“President Benson Informs U.S. President of Saints’ Efforts in Hunger Relief,” Ensign, Mar. 1986, 85–86
Latter-day Saints in the United States contributed more than $3.8 million toward hunger relief during a national day of fasting last November, President Ezra Taft Benson indicated to United States President Ronald Reagan during a meeting January 6.
In meeting President Reagan at the White House, President Benson, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, was responding to an invitation from the national leader. But Church business was also on the agenda for President Benson’s trip to Washington, D.C.; while in the area, he installed a new Washington Temple presidency and organized a new stake in Virginia.
During their brief meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, President Benson reported to President Reagan that Latter-day Saints contributed more than $10 million toward hunger relief last year. In addition to the $3.8 million donated in November, Church members in the U.S. and Canada contributed some $6.6 million after a special fast called by the First Presidency in January of 1985.
In a letter delivered to President Reagan, President Benson said:
“A considerable portion of the newly donated funds (from the November national fast day) will go for irrigation and other development projects in addition to emergency assistance. One hundred percent of all funds we have received go to those in need. We withhold nothing for overhead or any other administrative expenses.
“Not only have the monetary contributions been helpful, but the faith and prayers which accompanied these special fasts have, without doubt, been instrumental in the natural relief of drought conditions which initially contributed to the African crisis. It has also been a blessing to our Church members to have joined with those of other faiths in this special fast.”
In the letter, President Benson told the U.S. chief executive that Latter-day Saints throughout the country pray regularly for his and the nation’s efforts to promote peace in the world, and assured him of Church members’ willingness “to support our governmental leaders in their righteous endeavors.”
President Benson also met briefly with Vice-President George Bush and stopped by the Cabinet Room, where he reminisced about his eight years—from 1953 to 1961—as Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
On Sunday, January 5, President Benson installed Robert W. Barker as president of the Washington Temple. President Barker is well-known in the Washington, D.C., area as a lawyer, businessman, and Church leader. He succeeds Elder Franklin D. Richards of the First Quorum of the Seventy as president.
President Benson also organized the new Mt. Vernon Virginia Stake, from a division of the Annandale Virginia Stake.
The Church leader’s ties to the Washington area go back well beyond his years of service in the Eisenhower cabinet. He was working in the nation’s capital in 1940 when he was called as president of the first stake organized there. Three years later he was called to the Council of the Twelve.