The Prophet Ezra Taft Benson
(Years to 1947)
by Minnie Egan Anderson
excerpted from John Henry Evans and Minnie Egan Anderson, Ezra Taft Benson: Pioneer—Statesman—Saint (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press, 1947), pp. 341–45

(Note: This book is about the prophet Ezra Taft Benson’s great-grandfather, also an Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The original Ezra T. Benson was born in 1811 and died in 1869.)

    Ezra Taft Benson, [the oldest son of George Taft Benson Jr. and Sarah Dunkley,] born August 4, 1899 was blessed with a goodly amount of virtues. The two greatest of them were that he loved the Lord and had a burning desire to give service to his fellowmen. Even as a child he was considered unusual. His congenial, even disposition quickly won him friends. He worked on his father’s farm and the long hours spent in the open strengthened the powerful physical frame which had come down to him from his progenitors.

    As a young man he was always active in scouting and priesthood work, acting also as secretary and teacher in the Church auxiliaries. He attended the Oneida Stake Academy and later the Agricultural College at Logan. Ezra Taft and his brother Orval bought land as early as 1923 which they farmed together to meet school expenses. They took turns about. . . .one would attend school while the other one managed the farm. In 1921 Ezra Taft Benson was called on a mission to Great Britain for thirty months. While in England he became president of the Newcastle District. On his return home, he continued his education at the Brigham Young University at Provo, Utah, where he graduated with honors and a scholarship to the Iowa State College at Ames, Iowa.

    In the spring of 1926 to married Flora Amussen, daughter of Carl C. Amussen, Utah pioneer jeweler, and let for Ames where he received his Master’s degree in 1927 and was elected to the honor society of agriculture. Upon his return home he resumed his farming and later became county agricultural agent. He filled the office until 1930 when he was asked to head the new department of Agricultural Economics and Marketing inaugurated by the Extension Division of the University of Idaho at Boise.

    As soon as he took up residence in Boise he was appointed superintendent of the Y.M.M.I.A. of Boise stake and in 1934 became a member of the stake presidency. Later, he left to do post-graduate work at the University of California. On his return to Boise, the stake was divided and he was made president of Boise stake.

    In the spring of 1939 he received the distinct honor of being appointed the executive secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, a federation of 4600 cooperative groups and since has served on several advisory committees and national boards in the field of agriculture and scouting.

    One year after his arrival in Washington, D.C. the Washington stake was created and Ezra Taft Benson was set apart as it’s first president where he served until called by President Heber J. Grant into the council of the Twelve Apostles in 1943.

    In the fall of 1945, Ezra Taft Benson was called on a special mission. World War II, the most destructive struggle between nations the world has ever witnessed, came to a final close in May of 1945 leaving in its wake disease, famine and rubble. The Saints under local leadership had been carrying on during the war under the most distressing circumstances. President George Albert Smith , realizing the plight of the Church members who were struggling to lift their heads above the ravages and scars of war called Ezra T. Benson to fill an extraordinary mission to Europe to attend to the spiritual affairs of the people and to alleviate their sufferings, by distributing food, clothing, bedding and other needed supplies to them, through the welfare program of the Church. For ten months Elder Benson traveled some sixty thousand miles through war torn countries giving comfort and blessings to the people and organizing them for the necessary assistance.

    War had not shattered the Saints’ faith in God. With tears and love they greeted him, giving evidence that their religion had united them in a single purpose of serving God and keeping His commandments even under the stress of war.

    Elder Benson performed his duties with the same zeal and fervor that was exhibited by his pioneer great-grandfather on many occasions. His background of practical and theoretical experience in agriculture, marketing and economics especially fitted him for this grave assignment.

    A great spiritual uplift came to the people as a result of his visit.

    Through diplomatic skill and tact he successfully arranged with governmental authorities to allow precious life giving supplies to flow through to the Church members.

    Ezra Taft Benson has not pioneered in the building of railroads and mills, as did his great-grandfather, but he has done pioneering in a modern age and has known the joy and satisfaction of equally hard work. He has been diligent and conscientious in all his labors, in church, business, school and on the farm. Even in the beet, Hay, and grain fields as a youth he was considered one of the hardest workers. He has been intimately acquainted all his life with the Lord, developing through the years, strong characteristics of an exemplary nature.

    Faith, knowledge, humility and service were attributes which gave strength and meaning to his daily living and brought prominent recognition to him in his fields of endeavor. A recognition of these qualities caused the annual assembly of delegates of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, representing over 2,000,000 farmers to express in resolution their love and appreciation–one sentence of which reads: “His sincerity, resourcefulness and complete honesty of purpose have endeared him not only to us but to everyone with whom he has come in contact, no matter what their station.”

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