Benson, Eisenhower, and Communism

By: Mormon Heretic
November 15, 2010

US President Eisenhower with Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson

I’m not sure why President Benson is so popular lately.  I wanted to follow up on Will’s post, Were President Benson’s Words Prophetic? In Sunday’s Salt Lake Tribune, FBI files shed light on Ezra Taft Benson, Ike and the Birch Society.  In July, I promised to talk about President Benson’s politics, and I guess the timing is right; I’m finally getting back to that post.

There are quite a few Latter-day Saints that view President Benson as a political hero.  Many love to quote President Benson’s “Constitution hanging by a thread” quote.  The Tribune even says that Benson is one of the inspirations for the current Tea Party movement.  Ardent supporters of Benson the politician (self-described as “Bensonites”) are intensely conservative, and don’t think anything that the politician Ezra Taft Benson said or did was wrong.  Let me quote R Gary’s point of view in this comment:

Benson never saw anything wrong with civil rights, only with some of what was being done in the name of civil rights.

Well, that does seem to fly in the face of the title of Benson’s book, ” Civil Rights, Tool of Communist Deception.”  It’s out of print, but you can click on a link at Amazon to see if they can get if for the Kindle.

Let me say that I love President Benson as a prophet.  His encouragement to read the Book of Mormon was inspired counsel.  But, I’m not a big fan of Ezra Taft Benson the politician (and neither were several of the General Authorities, especially Elder Hugh B. Brown.)  I’d like to discuss some really incendiary comments where Benson accused certain people, such as Martin Luther King Jr, of being part of a communist conspiracy.  Greg Prince outlines some of these quotes in his David O McKay biography.  From page 92, Prince quotes the “Minutes of Council Meeting, November 4, 1965″ for the following quote:

Elder Benson said he shared the feeling of the Brethren who had expressed themselves on this question, that he was confident in his own mind from a study he had made of the Negro question that we are only seeing something being carried out today that was planned by the highest councils of the communist party twenty years ago, and that Martin Luther King is an agent, if not a power in the Communist party.  He said that this whole thing is being directed and supported and promoted by agents of the Communist party, that the Negroes are being used in this whole question of Civil Rights, integration, etc., and that the NAACP are largely made up of men and women who are affiliated with from one to a dozen communist-front organizations, and he thought they would do anything in their power to embarrass the Church.

So does anyone still believe the Civil Rights movement is a Communist Conspiracy, or that MLK was a communist?

Many people like to trumpet the fact that Ezra Taft Benson served as Secretary of Agriculture from 1953-1961 while simultaneously serving as an apostle. From the Tribune article, it is apparent that Benson thought Eisenhower was soft on communism, which seems startling to me considering the fact that Ike was General Eisenhower in World War II prior to becoming President Eisenhower.  Additionally, Ike took some pretty serious blowback when Gary Powers plane was shot down while spying over the Soviet Union.

The John Birch Society (named after an American Baptist missionary and U.S. military intelligence officer killed by communist forces in China in August 1945) was founded by Robert Welch in 1958.  It was a virulently anti-communist society; Benson was not a member, but was a strong advocate.  Prince details many efforts by the society to enlist Benson as a member.  President McKay denied every request.  I liked Prince’s summary on page 279,

Throughout his long tenure as a General Authority, David O. McKay was consistently opposed to Communism.  So, uniformly, were his fellow General Authorities.  Ironically, once he had become president of the church, opposition to Communism became a seriously divisive issue among the Mormons.  On the one hand, McKay gave his special blessing to Ezra Taft Benson as an opponent of Communism, enabling this strong-willed apostle to propagate his ultra-right-wing views among church members–views that included an endorsement of the John Birch Society, founded in Indianopolis, Indiana on December 9, 1958, by Massachusetts candy maker Robert Welch.  On the other hand, McKay also responded to General Authorities who, despite their own opposition to Communism, took exception to the extremism of Benson and the John Birch Society.  These included Apostles Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee, as well as Hugh B. Brown and N. Eldon Tanner, McKay’s counselors in the First Presidency.  Neither Benson nor his protesting colleagues among the apostles ever achieved a clear upper hand with the aging prophet.  As a result, both Latter-day Saints who endorsed the extreme views of the John Birch Society and those who opposed them found reason to believe the prophet was on their side, and the divisive issue remained unresolved until McKay’s death in 1970, when his successor, Joseph Fielding Smith, effectively silenced Benson on the subject.

I admit that I’ve know Benson was tied to the John Birch Society, but I didn’t know much.  Prince describes a bit of detail on page 286.

In December 1958, a Massachusetts candy maker, Robert Welch, founded a right-wing extremist organization that took up where Joseph McCarthy left off in attacking Communism to target civil rights and government in general, proclaiming that “the greatest enemy of man is, and always has been, government; and that larger and more extensive that government, the greater the enemy.”37 Welch named the organization after an American soldier, John Birch, who was killed by Chinese Communists ten days after the end of World War II.  Within a year, Ezra Taft Benson had a close relationship with one of the society’s national leaders.  During 1961 he became personally acquainted with Welch,38 and the two men’s political agendas quickly aligned.

Prince discuss differences of opinions among the Brethren regarding the John Birch Society.  The Society continued to make extreme statements–even calling former president Eisenhower a “tool of the Communists”.  Amazingly, Benson did not refute the statement.  From page 295,

Welch had recently published a book, The Politician, in which he accused Dwight Eisenhower of being a tool of the Communists:  ”On January 20, 1953, Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated as the thirty-fourth President of the United States.  He thus became, automatically and immediately, captain and quarterback of the free-world team, and in the fight against Communism.  In our firm opinion he had been planted in that position, by Communists for the purpose of throwing the game.”75 Asked if he agreed with Welch’s statement, Benson sidestepped the question, refused to defend Eisenhower, and stated merely that Eisenhower “supported me in matters of agriculture.  In other areas we had differences.”76

Say what?  This is mind boggling to me.  Democratic Mormon Congressman Ralph Harding from Idaho condemned Benson in Congress a few days later.  Harding supported the current Republican President Eisenhower.  Prince states that reactions to Harding’s comments were mixed.  President Eisenhower sent Harding an appreciative letter.  On page 297,

I am grateful for your letter and for the speech that you made in Congress concerning the support and encouragement that the former Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Benson, has allegedly been giving to a Mr. Welch, said to be the founder and leader of the John Birch Society.  Your honest and unselfish effort to set the record straight is something that warms my heart.

Frankly, because I rarely read such trash as I understand “The Politician” to be, I had never before read the specific accusations made against me by Robert Welch.  But it is good to know that when they were brought to your attention you disregarded all partisan influences to express your honest convictions about the matter.  It is indeed difficult to understand how a man, who professes himself to be an anti-Communist, can so brazenly accuse another–whose entire life’s record has been one of refutation of Communist theory, practice and purposes–of Communist tendencies or leanings.

With my best wishes and personal regard,

Dwight D. Eisenhower81

A year later, when L. Ralph Mecham escorted Ernest L. Wilkinson, then running fo the U.S. Senate, to meet with Eisenhower, the former president again brought up Benson’s actions.  Long afterward, Mecham recalled:

When I took Ernest Wilkinson up to Gettysburg to visit with Eisenhower, I believe in the spring of 1963, to get Eisenhower’s blessing for Wilkinson in his Senate campaign, Ike was almost wistful.  We had a great conversation about many things.  In the course of it he asked us quizzically, “Whatever happened to Ezra?” or something like that.  The implication was clear.  He could not understand, I believe, why a man to whom he had been so loyal had not reciprocated that loyalty but instead had adopted the extremist views of the John Birch Society.82

I’m too young to remember any of Benson’s political views.  From my memory, he was a nice man who preached nothing but a return to Book of Mormon principles.  I was interested to learn why Benson stopped politicking.  Prince says on page 321,

Benson’s political activism diminished abruptly upon McKay’s death, for he lost his patron and protector.  McKay was succeeded by Joseph Fielding Smith and subsequently, Harold B. Lee, both of whom had strongly objected to Benson’s political activities during McKay’s presidency.  A comparison of Benson’s talks before and after McKay’s death attests to the effectiveness in curtailing his political extremism.

If you’re interested in more details, here is a longer version of this post.  I am sure that there are some ardent supporters of President Benson’s politics.  What do you make of his position that Martin Luther King and President Eisenhower were tools of the Communists?

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38 Responses to Benson, Eisenhower, and Communism

  1. R. Gary on November 15, 2010 at 5:35 AM

    Re: “I’m not sure why President Benson is so popular lately.”

    Benson isn’t popular with everyone. Prophets never are. And criticism proves more about the critic than it does about the prophet (more here).

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 1

  2. Jeff Spector on November 15, 2010 at 6:47 AM

    Mo,

    Excellent post and right on the money. I suspect had Pres. Benson had the power, he could have easily become as Joe McCarthy. the contrast between Benson the anti-communist and Benson the Prophet are remarkable.

    I often wonder whether here was any action inside the Church to rid it of communists? Prince’s book makes no mention other than at BYU, I believe.

    Not sure whether #1 is coming from.

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  3. lina on November 15, 2010 at 7:16 AM

    I remember that when Pres. Benson came to our conferences in Europe we would always wonder who came the apostle or the politician. Living in Europe between those 2 powers was something to behold but we saw both sides more openly. Some of us were not to happy when the politician showed up since we came for the gospel.

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  4. Paul on November 15, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    I enjoyed reading the Prince biography, but suspect it’s probably not the only source material on this matter, and believe a more thorough treatment requires more than just Prince’s scholarship.

    Clearly Ezra Taft Benson was a faithful and committed man — committed to his political beliefs and his love of the church and the gospel.

    My personal politics have never been as conservative as Elder Benson’s (though my father’s who was a new convert in the late 60′s was much closer), and I, with many others, was relieved (though I should not have been surprised) when his politics did not extend to his service as president of the church.

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  5. Douglas Hunter on November 15, 2010 at 7:43 AM

    FLoks like Benson are such troubling figures. The strong distinction between the politicial and the Prophet being made shouldn’t this distinction bother us a great deal? His attacks against MLK are chilling. It seems to me that for Benson (among others) his polotical ideology trumphed the spiritual power of his professed christianity.

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  6. Mike S on November 15, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    Prophets and apostles are men with opinions, just like you and me. We saw that with respect to communism. People could all be against it, but their methods varied widely. We saw that with respect to blacks and the priesthood. I think we also see that today with regards to Prop 8 issues. The Church may have single official policy on the issue, but Packer’s and Uchtdorf’s approaches, for example, are certainly different.

    And I’m sure if any of us were in a high leadership position, there would be just as many people out there taking pot-shots at our opinions as well.

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  7. Morgan D on November 15, 2010 at 8:00 AM

    I have to add a minor correction to your post. I have taught classes that included a significant civil rights component. And there were a surprising number of radicals and communists involved in those movements. Their overall objective was admirable, and Benson was on the more reactionary side of their opponents but the idea that the civil rights movement contained communists and other radicals (or their front groups)is not as crazy as it you make it sound.

    Thanks for the great post.

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  8. Aden van Dish on November 15, 2010 at 8:13 AM

    I think Elder Benson’s political opinions did a lot of damage to the Church. In my family’s case, my grandparents were all for the John Birch Society, Cleon Skousen, etc. My Grandpa left the Church in the late 90s because he was deceived by some unscrupulous apostates who played on his political beliefs against Pres. Hinckley. There are members of my family who still won’t believe anything good about Martin Luther King because they think the civil rights movement was a Communist plot.

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  9. Last Lemming on November 15, 2010 at 8:21 AM

    From the Tribune article…

    Just after taking office in 1953, the Utahn became the first member of the new Cabinet to create controversy by attacking government farm subsidies — worrying aloud that they were too socialistic…

    If you’re looking for something positive about Benson’s political views, focus your attention here.

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  10. Douglas Hunter on November 15, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    #6- You know what Mike. Its not about taking pot-shots at peoples opinions, its about trying to understand how Christians can so easily turn away from central aspects of Christianity when it comes to politics and social issues.

    Granted there are many forms of Mormonism and of Christianity but I have to admit that I am amazed when Christians are so eager to find enmies, so eager to create an Other against which the self must be defended. Yes, I do know there was a great deal of this in 19th C. Mormonism, and the someone like Benson really tapped into that thread of Mormon rethorical practice, but that does not mean we shouldn’t point out the obvious paradox and try to understand how it works.

    Of course church leaders are men with opinions but that does not tell us how it is that special witnesses of Christ can be such a reactionary, participate in conspiracy theories, use white supremiest logic in explaining religious practice, etc.

    I think its just as much a mistake to try to seperate the politicial from the Prophet as it is to expect church leaders to be perfect. I don’t expect Benson to be perfect, or perfectly consistent, but I do expect to see that one’s commitment to Christ would be manifest in all areas of public life. I don’t think that’s too much too ask of anyone.

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  11. Course Correction on November 15, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    Back in the ’60s it was not uncommon to hear Mormons say privately that if Ezra Taft Benson ever became the prophet, they would leave the church.

    When I had a temple reommend interview soon after Benson was sustained as prophet, the questions about accepting the current president as a prophet were much more searching than I’d experienced before or since. I was pretty silent about politics back then, so I don’t think the questioning for limited to myself.

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  12. Dan on November 15, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    I wonder, is there a good biography of ETB? One that has looked into his whole life, including his years before becoming an apostle? Did he have such racist, ugly views before he became an Apostle? Where was the vetting to ensure such a bigoted person did not become an influential person in the church?

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  13. Last Lemming on November 15, 2010 at 8:42 AM

    Back in the ’60s it was not uncommon to hear Mormons say privately that if Ezra Taft Benson ever became the prophet, they would leave the church.

    I wasn’t even a teenage in the 60′s but by the late 70′s when I was generally aware of Benson’s proclivities, I asked myself whether I could tolerate him as president of the Church. I did not actually answer the question until the hypothetical was removed. At that time I concluded that it was silly to leave the Church over something I feared he might do as President, when I had not seen fit to leave over what he actually did as an apostle. The least I could do was give him a chance and leave only if he blew that chance. He did not. Perhaps not the most faithful approach, but I do not regret it.

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  14. Mike S on November 15, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    #10 Douglas

    I absolutely agree with you, although that perhaps wasn’t obviously clear in my comment. I do think that prophets and apostles have opinions. Unfortunately, there opinions are too often construed as actual gospel principles.

    - BRM expressed thousands of opinions in his books. Some people still believe them.
    - Hinckley expressed his opinions about earrings. Today, girls can’t go to EFY at BYU if they have 2 sets of earrings.
    - Benson expressed his opinions about communism, etc. People unfortunately still take it as gospel.
    - Packer expressed his opinions about homosexuality in his recent talk. Fortunately, it got shut down and changed before going any further.

    Most of what we are “taught” in this Church on a practical, day-to-day basis is really just institutionalized opinion. There is very little doctrinal basis to many of the things we do (ie. white shirts, beards, many of the meetings, YM, scouting, “not a drop”, etc.)

    I do agree with you that in the ideal world all decisions in the Church were actually inspired, and by implication therefore the same. But they’re not. Our biggest issue, therefore, is sifting through it all.

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  15. Douglas Hunter on November 15, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    #14- Mike,

    Ah, thanks for the additional comments. Total agreement. Two things you mention strike me as of the greatest importance.

    “Most of what we are “taught” in this Church on a practical, day-to-day basis is really just institutionalized opinion. There is very little doctrinal basis to many of the things we do”

    I agree, I call it cultural doctrine. It substitutes for actual doctrine all the time in Sunday School classes.

    “in the ideal world all decisions in the Church were actually inspired, and by implication therefore the same. But they’re not. Our biggest issue, therefore, is sifting through it all.”

    Yes, indeed, I think the problem lies in the divide in the Mormon community between those of us who see it as essential to sift through things using both spiritual and intellectual tools, and on the other hand those who feel that this sifting is a sign of disloyality to the Prophet, or a show of pride etc. Of course its nothing of the sort, but many are not ready to believe that.

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  16. N. on November 15, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    So does anyone still believe the Civil Rights movement is a Communist Conspiracy, or that MLK was a communist?…
    What do you make of his position that Martin Luther King and President Eisenhower were tools of the Communists?

    I remember reading a book about the Mitrokhin Archive (the defected KGB archivist’s notes) which (IIRC) revealed that the KGB was working on trying to infiltrate the Civil Rights movement, especially via the Communist Party USA. They also tried to inflame racial tensions in the greater society and create dissension *within* the Civil Rights movement as well (infiltration would have been very useful for this).

    So, although I don’t believe “MLK was a communist” at all, I can see where someone with a very little bit of spotty inside information might think so, or at least might misconstrue the facts so.
    The KGB records themselves have shown that a surprising amount of the McCarthyite Anti-Communist fervor was *not* an invented fever dream (as is still often claimed) but in fact was just too generous in their assessment of the competency of the KGB (who were not nearly as effective as their adversaries in government claimed them to be).

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  17. john willis on November 15, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    If you want a well documented answer to the question of was Martin Luther King a communist I would refer you the definitive biography of Martin Luther King “Bearing the Cross” by David Garrow.

    One of Kings closest advisers Stanley Levinson had been a member of the American Communist party in the 1940′s and early 50′s . By the time he became aquainted with King he had left the party.

    In spite of extensive and illegal wiretaps by the FBI there was never any evidence produced that King was controlled by or influenced the CPUSA.

    President Benson was just flat out wrong in his understanding of the American Civil Right movement as a communist plot. He was on the wrong side of history

    He sought the vice presidential nomination of George Wallace’s third party ticket. To his everlasting credit President McKay refused permission for him to do so.

    It was clearly the hand of the Lord that caused President Kimball to become president of the Church before President Benson did. President Benson would of NEVER changed the policy of Blacks holding the priesthood. In the biography “lengthen your stride” by his son and grandson President Kimball is quoted as saying “if I don’t do it my sucessor won’t”

    I did sustain President Benson and the authorized president of the church and a prophet ,seer and revelator. But I never did and do not now sustain his political, social and economic views.

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  18. Paul on November 15, 2010 at 6:57 PM

    I remember when President Benson was sustained as president of the church. I was a grad student at the time, and had been familiar with the political concerns raised during his tenure as an apostle, though I was not politically aware when he was particularly politically active.

    I remember sitting in the overflow in the chapel where I was watching General Conference and raising my arm to the square to sustain him, feeling a remarkable witness of the spirit as I did so, ratifying to me his call as president of the church.

    I’m not sure I’d ever had that experience in quite the same way before. It was really edifying to me to be able to sustain him, regardless of political issues. As others have mentioned, the key messages he taught during those years — the Book of Mormon and warning against pride, for instance — were very significant to me, largely because of that witness I felt as I sustained him.

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  19. Thomas on November 15, 2010 at 9:45 PM

    “So does anyone still believe the Civil Rights movement is a Communist Conspiracy….?”

    No, but plenty of people accept the evidence that the Soviets did seek, with some success, to penetrate some civil-rights oriented groups, for the purpose of waging propaganda war against its Cold War adversary.

    And Paul Robeson was a total Stalinist schmuck:

    In a box to the right – smiling and applauding the audience – as well as the artists on the stage – stood the great Stalin.

    I remember the tears began to quietly flow. and I too smiled and waved Here was clearly a man who seemed to embrace all. So kindly – I can never forget that warm feeling of kindliness and also a feeling of sureness. Here was one who was wise and good – the world and especially the socialist world was fortunate indeed to have his daily guidance….

    They have sung – sing now and will sing his praise – in song and story. Slava – slava – slava – Stalin, Glory to Stalin. Forever will his name be honored and beloved in all lands.

    In all spheres of modern life the influence of Stalin reaches wide and deep. From his last simply written but vastly discerning and comprehensive document, back through the years, his contributions to the science of our world society remain invaluable. One reverently speaks of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin – the shapers of humanity’s richest present and future.

    (It gets worse — sickeningly worse.)

    So in conceding that President Benson went well beyond the mark in fearing Communist influence in the United States, consider his outlook not in our own context (where the handful of remaining communists are seen as harmless, dead-ender eccentrics), but at a time when a good solid number of American liberal luminaries absolutely did think that what the Soviets were about was “the future, and it works.”

    In other news, there’s a movement out to revoke Walter Duranty’s Nobel. Of course if he had denied the Nazi Holocaust instead of the Stalinist one, he’d have lost it long ago, but even though there’s not a dime’s worth of moral difference between those two collectivist tyrannies, the one is still seen as inherently cooler, and its opponents more bad sports, than the other.

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  20. Matthew R. Lee on November 16, 2010 at 1:45 AM

    Perhaps it is best to begin with an attempt to understand the world from Benson’s unique perspective.

    The Tribune article states:

    “His hatred of communism was rooted in his experience as a new apostle sent by the LDS Church to oversee its relief efforts in Europe after World War II. Benson later wrote that he watched half of the continent quickly fall to communism and lose the right to worship freely.”

    Imagine then Elder Benson with a call to proclaim the reality of the gospel as a witness of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world, a call he believed in more than anything else, the call that brought him to Europe, as he watched the rights of worship eliminated in nation after nation.

    He saw in communism not only a blockade to proclaiming the restored gospel but also the erosion of personal responsibility for self and family and forced compliance in relation to freedom of religious expression and choice. To sit by and watch this ‘communist liberation’ must have been frustrating.

    He was on the ground and saw firsthand the impact Soviet control on nearly a dozen nations. While Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were the only nations wholly annexed by the Soviet Union during World War II (As result of a divide and conquer pact with Hitler), the other nations were hardly sovereign.

    From this vantage point, I see why he was keenly aware of and ready to call out any similarity he saw in language or action that was in harmony with communist ideology. Communism was a real threat. Southeast Asia, Central Africa, and Central America were all targets of Soviet Communism. Communist brought dictators, loss of life, loss of heritage, and loss of freedom in every nation it infected. Even the Russians finally gave it up.

    Perhaps Elder Benson’s statement, “The consequences of Mr. Eisenhower’s actions in dealing with the communists have been tragic” was a reference not only to Eisenhower’s Presidency but also to his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe. Specifically for working with Stalin during the war and for not advocating the removal of the Soviets after the war. I don’t believe he was calling Eisenhower a communist or a communist sympathizer, but recognizing the high cost of Eisenhower’s cumulative choices on Eastern Europe. Of course, this is speculation but not beyond reason.

    It’s worth mentioning that George Patton saw a need for the United States military to push the Soviets back while they were still in Europe after Germany surrendered. Patton told the Undersecretary of War, “tell the Red Army where their border is, and give them a limited time to get back across. Warn them that if they fail to do so, we will push them back across it.” He and many others recognized, before the war was over, that Stalin’s liberation from the Nazis would not bring Eastern Europe the freedoms they once enjoyed and would be a significant threat to Western Europe.

    I think Elder Benson believed, and rightly so, that communism would do the same thing to his church as it did to every other faith and that within our democratic system the possibility of electing communist leaders was real. In that context, how could he not speak out? If he heard language or saw activities that were reflections of communism, I think his concern was promoting those who would speak out against it.

    Martin Luther King has risen to an almost saintly state of veneration since his assassination. It’s difficult to imagine anyone having legitimate or valid criticism with his methods. It seems to me that Elder Benson’s involvement in the 1978 revelation on the Priesthood is a clear indicator that he was a supporter of equal rights as described in the Book of Mormon and the New Testament. However, his support of the revelation and these text does not eliminate his previous vocal and written concerns for the rise of forces supporting equal rights in name, but who may have had ties to organizations seeking more radical change and eventual overthrow of democracy. I don’t know that those concerns ever left him. Clearly, the need to share them publically declined.

    If it is true that the reduction of his remarks on communism were a result of Joseph Fielding Smith’s counsel as President of the Church, it shows Elder Benson’s willingness to follow his leaders just as he did when President McKay sent him to Europe and directed him to accept an appointment in Eisenhower’s Cabinet. As I see it, Elder Benson shifted from a focus on communism to a focus on the ills that lead individuals to support regimes that limit personal choice and responsibility.

    I imagine he was thrilled and humbled to live to see the fall of Berlin Wall.

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  21. Dan on November 16, 2010 at 6:30 AM

    Matthew,

    From this vantage point, I see why he was keenly aware of and ready to call out any similarity he saw in language or action that was in harmony with communist ideology. Communism was a real threat.

    I’m from Romania. I came here in 1982 during some of the worst times in Romania’s communist era. My mother was imprisoned by the Secret Police. For any American to dare compare American liberalism to communism is an insult to those who suffered under Communism. Ezra Taft Benson was a fearmonger who used his status as a religious leader to bend people to his desires.

    As for the generals and their silly idea to bring a war to Russia, it’s a good thing Truman didn’t listen to them, seeing as Truman was going to use Russia to get Japan to finally surrender. Imagine if on the one hand Truman is demanding Russia pull back out of Eastern Europe (where the Russians suffered extremely heavy losses to the Germans) while at the same time being used as a pawn for the Americans against the Japanese (who the Russians had some pact with not to fight each other). Ezra Taft Benson would have been an idiot to think Eisenhower or Truman was “bowing to the communists” in not protecting Eastern Europe from the clamp of communism. I mean, seriously, do none of you guys actually study this stuff? You think we could just easily tell the actual victors of the war against Germany that they’re not allowed the spoils? Who do you think beat the Germans? You think we did? How many Germans did the Soviets kill on the Eastern Front? You think our actions in France and Belgium beat the Germans? You think our firebombing beat them? If Hitler never attacked Russia, Germany would have destroyed Britain and any force the US would have attempted to bring over the Atlantic. The Allies won because of the Communists. Much thanks we gave them.

    In that context, how could he not speak out? If he heard language or saw activities that were reflections of communism, I think his concern was promoting those who would speak out against it.

    His words were not rational or reasonable. They were wholly rooted in fear. I shouldn’t have to remind an Apostle that a previous Apostle indicated that perfect love casteth out fear. Fear is of the enemy, and not of God.

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  22. John Swenson Harvey on November 16, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    God has to use whatever clay is available at the time. For instance in spite of Joseph Smith ordaining black men to the priesthood, sending them through the temple (Kirtland), and calling one of them to be a traveling missionary (roughly equivalent to a member of the quorum of the 70 today), Brigham Young and subsequent Presidents came up with, and maintained, the policy to exclude blacks from the priesthood and temple. It took from 1845 to 1978 for God to correct this great miscarriage of justice and truth. Likewise certain members of the Church’s hierarchy (Apostles, 70s, BYU presidents, etc.) have gone way overboard and influenced many to adopt extreme political positions; God will eventually smooth these out as well, it is just sad that all that effort and energy couldn’t be directed towards sharing the Gospel and helping our neighbors.

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  23. Jeff Spector on November 16, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    Thomas,

    “And Paul Robeson was a total Stalinist schmuck:”

    You might not be using that word if you know what it actually means. Also, what is the citation for that quote and who is being quoted. Just curious.

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  24. Jeff Spector on November 16, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    The communist threat in the US is/was and will always be largely overblown.

    It pales by comparison to what our corrupt political system has already done.

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  25. Thomas on November 16, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    “You think we could just easily tell the actual victors of the war against Germany that they’re not allowed the spoils? Who do you think beat the Germans? You think we did? How many Germans did the Soviets kill on the Eastern Front? You think our actions in France and Belgium beat the Germans? You think our firebombing beat them?…The Allies won because of the Communists. Much thanks we gave them.”

    First, I imagine the Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, etc. wouldn’t much like being called “spoils of war,” whom the Soviets had every right to dispose of as they pleased. Especially considering that Stalin started out the war as Hitler’s ally.

    Counterfactual history can be fun. Considering that the Germans were on the offensive on the Eastern Front all the way until 1943, to suppose that the Germans couldn’t have fought the Soviets to a stalemate if they hadn’t had to defend western Europe (not to mention dealing with its industry being systematically demolished by air raids) is counterintuitive. Also, the Russian tactics that eventually defeated Germany in the East — a kind of adaptation of the Germans’ own blitzkrieg tactics, coupled with avalanches of artillery — wouldn’t have been possible without American industrial production. Sure, Russia had manpower — but the losses it was taking before Lend-Lease allowed them to adopt mechanized warfare would have been crippling, if they’d continued.

    Without the West, the best Stalin could have hoped for would have been a stalemate.

    The most likely outcome of Hitler not invading Russia in 1940, would have been a war breaking out between the two thugocracies a year or so later. You were not going to have two diabolical self-aggrandizing tyrannies as neighbors for long; one way or the other, there was going to be a fight.

    Alternatively — if the Nazi-Soviet pact had endured (you’ll recall they started the war on the same side!), a far more likely outcome than conquest by Germany of Britain (which it failed miserably at the first go-round) would have been…an atom bomb over Berlin in August 1945. A sobering thought.

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  26. Thomas on November 16, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Jeff,

    “You not be using that word if you know what it actually means.”

    The same as “putz” and “dork,” right?

    Using vulgar anatomical references is only vulgar if your audience knows you’re using vulgar anatomical references.

    Re: the quote, it’s from Robeson’s tribute to Stalin on the occasion of the old sociopath’s death, “To You, Beloved Comrade.”

    http://www.mltranslations.org/Miscellaneous/RobesonJVS.htm

    De mortuis nil nisi bonum, as they say, but that was ridiculous. A man who said similarly nice things about a dictator whose only substantive difference was the size of his mustache, would not be on an American postage stamp.

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  27. Jeff Spector on November 16, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    “The same as “putz” and “dork,” right?

    Using vulgar anatomical references is only vulgar if your audience knows you’re using vulgar anatomical references. ”

    Putz, yes, dork, I don’t know, but I think you may have just given it away….. :)

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  28. Dan on November 16, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    Thomas,

    First, I imagine the Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, etc. wouldn’t much like being called “spoils of war,” whom the Soviets had every right to dispose of as they pleased. Especially considering that Stalin started out the war as Hitler’s ally.

    Ah, my sparring partner has arrived…

    Obviously the Poles, etc, don’t like much being called “spoils of war.” That’s their constant lack of fortune at being small. Stalin did indeed start out as Hitler’s ally, or better put, the two had an agreement that they would not attack each other (not necessarily allies, but not enemies). Guess who turned on the other? Hitler did. His biggest mistake of the war.

    onsidering that the Germans were on the offensive on the Eastern Front all the way until 1943, to suppose that the Germans couldn’t have fought the Soviets to a stalemate if they hadn’t had to defend western Europe (not to mention dealing with its industry being systematically demolished by air raids) is counterintuitive.

    That was Hitler’s fault for turning his eye to Russia, rather than finishing off the West. In all instances, it is because Hitler opened up the eastern front that Germany lost.

    The most likely outcome of Hitler not invading Russia in 1940, would have been a war breaking out between the two thugocracies a year or so later. You were not going to have two diabolical self-aggrandizing tyrannies as neighbors for long; one way or the other, there was going to be a fight.

    We’ll never know. Hitler was too impatient.

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  29. Dan on November 16, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    or as Dietrich bellows “The Fuhrer is not a patient man.”

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  30. Thomas on November 16, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    My point, Dan, is that the Communists didn’t deserve the free people’s thanks, for eventually being obliged to take part in putting out the fire they helped start.

    They’ll doubless be fine with that; as Stalin said, gratitude is a disease of dogs.

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  31. Dan on November 16, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Thomas,

    The Soviets didn’t start the fire.

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  32. Thomas on November 16, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Dan, technically, no, but when Hitler kicked things off in 1939, he and Stalin divvied up Poland exactly as they’d previously agreed.

    You’d almost thing they were in cahoots or something.

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  33. Dan on November 16, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    Thomas,

    Little it seems you know about how countries deal with each other. They weren’t in cahoots. But they certainly found ways to better each others’ situation. Clearly Hitler did not trust Stalin.

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  34. brjones on November 17, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    “It took from 1845 to 1978 for God to correct this great miscarriage of justice and truth.”

    Sorry, John, but this is funny to me. It took GOD, the creator of the universe and the head of the living church on the earth, and one that is led by direct revelation, no less, 133 years to correct a “miscarriage of justice and truth” which was perpetrated by the greatest prophet since moses and the leader of the restoration? And this in a church that teaches that god will never let the prophets lead the saints astray? If the church is led by revelation, maybe god should have just told someone that the ban on blacks was not his will. Sounds like a pretty easy fix to me.

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  35. FireTag on November 17, 2010 at 11:02 PM

    MH:

    Sorry to join the conversation so late, but I want to make one point on the OP. Just as there was CIA involvement in anti-Soviet movements of Eastern Europe, the Mideast, Latin America, and Asia from the end of WW2 to the present, there were KGB front organizations and infiltrators in the American civil rights movements. No competent intelligence service on the planet would NOT try to subvert the government policies of its enemies by promoting grievances among the population. The Cold War (when it wasn’t localized hot war) was still very much a World War.

    The extremism comes in the inability to separate the legitimate from the illegitimate. By saying that all of the Civil Rights movement was Communist inspired, the Birchers indeed branded themselves as extremist. But by tarring all anti-Communism as anti-civil rights, so does the other extreme.

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  36. Matthew R. Lee on November 18, 2010 at 12:33 AM

    Great point, FireTag.

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  37. John Swenson Harvey on November 18, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    RE: “brjones”

    You would think it would be easy to correct, but in fact it wasn’t. Prophets have blinders just like everyone else and they are hard to see around. We are taught that one reason why God used Joseph Smith was that he was very young and did not have to unlearn many things. Brigham Young did not have that advantage.

    Read up on the history of blacks and the priesthood, it is absolutely clear that there was never a revelation on the matter. The First Presidency and Apostles held several councils off and on from the late 1800s to the early/mid 1900s trying to determine why the policy had come about. They were never able to come up with an explanation *or record* of why Brigham started teaching it.

    God needed Brigham Young to lead the Saints at the time and he was the best the Lord had available. it does not mean that everything he did was correct or in keeping with God’s desires.

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  38. Allen on November 24, 2010 at 10:14 PM

    In 1962 I finished a MS at USU in Logan, Utah and took a job in Maryland. Being single, I attended the Washington, DC Ward with my roommates. Sometime between September 1962 and May 1963, Reed Benson, son of ETB, spoke in Sacrament. His whole talk was on the John Birch Society. I remember him as an official spokesman for the JBS but I may be wrong on that. I’m not wrong on his talk, however. The whole talk was on the positive aspects of the JBS. I was surprised that he spoke on the JBS, and I didn’t think it a proper subject for a Sacrament Meeting talk.

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