Posted on 4 Comments

Benson on Civil Rights & Communism (Part 10 of 13)

Ezra Taft Benson was a sharp critic of the civil rights movement and called it a communist conspiracy.  Why was that?  Dr. Matt Harris details the red scare, and why Benson was so opposed to both communism and civil rights.

Matt:  Elder Benson thinks that Martin Luther King–this is the Birch view, of course, but Elder Benson, following the Birch line thinking that Dr King is a communist agent. That somehow if you push for racial equality, you also want economic equality and that makes you a socialist and a communist. So Elder Benson is furious with Hugh B. Brown’s general conference talk, where the Church is on record as supporting civil rights. Now keep in mind what that means. Brown never said that we favor the civil rights stuff going on in Congress right now. Nor do we favor particular legislation in the State of Utah. There was nothing specific about it. He would write that too, to other Latter-day Saints who wrote him letters. “Does that mean we support the Civil Rights Act of 1963, that John F Kennedy is pushing through?” He’d write back, “We don’t support any particular policy. I just want you to know that we do support civil rights as a general principle.” So clearly, there’s some hedging with him.

We will also talk about his European Mission.

Matt:  …after the whole Harding speech on the floor of the Congress, it created a buzz storm. And the brethren and President McKay [decide] “We’ve got to get Benson out of the country. We’ve got to purify his blood.” That’s what Joseph Fielding Smith says in a private letter. We’ve got to get him out of the country and purify his blood. What he meant by that is purify his blood of politics, of Birch. In 1963, ironically enough, the same month that Hugh B. Brown is giving that civil rights statement in conference, Elder Benson’s going to get summoned into the First Presidency’s office to be told that he’s going to be sent to Germany to preside over the European mission.

Check out our conversation….

Dr Matt Harris explains why Ezra Taft Benson tied the civil rights movement to communism.
Dr Matt Harris explains why Ezra Taft Benson tied the civil rights movement to communism.

Don’t forget our other conversations about Benson!

251: Benson and John Birch Society (Harris)

250: How Ezra Taft Benson Joined Eisenhower (Harris)

4 thoughts on “Benson on Civil Rights & Communism (Part 10 of 13)

  1. It seems like there was good reason for Benson to believe that Dr. King was a communist sympathizer in light of what the FBI was saying at the time and trying to pin on King. Even President Kennedy asked King to stop hanging around certain people that were believed to have communist sympathies. Who knows if the FBI was falsely accusing King or not, but I’m sure in Benson’s mind there was good evidence and it’s not as crazy as it might sound today. At the very least it does sound like King had some sympathies towards Marxism and socialism. He was definitely a womanizer and had multiple affairs. If Benson was privy to FBI information at the time it’s not hard to understand why he thought the way he did. I’m not saying King was a communist, just saying it’s not as strange as it seems to see why Benson felt the way he did.

  2. “Who knows if the FBI was falsely accusing King or not…”

    That 2nd article you posted in the link says the FBI was falsely accusing King, and it was a purposeful misrepresentation of King. Over the next 3 episodes to be released, Dr. Harris says this was a purposeful smear campaign by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI greatly exaggerated ties between King and communism. King implored some associates to renounce ties to communism, which they did, but that information gets conveniently left out of most accounts. Like I said, we’ll keep talking about this over the next few episodes.

  3. Ezra Taft Benson’s grandson has a much simpler explanation based upon his personal contacts with his grandfather, namely, ETB was a racist.

    ETB and the Birch Society accepted and spread falsehoods about our civil rights movement which originally were authored by white supremacist individuals and organizations.

    For a very detailed Report on this matter, see the following online report which is based, primarily, upon data in FBI investigative files:

  4. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints prepared for their General Conference in October of 1965, rumors swept through northern Utah that busloads of Black rioters were on their way to storm Temple Square. The rumors were begun by JBS Coordinator Reed Benson.

    Benson sent a letter to Utah JBS chapters dated 9/2/65, captioned “Memo to Utah Chapters” stating that:

    “It is common knowledge that the Civil Rights Movement is Communist-controlled, influenced and dominated. Our founder and guide, Mr. Robert Welch, has instructed us that when necessary we must adopt the Communist technique in our ever-present battle against Godless Communism. It is urged that in the coming weeks the Utah chapters begin a whispering campaign to foster rumors that the civil rights groups are going to organize demonstrations in Salt Lake City in connections with the forthcoming LDS Conference…A few well-placed comments will soon mushroom out of control and before the Conference begins there will be such a feeling of unrest and distrust that the populace will hardly know who to believe. The news media will play it to the very hilt. No matter what the Civil Rights leaders may try to say to deny it the seed will have been sown and against the Civil Rights movement will suffer a telling blow.” [Excerpt from Benson’s letter appears at 4:27 of Radio West Films video program entitled “History Repeats Itself: Riots, Race and Rumors in Utah 1965” at:

    For additional details see:
    D. Michael Quinn: “Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts”, in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1993, page 36
    “Race Riots in Utah?” Daily Utah Chronicle, 9/28/65, page 5.
    “NAACP Chapter Claims Riot Report ‘Malicious'” Ogden UT Standard-Examiner, 9/28/65 page A-6.
    “Rumors of Riot Hit by Area NAACP,” Deseret News, 9/28/65, page B-1
    “NAACP Assails Rumors of Protest at LDS Meet,” Salt Lake Tribune, 9/29/65, page 18

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *