Ezra T. Benson

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Missionary Experience

Ezra T. Benson was born in Massachusetts in 1811. He grew up among farmers and learned to work hard. When he was 20, he married Pamelia Andrus. A series of moves and different attempts to make a living took them eventually to "the West",where they settled in Quincy, Illinois in 1839.

Many members of the Church were moving to that area at the time, having recently been driven out of Missouri by the mobs of Governor Boggs. The Bensons were impressed by their new neighbors, and after careful investigation of the doctrines of the Church, were baptized in 1840.

In June 1842, Elder Benson was called on his first mission, to the Eastern states.  He prepared with eagerness, and started the journey "without purse or scrip." As soon as they left Nauvoo, the missionaries began their work, preaching along the way. Some of the early meetings went well; at Chambersburgh, Illinois, they arranged to preach in a schoolhouse.  Elder Benson recorded:

"The house was filled, and many stood outside at the windows. I preached for one hour and a half, and felt as though my feet were about six inches from the floor, for, when I stepped, I could not feel it. 

Many said at the close of the meeting that they had never heard such a discourse in their lives. I really began to think I was a preacher. The people requested me to tarry with them longer, but as my appointment was out, I thought it necessary to continue my journey."

Elder Benson's confidence in his abilities apparently led him to some pride; in the next city, called Milton, he had a different experience and seemed to learn a lesson:

"I had a small congregation, and made an attempt to preach, but it proved the dryest discourse I ever heard, since I did not put my trust in the Lord as much as I should have done.  Had there been a back door, I think I should have been missing.  But just as I was closing, Brother Harlow Redfield came into the meeting, and I called on him to speak.  Being quite a preacher, he saved the meeting. It proved to be satisfactory to the congregation."

Elder Benson learned the lesson well, and went on to be a persuasive and inspirational speaker. He was called to serve as an apostle in 1846, came to Utah with the pioneers the next year, and served faithfully until his death in 1869.

The great-grandson of Ezra Taft Benson, bearing the same name, was born in 1899 and became the 13th president of the Church.

(See Evans and Anderson, Ezra T. Benson, Pioneer, Statesman, Saint, p. 53; and Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:99)