October 5, 2021

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

Matthew Harris

Thursday, October 14, 2021 at 6:30PM PDT

Albrecht Auditorium, Claremont Graduate University

View a video of the event.

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.