“Fireside Marks Ninety Years for President Benson,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 74
Church members throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico joined in wishing President Ezra Taft Benson a happy ninetieth birthday during a special satellite-broadcast fireside on July 30.
During the program, President Benson was honored by tributes from his counselors and family members, as well as from United States President George Bush, who, via videotape, recognized President Benson with a special award.
President Benson celebrated his actual birthday Friday, August 4, by attending a family gathering at Midway, Utah, during the morning, and a reception for General Authorities in the Church Administration Building during the afternoon.
The program, broadcast from the Tabernacle on Sunday night, allowed thousands of members to join in celebrating his milestone. “I love you, my brothers and sisters, and pray God’s blessings upon each of you,” President Benson told the audience in his response to the tributes.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of President Benson’s constancy and spiritual strength.
“I have had occasion to hear him pray,” President Hinckley recalled. “He does not ask the Lord for much, but he thanks Him for every blessing.” Loyalty, gratitude, and faith are the virtues on which President Benson’s life has been established, he said.
“We shall sustain you in your high and holy calling,” President Hinckley affirmed. “I now repeat my pledge of loyalty and love.”
President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, made a similar pledge.
“My overwhelming desire, President Benson, is to stand by your side unflinchingly and to fulfill to the best of my ability each assignment you give to me. Your own personal testimony echoes my own feelings when you declare, ‘With all my heart I love this work, and those who lead it and those who strive to live its teachings. I hope and pray that I shall always be numbered among the faithful Latter-day Saints.’”
President Monson also commented that the Church President exemplifies the ideals embodied in the Scout oath.
In his videotaped birthday greeting, President Bush reviewed a number of President Benson’s accomplishments in family, Church, and government life. The U. S. president then announced that he had awarded President Benson the Presidential Citizens Medal, given to those who have been outstanding in service to the country or to their fellow citizens. “Your service,” President Bush said, “has been the very model of selfless devotion and compassion.”
Margaret Benson Keller, President Benson’s sister, recalled that her brother was “a happy, normal boy, full of laughter and teasing and pranks.” But she said that he learned the value of hard work and to respond to the promptings of the Spirit. “His contact with our Heavenly Father is direct and regular,” she said, and bore testimony of President Benson’s prophetic calling.
Barbara Benson Walker noted that her father “has said that the youth need more models than critics, and he has been a wonderful model.” She recalled his example of faith and steadfastness, love, kindness, courtesy, and respect. “We children have been the grateful recipients of his loving service and counsel,” she said.
President Hinckley and President Monson presented President Benson a leather-bound book containing expressions of love from them and from the Quorum of the Twelve.
The invocation was given by Elder Boyd K. Packer and the benediction by President Howard W. Hunter, both of the Quorum of the Twelve. The Tabernacle Choir sang two of President Benson’s favorite hymns—“I Believe in Christ” and “I Need Thee Every Hour”—in addition to a hymn composed for President Wilford Woodruff’s ninetieth birthday in 1897: “We Ever Pray for Thee.”
Sister Walker also sang an arrangement of “O My Papa,” and Mary Benson Richards, a granddaughter, played “The Lord’s Prayer” on the flute, accompanied by Stephanie Benson Young, another granddaughter.