President Ezra Taft Benson: Still Strong at Ninety!

More than half of his ninety years have been spent as a Church leader, with eight years of highly prominent government service. The following are scenes from those forty-six years.

Ezra Taft Benson was born into a family line strong in the gospel. He grew up to be a strong leader in his own family, strong in the Church, and strong in the United States government as a cabinet officer of the Eisenhower administration. And at ninety, he is still going strong!

Latter-day Saints throughout the world wish President Benson well this month and continue to pray for him as he reaches his nine-decade milestone on August 4.

President Benson was born on an Idaho farm in 1899, the great-grandson of an early member of the Quorum of the Twelve, whose name he bears. Even as a boy, he exhibited the same spiritual strength and integrity of his grandfathers and father, and the love and commitment to gospel principles of his grandmothers and mother.

There was a boldness about Ezra Taft Benson that distinguished him as a young missionary, then later as U. S. secretary of agriculture. He served eight years in the latter capacity under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and though there were those who disagreed with his policies or positions, no one ever doubted his devotion to God and country.

But his sweet boldness has been most powerfully felt in his Church service. Even before his call to the Quorum of the Twelve in October 1943, it was clear to anyone whose life he touched that Ezra Taft Benson’s first loyalty was to the Lord. Certain of the Source of his calling, he moved forward without fear or reluctance, whatever the assignment.

Today, ever since his ordination as President of the Church on 10 November 1985, President Benson has clearly charted the way for Latter-day Saints worldwide. His has been an unwavering call for members to know and use the Book of Mormon more fully, for each of us to reach out more lovingly and effectively to brothers and sisters inside and outside the Church, and for Latter-day Saints worldwide to live more confidently and fully the truths we know to be divine.

The following photographs give a glimpse into the past forty-six years of President Benson’s life.

President and Sister Benson

President and Sister Benson have been married for nearly sixty-three years, since 10 September 1926. (Photo by Busath Photography.)

[photo] President and Sister Benson at the time of his call to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1943: Bonnie (on her father’s lap), Mark, Barbara, Beverly and Reed (standing).

[photo] President Benson signals his approval to the Mormon Youth Chorus at a session of general conference in October 1988. (Photography by Craig Dimond.)

[photos] Above: Following World War II, the First Presidency assigned Elder Ezra Taft Benson to perform a spiritual and temporal relief mission to suffering Saints in continental Europe. Aided by the Lord and pushed by personal commitment, he accomplished things that government officials said would be impossible. Below: He and Elder Spencer W. Kimball were the newest members of the Quorum of the Twelve when they posed for this photo in October of 1943.

[photos] Elder Benson’s appointment to U. S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s cabinet in 1952 (left, above) thrust him into the national news spotlight. Elder Benson was particularly effective in the role, whether through the media (above), visiting on the farm (left, in a dust bowl area during a drought, 1955), or meeting with farmers (below).

[photo] Above: The Benson family visited President Eisenhower (center) in the White House. Near right: In his role as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Benson made the first pitch at a 1962 all-Church softball tournament. (Photo courtesy of Deseret News.) Page 13, top left: In a very public lifetime, President Benson has stayed close to friends and family. Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve (right) was a close friend. (Photo courtesy of Deseret News.) Page 13, top center: Elder Benson’s service as president of the European Mission in the mid-1960s was a time of joy for father, mother, and youngest daughter, Beth. Below right: On “Ezra Taft Benson Day” in July 1976, President Benson served as grand marshal of the parade in Preston, Idaho.

[photos] Top right: As President of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Benson met with United States President Gerald Ford (right) in 1975 at the White House. Above: Elder Benson greeted President David O. McKay (right) at general conference in April 1960.

[photos] Above (photo by Welden Andersen) and below: President Benson feels a closeness to children. Above, right: In 1986 his wife, Flora, accompanied him to Ricks College in Idaho.

[photos] Above, far left: President Benson’s call for members to study and use the Book of Mormon more fully has brought action; many have sent items showing their commitment to follow his counsel. (Photo by Howard Moore, Deseret News.) Both for his spiritual leadership and his wisdom, he continues to hold the respect of national leaders. Above: As President of the Church, he has met with then-U. S. President Ronald Reagan (left) and then-Vice-President George Bush (right).

[photos] Right: Associations with his Brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve have been a major part of President Benson’s life since 1943. (Photo courtesy of Deseret News.) Today, he enjoys the support of men like his two counselors—President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson—and President Howard W. Hunter, Elder Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve, all shown here at the First Presidency Christmas devotional in 1986. Above: President Benson enjoys associating with the youth of the Church. Here he meets with several young women.