October 5, 2021

Lecture, October 14th: “Ezra Taft Benson: Beloved Mormon Leader, Controversial Apostle, Right-Wing Crusader”

Matthew Harriw

By Matthew Harris
Thursday, October 14, 2021 at 6:30PM PDT
Location: Albrecht Auditorium

Brief description: Ezra Taft Benson, the well-known Mormon apostle-president, is one of the most significant figures in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From 1953 to 1961, Benson served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s secretary of agriculture during which he developed a number of conspiracy theories that still echo throughout the church today. What Benson called “secret combinations” operating within the federal government today’s Latter-day Saints call the “deep state.” This presentation will examine Benson’s tenure in Eisenhower’s cabinet during the turbulent Cold War years, his subsequent affiliation with extremist right-wing groups, and his continued influence on the LDS church up to the present day. The final segment of the presentation will probe how contemporary Mormon leaders have tried to distance the church from Benson’s conspiracy theories and the measures they’ve taken to condemn the January 6th insurrection, antivaxx propaganda, QAnon, and Black Lives Matter critics. Register HERE to attend this free event.


Matthew Harriw
Speaker biography: Matthew Harris is a professor of history at Colorado State University-Pueblo where he teaches courses on race and religion, American Religions, church and state, and civil rights. He earned a BA and MA in history from Brigham Young University and an MPhil and PhD, also in history, from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. He has authored, co-authored, or edited several books, including Watchman on the Tower: Ezra Taft Benson and the Making of the Mormon Right, The LDS Gospel Topics Series: A Scholarly Engagement, and The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History.