Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography

By Sheri L. Dew

Synopsis: This is an authorized biography of President Ezra Taft Benson, written in his lifetime and published in 1987.

Strong Points: This book is a very detailed, and very enjoyable biography of a most interesting, great and stirring prophet, Ezra Taft Benson. It contains many valuable insights into the family life of President Benson, and makes the reader particularly appreciative of President Benson's wife Flora. Were it not for her stalwart support, it is not likely that Ezra Taft Benson would have achieved to all that he had. It provides interesting background information about the family heritage, a detailed picture of the marvelous quality of the Benson family, an insider's look at the lifestyle of Ezra Taft Benson before and after his apostleship, a little bit of information about his interactions with other General Authorities, descriptions of his unusual adminstrative talents and abilities, and leaves the reader with a deep impression of his sterling character. I can definitely say that this book compares favorably to the Gibbons biography. For one thing, it is longer and more detailed, and is better at capturing the image, character, and life of this great prophet.

Weak Points: The biography does not cover the entirety of President Benson's life, unfortunately, because it was written while he was still alive. While no doubt this enhances the material of the book, it does leave it a little incomplete. Especially interesting would have been some insight and commentary on the final years of President Benson's life, in which he was incapacitated. Also, I was bitterly disappointed when I began my reading of the book and read in the preface: "It is no secret that his [Ezra Taft Benson's] unequivocal and vocal support of freedom and the U.S. Constitution, and his condemnation of communism, socialism, and, in fact, anything that he has perceived as a threat to man's freedom, has aroused controversy and prompted certain critics to oppose him over the years. By and large, these episodes have not been detailed in this biography." (p. viii). That was precisely the sort of thing that I was hoping to glean from within the book. Nevertheless, the book did contain many anecdotes about Ezra Taft Benson's advocacy of freedom and some of the feathers it ruffled, which were enthralling to read about when they occurred in the pages of the book.

Interesting: 4.2/5

Must Read: 2.8/5

Overall: 4/5

Selected Quotes: "Elder Benson continued to meet frequently with President McKay. 'If you feel at any time I am getting off the right track, please do as you promised and "tap me on the shoulder,"' he told the prophet. On repeated occasions, he asked President McKay if he wished him to refrain from speaking on freedom, and in each case, Elder Benson was encouraged to continue." (p. 385).

"Certainly Ezra had tremendous impact over his posterity, in word and in deed. After receiving a priesthood blessing from her grandfather, for example, a granddaughter wrote, 'My heart is much too full to say this out loud so I'll write it. Half of the things you said were answers to my prayers that I had not ever thought would be answered in that way. The other half was an almost word for word quote from my patriarchal blessing. Grandpa and Grandma, I only hope I am worthy of you!'" (p. 445).

"President Gordon B. Hinckley said that all who worked with President Benson knew the 'gentle side of his nature. I know of no man more considerate of his associates or more concerned for their well-being. Graciousness becomes [him]. He has been blessed with a compassionate heart.'" (p. 449).

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