“President Ezra Taft Benson 1899–1994,” Friend, July 1994, 5
Our beloved prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, died May 30, 1994. He was a true friend of all children. “How I love you!” he said in a conference talk. “How our Heavenly Father loves you!
“Just like the beautiful Primary song you sing, each of you truly is a child of God. For you, rich blessings are in store, and if you learn to do His will, you will live with Him once more. I know this to be true.”*
In the same talk he said, “I promise you, dear children, that angels will minister unto you also. You may not see them, but they will be there to help you, and you will feel of their presence.”
President Benson was born in Whitney, Idaho, on August 4, 1899, to Sarah Dunkley and George T. Benson. He was named for his great-grandfather, Ezra T. Benson, an Apostle and one of the first pioneers to enter the Salt Lake Valley.
Growing up on a farm as the oldest of eleven children, young Ezra, or “T” as he was known, learned to work hard. He could drive a team of horses at age four. He did his share of the plowing, milking, threshing, and other chores. As a young man of sixteen he earned local fame by thinning a whole acre of sugar beets in one day.
“T” was a good basketball and baseball player, and he loved to swim and sing and have fun with other young people. He served a mission in the British Isles from 1921 to 1923. He married Flora Smith Amussen on September 10, 1926.
In 1943 he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve. At the end of World War II, he was sent to Europe as president of the European Mission. For nine months, leaving his own young family behind, he traveled throughout many of those war-torn lands, bringing food, clothing, and hope to the weary Saints and others.
From 1952 to 1960 President Benson served as United States Secretary of Agriculture. He was able to share his testimony with many important men and women.
On November 10, 1985, President Benson became the thirteenth President of the Church. During his presidency, he repeatedly asked Church members to read the Book of Mormon and live by its teachings. In his talk to the children of the Church, he said, “I know you are reading the Book of Mormon, for I have received hundreds of personal letters from you telling me that you are reading this sacred book. It makes me weep for joy when I hear this.”
President Benson constantly bore witness of the Savior. “Not many years hence,” he said, “Christ will come again. He will come in power and might as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And … every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.”**
Like the Book of Mormon he loved so much, President Benson was a powerful witness for Jesus Christ.