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Ezra Taft Benson
Full name Ezra Taft Benson
Born August 4, 1899(1899-08-04)
Place of birth Whitney, Idaho
Died May 30, 1994 (aged 94)
Place of death Salt Lake City, Utah
LDS Church President
Ordained November 10, 1985 (aged 86)
Predecessor Spencer W. Kimball
Successor Howard W. Hunter
LDS Church Apostle
Called by Heber J. Grant
Ordained October 7, 1943 (aged 44)
Reason for ordination Deaths of Sylvester Q. Cannon and Rudger Clawson[1]
End of term May 30, 1994 (aged 94)
Reason for end of term Death
Reorganization at end of term Jeffrey R. Holland ordained
LDS Church General Authority
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Called by Heber J. Grant
Start of term October 7, 1943 (aged 44)
End of term November 10, 1985 (aged 86)
End reason Became President of the Church
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Start of term December 30, 1973 (aged 74)
End of term November 10, 1985 (aged 86)
End reason Became President of the Church
President of the Church
Start of term November 10, 1985 (aged 86)
End of term May 30, 1994 (aged 94)
End reason Death

Ezra Taft Benson (August 4, 1899 – May 30, 1994) was the thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1985 until his death and was United States Secretary of Agriculture for both terms of the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower.



Born on a farm in Whitney, Idaho, Benson was the oldest of eleven children. He was the great grandson of another Ezra Taft Benson, now known as "Ezra T. Benson", who was appointed by Brigham Young as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1846 on. Beginning his academic career at Utah State University, he was a 1926 graduate of Brigham Young University (after serving a church mission in Britain from 1921 to 1923). He received his masters degree from Iowa State University and did preliminary work on a doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley, but never completed this degree. Benson pursued a career in agriculture and later served in many church leadership positions. Just after receiving his masters he returned to Whitney to run the family farm, but later became the county agriculture extension agent. In 1926 he married Flora Smith Amussen; they had six children.

In 1939, when he was president of the church's Boise, Idaho, stake and working for the University of Idaho Extension Service, he moved to Washington, D.C. to become Executive Secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and became the first president of a new LDS Church stake there.

In August, 1989, he received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President George H. W. Bush.



On October 7, 1943, both Benson and Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) became members of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, filling two vacancies created by the deaths of apostles that summer. Because Kimball was the older of the two, he was given seniority over Benson in the Quorum. Succession to the presidency of the church is by chronological order of ordination to apostleship, allowing Spencer W. Kimball to become president of the church years earlier than Benson. Upon Spencer W. Kimball's death in 1985, Benson became the president of the church.

Ezra Benson while Secretary of Agriculture

Political career

In 1953, Benson was appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by President Eisenhower. Benson accepted this position with the permission of Church President David O. McKay and therefore served simultaneously in the United States Cabinet and in the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve.

Benson opposed the system of government price supports and aid to farmers which he was entrusted by Eisenhower to administer, arguing that it amounted to unacceptable socialism. Nonetheless, he survived in his cabinet position for all eight years of Eisenhower's presidency. He was selected as the administrator-designate of the Emergency Food Agency, part of a secret group that became known as the Eisenhower Ten. The group was created by Eisenhower in 1958 to serve in the event of a national emergency.

Benson was a member of the John Birch Society, and an outspoken opponent of communism and socialism. He generated controversy by refusing to disavow statements by JBS founder Robert W. Welch, Jr. that Eisenhower was a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy", a position for which former Vice-President Richard Nixon rebuked Benson for.[citation needed]

Church presidency

Benson succeeded Kimball as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1973, and as President of the Church in 1985. During his early years as Church President, Benson brought a renewed emphasis to the distribution and reading of the Book of Mormon, reaffirming this LDS scripture's importance as "the keystone of [the LDS] religion." He is also remembered for his general conference sermon condemning pride.[2]


Benson was a lifelong supporter of Scouting. He started in 1918 as assistant Scoutmaster. On May 23, 1949 he was elected a member of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America. He received the three highest national awards in Scouting—the Silver Beaver, the Silver Antelope, and the Silver Buffalo—as well as world Scouting’s international award, the Bronze Wolf.[3]

Health problems and death

Benson suffered poor health in the last years of his life from the effects of blood clots in the brain, dementia, strokes, and heart attacks, and was rarely seen publicly in his final years. He was hospitalized in 1992 and 1993 with pneumonia.

Benson died of congestive heart failure in his Salt Lake City apartment at the age of 94. Funeral services were held June 4, 1994 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle under the direction of Gordon B. Hinckley. He was buried near his birthplace in Whitney, Idaho, at the Whitney City Cemetery.

Published works

  • Reed A. Benson., ed (1960). So Shall Ye Reap: Selected Addresses of Ezra Taft Benson. Deseret Book Company. ISBN B0007E7BME. 
  • The Red Carpet. Bookcraft. 1962. ISBN B0007F4WJI. 
  • Title of Liberty. compiled by Mark A. Benson. Deseret Book Company. 1964. 
  • An Enemy Hath Done This. Bookcraft. 1969. ISBN 0-88494-184-1. 
  • God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties. Deseret Book Company. 1974. ISBN B0006CF3MC. 
  • Cross Fire: The Eight Years With Eisenhower. Doubleday. 1976. ISBN 0-8371-8422-3. 
  • This Nation Shall Endure. Deseret Book Company. 1977. ISBN 0-87747-658-6. 
  • Come Unto Christ. Deseret Book Company. 1983. ISBN 0-87747-997-6. 
  • The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner. Deseret Book Company. 1986. ISBN 0-87579-216-2. 
  • The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson. Bookcraft. 1988. ISBN 0-88494-639-8. 
  • A Witness and a Warning: A Modern-Day Prophet Testifies of the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book Company. 1988. ISBN 0-87579-153-0. 
  • A Labor of Love: The 1946 European Mission of Ezra Taft Benson. Deseret Book Company. 1989. ISBN 0-87579-275-8. 
  • Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice. Deseret Book Company. 1990. ISBN 0-87579-351-7. 
  • Missionaries to Match Our Message. Bookcraft. 1990. ISBN 0-88494-779-3. 
  • Elect Women of God. Bookcraft. 1992. ISBN 0-88494-838-2. 
  • Sermons and Writings of President Ezra Taft Benson. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 2003. 


  1. ^ Benson and Spencer W. Kimball were ordained on the same date to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve resulting from the deaths of Cannon and Clawson.
  2. ^ "Beware of Pride". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  3. ^ "Presidents of the Church". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 


See also

  • Steve Benson (Grandson and Pulitzer Prize Winning Cartoonist)

External links

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Religious titles
Preceded by
Spencer W. Kimball
President of the LDS Church
November 10, 1985 — May 30, 1994
Succeeded by
Howard W. Hunter
Preceded by
Spencer W. Kimball
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
December 30, 1973–November 10, 1985
Succeeded by
Marion G. Romney
Preceded by
Spencer W. Kimball
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
October 7, 1943–November 10, 1985
Succeeded by
Mark E. Petersen
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles F. Brannan
United States Secretary of Agriculture
Succeeded by
Orville Freeman


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