Ezra Taft Benson is perhaps the most controversial apostle-president in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For nearly fifty years he delivered impassioned sermons in Utah and elsewhere, mixing religion with ultraconservative right-wing political views and conspiracy theories. His teachings inspired Mormon extremists to stockpile weapons, predict the end of the world, and commit acts of violence against their government. The First Presidency rebuked him, his fellow apostles wanted him disciplined, and grassroots Mormons called for his removal from the Quorum of the Twelve. Yet Benson was beloved by millions of Latter-day Saints, who praised him for his stances against communism, socialism, and the welfare state, and admired his service as secretary of agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Using previously restricted documents from archives across the United States,

Matthew L. Harris breaks new ground as the first to evaluate why Benson embraced a radical form of conservatism, and how under his leadership Mormons became the most reliable supporters of the Republican Party of any religious group in America.

Matthew L. Harris is professor of history at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He is the author of The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History and editor of Thunder from the Right: Ezra Taft Benson in Mormonism and Politics. Matthew’s new book can be purchased here.

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8 Comments

  1. Phil October 14, 2020 at 7:30 am - Reply

    Ugh what a freak show, all connected to the Benson/Skousen school of thought.

    To paraphrase Matthew: By their fruit-loops ye shall know them.

    Glenn Beck
    Ammon Bundy
    Cliven Bundy
    LaVoy Finicum
    Dylan Wade Anderson
    Bo Gritz
    Julie Rowe
    Brian David Mitchell
    Manti TLC

  2. BS October 18, 2020 at 7:50 am - Reply

    Thank you for increasing my love for President Benson. I think he would also turn over in his grave watching election interference from the Obama administration, a fake Russia investigation, and fake impeachment. All well proven and documented now. It goes both ways. Say what you want about Benson, he was a true patriot and loved his country. Love the man. Agree about Trump, but after watching what Democrats have done for the last four years, it helps me understand Trump better. I did not vote for him last time, and still don’t like the man, but Democrats have lost all respect from me. Thanks for a great discussion, even if you do lump all people on the right and try to make us all look crazy.

  3. Ryan October 21, 2020 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    Professor Harris may be the best, most engaging storyteller that Mormon Stories has ever had.

    I can’t wait to buy his books. I love these Benson episodes!

  4. Kim Richardson Barker October 29, 2020 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    oh my. My mom all but worshipped Glen Beck. I stopped arguing with her to preserve the relationship. ugh.

  5. VFanRJ October 31, 2020 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    The import of Dr. Harris’s work will span farther than any of our lives. I’ve listened to Dr. Harris several times before, but these long interviews with Dehlin provide more depth than any of other available source. It’s analogous to a full evening of insightful conversation. Very well done.

    Great job John relating our cultural background to today’s Utah perspective. While I had today’s Utah political climate in the back of my mind across both parts of the interview, Dr. Harris offered additional insight at the end that we would have otherwise missed.

  6. Glen November 9, 2020 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    A follow up confirming observation: I just read a Facebook post from a young man who was born after Benson; but, who cited to the October 1979 talk by Benson entitled “A witness and a warning” to substantiate his categorization of democrats as communists; and to support his view of Trump. Benson’s falsehoods have a far reaching affect and impressionable and uneducated minds.

    Very good interviews.

  7. Tina November 11, 2020 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    Could not the GA’s have said that they prayed about President Benson, and they got the ‘revelation’ that he should not be the next prophet?

    • John Dehlin November 12, 2020 at 12:17 am - Reply

      That could have destabilized the structure of succession, which prevents power struggles and schisms.

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