“I feel especially humble this afternoon as I stand before you for the first time as a General Authority and contemplate the sacredness and the importance of this great call,” said Elder William H. Bennett in October conference 1970, after he had been sustained an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve the previous April. “I ask for an interest in your faith and prayers, not just here today but on a continuous basis, that I might be able to serve in the way the Lord would like me to serve.”
That term of service closed 23 July 1980 with Elder Bennett’s death at his home in Bountiful, Utah, at 69 years of age. He was an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, to which he had been appointed in 1976.
Elder Bennett was born 5 November 1910 in Taber, Alberta, to William Alvin and Mary Walker Bennett. He attended Taber schools, the Raymond School of Agriculture, Utah State University from which he graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and the University of Wisconsin from which he received his PhD.
By the time of his call in 1970, he was serving Utah State University as its director of extension services. He had previously been that division’s assistant director and had also been dean of the College of Agriculture and associate professor of agronomy. Among his professional honors are the President’s Citation from the Soil Conservation Society of America.
His devotion to the Church was as constant as his devotion to education. At the time of his calling in 1970, he was Regional Representative for the Cache and Logan Regions, a calling he had held since 1967. Other assignments included membership on the Priesthood Welfare and Priesthood Missionary committees, counselor in the East Cache Stake (Logan, Utah) presidency, counselor in a stake Sunday School superintendency, member of a stake Sunday School board, and genealogical chairman for the East Cache and Carbon Stakes.
Another of Elder Bennett’s unfailing interests was sports. He participated in the Canadian Olympic Trials in 1936 in the shot put and discus events. In 1946, as an infantry captain, he participated in the Pacific Army Olympics. He often used sports events to illustrate ideas in his addresses, and his last conference talk, April 1976, used the summer Olympics in Montreal to illustrate his theme of attaining perfection.
Elder Bennett is survived by his wife, Patricia June Christensen, his five daughters, one son, seven grandchildren, four brothers, and two sisters.
In that first address in 1970, Elder Bennett told of participating in the high jump in a tri-stake MIA track meet. A nervous fifteen-year-old, he received the confidence he needed to make his best jump from his stake president, Hugh B. Brown. “In the days of my youth,” he reflected, “the Lord saw fit to bless me with an inferiority complex. I say ‘blessed’ because in wrestling with this problem I learned the meaning of humility. I learned what it meant to get close to my Father in Heaven through prayer on an almost continuous basis. I learned that in problems we find our challenges. In those challenges lie opportunities. If we can just identify those opportunities and capitalize on them, growth, progress, and success will result. I learned that strength comes from facing up to problems squarely and realistically, not from disregarding them or avoiding them.”