EP 439 – Ezra Taft Benson and the Mormon Right w/ Matt Harris

Dr. Matt Harris discusses the new book "Thunder from the Right: Ezra Taft Benson in Mormonism and Politics" and how Benson transformed Mormon conservatism.

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Latter-day Saints have long been associated with conservative political movements, but that wasn’t always the case. The 1950s and 60s represented a period of enormous social change, not just within American culture, but within Mormon culture. Ezra Taft Benson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles, and President Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture, was famous for his far-right political and social views, and he brought along a large number of the Church with him. Today, we’re going to explore how Ezra Taft Benson played a pivotal role in Mormonism’s shift to the right.

Dr. Matt Harris is a professor of history at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He received a BA and MA in history at BYU, his MPhil and PhD, also in history, at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. He is a scholar of Religious Studies, with a special emphasis on Mormons and Race, Mormon extremism, and Mormons and civil rights. His most recent publications include Thunder from the Right: Ezra Taft Benson in Mormonism and Politics (University of Illinois Press, 2019), Watchmen on the Tower: Ezra Taft Benson and the Making of the Mormon Right (University of Utah Press, forthcoming spring of 2020), and (with Newell Bringhurst) The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History, which was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2015. 

His recent articles include “Mormons and Lineage: The Complicated History of Blacks and Patriarchal Blessings,” 1830-2018,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Fall 2018), “Confronting and Condemning Hard Doctrine, 1978-2013,” Mormon Studies Review (forthcoming), and “‘Utah is the last in the union to recognize the Martin Luther King holiday by name’: Mormons, Martin Luther King and the Quest for Racial Justice,” Utah Historical Quarterly (forthcoming). 

Currently, he is at work on two books: The Long Awaited Day: Mormons, Blacks, and the Lifting of the Priesthood and Temple Ban, 1945-2018 and Hugh B. Brown: Mormonism’s Progressive Apostle. He lives in Colorado with his wife and three kids.


Geoff Openshaw:

[2:43] Matt Harris thank you for joining us.

Matt Harris:
[2:55] It’s a pleasure Geoff.

Geoff Openshaw:
[2:58] And Jared oh by the way injury to everyone.

Jared Gillins:
[2:59] That’s right Jared Gillins I’m welcoming myself back since Jeff didn’t welcome me.

Geoff Openshaw:
[3:05] Well we might do some stuff you know before after who knows we’ll be fine anyway I’m I’m excited by the
building up for this interview for a while I haven’t read the book that the primary driver for this interview is the book that’s out now a thunder from the right by Ezra Taft Benson which I think is an amazing title Matt what was the did you help name that title
or was that somebody else.

Matt Harris:
[3:27] Sister actually it was the title of one of the essays on offense in the presidency and.
The press in consultation with me said how can we Co-op that title for the book and I said sure no it wasn’t my idea where this another SAS and then you can press that it would be a
clever title so I agreed that’s how we got it.

Geoff Openshaw:
[3:53] And I should know by the way you are the editor you you would have peace and it within the book we are the editor of the book of is a series of essays in the sense it’s not a single work just bite you.

Matt Harris:
[4:02] Yeah that’s cracked I wrote I wrote the introduction which talks about Benson views on church and stay now so what a lengthy essay on civil rights movement.

Geoff Openshaw:
[4:13] Whenever I hear I can’t tell you for months whenever I think of the title I think that’ll Bruce Springsteen song You Know Blinded By the Light cover by man for you know.

[4:27] Like every time my wife looks at me and she’s like the reading that book again I can’t help it just in my head all the time.

Jared Gillins:
[4:33] I’m curious Matt with the job. If you could briefly talked about how this project came about did you going to put out a call for papers based on some of the work that you were doing or were you just aware of other Scholars work and decided hey this might be a good.
Theme to build a book around let’s get these together how’d that work out.

Matt Harris:
[4:50] Well so I’ve been working on blacks and Mormons for Jesus probably 8.
910 years now in which resulted in a book that Jeff had mentioned a minute ago the Mormon church and blacks a documentary history and the second.
Book I’m doing on this subject has is a monograph just a concerted effort look at the subject since 1945 so that’s my next project that I’m doing now so anyway as I was building a lengthy file research files over the years
on civil rights and Latter Day Saints and all of that stuff certainly Benson came into the story and semi. This is interesting I wonder if other people thought that
have the same views as the Civil Rights Movement is is Elder Benson the time
so anyway so I started just putting stuff away putting stuff away and then I realized it just a tiny little part of the Benson so the right stuff made it into its,
to the first book in 2015 and I never could have ever imagined that it would result in two books on Benson
but anyway the short answer to your question is is that Mormon studies is a pretty small group everybody knows everybody it seems like.

[5:58] I certainly knew the people that I wanted to contribute based on their strengths and their it’s Carly expertise for example Brian Cannon if you why you does the American West does agriculture so he was a natural fit for the essay on Benson and egg
I’m JB Haws BYU religion did a piece on Benson’s presidency and JB did a great book
it was published a while back called the Mormon image in the American mind which deals with contemporary Mormon history so anyway that’s really how it came about just me matching up,
Benson to people’s interests and so I’m pleased that I got a pretty good wide range of voices in the book based on their past writings and also their Scholars.

Geoff Openshaw:
[6:40] That was really interesting so broadly speaking that is while I kind of wave introduction for the subject matter for those who are not familiar with it.
How did Ezra Taft Benson fundamentally change conservatism with an organism or or Lurch the church toward the right and why was he controversial we can get more to detail but.
Pizza high-level View.

Matt Harris:
[7:00] No boy yeah.

Geoff Openshaw:
[7:01] Easy quick.

Matt Harris:
[7:02] Precautions for the contacts Too Short I’ll try to be brief the short contacts and we can dive into more details but the short answer is that the church used to be during the New Deal utahans had received
a lot of federal assistance from the government
in order to answer your question I think you have to start the New Deal J Reuben Clark who is the most powerful man the first presents at the time he was the de facto president for at least two of the presents easily was in not so much with David O McKay but was Heber J Grant George Albert Smith
because of their are there trailing Health J Reuben Clark is running the church much is Gordon Hinckley wood in the early 80s was Spencer Kimball and and,
and his counselors who work under had that help anyway I J room Clark was.
Was a mentor to Benson and was extremely conservative and Reuben Clark along with it was a Republican.
And then he began who is conservative Democrat behave the New Deal I thought the.
That people not just Latter-Day Saints the people in general citizens in general will be coming to depend upon its programs and just remind your viewers some of whom might not be
from United States in the 1930s a country is going through a Great Depression.

[8:13] And so Americans were looking to their government for help and paying their bills and putting food into tables well this is the Genesis of the church welfare program that Reuben Clark creates and and apostles like Ezra Taft Benson
supportive of it so they want the Americans including Latter Day Saints to get off the welfare programs of the government in to go to the church Food House
storage house for Bishop Storehouse is it’s called anyway in most of Utah and I think I can remember the mystics it was like 70% of Utah to the time we’re on some kind of
welfare assistance so needless to say they were big supporters of Franklin Roosevelt the church leadership didn’t like it and
in an effort. Benson who was a junior Apostle of time recognizes this also spend some time in Europe just after the second world war is on a special humanitarian Mission from the church to help out the Saints would be.

[9:07] Whose life has been Shattered by the war so anyway he attributes much of the suffering during World War II to these tyrannical governments from the fascism in Italy to know communism to the socials and whatever
anyway and he links the Franklin Roosevelt administration with those tyrannical governments in Europe and even though most saints were supporting Democratic candidates in the thirties and into the forties it was until the early 70s where you start to see this
this this electoral shift if you will, the Latter Day Saints in the Intermountain West in that setting in the 72 73 74 somewhere in there.
Latter-Day Saints of supported Republicans and never turn back you’ll see you’ll see some of that start just a little bit in the sixties of Lyndon Johnson but certainly
Ezra Taft Benson preaching against liberalism in government programs and then beforehand his mentor Reuben Clark
I think Reuben Clark and Benson so we deserve much of the credit for the ship.

Geoff Openshaw:
[10:05] So what what drove them every why what what is Ezra Taft Benson’s background that made him so uniquely equipped to.
To be the one to see this over the line to do so influential in this capacity compared to anybody else any other Apostles I mean I think you’ll be Browns the only famously more liberal Apostle at the time even if there’s moderation of course in the ranks.
Outside of that but why is her tap-dancing what’s what made him so distinct.

Matt Harris:
[10:31] Well I think the question so certainly growing up in the Intermountain West in Idaho living up grow up on a farm most Farmers tend to be conservative so I think his own background has much to do with that if you read Benson’s writings he talks about.

[10:45] He talks about he’s very proud of his Pioneer ancestors some of whom were the first pioneers to come to Utah to settle in Idaho he talks about them not receiving any government assistance to establish the rugged
West so so don’t personal experiences certainly part of that by the time he gets in the government
the he’s a moderate I should tell you that he’s a modder in the thirties and forties modern to conserve that we would say
you supporting kids like Dewey a 1948 in the election he supports Nelson Rockefeller early on was very much a moderate Republican and then when you get in the 1960s you see this dramatic ship with Benson he starts to move to the very very far right fringes of the party
and we can get into you know his views on civil rights and that store in just a minute but he’ll adopt a whole range of use
at the far right that most of his conservative brother to the 12 don’t support
and most of mainstream Republicans are mainstream conservatives in the sixties don’t support either somebody sixties there’s a shift that occurs with Benson where he’s no longer of
you know this this just
conservative it Dobson very radical views of the time and in you’ll see the shift in 1961 in Spring of 1961 when he comes back from Washington DC and resumes his duties as an apostle this is after he eats her for two terms and Eisenhower’s cabinet.

[12:07] As he asked secretary and the shift in the spring of 1961 occurs when he meets a guy named Robert Welch who’s founded this very controversial anti-communist organization called the John Birch Society.
And a bird Society just absolutely rocks Benson’s World gives them a whole new paradigm by which the view government by which to view a government assistance the Civil Rights Movement all kinds of things and that the birth Society is.

[12:32] Beside lengthy FBI file that J Edgar Hoover.
Patrick creates on them and Hoover by the way is very conservative himself but he he calls the Robert Welch in the in the birds people the most extreme right-wing organization the country.
Oh yeah so Benson’s very much involved with this and develops is very close friendship with the Birch founder guy named Robert Welch tries to get Benson to are Welsh to speak in general conference tries to get into
this week at BYU tries to get him an honorary doctorate at BYU in the late 60s so he he certainly is pushing the Burch agenda on the church membership.

Geoff Openshaw:
[13:09] And he was a man he was rebuffed in a lot of corners for doing the same within his own ranks of the Apostles right I believe he was prohibited from actively being a member of the John Birch Society wasn’t do they restricted from actually joining even though he was so.

Matt Harris:
[13:23] Yeah it’s kind of interesting a play out because present McKay who’s himself at an anti Garden anti-communist also very conservative and present McKay.
Was fine with with Ben’s at least early on going to Birch Society meetings and being involved with the birth Society but what happened was that when.

[13:42] Scores of Latter-day Saints write the first presidency letter saying, she just visited our Elder Benson just visited our stake conference last week and he’s talking about
how crop John Kennedy is in Lyndon Johnson of the Supreme Court they’re all commies I thought he’s supposed to be talking about church Affairs in the gospel and so when President McKay and his counselors Cube Brown.

[14:04] And Henry Moyle start to read these letters they’re really upset by and so McKay pulls him aside he says look you can still talk about anti-communism stuff but you can’t
mention the birth Society nor can you speak in any more of their functions of their dinner is there anything of the sort of confusion in the minds of Latter-day Saints because they can’t distinguish when they hear
Elder Benson speaking in general conference or or at a BYU devotional or a state conference they can’t discern the difference between the birth Society or anything he says about anti-communism.
So anytime he might Elder Benson might say something about anti-communism most Latter Day Saints or just sort of assuming this is the Birch line,
and so he’s in a precarious position because I think it’s important to know why the birds people are so controversial their controversial even today
is because in 1958 Robert Welch the founder when he created the birth Society he created this lengthy manuscript that was later published I think three or four years later by the 1950s this manuscript called the politician in which he argued that
Dwight Eisenhower the others 5 Star General was a commie that everybody within the cabinet was also had communist leanings including.

Geoff Openshaw:
[15:17] Was there any evidence to support that claim.

Matt Harris:
[15:19] Oh goodness no goodness no no this is a five-star general I think maybe a different question would be when somebody.
Calls a five-star general a guy who’s going to spend much as adult life defending the institutions of United States and somehow some.
Guys calling him a commie and not just him but his brother who was a close adviser Milton Eisenhower and also John Foster Dulles is Secretary of State
Allen Dulles said head of the Central Intelligence Agency most of the Inner Circle work we’re Communists and.

Jared Gillins:
[15:54] According to Welch.

Matt Harris:
[15:55] According to Welch thank you a question for me as a scholar was
I wonder if this ever got back to Eisenhower what did he think of his former agricultural secretary calling mikami and what did he say about that they ever talk about it in private.
And the answer is to those questions yes yes yes and yes yeah so am I yeah so.
The next book that will be published next spring that you referred to deals with all of those internal conversations I don’t think we talk a whole lot about it.
In this book is it just wasn’t relevant it didn’t come up this book focuses on the right focuses on other things than the second book does which is called watch them at our conversation will come out and watch the tower and it’s it’s really
read Benson becomes a member that John Birch Society he becomes a regional director and so he goes around the country I sort of a surrogate for his father talking about,
Eisenhower babe, me and that stirs the pot even further it makes life difficult for Elder Benson who’s.

[17:00] Adopted this worldview that the brother not happy about by the way you asked about you know him being controversial and
is a great story of Henry Moyle is a moderate Democrat is in the first presidency in the early sixties and he dies in 63 but anyway I’m great story of Henry Moyle going into Benson’s office
Benson he called and Taft at the time that was what some of his closest Associates called him and
anyway more oil goes into Taft offices chap how could you do this
and he slams down a letter that Benson had sent out to the Quorum of The Twelve in the first presidency praising the politician is book that they have to had to read it’s just so urgent you read this book and,
mohel who is a very outspoken man surely voice his displeasure and then he Brown of course was just to say that he was beside himself with other Benson was,
that’s an understatement so.

[17:55] A lot of it depends on Irish tell people you know you have to understand people circumstances and I think that is a story and you always want to contextualize people in Elder Benson was not the first person to embrace the birth Society they had a
sizeable following he was not the first person in the government or out of the government to embrace conspiracy views in the post-world war years or a lot of Cold War
people who are struggling to make sense of Communism with the Russians and you know the nuclear buildup in all of that show in Salt Lake
but spent most of his formative years in Canada and he didn’t grow up on a farm like Benson did he wasn’t americanize like Benson and he certainly didn’t have the political.
Proclivities that Benson had and neither do the other brother need it for that matter you know Harold Lee and Joseph Fielding Smith certainly those guys are at your viewers knowing about.
Those Apostles in church presidents they were very conservative doctrinal and politically but they weren’t they didn’t Embrace conspiracy and they were.
Among the harshest critics of Benson as well because Benson was complaining about a high-ranking church official.

[19:09] That’s when Surly the brother and take notice and when Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold Lee they had read these complaints about,
the birth Society in about you know all about stopping so they they also voiced his displeasure about him being involved in politics and embracing a political message and what should have been you know largely religious forms like general conference is BYU devotional.

Jared Gillins:
[19:33] I mean this is mentioned in the in one of the essays but you’re going on the controversial Robert Welch in the John Birch Society are in a later it said that a lot of members that John Birch Society ended up feeling alienated because he had it.
Expanding this conspiracy.
Theory into a big meal Beyond communism that there is sort of a globe Illuminati.
I’m interested to know I mean that it didn’t really say in the book it said that while other.
Members of the John Birch Society started playing away at this point that Ensign did not do we know what he thought of this extension of the original Mission of the John Birch Society like why wasn’t he phased by even more off the rails.

Matt Harris:
[20:20] Well you know I was going to write some letters you know how could you do this to me I mean it’s pretty powerful stuff and.
You know it listen this with guy he’s a crackpot you know I’m not a commie been with me for 8 years.
And the Genesis of the context of the letter is a Tyco Road,
Benson was after of course there government service was over and.
The Genesis is when Reid Benson in his capacity as the regional director of the Birch Society was going around the country talking about a conspiracy within the government Ike was a conspiracy or conspiracist all that stuff
turn on the conspiracy I should say.
Anyway that’s it in the newspapers will cover it and it gets back to Ike and that’s when I greeted out to Benson’s what’s going on what’s your son doing and what’s interesting is it.

[21:13] Benson said was I was misquoted
he says it is Sun Miss quoted him as a journalist Miss quoted him I’ll get to the bottom of it and what’s interesting is unfortunately is not miss quoted because they’re about that within two days of him saying I was Miss quoted I’ll get to the bottom of it.

[21:30] Elder Benson was writing J Edgar Hoover a similar letter that
you get the marriage read that some speech in public basically calling like akame and trying to get the FBI director to,
support this and you know I guess the bigger question is why would somebody like why would Americans in general believe in conspiracy theories in the post-war years and why would somebody is accomplished as Elder Benson
volume is as well and I just just for your listeners it’s important if he is he’s not just the first Mormon Apostle to certain ever deserve in a cabinet disguise also
later on in his career who win the highest award for,
it’s called the silver Buffalo award if I remember that correctly the highest second-highest award the first highest civilian award that the Boy Scouts offer,
I also received the presidential citizens medal which is the second highest award that the u.s. government offers President George H
W bush in 1989 will bestow that on Den president Benson to church president so anyway he’s not just he’s he’s a significant accomplished person and the real question is why would somebody like him
Embrace these you know seemingly crazy theories and that’s when you have to get a little bit into literature why people in general believe this stuff
yeah there’s there’s one line of thought that says that
the Americans Embrace conspiracy theories because of a status anxiety that’s what one famous scholar road back in the 60s they there just a little uneasy about their lives their economic situation in.

[23:00] Oh that’s one scholarship another scholar said that,
they have these psychological issues they don’t feel good about themselves they have a low self-esteem this is what one scholar said
and I know those fit then sit at all he doesn’t have a low self-esteem is a very competent person,
I don’t see him not that I’m qualified to judge this but I certainly don’t see any instances of men’s mental instability he’s a very clear thinker he’s well-liked he’s I just don’t see any of that
I think if you want understand why,
Elder Benson last on to Robert Welch so easily and uncritically at my dad is you have to take it back to the Cold War,
yeah Americans live we’re just so different when they thought that the Russians had this bomb that could destroy them and so Benson
tended to look in nice and just say it’s this is not unique to Elder Benson on Jellico certainly felt this way as well but the the rise of the nuclear Nation.

[23:57] The Cold War Cold War bunkers the Red Scare at home all of that stops on people like Elder Benson
and other Evangelical preachers tended to look at it through a theological lens these are all signs of the times that would.
What time do you know the winding up scene of the world and so if you look at Elder Benson’s writings during this cold war-era he thought that
so you all that conflict with Communism in the proliferation of Communism in the conflict Russians was all were all signs of the times and so that that’s why I think he Embrace him he’s conspiracy idea because he thought that really
that this was all something that would speak to Jesus coming again to reclaim his kingdom
and that’s that you know that’s not in a rational thought for people to phase back in the fifties and sixties it’s actually quite common and it wasn’t just other Benson who believe that.
The Cold War manifested a sign of the time Joseph Fielding Smith.
The church is most senior Apostle in the 50s and 60s I’m also believe that but he didn’t leave the conspiracy stuff that other Benson had.

Geoff Openshaw:
[24:59] I want to talk about some of the way the brother and carry out their work together back in the Benson area may be compared to today Legos apart
and one of the answers in the book mentions very clearly that Hubie Brown went out of his way I forgot which speed test was a present. Present tense of Elder Benson gave somewhere
are there such fear around at the Hubie Brown issued a statement and basically said yeah that’s just.
Elder Benson speaking for himself not for the church like a very public reprimand in a sentence you don’t often see with public institutions you know stuff happens behind closed doors.
Ridgewood public facing you want to have kind of a united front do you feel like it was.
Benson time in the church that really caused or taught the church to kind of tighten its grip on who says what and to whom in a public setting.

Matt Harris:
[25:48] That’s a good question
you know the brother and for a long time I can’t give you an exact day but I can tell you the brother in for a long time it had informal policies and review committees about the books that they write in Mormon Doctrine in 1958 certainly.
How to challenge in that respect.
It didn’t show any correlation didn’t quite exist yet in those days in 1950s but they still had some informal understanding that if you write some book that you need to say you know Elder so and so this is not.

[26:20] Sponsored by the church represents your own views.
And then sometime in the sixties maybe was before that I’m not sure but sometime in the sixties they start to tighten up on that with.
Whatever Benson I guess you have to understand the T.
She gets a special blessing from David O McKay this beloved Church president who’s who’s in who’s the church president from 1953 to his death in 1970s called as apostle 1906
he’s a handsome charming man he’s a charismatic speech speaker the Saints absolutely adore him and if you speak to you know somewhat of an older generation maybe in their seventies and eighties today who might have a memory of him.
They will do it it’s just nothing but a faction anyway Elder Benson Love to David all in-person Mikhail of Delly Benson there was really a
a close Association there and the.

[27:19] When elder Benson when he gave Elder Benson a special blessing in 1953 before he went to Washington to join Eisenhower’s cabinet.
In a blessing present McCabe promised Elder Benson or blast him to watch and guard against communism
and he didn’t say any about liberalism of the Democratic Party
what will happen is Ezra Taft Benson will take that prophetic blessing and Associate his need to guard against communism keep in mind this is during the Joseph McCarthy era to he goes to Washington at the tail end of McCarthy
so that’s the context anyway Benson will take those words by President McKay.

[27:58] To guard against I’m not just communism buddy links liberalism and any kind of government service or handout Miss part of this and so that becomes his marching order for his entire Ministry
and so what’s interesting is that Elder Benson.
Will old give the sermons that he gives just he just Relentless every it seems like every General Conference sermon late fifties all the way into the sixties is all about communism big government liberalism all of that stuff and you see.
A dramatic change after McKay dies a little bit at least through Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold Lee those guys are the first ones to start the rain him in because present McKay who was sympathetic to many of his views in Loudon.
To talk about these things even though he told him not to do the purchase anything anymore I wasn’t feeling Harold legal right in middle of it and then Elder band starts up again,
when Spencer Kimball becomes the church president in early 1974.
And he and Spencer Kimball called into the 12 the same day when I think you know I don’t know 30-40 minutes of each other and President Kimball outrank him and church seniority just a few minutes really.
Anyway so he felt like he had the the gravitas or the.
The right or or maybe it was okay to resume his his Apostolic calling if you will.

[29:17] When his friend Spencer Kimball resume the presidency and that’s that was the wrong assumption cuz President Kimball.
The rains have been pretty good to we can talk about that more just a minute but anyway to answer your question with brown so that’s the context present make a lousy to do this
and when the Hue Brown has been pushing for civil rights for a long time makes a statement General Conference in the fall of 1963.
He says basically says at the beginning of his talk.
Call me back at the lyrics some the n-double-acp they were protesting are they threatened to protest conference and brown an N Eldon Tanner Brown’s cousin
Nathan Tanner was also the first presidency they met with the n-double-acp and brown being the.
The table Miser asked the n-double-acp officials you know if we can produce a statement in general conference supporting civil rights would you not protest and they said.

[30:15] Deal so president Brown goes back to present Mackay who’s now in failing health
it says the president McKay they won’t protest if we can produce a statement in general conference
and McKay reluctantly agrees most of the brother in the cam set including the K don’t support civil rights at the time because of their fear of interracial marriage if you break down these racial barriers in public and Lead
no blacks and whites working together and working
dating and eventually marrying so that was the fear anyway so McKay so you can give the the.
The talk in general conference as long as you don’t you just work it into your your talk.

[30:58] And just kind of work it in let them think it’s your your thought not the churches.
And brown being the clever guy that he is ignores that Council and he begins his conference talk
by saying I have a statement I would like to read to you.

[31:15] And giving impression that it comes from the first presidency and then he pauses now I would like to start my talk.

[31:22] So he ignores would president McKay wanted him to do because he wanted to give the impression that the first presidency was in support of civil rights that was his own personal View and he thought that was the best for the church
Robert at Branson at this time is also giving public speeches about the Civil Rights Movement being fermented by communist so Elder Branson you can imagine is not very happy.

[31:43] That the in general conference there’s is public support for civil rights to keep in mind that there’s two aspects of civil rights are there state laws that are being
bandied about in the Utah State Legislature and Salt Lake then if course are National civil rights laws in Washington DC
and so Brown didn’t say his his remarks were not in favor of any Civil Rights bill either in Utah or NTC was just a general statement saying,
the church support civil rights is not happy about this
and that’s when he speaks to reporter just days after president Brown gives that speech and he says that he says what he says.
You know I don’t support civil rights it’s communistic and then to the reporter turn it asks you brown what do you think about what Elder Benson said there seems to be you know you guys seem to get hot.
And that’s when President Brown says I speak for the church he speaks for himself and so you see this conflict about what to do about racial equality
I can just share something that you might find interesting. Ask anybody in their eighties or nineties today who are the memory of Joseph Fielding Smith they would probably tell you he was he and Bruce mcconkie son-in-law to the two biggest.

[32:53] Supporters of the priesthood ban there the biggest hardliners if you will and what’s interesting about Joseph Fielding.
Smith is that his views will evolve over time and sold by the ladder last decade of his life
he seems to be more sympathetic to the plight of African-Americans and then persons with black ancestry
and I nearly 60 63-64 just at the time that Lyndon B Johnson screening the Civil Rights Act that Congress would ultimately pass in 64 and then the Voting Rights Act in 65,
Joseph Fielding Smith as one of the earliest Apostles along with Hugh Brown who will go on record saying we need to support civil rights
which is astonishing giving some of it is very pointed writing to gets black people in the 30s 40s and 50s.

Geoff Openshaw:
[33:39] Wow can you imagine anything like this happening today in the tourism sure they have differences but I can’t imagine anything like this happening now such public commentary.

Matt Harris:
[33:52] Call you know it was it was pretty it was brutal I mean let’s not going to sugarcoat it was in general conference in the 60s Hugh Brown gets up
Benson gave a conference speech and he talks about their Judas is Among Us in church leadership he’s referring to Brown.

[34:12] Brutal and after the conference after the Audrina Dimension Browns name of course and probably I’m going to speculate here for a moment but probably you know a limited audience of.
People in Browns enter Circle and Benson’s Inner Circle no.
The reference there Judas is among us but Brown certainly picked up on it because after the speech Ernest Wilkinson was a very close friend of others have been since Wilkinson went over to president Brown and he said that was a great sermon president Brown.
Brown just looks at Wilkinson and he said I don’t think I’m going to be excommunicated anytime soon to you and storms off.

[34:49] And because they’d the reference of judas’s in church leadership they should be cut off in the church that was the implication that Elder Benson and made about President Brown
and anyway Elder Benson’s on family they talk about Brown being a burr under his saddle that’s the word that use
but today today you won’t see that in church leadership at least publicly serve as a brother and a human if you understand you know how they operate how they think they they all have their own backgrounds I have their own opinions
and certainly with some of the LBGTQ issues that have come out in the last few years there is certainly not a consensus some of the brother in with that
but they do you recognize the need to be deliberate and discreet in there in there.
Private meetings in so far I haven’t seen any breaches of that fact I have include breaches of that in quite a long time in church leadership so kudos to them for.
Keeping some of their disagreements underwear.

Jared Gillins:
[35:45] So interesting that there’s that in the brine cannons essay.
Remember who didn’t agree with the other Benson’s USDA policies and say no in adult that the person was worried that I’m a disagreement with an apostle
it says.
The Clark said it’s okay to be in doesn’t have a policy to scream and in a quote is don’t you know that church authorities do not always agree even on Church doctrines that’s so funny that like.
That was given as almost like a Assurant like we don’t even agree on Doctrine and then you know the modern church member having grown up under.
Correlation and you know they took such pains to prevent a united front like reading that made me think what it’s just so strange to see you I don’t think I have a question.
So it’s so odd to me that you know that they just kind of matter if they’re very matter-of-fact about their disagreements and yeah like I said I just can’t imagine a church today.
Where we would get that kind of.

Geoff Openshaw:
[36:45] Matt head on lgbtq issues are obviously something I think we’re still navigating a lot and letter I sent mom a native Californian I was there during a little.
Prop 8 and all that fun stuff and I think we’ve changed a lot since then but a good recent example.
Is the the baptism band you know for children of.
A gay couples that was instituted at one point and then repealed and now for me a lot of this is anecdotal but many suggest that people like then Elder Nelson Elder Oaks were the drivers behind such a thing
and now it’s very interesting that nowadays.
President Nelson runs the church and Elder Oaks is number one that they seem to be the drivers to repealing it and I’ll know if that’s just me reading into it myself or if you have any insights into where the brother and might.
My fall on that issue in our modern.

Matt Harris:
[37:39] Yeah I have lots of inside.

Geoff Openshaw:
[37:43] Name names Matt Newton.

Matt Harris:
[37:45] Off the Record but I’ll just give you some general thoughts it was President Monson the late president Monson and certainly present Nelson who is the senior member of The Twelve at a time and.
We can talk more details about this later but so
those two were concerned about a number of things that we’re going on to Summer Of Night To f2015 You Might Recall the overt spell decision of the Supreme Court you might recall that was in June of 15 minute came out,
and then in July is 15 when the brother in our way on vacation they take their vacations in July typically.
When are we on vacation that’s when the Boy Scouts came out with their new policy saying that they would allow I think it was anything wrong
gay Scout leaders.
Call that said president Monson when he was away that upset president Nelson there talk about the music as I understand it they had talked about the previous spring.
This policy of not allowing The Offspring are the children of
gay unions are gay couples to get baptized and participate in the church so that was talked about in the spring of 15 and then some of the Apostles died that kind of slowed some things up anyway so after the summer of 15 when there’s some activity
I’m going on it’s in September as I understand it when President Nelson and president Monson huddle together in.

[39:10] We talked about the change and they eventually make the change it creates I’ll be sitting here x picks up on it a lot of people are blogging about it they’re upset about it.

[39:19] And their antidotes as you probably know a read online that hundreds of people are resigning their Church memberships over there.
And then I’ll in the store here in January of 2016 so this is just a few months after the policy came out in January 2016.
President Nelson who still a senior member of the 12 he I think he’s acting president was present on the 12th time.
AJ about devotional dress at BYU Hawaii.
And he likened the lbgt policy to the priests of Revelation 1978 which is really interesting.

[39:56] Yeah so you know he’s elevating into some kind of canonical status but you know prison else and I’ll tell you why I 95 years of age he’s moving he’s moving the boat in for him to go back into.
Was it a month ago 2 months ago to reverse the policy after such a short. It really in my view in my opinion speaks to his energy his willingness to change.
Tipsy the church go forward and that’s just unheard of to make a you know such an incredible important policy decision in November of 2015 and then just change it what two and a half years later extraordinary it shows that he’s not willing to.
The rest on the status quo.

Geoff Openshaw:
[40:41] So fascinating we’ll talk about what we talked about racial Justice a bit this is so this is in your wheelhouse and you referenced before of course that’s Ezra Taft Benson.
Felted Civil Rights Movement with a front for communism and in particular he had a lot of beef with Martin Luther King jr.
It seemed that he he very much doubt that the MLK was some sort of a communist agents despite no evidence to know in that regard and MLK believe himself spoke out against communism.
Benson preceded in that in that vein for a very long time that I even went as far I believe it’s having an effect on as you mention it in your paper as far as Utah MLK day as
MLK day so I know why I put a lot in there but I mean tell us about this about Benson Martin Luther King jr. civil rights.

Matt Harris:
[41:31] Yeah oh my God I think it’s important that when you write history I’m a historian I’m privileged to spend my days my daughter is thinking and writing about history.
And it’s always important to give context is if you don’t give context it’s just easy to misunderstand somebody.
Ezra Taft Benson is will inherit this this idea that King is a commie from the Berkshires.
And also J J Edgar Hoover so two men that Huong he highly respects.

[42:04] Floats that idea in his head that these guys are commies and I think it’s important to wife Hoover and Welsh. They were the doctor King was aligned with copies.
Is because two of people in dr. King’s under Circle where once members of the Communist Party and they’ve been members of the wedding of the thirties and forties.
And what’s interesting is Jagger Hoover new
that these two Associates of dr. King had we’re no longer active in the party when they were in dr. King’s Inner Circle.
He knew that he had wiretap that effect he heard doctor King on record saying I hate commies all of that stuff.
And but yet J Edgar Hoover allow people like Robert Welch and even Ezra Taft Benson to go around talking about this as if it were a fact because he hated dr. King and he hated the Civil Rights Movement
is a civil rights agitators as upsetting the status quo they were bad for democracy they were creating lawlessness and Chaos with their sit-ins and endless marches
and so anything he could do Jagger Hoover to besmirch dr. King’s good name that’s what he tried to do
anyway so that’s the context of Ezra Taft Benson bleeding
that dr. King was a communist and had communist within his inner circle and later on a doctor King’s life when
just before his assassination if you if you study doctor King all you’ll know that he has is radical transformation at least that’s how I read his speeches and writings and in some literature.

[43:33] Anyway the radical transformation is he’s no longer just giving it up sit-ins and peaceful non-violent marches ezzz
pushing for economic equality by the late 60s he certainly flirting with socialism is no doubt about it
yeah and then that certainly fuels Elder Benson’s use and also his good friend Cleon skousen,
who will take some of these views and just blow them up and so what happens is that message. Benson and skousen who’s a very popular author is one of the most
prominent anti-communist authors in the country in the late fifties and into the sixties not just the Latter Day Saints circles but Across the Nation Scouts and give a talk.

[44:12] A public forum in 1958 in front of 25,000 people in Hollywood California
and Ronald Reagan Roy Rogers and some other Hollywood anti-communist were also on the form with them so that’s how big he was
and of course Cleon skousen wrote a book
call The Naked communist that President McKay had endorsed in general conference 1958 that’s what put them on the map of Latter Day Saints and also nationally that’s how we got to the international speaker circuit so anyway between Ezra Taft Benson and his good friend and neighbor in Utah
Cleon skousen they were
I’m giving talks and sermons all over the place talking about dr. King being communist and so naturally this sort of you know permeates and circulates throughout the church body and mr. Benson’s writings are sold everywhere.

[45:04] Madigan context is important with the rise of black power with the rise of some other of the more aggressive elements of black panthers,
you’ll start to see Elder Benson’s talks about communism in black people get more vocal and
and shrill if you will so anyway a lot of Latter Day Saints in the Intermountain west of picking up on that stuff and this is what you see in the 1980s when.
When it’s the Martin Luther King national holidays proposed and in 1986 when there’s is the first African-American lawmaker.
Maybe just a second I can’t recall but anyway 1986 an African-American lawmaker in Utah proposed the national the Martin Luther King holiday
and we’re not going into all the details here shortly.

[45:51] He was shot down there would even debated or consider it the time actually 85 when he first proposed it they wouldn’t consider the tide because they thought King was a communist among other things and he’s very frustrated this black lawmaker.
Because his colleagues most of former Latter Day Saints most of former White,
they just don’t understand dr. King they’ve been sort of said this communist stuff and they would never say it on the on the house floor during the debates they but they would tell him in private
Kaiser, you want to see why you support him and so anyway over so what they do is they decide to call it Human Rights Day,
maybe they just don’t want to call it dr. King Day
should I call a human rights day and the black community in Salt Lake even though it’s a small but it’s very powerful and noteworthy Community they’re upset by this because they want to honor the late rate
civil rights leader so anyway there’s several obvious who get involved with this and they start to work on some of these legislators legislatures overtime and they also work the church angle they recognize that.
Jared Williams who still the president of the NAACP in double ACP she was one of the leading figures and all of his she needs with
invite president Hinckley to speak at their Regional Conference in April of 1998 and this is really interesting and noteworthy because I think about what.

[47:12] What most Latter Day Saints or what Elder Benson in Cleon skousen had said about the n-double-acp back in the 60s
so King wasn’t the only, among them the NAACP they were also filled with Communists so anyway so
Elder president hinckley’s now the church president speaks at the end of Lisa. Joe Gathering and that’s what opens the door for better race relations between the church and then they play in the black community to be honest and so Jeanetta Williams is the one that brought president Hinckley to this meeting
and president Hinckley
recognizes why are we the last day to do this this is this is not right and so he gives the word to the church lobbyist
Acoma change the name change what does the number of people be nice to get present Hinckley all the credit for this
there’s several people working behind the scenes to make this happen until my 2000 Utah becomes the last date that Union
to change to Human Rights Day to the Martin Luther King federal holiday and they’re black activist involved there are church people involved both members Latter Day Saints in with them I know personally and their church leaders like President Hinckley.

[48:22] And they’re all Larry H Miller Utah Jazz there are other people involved coming to Beryl Utah legislature and so.
It’s really a remarkable thing if you look at how a lot of Latter-day Saints used to view the NAACP in the civil rights movement in the sixties in the seventies of my mm
Eric Taylor their views haven’t changed but the church is now supporting this very iconic leader in this national holiday.

Geoff Openshaw:
[48:50] It’s so interesting and even now I’ve noticed since president Nelson assumed the presidency of the church he seems to be even more actively involved
with the n-double-acp in the Years passed and he’s been speaking Ativan side in my memory fails me
I’ve seen the outrage that we’re doing with that group to be pretty conspicuous of late I know a lot of it’s genealogy focused but it’s very interesting to see how we’ve come a long way with.

Matt Harris:
[49:17] President Monson he was certainly in frail Health most of his church,
tenure present in 2010 I think what did he died in 2018 so he wasn’t in Good Help president Nelson there’s no doubt about it he’s opening the door for.
A better relationship and in my opinion he’s certainly standing on the shoulders of his predecessor in the church presents he Gordon Hinckley I don’t think that you would see the Outreach today with the black community if it wasn’t for
president hinckley’s efforts and I think.
Present Nelson would probably agree to that but they’re certainly that they’re trying to reach out to the black community and you know a lot of people.
What are there Progressive black Latter-Day Saints of progressive white Latter Day Saints or are Hispanic brother and sisters does it matter there some people who argue that the church owes the black community an apology for for the priesthood and Temple Band and some other things
and you know the church doesn’t get in the business of apologizing is present Oak said a few years ago he said we don’t give apologies nor do we seek them and so what I see is
I see this is a sort of an apology if you will of the church trying to move.
Forward the good-faith effort to work with our black brothers and sisters and I this is how I see it anyway.

Jared Gillins:
[50:34] It’s interesting going back to then-president Benson because we see him very vocally and I’d say Martin Luther King Civil Rights Movement.
But then you know he doesn’t.
I mean as far as we know he never spoke publicly after the official declaration to come out but but but I mean ostensibly he must have supported it so.
Weather on the other hand you get him a lie to himself with the likes of like Strom Thurmond in George Wallace like it’s hard to get like a clear picture.
President Benson or Elder Benson’s views on Race because it seems to be coming mostly in his policy positions and do we know much about I mean was he supportive of.
Black people’s rights outside of you know the uniform old Circle movements.

Matt Harris:
[51:26] Well if we could just work backwards for a minute during his presidency that
in when President Benson became the president and he was ordained I think and see January 1985.
Anyway this is during the time that the national holiday was.
Sweeping throughout the United States and Arizona there was a massive very vocal and high-profile blow up when Evan become the governor of Arizona was sworn in
is a Latter-day Saint guy he’s a close friend of Ezra Taft Benson he’s a close friend of Cleon skousen,
first thing he does is the governor of Arizona is to rescind the Martin Luther King holiday that the state had earlier.
Announce declared its support for and when Governor Mecum did that,
do you know just some of the Saints and in the Arizona special Mesa we’re just really angry and then there was some old-time Saints there that,
thought that making did a great job they were,
I know a couple of them actually they were members of the Birch Society so anyway then you are times picked up on this The Washington Post he created kind of a black eye if you will
with President Benson starting out his presidency and people riding in journalist writing into the church headquarters you know what is your what’s the year of the church’s stand on the Martin Luther King holiday

[52:48] And we became really high and distorted vocal when some of the old letters are old writings of Ezra Taft Benson so this would have been when he was an apostle the 60s when he was supposed to Merchants dr. King is a commie and you know when adults are in all of this stuff
some of those letters were published in Arizona newspapers in 86
so the church is trying to get away from this right-wing extremism I think this is really important to your listeners to know the church by the 1980s is trying to get away from
I’m not conservativism necessarily but right wing extremism and that’s what they viewed with the birth society and King and communism and all that stuff and so
they weren’t getting off to a very good start with
this episode in Arizona that made the national newspapers and we don’t have a good record of Elder Benson’s racial views,
by the 1970s but he does support the priests of Revelation is no doubt about it
there’s some good evidence to that he supports it and he’s been told by President Kimball that
you know look you just can’t do this your racial views I’m going to be take my filter out just for a quick moment but your racial views are not it’s not good for business week we can’t Mission eyes we can’t spread the gospel to Every Nation Kindred and if you think that black people are you know the line with Communism that’s just not going to work out very well when we’re trying to get into Africa
I was President Kimball position he also said that we can’t denounce socialist governments is Antichrist.

[54:16] That that hurts our missionary efforts in northern Europe many of these countries that love their socialism so anyway.
And President Kimball goes on record saying you can be a communist and join this church
so there’s some idiot logical differences between these two senior Apostles President Kimball who’s his ecclesiastical Superior than Benson of course is the next in line and so in my reading of the evidence that’s in here is President Kimball very clearly on this and recognizes that his public pronouncements
by the late 1970s just can’t do this any longer and in the in the 1980s.
I just finished your readers or listeners might be curious about this In 1980 this is the last time we’re president Benson gives a comment in public
that it’s very controversial it doesn’t deal with race at all but he gives a BYU devotional February 1980 in which she it’s called fourteen fundamentals in following the prophet.

[55:11] Yeah you guys might know that.

Geoff Openshaw:
[55:12] Remember that that was on my mission I was like yeah yeah.

Matt Harris:
[55:17] Well what you didn’t know I mean when I was at BYU we studied this and the teachings of the living prophets class and I think it’s still in the truck manuals I think.
I’ve been checked at the latest one but anyway he gives his fourteen fundamentals in and couple of the points are extremely controversial one of which says that a living Prophet is more important a dead one.
And anyhow that was one the other one was the prophets can speak for God even in politics or civic affairs.
And to the people who know Elder Benson’s you know long history of denouncing you know Democrats and Communists and socialists and liberals that they saw the writing on the wall that wouldn’t he
became the church president he was going to move the church to the hard right and and also Elder Benson had been talking about the church endorsing a political party just a few years before that
and so a lot of people really really when I say people I’m talking about BYU professors I’m talking about.
People who knew his background they complain to President Kimball.
They just said this is awful the newspaper’s picked up on it too of course they recognize a good story when they hear it so anyway President Kimball is really really upset this is really.
Elder Benson’s affecting his vision of this Universalist gospel in you guys may or may not have studied this by 1974.

[56:38] President Kimball gave this incredible speech I gave it to a seminar Regional representative,
seminars they call it in those days he said that
every member needs to lengthen their stride that became sort of the motto for his presence would lengthen your stride and what he meant by that was we need to do more about bringing the gospel internationally so that we can hasten the second coming.
Because before Jesus comes again we have to bring the gospel to these countries anyway so.
That’s the context of that that is his ministry that’s what he’s building his ministry up around is the despite of the Gospel around the world and.
President Kimball knows you can’t do that if you can’t get into Africa that’s the other
she was one of the things that lead them to lift the ban and secondly if you got this very outspoken and and and committed Apostle who’s talking about you know
socialism communism in the Antichrist and that black people believe in civil rights or communist that’s just that’s not good for the church so anyway Elder Benson his credit listens to this.

[57:40] And supports the Revelation 78 but yet still gives his controversial speech in February 80 at BYU the professors and other,
concern Latter Day Saints they write in to President Kimball and also the first presidency Express their grave displeasure of what they see is the writing on the wall that President Benson’s going to move to church to the far-right when he’s
president anyway Spencer W Kimball calls Benson end and he asked him about it in front of the entire Quorum of the twelve and it’s essentially rebuke.
Any forces other Benson to apologize for that
and apparently this is from Ed Kimball’s President Kimball son’s excellent biography called lengthen your stride there’s a passage in the book where.

[58:23] Present, wasn’t happy with elder Benson’s.
Apologies so a week later he has Elder Benson come back this time all of the general authorities are invited and he has to get a second apology to them.
And this is really humiliating for this very proud accomplished man it really is it’s the last time that.
That time he speaks publicly about politics and if you follow his presidency.
She could that timer to he’ll talk about gadianton robbers and secrets conspiracies but really they’re just sort of offhand comments he makes in various sermons but for the most part he focuses on other things that come to Define his his church presidents.

Geoff Openshaw:
[59:06] Well I wondered about them in my view I feel like yeah it was his most famous his church president for his talk on pride and of course encouraging us to read the book of Mormon.
That that’s that’s where his legacy and I was wondering I love learning about this cuz I wonder more like what really caused him to button up about the other stuff when he was church president in my view I think the easy way to interpret it has always been well you know it’s your change when you assume the mantle
right you you might fundamentally change and realize there’s other.
Bigger fish to fry other things to do but we also easily forget that one’s own lived experience can also greatly affect how how an individual is going to go about 2 leadership when the time comes even all the way up the level of being a prophet.

Matt Harris:
[59:50] I think I think it’s important I want to be as Fair as possible to to president Benson I mean that’s I just think we owe that.
Are the golden rule we want to treat others like we want to be treated and you know sometimes it’s hard to know.

[1:00:05] The motives for a chef just president Benson does he really have this ideological shift or does he is he sort of by circumstances forced to shift.
And I know there’s not an idiot logical shift with Benson you certainly forced to by circumstance and president hinckley’s the person that really.
I guess convinces him to President Kimball really deserves a lot of the credit present Hinckley is the one that sort of finishes at off and.
Is there trying to build on President Kimball’s Legacy and to president Benson’s credit I mean he can the first dinner with what he calls is a black Brazilian.
So how about you on my team so let’s be clear on that he calls him the also calls aperture into the first Quorum that present Hinckley wasn’t happy about
guy named Brooklyn Anderson
also I’ve had that given several talks to Latter-day Saints around the country about President Benson some of his views and you know that the old idea is that how he changed well you have to just
new onset a little bit in the sense that he recognizes he cannot no longer going to talk publicly about.
Conspiracies and the government’s evil and special you’re trying to Mission eyes to liberals and Democrats and people in Europe and all that but the people you know.

[1:01:21] He’s ordained at church president in November of 1985 is every call that’s when about the time that President Kimball died he’s ordained in November of 85.
In early January 86 the first thing that one of the first things that Benson does is he contacts the birth Society said hey can you guys can you send me your literature to my counselor is going to Hinckley Tom Monson.
Arthur haycock the president is now Emeritus who knew.
President Benson while I visit him in Salt Lake and he said something interesting to me he said I always got a chilly reception when I visited there.

[1:02:04] And he said you know nothing about that and I said yeah I think I do that some of the brother in just they were moving away from right-wing extremism and they just didn’t want I mean probably no offense to you but they just didn’t want somebody is associated with the Birch Society visiting with President Benson they wanted him to focus on other things in the church and not bring up
you know fight they had already fight you know 20 30 years earlier so clearly there’s a city logical shift going on and in 1992
General 42nd Court.
Number to General 300 Malcolm Jepsen his responsibility is is Idaho Utah and parts of Arizona anyway he goes around giving State conferences and he gives a whole long list of people.
He says if if you’re on my list you’re in trouble with the church basically I’m giving a crude paraphrase but he said that these are people too but you were.
Stockpiling weapons and you know years with a food storage survivalist and also those who are socially with the Birch Society.
If you fall asleep during apostasy in this is interesting because the two reasons everyone present Benz is still alive even though he’s not.
Communicating at this point he’s in such frail health and then secondly of course a lower-level general authority never would have done any of this. How do you not had approval from the high rocks so this would have been present Hinckley of course.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:03:25] That’s pretty funny to thinking about that with respect to another notable work of recent years educated by Tara Westover and so just talking about denouncing fundamentals in that capacity and yet
here we remain you know and I see it even today I don’t want to pull two sizes too much couple weeks ago in the church came out and formally prohibited firearms in a meeting house is right and.
I think it’s so exciting things about which we are passionate as individuals I saw so much commentary from individuals. Assume otherwise you’re pretty follow the prophet types like the ones I’ll just say that the prophet said it you follow it and you don’t question things
and yet these same individuals are posting like oh they will take the gun out of my dead hands like I will have my gun at church and I think it’s so interesting how
how much we sort of can be selectively obedient for one thing to pending on what matters to us most
but how even you know if the church comes out with very clear policies.

[1:04:22] We’re still humans apostates for something we might still follow through on our own leaning one way or the other.

Matt Harris:
[1:04:29] Well you know you guys recall the right about this to my second book I talked about Tara Westover her book educated how Benson skousen had influenced her for father,
and also right about the Bundys you guys recalls a couple of years ago right.

[1:04:47] Right yes I’ve got some really good stuff there but the Bundys were Vapor Dave Ortiz of Benson in skousen and what’s interesting is and they are also very active practicing Orthodox Latter-day Saints.
And when they were appealing to the Book of Mormon to justify what they were doing occupying this this these federal land in Oregon.

[1:05:08] The church put out a statement saying yeah we don’t support this and the bunnies were they were just flummoxed they thought they were doing God’s will they thought that what they were doing was in line with.
Church teachings and what’s interesting is people like them these these far right.
French types what’s interesting is that the church is moving away from that and they I guess they never got the Tweet they never said I don’t meet women but they they just shifting winds.
And president Hinckley is is but even someone like Elder Packer was very conservative Elder Packer was very vocal about.
Politics and he told us a quick story that your listeners might be interested to hear that when he called Malcolm Jepsen,
when when Malcolm Jepsen just before he was called into the second Quorum of the seventy in 1989
Boyd Packer who is friends with Jepsen Jepsen had they’d grown up together in Brigham City as I recall and Malcolm Jepsen was a physician by
trade and he was the personal doctor to Ezra Taft Benson and Laura Benson so there is a connection there anyway.
The boy Packer The Story Goes was.

[1:06:27] Driving his car one day and he felt the spirit told him to stop his car and go see his friend Malcolm Jepsen who has been at work in his medical clinic and so Packer goes in let the secretary interrupt him.
He’s with a patient can you interrupt them and so that’s what they did the interrupted him and dr. Jepson came out he met with his old friend of the Packer and other Packer basically said the spirit has prompted me to tell you to not join the John Birch Society.

[1:06:55] And you’ll know why soon enough and Jepsen assured him that he wasn’t going to going to join the John Birch Society.
It was like a week or two later where he was Elder Jepsen was called in as a general Authority and later,
Jackson’s family and they want to record saying that that we believe that if Dad would have joined the birth society that it would have been a disqualifying factor and it’s called The Church leadership.
So the bargain story here is the church is really really trying to move away from right-wing extremism under President hinckley’s leadership and even though most of the brother in the Republican even though most of them are conservative.
They’re trying to stay conservative as opposed to embracing these young radical ideologies that they think would Kurt you know church the church in the Long Haul around the world.

Jared Gillins:
[1:07:41] Yeah I noticed there were several times throughout the book where
the White Horse prophecy is sort of alluded to and introduce our listeners don’t know what that is that’s that this kind of spurious supposed prophecy that Joseph Smith gave that’s a of the Constitution would hang by a thread in the elders.
Rise up to preserve the constitution in the latter days there’s a lot of my car and I was like the last time I actually heard,
talk about that and I even found recently a few years ago that the Mormon Newsroom or whatever we’re calling it now.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:08:17] Church Newsroom.

Jared Gillins:
[1:08:18] Church Newsroom.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:08:19] The church Newsroom.

Jared Gillins:
[1:08:20] Can you search Newsroom issued a statement denying that the White Horse prophecy is is genuine so you think that’s kind of along the same lines of the the church moving away from right-wing positions that why they’ve also.
Distance themselves from things like the White Horse prophecy.

Matt Harris:
[1:08:39] Yeah absolutely you know to go even further back in 1918 Joseph F Smith who was in the church president he he said in conference that this is not doctor and its various but yet if you look at.
In the 1930s the brother in her struggling and there’s a World War there’s a great depression and you’ll see a number of Apostles talk about the White Horse prophecy and general conference
in 1948 in a conference tournaments are there. Benson spend an apostle for justice.
4 years at that point the first time in 1948 where he orders the White Horse prophecy,
and of all the brother and over the years either. Been since the one the others at the most and by 2000 people are asking in Orrin Hatch when he thought about running to the presidency are you the Fulfillment of this prophecy.
You know it’s kind of embarrassing to think right if your nephew running for national office that you’re the guy right in so.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:09:38] Orrin Hatch is going to be the one to deliver us everybody.

Matt Harris:
[1:09:40] Who did Senator hatch that the Prophet Joseph Smith had to learn hatch in mind it would say the Constitution anyway.
I’m sore and a hatching 2009 you get Glenn Beck picks up on this team that joins the church in the 1980s than his during the bush years as when his program takes off
wait so he starts to talk about the White Horse prophecy and then in 2012 you get this Idaho is this.
Latter-Day Saint who’s running for I think governor of Idaho in 2012 and he has he’s close a series of closed-door meetings with Latter Day Saints.
In which he talks about the White Horse prophecy which is odd because if it’s a public
position like running for the governor you think that you would have meetings with everybody not just Latter-Day Saints under closed doors when a word gets out with this guy’s doing and it gets back to the church journalist of course we’ll ask
hey what are you guys doing about this prophecy and that’s when the Mormon Newsroom is it was called the time that’s when they released a statement saying we don’t support any of the stuff.
And I was the first time I think in recent years where you see the church going on record saying this is not church doctrine but certainly wasn’t unprecedented because Joseph Smith it said it you know what you was earlier.

Jared Gillins:
[1:10:53] Sonny Diaz at you say that I didn’t know that doesn’t do what you say just asked me that said that.
Cuz I grew up in a household where my dad would like frequently reference to that need to be prepared so so funny that in spite of a president.
Coming out against it that the members kind of a lot of them didn’t get the memo on continued to pass on the spoke Doctrine I grew up with a penny weigh.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:11:18] It’s funny how we do that right it took a couple how long it take to get rid of polygamy
couple effort couple tries there I guess and I mean I’m a product of that I’m a product of states in Mexico flouting the rules and still being polygamist I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that but I think sometimes we take a long time to get the message actually.

Matt Harris:
[1:11:37] I think it speaks to the larger issue about how the church Works in my experience writing and studying
church history it’s in the church will rarely make these new loud blaring statements that we no longer believe this I just don’t do that what they do is they
they meet with people as individual so if somebody else if somebody’s going around the church saying I’m the guy that the prophet said it would save the Constitution.
Then the church would issue a public relations statement at the Idaho newspapers I think they’re the only newspapers that publish the.
The statement that we wanted people in Idaho to read it they didn’t see fit to you know publishing the Ensign or somewhere else where a broader audience of Latter-day Saints around the world could see it so they just put a Target there the problem rather than just make mosquito broad statement that’s.
Typically my experience and it’s probably a good policy to follow us both.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:12:26] So you mentioned of course you know Elder Benson president Benson helps kind of lurch the the body of the church to a more conservative place
I myself think we’re still pretty much there is a church body and we’ve talked a lot about what the brother in or trying to do for an official level on that we talked about how it’s hard to get that down at the working level on the church
why do you think that is so hard like a special I feel like Latter-Day Saints have a hard time separating their political views from their religious ones for example of an especially like in 2012 I can’t tell you how many people just assumed that we were all voting for Mitt Romney like in and.

Jared Gillins:
[1:13:02] Or even working on this campaign I remember somebody saying what have you been doing for the Romney campaign I said I’m not doing it.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:13:11] I love you tell them like one though I’m not even feel like I’m not going to vote for Romney I don’t think people step back and say what are you serious how could you not he’s not only a republican he’s one of our own you know how could you not do that.

Matt Harris:
[1:13:21] Yeah they ask Mitt Romney journals has Mitt Romney about the White Horse prophecy 2 in Romney just cleverly avoided the question which is you know smart.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:13:31] Classic Romney to that man that man wears many coats you know.

Matt Harris:
[1:13:34] Casa Grande classic politician responsible for
peek-a-boo high-profile interview in 1974 in which this is the Salt Lake Tribune in which he said that you couldn’t be a good Latter Day Saint Nick a Democrat,
he said that before behind closed doors but this is the first time you said it publicly and you know I’ll tell you what we Latter Day Saints.

[1:14:00] Loudoun book a lot because the Saints Row number of saints all right into President Kimball
in 1974 how could you say this I read this in the Salt Lake Tribune in this is the if you want a document I think we’ve all heard this that he’s that that’s been said before that that’s where he says it 1974.

[1:14:18] Jenna the Salt Lake Tribune interview anyway so Latter-Day Saints have sort of been you know inculcated with inside ear that you can’t be a Democrat the Mormon Stanley there people who believe that today and Ezra Taft Benson I think you know.
Shirley enjoys a large,
responsibility for that but also to that the American electrics changing I mean Latter Day Saints are not comfortable with the Equal Rights Amendment not comfortable with the Civil Rights Movement from the 60s
they’re not comfortable with abortion Roe v Wade so there was social issues out there in addition to president Benson that would
push them into the Republican camp and I will say that President hinckley’s worried about this idea that this is a one-party Church in by 19 1998 president Hinckley asked.
Marlin Jensen who’s a member of the first car with a 72 interview with the Salt Lake Tribune so this is the same venue in which president Benson had said what he said
30 or 40 years earlier about being a different kind of Mormon anyway so Elder Jensen interview with the Salt Lake Tribune
and he talked about the need to be have diversity in
Church politics that this can’t be a one-party church and I think one of the reasons why you said that was not just because he was a Democrat and he was chosen very selectively for this interview.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:15:39] Oh yes yes they knew what they were.

Matt Harris:
[1:15:41] You already knew what they were doing absolutely anyway but.
President Hinckley and also Elder Jensen recognized it was good for the church if they have diversity because you can’t you know if people think that you’re just as right-wing extremist Church
it might be prophets right you might attract some of the right Wingers but you certainly don’t want just to this to be a right-wing church and I think this is my opinion now I’m going to just speculate from almond.
My opinion is is that they’re looking at what’s going on with the with evangelicals Jerry Falwell
and this sort of Grassroots organization that Suites Reagan to power 1980 and you know the right wing.
Those guys Reverend Farwell and his group Ralph read some of those people they they give this idea that God,
did the Republican party is God’s Own party pack that’s one of them calls it God’s Own party the Republican party and so.

[1:16:34] The GOP that’s right so so present Hinckley in Elder Jensen I mean they’re they’re fearful about this cuz I don’t think this is good for business and if you look at today’s politics I mean we haven’t seen any other
I know we haven’t seen any other expressions from the brother and today about you-know-who diversity we certainly here,
political neutrality and in elections you know we’re not in a brace anybody but I think that the church has been burned before.
By I don’t think I know by people who were socially with a Birch Society and then later on Summit Cleon skousen groups using the church.
Meeting house is even higher sides even Sakura meeting where they would promote their right-wing extremism
and the brother of course have been clamping down on that since the 60s all the way into the seventies and into the 80s so they’re very careful about people play the sizing LDS meeting houses.
And they want to give the impression that the church is for everybody not just for people to certain political party.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:17:34] What’s a fascinating year I think we’re going to wrap it up there but.
Such a great bit of history for us to learn about and learn about how it affects us as Latter Day Saints today I think we’re still seeing the you know the the ripple effect from as far back as the 19 fifties and sixties and
without her Benson even today and we’re still navigating that as Latter Day Saints so Matt Harris thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us.

Matt Harris:
[1:17:57] Yeah it was a pleasure Jeff and Jared I enjoy talking to you guys.

Geoff Openshaw:
[1:18:01] Real pleasure I’m every everybody want to remind you that the listeners right now if that you can go to the University of Illinois press without a link for.
This book on our website you can go there if you can use the promo code Mormons 30 that’s the word Mormon the number 30 all one word on the website and get 30% off and free shipping of Thunder from the right I think that’s a worthwhile endeavor
for any of you. Thank you very much to my friend.

[1:18:28] Are you fine as this week. Com Facebook Twitter All That Jazz if you haven’t subscribed please do and that we appreciate you all taking the time to listen in for Jared format I’m Jeff
and be well be holy and be happy.

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