President Ezra Taft Benson: Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 212


Before writing his biography, Sheri L. Dew researched the life of President Ezra Taft Benson. After finishing that project she concluded: “It is a humbling experience to carefully examine, to even probe, a prophet’s life. A biographer s so much—the good and the bad; the trials and the triumphs; the joys and the pains. To the biographer goes the fragile responsibility of analysis, of putting into perspective a person’s life, of drawing conclusions about a man’s contributions, his dreams and aspirations, his motives, and so forth. From the outset I respected President Benson as a man with a divine calling. But the more I researched and read and reflected, the more I came to realize how truly remarkable Ezra Taft Benson is.” Sister Dew also testified that one of the many things the project taught her was “that Ezra Taft Benson, like his predecessors, is indeed a prophet of God” (Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography[1987], xi).

His Life (1899–1994)

1899

Born August 4 in Whitney, Idaho, to George T. and Sarah Dunkley Benson

1907

Age 8, baptized on his birthday in the Logan River Canal in Whitney, Idaho

1921–23

Age 21–24, mission to Great Britain

1926

Age 27, married Flora Smith Amussen on September 10; she died in 1992

1943

Age 44, ordained an Apostle by President Heber J. Grant

1946

Age 46, began service as president of the European Mission. After World War II he helped with the needs of Church members in war-torn Europe.

1952–60

Age 53–61, Secretary of Agriculture of the United States

1964–65

Age 64–66, president of the European Mission

1973

Age 74, sustained as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

1985

Age 86, sustained as President of the Church, after the death of President Spencer W. Kimball

1994

Age 94, died May 30 in Salt Lake City

His Presidency (1985–94)

 

1985–93

Nine temples were dedicated throughout the world

1990–92

Missions were created in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, and East Berlin, Germany (all areas whose governments previously had not allowed missionary work); the countries of Armenia, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Congo were dedicated for the preaching of the gospel

1992

1,900th stake of the Church organized

1994

Church membership was 9,024,368

The Life of President Ezra Taft Benson

1. “Ezra Taft Benson became President of the Church after the death of Spencer W. Kimball. Early in his administration, he emphasized the great importance of reading and studying the Book of Mormon. He testified that ‘the Book of Mormon brings men to Christ,’ and reaffirmed Joseph Smith’s statement that this book constitutes the ‘keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book’ [A Witness and a Warning(1988), 3, 21; alsoHistory of the Church,4:461].

2. “In the April 1986 general conference, President Benson declared: ‘The Lord inspired His servant Lorenzo Snow to reemphasize the principle of tithing to redeem the Church from financial bondage. … Now, in our day, the Lord has revealed the need to reemphasize the Book of Mormon. … I promise you that from this moment forward, if we will daily sup from its pages and abide by its precepts, God will pour out upon each child of Zion and the Church a blessing hitherto unknown’ [in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 100; orEnsign,May 1986, 78]. Millions around the world accepted the challenge and received the promised blessing.

3. “Another major theme was the importance of avoiding pride. In the April 1989 general conference, he called for the members of the Church to ‘cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride,’ which he warned was the cause of the destruction of the Nephite nation. He counseled that ‘the antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness’ [in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 6–7; orEnsign,May 1989, 6–7].

Secretary of Agriculture

4. “While he was serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Ezra Taft Benson had an unusual opportunity to be an example of gospel living. In 1952, with the encouragement of President David O. McKay, he accepted an appointment as the Secretary of Agriculture under Dwight D. Eisenhower, president of the United States. This was the only time in the history of the Church that a member of the Quorum of the Twelve served in a United States president’s cabinet. During his eight years of service, he gained widespread respect at home and abroad for his integrity and for his expertise in guiding and carrying out the agricultural policies of the United States government. He came into contact with leaders of nations and opened doors to representatives of the Church throughout the world.

5. “Under President Benson’s leadership, the Church made important advances worldwide. On 28 August 1987, he dedicated the Frankfurt Germany Temple in the Federal Republic of Germany, a meaningful privilege for him because he had been headquartered in Frankfurt while serving as president of the European mission from 1964 to 1965.

6. “The Freiberg Germany Temple in the German Democratic Republic was dedicated on 29 June 1985. This dedication followed a number of miracles that occurred to make possible its construction. On his first visit to the German Democratic Republic in 1968, Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve promised the Saints: ‘If you will remain true and faithful to the commandments of God, every blessing any member of the Church enjoys in any other country will be yours.’ In 1975, while on assignment in the same country, Elder Monson was impressed by the Spirit to dedicate that land to the Lord, saying, ‘Father, let this be the beginning of a new day for the members of Thy church in this land.’ He asked that the heartfelt desire of the Saints ‘to obtain temple blessings’ might be fulfilled. His inspired promise and prophetic prayer of dedication were realized [in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 66; orEnsign,May 1989, 51; also Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 44; orEnsign,Nov. 1985, 34].

7. “On the last day of March 1989, Latter-day Saint missionaries were allowed to enter the German Democratic Republic. On 9 November 1989, the faith and prayers of many Saints were answered when the barriers between eastern and western Europe began to come down, leading to increased convert baptisms and construction of Church buildings. One convert first learned of the Church when he visited an open house in the newly completed chapel in Dresden, Germany, on 1 May 1990. Less than a week later he was baptized after he had received the missionary lessons, read the Book of Mormon twice from cover to cover, and acquired a strong testimony of the gospel’s truthfulness. [ Garold and Norma Davis, “The Wall Comes Down,”Ensign,June 1991, 33.]

8. “On 24 June 1991, at a banquet following the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s concert in Moscow, the vice president of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic announced that the Church was officially recognized in his country. This allowed the Church to establish congregations throughout this large republic. During the 1990s, a number of former Soviet republics and middle and eastern European countries were dedicated for the preaching of the gospel, including Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine. Church facilities are being leased and built in each of these countries, and many people are gaining testimonies of the truthfulness of the gospel. At the dedication of the first Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Poland since before World War II, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve prayed that the meetinghouse might serve as ‘a refuge of peace for troubled souls and a haven of hope for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness’ [Church News,June 29, 1991, 12]. This blessing is being fulfilled in the lives of Saints in many countries who have found the peace and joy of the gospel.

Map of Europe

9. “As a result of tremendous growth in Church membership and President Benson’s emphasis on missionary work, at the conclusion of his administration almost 48,000 missionaries were serving in 295 missions of the Church.

10. “Also during his administration, the Church welfare program began offering increased humanitarian assistance to members of other faiths worldwide. This assistance is provided to relieve suffering and to foster long-term self-reliance. Large amounts of food, clothing, medical supplies, blankets, cash, and other items are distributed to the needy, and long-term projects provide health care, literacy training, and other services. This compassionate service is reaching thousands of people today in many parts of the world.

11. “Afflicted by the infirmities of old age and the loss of his beloved wife, Flora, President Benson died on 30 May 1994 at the age of 94, having valiantly completed his mission as prophet of the Lord. He was succeeded by Howard W. Hunter, who was then serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve” (Our Heritage,133–36).

Understanding the Reading

The Life of President Ezra Taft Benson

Reaffirmed(par. 1)Added his testimony to 
Precepts(par. 1)Teachings, commandments 
Financial bondage(par. 2)Debt 
Sup(par. 2)Partake (a figurative expression directing us to study the Book of Mormon daily) 
The inner vessel(par. 3)Their lives; their thoughts, intents, and desires 
Antidote(par. 3)Remedy, cure 
Barriers(par. 7)Walls, restrictions 
Leased(par. 8)Rented 
Haven(par. 8)Resting place of safety 
Foster(par. 10)Promote, aid 
Literacy training(par. 10)Instruction in reading and writing 

The Teachings and Testimony of Ezra Taft Benson

12. “Unless we read the Book of Mormon and give heed to its teachings, the Lord has stated in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants that the whole Church is under condemnation: ‘And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all’ (D&C 84:56). The Lord continues: ‘And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written’ (D&C 84:57).

13. “Now we not only need tosaymore about the Book of Mormon, but we need todomore with it. Why? The Lord answers: ‘That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion’ (D&C 84:58). We have felt that scourge and judgment!” (in Conference Report Apr. 1986, 4; orEnsign,May 1986, 5).

14. “It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance. …

15. “Brethren and sisters, I implore you with all my heart that you consider with great solemnity the importance of the Book of Mormon to you personally and to the Church collectively” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 6; orEnsign,Nov. 1986, 7).

16. “The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the cornerstone of everything we do. It bears witness of His reality with power and clarity. Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation. Therefore, its testimony of the Master is clear, undiluted, and full of power. But it does even more. Much of the Christian world today rejects the divinity of the Savior. They question His miraculous birth, His perfect life, and the reality of His glorious resurrection. The Book of Mormon teaches in plain and unmistakable terms about the truth of all of those. It also provides the most complete explanation of the doctrine of the Atonement. Truly, this divinely inspired book is a keystone in bearing witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ ( title page of the Book of Mormon)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 4; orEnsign,Nov. 1986, 5).

17. “Often we spend great effort in trying to increase the activity level in our stakes. We work diligently to raise the percentages of those attending Sacrament meeting. We labor to get a higher percentage of our young men on missions. We strive to improve the numbers of those marrying in the temple. All of these are commendable efforts and important to the growth of the kingdom. But when individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow” (“The Power of the Word,”Ensign,May 1986, 81).

18. “You cannot do wrong and feel right. It is impossible!” (“To the Rising Generation,”New Era,June 1986, 5).

19. “No more sacred word exists in secular or holy writ than that ofmother. There is no more noble work than that of a good and God-fearing mother. …

20. “In the eternal family, God established that fathers are to preside in the home. Fathers are to provide, to love, to teach, and to direct.

21. “But a mother’s role is also God-ordained. Mothers are to conceive, to bear, to nourish, to love, and to train. So declare the revelations” (To the Mothers in Zion[pamphlet, 1987], 1–3).

22. “Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. …

23. “The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness (Alma 7:23). …

24. “God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Alma said, ‘Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble’ (Alma 32:16).

25. “Let us choose to be humble.

26. “We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are (D&C 38:24;81:5;84:106).

27. “We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement (Jacob 4:10;Helaman 15:3;D&C 63:55;101:4–5;108:1;124:61, 84;136:31;Proverbs 9:8).

28. “We can choose to humble ourselves by forgiving those who have offended us (3 Nephi 13:11, 14;D&C 64:10).

29. “We can choose to humble ourselves by rendering selfless service (Mosiah 2:16–17).

30. “We can choose to humble ourselves by going on missions and preaching the word that can humble others (Alma 4:19;31:5;48:20).

31. “We can choose to humble ourselves by getting to the temple more frequently.

32. “We can choose to humble ourselves by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God (D&C 58:43;Mosiah 27:25–26;Alma 5:7–14, 49).

33. “We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives (3 Nephi 11:11;13:33;Moroni 10:32).

34. “Let us choose to be humble. We can do it. I know we can” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 6; orEnsign,May 1989, 6–7).

35. “In this work it is the Spirit that counts—wherever we serve. I know I must rely on the Spirit. Let us obtain that Spirit and be faithful members of the Church” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 98; orEnsign,May 1986, 77).

36. “There is nothing more important in this work than the Spirit” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 60; orEnsign,Nov. 1986, 46).

37. “I testify that not many years hence the earth will be cleansed (D&C 76:41). Jesus the Christ will come again, this time in power and great glory to vanquish His foes and to rule and reign on the earth (D&C 43:26–33). In due time all men will gain a resurrection and then will face the Master in a final judgment (2 Nephi 9:15, 41). God will give rewards to each according to the deeds done in the flesh (Alma 5:15)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 104; orEnsign,Nov. 1988, 87).

2nd Coming

Understanding the Reading

The Teachings and Testimony of Ezra Taft Benson

Condemnation(par. 12)Blame, disapproval 
Implore(par. 15)Ask, plead with 
Preside(par. 20)Lead 
Enmity(par. 26)Hatred 
Vanquish His foes(par. 37)Conquer His enemies 

Studying the Reading

Do activity A or B as you study “President Ezra Taft Benson.”

Activity A iconMake a Collage

Ezra Taft Benson

From your reading of paragraphs 1–10, draw or find pictures in magazines or newspapers that you think represent the kinds of events that occurred during President Benson’s life. Label each picture and paste them together as a collage in your notebook or on a separate piece of posterboard.

Activity B iconMatching Exercise

  1. 1.

    Write the following scripture references in a column in your notebook:

  2. 2.

    Next to each reference, write the paragraph numbers, from paragraphs 12–37, that you think best match each scripture. More than one paragraph could apply.

  3. 3.

    Select one of the teachings of President Benson that impressed you and explain what it means to you.