President Eisenhower and Elder Benson — a Washington D.C. story
Sweet story from the life of President Ezra Taft Benson
President Benson was serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve when President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the president of the United States, asked him to serve on his Cabinet as the head of the Department of Agriculture. This occurred in 1952, shortly after President Eisenhower was elected as President. This was an unprecedented honor. Elder Benson sought the guidance of President McKay, who advised him to accept the position. They both knew that this would put the Church under the political microscope, but they were willing to take the opportunity.
Elder Benson told President Eisenhower that he would accept the position, but only with certain stipulations. The stipulations were these:
- He said that he would never, never support a policy or program that he did not agree with. No amount of political pressure would force him to go against his conscience and his sense of personal ethics.
- He said that he would not compromise his personal religious and moral standards for anything or anyone.
- He insisted that every cabinet meeting that he would conduct and preside at would begin with an oral prayer, without fail and without exception.
- Finally, he said that every decision he would make in his position would be preceded by asking one important question — “How will this decision affect the CHARACTER of those it will apply to?” He said he would never support a decision that compromised CHARACTER, personal or national.
President Eisenhower agreed to all four of these stipulations. When the national new media caught wind of these stipulations, they had a field day with them. One reporter stated that Ezra Taft Benson would not last three months in Washington, DC, and that he would be the first of Eisenhower’s cabinet member to resign or be replaced. Of Eisenhower’s original cabinet members, the only one who served for all eight years was Ezra Taft Benson, a man of character, of judgement, of principle.
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