Friday, November 26, 2010

Sheri L. Dew on criticism of Ezra Taft Benson

[Sheri L. Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book, is author of the book, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography, Deseret Book, 1987. The following excerpts illustrate her reaction to President Benson's critics.]

1. (p.vii) I believe that you will find in this biography the story of a truly great man. Not a perfect man, nor a man who hasn't faced and even struggled with mortality's challenges. But a man of conviction and courage. A man who has remained true to the principles in which he deeply believes — despite criticism, at times.

2. (p.viii) There are episodes and elements of President Benson's life that have been left out of this biography. It is no secret that his unequivocal and vocal support of freedom and the U.S. Constitution, and his condemnation of communism, socialism, and, in fact, anything that he has perceived as a threat to man's freedom, has aroused controversy and prompted certain critics to oppose him over the years. By and large, these episodes have not been detailed in this biography. While some may wonder if these omissions point to the fact that President Benson feels uncomfortable about his past or has reversed his stand on some of these issues, nothing could be further from the truth.

3. (p.ix) Even during times when he was most vocally criticized for his patriotic activities or philosophies, he repeatedly responded to his critics with kindness and tolerance. President Benson has requested that those who have opposed him over the years not be treated critically in his biography. Yet, a full and accurate telling of some incidents involving his critics would likely reflect negatively on those individuals, so the episodes have not been included.

4. (p.252) "If I come in for criticism, so be it," he wrote in his journal. Criticism was the least of his worries. Popularity was not a priority, but principles were.

5. (pp.276-277, quoting Harold B. Lee) "There will be many who will belittle [Brother Benson] and will try to destroy him and destroy his reputation and destroy his influence in his high place.... Those who do will be forgotten in the remains of Mother Earth, and the odor of their infamy will ever be with them. But the glory and majesty attached to the name of Ezra Taft Benson will never die so long as Brother Benson continues to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.... And you and I who are in this congregation will live one day to see what I have said verified."

6. (p.295) At a congressional hearing Senator Hubert Humphrey, an outspoken critic, said, in words to this effect: "Secretary Benson, we hear much about exploration in Antarctica. Your stocks of surplus wheat would probably keep very well down there where it is so cold. Have you thought about shipping your wheat down there for storage?" "Yes I have, Senator," Ezra replied. "And I've thought of sending you down there to oversee the operation." Senator Humphrey laughed louder than anyone else.

7. (p.348, quoting Ezra Taft Benson) "As for our critics, I have no personal bitterness toward any man and I hope no one is bitter toward me. As I have said before, I love all God's children — but I love some more than others."

8. (p.371) There were those whose views were not compatible with his words of warning. Some felt that an apostle should refrain from speaking or commenting on what they considered to be political themes.

9. (p.373) "It is amazing to me," he wrote in his journal, "the lack of courage some of our brethren have in this serious controversy involving the future freedom of our people."

10. (p.373) Though some apparently disagreed with his repeated attempts to speak on freedom, Elder Benson explained, "I feel it is always good strategy to stand up for the right, even when it is unpopular. Perhaps I should say, especially when it is unpopular."

[Sheri L. Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book, is author of the book, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography, Deseret Book, 1987. The above excerpts illustrate her reaction to President Benson's critics.]

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Monday, November 15, 2010

To my blogging friend, Mormon Heretic

From 1960 until 1969, Ezra Taft Benson repeatedly warned the Latter-day Saints about an international communist conspiracy. This he did with the express support of Church President David O. McKay. Ezra Taft Benson's warnings about the great conspiracy continued with less enthusiasm after the death of McKay.

Meanwhile, for twenty-five years from 1960 until 1985, a few of Benson's associates in Church leadership were privately critical of Benson's anti-conspiracy warnings in spite of the fact that the Church's newspaper, book company, and official magazines consistently published his views. These private criticisms quieted when Benson became prophet, even though his warnings about the great conspiracy continued.

The fact that some people disagree with Ezra Taft Benson's conclusions is of little consequence. This is currently illustrated by the fact that at least three recent general conference talks were based on, and quoted extensively from, Ezra Taft Benson's sermons (see here, here, and here).

The fact that you and others disagree with various things that Benson said does not prove he was wrong. It only proves that you and they have drawn hasty conclusions based on incomplete information. He himself was full of integrity and always had good reasons for what he said and did. He was a Prophet of God in every sense of the word. For nearly a decade, he was the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys.

Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.
Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,
Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.

("Praise to the Man," Hymns, no. 27)

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