ezra Taft Benson saw significance in verses 77 and 80 of section 101 in the Doctrine and Covenants. Over the years, Ezra Taft Benson quoted these two verses of scripture again and again as he urged the Saints to defend and preserve the U.S. Constitution.

This year’s Teachings of Presidents manual notes:

"In April 1948, Elder Benson gave his first of many general conference addresses focusing on ‘the prophetic mission’ of the United States of America and the importance of freedom." (p.21.)

In that "first of many" addresses, Ezra Taft Benson cited D&C 101:77, 80, something he did repeatedly throughout the remainder of his ministry.

Please listen to the audio while you read the following paragraph from a 1973 speech Ezra Taft Benson gave to the students at BYU. Notice how he emphasizes one particular word.



"I am grateful that the God of heaven saw fit to put his stamp of approval upon the Constitution and to indicate that it had come into being through wise men whom he raised up unto this very purpose. He asked the Saints, even in the dark days of their persecution and hardship, to continue to seek for redress from their enemies 'according,' he said, 'to the laws and constitution ... which I have suffered [or caused] to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh' (D&C 101 :77). And then he made this most impressive declaration: 'And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood' (Ibid., 101:80)." ("This Nation Shall Endure," BYU Speeches, 1973; see also Conference Report, Oct. 1954.)

This year’s Teachings of Presidents manual points out that Ezra Taft Benson "observed the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States by speaking on the subject in the October 1987 general conference of the Church." (p.32.)

In that general conference, Ezra Taft Benson spoke as God’s mouthpiece to the Church and to the world as he emphasized that the U.S. Constitution "'belongs to all mankind' (D&C 98:5) 'and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh' (D&C 101:77)." (Ensign, Nov. 1987; italics Benson’s.)

Then, in the last talk he was able to personally deliver in general conference (see Teachings of Presidents, p.xi), he cited D&C 101:77, 80 one more time as he testified that God Himself established the U.S. Constitution:

"God raised up the founding fathers of the United States of America and established the inspired Constitution. (See D&C 101:77–80.)" ("I Testify," Ensign, Nov. 1988.)

Harold B. Lee, a boyhood friend and apostolic associate, lauded Ezra Taft Benson's loyalty to the U.S. Constitution:

"The two ruling passions of his life might be said to be, first, his unshakable faith in the intervention of an Omnipotent Power in the affairs of men; and second, his certainty that the Constitution of the United States was divinely inspired." (So Shall Ye Reap, p.viii.)

Regarding the U.S. Constitution, there are no surprises in this year's Teachings of Presidents manual. Ezra Taft Benson was President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he spoke to the students at Brigham Young University and made this prophetic statement:

"We must learn the principles of the Constitution and then abide by its precepts.... The Church will not tell us how to do this, but we are admonished to do it." ("The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner," Sep. 16, 1986; emphasis added.)

What Ezra Taft Benson taught about the U.S. Constitution was grounded in the standard works. Throughout his life, he referred repeatedly to verses 77 and 80 from section 101 in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Do Mormons want their prophets to keep still on politics? No, not all of their prophets, just the one who traveled the world as a political leader and conducted official Government business with the kings and rulers of this world—just the one who was most uniquely and thoroughly prepared by God to be His spokesman on politics and on the U.S. Constitution (see "Ezra Taft Benson, A Uniquely Prepared Prophet").

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Ezra Taft Benson: A Uniquely Prepared Prophet

God prepares His prophets. Joseph Smith declared: "I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain;... with all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there, and thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty." [1]  Indeed, the life of every prophet is filled with experiences that prepare him for his prophetic calling.

So it was with Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994). His biographer, Sheri L. Dew, recently explained: "President Ezra Taft Benson's life is remarkable by any measure—and almost impossible to do justice to in a full-length biography, let alone in one article. Studying the life of a prophet is more, much more, than simply recounting events. It is an opportunity to see the hand of the Lord in action as He prepares and tutors a man to be ready when the moment comes that He anoints him as His mouthpiece on the earth." [2]

Preparation for his prophetic calling included Ezra Taft Benson's keen interest in government combined with worldwide experience as a government official. It was not just a coincidence that he presided over the Church during the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. He was this dispensation's Prophet specialist on politics.


Becoming a National Political Figure

In 1939, Ezra Taft Benson became the executive secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. In this capacity, he was the Council's chief operating officer.

For the next four years, he represented the cooperatives on Capitol Hill. He also coordinated efforts to educate cooperative leaders nationwide about agricultural issues. In addition, he published a monthly bulletin for the Council and attended Council meetings throughout the country.

During this important period of his life, Ezra Taft Benson regularly had close contact with high U.S. government officials and learned to navigate the murky waters of national politics.

When he left Washington in 1943, he had become a national political figure. [3]


An International Statesman

At the end of World War II, Ezra Taft Benson supervised the Church's relief effort in Europe. In just ten months, he traveled more than 60,000 miles and met with high ranking government officials in 13 nations as he delivered food, clothing, and medical supplies to the people of post-war Europe. [4]

With headquarters in London, England, Ezra Taft Benson organized Mormon relief efforts in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, and Poland. [5]

Everywhere he went, there was a constant struggle with bureaucratic red tape. Completion of this assignment required his utmost faith and diplomacy. [6]

While he was in Europe, Ezra Taft Benson again represented the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, this time at the International Conference of Agriculture Producers in London, England. Many delegates to this Conference invited him to contact them again when he visited their countries. [7]

He also participated with the American delegation to the Conference of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Copenhagen, Denmark. [8]

By the time he returned from this mission, Ezra Taft Benson had become an international statesman. [9]


United States Secretary of Agriculture

Then came his experience as the first Mormon to serve in the cabinet of a United States President. Newspapers from coast to coast headlined the news that Eisenhower had named the first clergyman in the century to a cabinet post. [10]

In a later article, the New York Times Magazine praised his integrity: "He acts like a man whose conscience is always clear—his testimony [before Congress] today will be the same next week or the week after or a year from now. He doesn't have to remember what he said to an opposition Senator at their last meeting. This is a built-in ulcer-saving device not always found in Washington." [11]

Secretary Benson traveled internationally, as he sought to increase agricultural exports abroad. He visited Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Trinidad, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Columbia, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico. In each nation he met with presidents, ministers of agriculture, and ambassadors. [12]

He represented the United States in Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Italy, and Switzerland, calling on government officials and observing agriculture in these nations. In Rome, he delivered the keynote address at the International Federation of Agricultural Producers. [13]

His work took him to Japan, India, Pakistan, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, England, and Hong Kong, meeting with such world leaders as Jordan's King Hussein, and Israel's Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. [14]

When Nikita Khrushchev visited Washington, Ezra Taft Benson supervised his visit to the USDA Beltsville Experiment Station in Maryland. [15]

On a trip through Yugoslavia, West Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union, Finland, Sweden, and Norway, Secretary Benson met with Yugoslavia's President Tito and the Soviet Minister of Agriculture. [16]

Toward the end of his service as Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson made yet another trip to Europe and the Middle East. [17]

His last official trip was to the Orient and South Seas. He visited Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and New Zealand. [18]  When it was over he had visited more than forty nations as an official of the United States government. [19]


More International Statesmanship

Three years after his return from Washington, Ezra Taft Benson was back in Europe supervising the Church's missionary work there. As he traveled from country to country, he renewed acquaintances with heads of state, ministers of agriculture, and other high ranking officials. [20]  During one visit to Italy, for example, he was greeted with open arms by the U.S. Ambassador and the Italian Minister of Religion in Rome [21]  and by the time he was called back to Salt Lake City, missionaries were proselyting in Italy for the first time. [22]

During this period of his life he gave his greatest number of talks about freedom and the U.S. Constitution. [23]  It is apparent that everywhere he went, his feelings and concerns about America and freedom were confirmed by what he saw and heard. His political education had been gradual but firsthand. [24]


Patriotism and the Book of Mormon

For Ezra Taft Benson, patriotism and love of country were neither old-fashioned nor incidental—they were an integral part of his ministry.

He will be remembered as one of the greatest patriots of our time—a patriot of international stature. [25]  A tribute entered in the Congressional Record called him "intensely patriotic." [26]  In 1965, he was named to the American Patriots Hall of Fame. [27]

Ezra Taft Benson has explained his patriotic motivation as follows: "From the time I was a small boy I was taught that the American Constitution is an inspired document. I was taught that we should study the Constitution, preserve its principles, and defend it against any who would destroy it. To the best of my ability I have always tried to do this. I expect to continue my efforts to help protect and safeguard our inspired Constitution." [28]

He explained his emphasis on the Book of Mormon this way: "What is the essential message of the Book of Mormon that is so vital to our time? It is a witness to our generation. It prophesied the founding of this nation and how we may survive as a free country." [29]

From his early youth, Ezra Taft Benson devoured the Book of Mormon. He read it on trains and planes and late in the evening before retiring. Often, he sent copies of the Book of Mormon to people he met while traveling, to national and world leaders. [30]

It was his stated opinion that "a person can learn more about what is really happening in America from the Book of Mormon than he can from ... newspapers." [31]


A Uniquely Prepared Prophet

The general officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do a lot of traveling. They regularly see much of the world as they meet with Church members around the globe.

But Ezra Taft Benson did something most Mormon leaders do not do, something no other Mormon Prophet has ever done. Ezra Taft Benson traveled the world as a political leader. He conducted official Government business with the kings and rulers of this world. He knew them by name. And they knew him.

Any man with Ezra Taft Benson's patriotism and experience deserves our careful attention. Considering his stature as a Latter-day Prophet, Ezra Taft Benson's political viewpoint should be important to every Latter-day Saint.

_______________

Notes

1.  As quoted by Gordon B. Hinckley in Ensign, Jan. 1974, p.124.

2.  "2015 Curriculum to Focus on Ezra Taft Benson," LDS Church News, December 3, 2014.

3.  Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography, Deseret Book, 1987, pp.143-180; herinafter cited as Biography.

4.  Frederick W. Babbel, On Wings of Faith, Bookcraft, 1972, pp.1-190; see also Biography, pp.197-227.

5.  Ibid.; see also New Era, Jan. 1986, p.7.

6.  Biography, p.216.

7.  Biography, p.217.

8.  Biography, p.217.

9.  Biography, pp.420 & 507.

10.  Biography, p.256.

11.  Biography, p.295-296.

12.  Biography, p.303.

13.  Biography, p.305.

14.  Biography, p.325.

15.  Biography, p.338.

16.  Biography, p.340-341.

17.  Biography, p.349.

18.  Biography, p.353-354.

19.  Biography, p.364.

20.  Biography, p.375.

21.  Biography, p.377.

22.  Biography, p.382.

23.  Biography, pp.366-367.

24.  Biography, p.363.

25.  Biography, p.507.

26.  Biography, p.359.

27.  Biography, p.385.

28.  The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Bookcraft, 1988, pp.614-615; see also pp.50-51.

29.  Ibid., p.576.

30.  Biography, pp.59, 195, & 498.

31.  Biography, p.366.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

The politics of Ezra Taft Benson in 2015

Did God Himself establish the Constitution of the United States? Does it belong to all mankind? Should it be maintained today? (See D&C 98:5; 101:77, 80.)


God's word shall not pass away

Ezra Taft Benson was President of the Church from 1985 to 1994. Malcolm S. Jeppsen was a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1989 to 1994.

In 1991, while serving as a Counselor in the Utah North Area Presidency (and while Ezra Taft Benson was still Church President), Malcolm S. Jeppsen was the visiting authority in several stake conferences and gave a talk (click here) wherein he counselled against using the "writings and speeches of President Benson given years ago when world conditions were different."

Specifically, he counselled against using Ezra Taft Benson's writings to warn about "individuals or conspirators in our government as being ready to subvert our constitution."

Malcolm S. Jeppsen gave this talk in my own stake and I heard it in person. I challenged him in writing (click here) about his claim that changes in world conditions had invalidated the Prophet's words. The issue wasn't really world conditions. The issue was whether Ezra Taft Benson spoke God's word in the past.

"Though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away." (D&C 1:38.) The passing away of the heavens and the earth would be an extreme change in world conditions, yet God's word would not be effected.


Ezra Taft Benson and the U.S. Constitution

All Latter-day Prophets, from President Joseph Smith to President Thomas S. Monson (click here), have affirmed God's hand in the founding of the U.S. Constitution. Even if that is viewed as less relevant to members living outside the United States, yet it is based on scripture that has not been rescinded. Specifically, three verses (D&C 98:5; 101:77, 80) declare God's approval of and support for the U.S. Constitution.

What, then, about Ezra Taft Benson's so-called political teachings, those related to the Constitution? For decades, some of us have sidestepped the Constitution and at the same time have accused Ezra Taft Benson of being political. But Ezra Taft Benson has only asked us to do what scripture demands: Maintain and preserve the Constitution which God Himself established.

A significant portion of Ezra Taft Benson's 51-year ministry as apostle and prophet was devoted to defending the Constitution against its domestic and foreign foes. And this is another fact that may be considered less relevant to members living outside the United States. But surely the rest of us dare not just forget Ezra Taft Benson's teachings and watch from the sidelines while the U.S. Constitution is dismantled and discarded.

Dare we?

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