Ezra T. Benson

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Question: Who was Ezra T. Benson and what was the name of Ezra T. Benson’s (born in 1811) great grandson who became president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Answer: Ezra Taft Benson was born on February 22, 1811 in Mendon, Worcester County, Massachusetts, being the first son of John and Chloe Taft Benson. His father was a farmer and a very industrious man, a quality which his son inherited, and Ezra lived at home helping him on the farm until he was sixteen years old. At the age of twenty, Ezra married Pamela, the oldest daughter of Jonathan H. and Lucina Andrus. He would later marry her sister, Adeline Andrus.

Ezra tried various business ventures and eventually ended up in Quincy, Illinois. He wrote, “In 1839, I spent most of the winter in Quincy and here I became acquainted with the Latter-day Saints...After this myself and wife commenced attending the Mormon meetings at Quincy, and one day when returning home from a meeting my wife took down the bible and turned to first Corinthians, twelfth chapter, where Paul says, God hath placed in the Church Apostles, prophets, etc., and she said such men were in the Church anciently, and she did not see why such should not be so now, and she firmly believed Joseph was a prophet of God, which remarks produced in me a peculiar sensation, as I perceived she was convinced of the truth of the doctrines, and the word went forth that we were believers in Mormonism....[July 19, 1840] at the close of the meeting we repaired to the Mississippi River, and were baptized therein by Elder Daniel Stanton.”

“I attended the October conference at Nauvoo, and put up with Edwin D. Woolley and heard, for the first time, the prophet Joseph preach upon baptism for the dead. During conference, I was counseled to go forward to be ordained to the office of an Elder, I did so, and was ordained by Elisha H. Groves, and he promised me many great blessings...Late in the fall, President Hyrum Smith and Almon W. Babbitt came on a visit to Quincy by the instruction of Joseph; hearing that Hyrum was coming, I laid wait for him, and invited him to my house; he remained with us about three hours and read and explained to us some of the prophecies. The next day, Brother Hyrum called the saints together and preached to them and organized the stake by appointing Daniel Stanton, President, and Father Moses Jones, who was about seventy years old, his first councillor; he also ordained me a High Priest and appointed me his second councillor.”

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In March 1841, Ezra went to Nauvoo and bought a lot and built a log cabin on it. He moved his family there in June. From then until June 1842, he worked on the temple and took various jobs to support his family. In June, he was called to serve a mission to the eastern states. He returned in the fall of 1843 and built a brick home for his family. In the spring of 1844 Ezra was called on another mission, but returned home when word was received that the Prophet Joseph had been killed.

“The question arose by bro. Pack, who will now lead the Church? I told him I did not know, but I knew who would lead me and that would be the Twelve Apostles...I found Sidney Rigdon contending for the right to lead the Church, and in a few days the Twelve arrived, and when Bro. Brigham rose before the people and spoke, it was very easy to see who possessed the mantle of Joseph.”

In the fall, Ezra was called to be a member of the High Council, and in December, he was called to go on a mission with Parley P. Pratt. He returned in the spring and worked in the Temple until he was asked by Brigham Young to travel west with him. “About the ninth of February [1846] I started with my two wives and two children in the dead of winter, leaving my pleasant home and fireside. I left my furniture standing in the house, such as chairs, tables, bedsteads, and clock.”

“We arrived at Richardson’s Point about the 15th of March. At this point, my wife, Pamela, gave birth to a daughter, about eleven o’clock, on the 9th of March. It rained hard, we had nothing but a tent to cover her and had to raise her bed on brush to keep her from the water.”

Mt. Pisgah, Iowa

Mt. Pisgah, Iowa

They stopped at Mt. Pisgah, and later Ezra received the following news: “Bro. Parley P. Pratt came down from the bluffs with a line from President B. Young, directed to me, stating I was appointed one of the Twelve Apostles, to take the crown of John E. Page, and if I accepted of this office I was to repair immediately to the Bluffs and prepare to go to the Rocky Mountains.”

“After Bro. Brigham had accomplished his business I returned with him and his brethren to Council Bluffs. After the battalion started I was called to bro. Orson Pratt’s tent, about a mile from the ferry on the Missouri River on the east side. Bro. Brigham and the rest of the Twelve laid their hands upon my head. Bro. Brigham was mouth, and I was ordained one of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and many great and glorious things did he pronounce and seal upon my head.”

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Ezra was 35 years old and the twentieth Apostle to be called in this dispensation. As a member of the Twelve, he accompanied Brigham Young into the Great Salt Lake Valley with the first Sixty. The pioneers entered the Valley on Saturday, and on Sunday Ezra T. Benson addressed the first worship service in the Valley.

After missions in 1851 and 1856, he was called to preside over the Cache Valley settlements, and held this appointment until his death in 1869. He served as a member of the Provisional Government of the State of Deseret and the Territorial House of Representatives. His service in the Council of the Twelve extended over 23 years.

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Ezra died on September 3, 1869 at the age of fifty-eight in Ogden, Utah, and is buried in the Logan City Cemetery in Logan, Utah.

Ezra and Adeline’s great grandson, Ezra Taft Benson, born on August 4, 1899, became the thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Ezra Taft Benson

Ezra Taft Benson

Source: “Brief History of Ezra Taft Benson (1811–1869),” Written by Himself, In Elden J. Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1846–1847 (1971), 244–60, familysearch.org; “Life Sketch of Frank Andrus Benson,” by Eleanora Benson Allen, familysearch.org; findagrave.com