55 years ago today - Mar 5, 1964

[Meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve (minus Benson, who was in Europe]

[McKay:] "Before partaking of the Sacrament this morning, I should like to refer to an unfortunate incident which has occurred since the Council last met in this capacity." McKay was particularly upset at letters he had received stating that "a lack of harmony among the leaders of the church" was "creating confusion among members and friends of the Church."

He then put Joseph Fielding Smith on the spot: "I said that I should like to know today that there is no dissension among the members of this Council, and that we partake of the Sacrament in full fellowship and full support of one another. I mentioned that since President Smith's name is associated with Brother Benson, particularly in the matter of the John Birch Society, that I think it would be well for President Smith on this occasion to explain his association with the controversy."

Smith replied that "he was glad to do so." He acknowledged that "he did say that when Brother Benson comes home, he hoped he would not get into politics and would keep his blood pure." However, he did not intend his comments to be a personal attack on Benson, but rather as an acknowledgement "that in politics a lot of things are done that are somewhat shady. ...

McKay ... said that Elder Benson had full permission to give that lecture and he gave a good talk…. I further said that Brother Benson had said publicly that he was in favor of the John Birch Society, and that I had told Brother Benson that he could not, as one of the Twelve, join that Society. ... Brother Benson's call to preside over the European Mission had no relationship whatever to his desire to join that Society. I stated that so far as this Council is concerned, we have no connection whatever with the John Birch Society, no matter how good it may be and how noble its purposes; ...

Although McKay's defense of Benson was impassioned and unequivocal, it sidestepped the issue that had catapulted Benson's talk into the national spotlight, namely, Benson's implicit endorsement of Robert Welch's charges that Dwight Eisenhower, a close friend of McKay, was a tool of the Communists.

[David O. McKay diary ; Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Write, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press (2005)]

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