I read Benson’s biography recently and here are my favorite quotes and takeaways from his book. He was such a delightful and interesting person to learn more about, being Secretary of Agriculture while also being an apostle is a great feat. I learned a great deal from him and share it here!
“I work as hard as I can and do everything within my power. And I try to keep the commandments. Then I let the Lord make up the difference.” There, in a nutshell, lies the formula to President Benson’s life and to his success.
Characteristics to Strive For
George Benson (Ezra’s father) was a man of sterling character who felt that no one owed him a living and whose ambition was to help his children help themselves.
A Poem about George Benson: “Men are of two kinds, and he was of the kind I’d like to be. Some preach their virtues, and a few express their lives by what they do. That sort was he.”
“Many who associated with Flora insisted that her popularity was in direct proportion to her kindness and willing acceptance of everyone. She herself said that any credit, if due, was owed her mother, who set the tone and direction of her life.”
As a Wife
“As always she has more faith in me than I had in myself.”
Ezra and Flora approached the task of nurturing their family unit with energy and enthusiasm. Their own relationship providing a solid foundation.
“I could see that I had a spiritually perceptive woman at my side and I’d ought to listen.”
Father and mother seemed to enjoy each other to the fullest. Never were they so happy as when they were together and the children were with them.”
“Very seldom, if ever, did I find mother depressed and never can I remember her raising her voice, except when she called father in from the field when something urgent had occurred.”
Flora counseled him, inspired him, and gave him increased confidence in himself. As time passed, though separated physically, their love deepened with the sweet affection born of absence.
“My being away places a double responsibility on you, dear, but I know the Lord has and will bless you. It is my constant prayer that you will be given strength sufficient to keep close to the children.”
Flora had a driving sense of purpose and allegiance. She felt that her greatest responsibilities were to encourage and support her husband, to rear righteous children, and to make home a haven that all wanted to return to.
While she had never discussed her feelings with anyone, she had had premonitions about her husband’s potential and life mission and had worked to help him to that end. She later recorded, “It’s been a lot of hard work and sacrifice and encouragement giving him faith in himself. He wasn’t all ready-made when I got him.”
As a Mother
“Barbara Amussen was deeply devoted to the gospel, her testimony nourished through lonely years living a principle that perhaps tested her spiritual mettle. And she was adamant about teaching the gospel to her children.”
Flora took on her role of mother with the zeal and applomb of a chief executive.
She believed that home ought to be the place where children learned, developed, and had fun. Home was to be a sanctuary from the world.
Ezra and Flora worked hard to cultivate that spirit in their home. The gospel set for them the standard for acceptable behavior and family priorities.
“The wife and mother who stays home and watches over the career of her little children is the bravest character in the world.”
This was an eternal family unit, they emphasized over and over, and they wanted-and expected-no vacant chairs in the eternities.
God elected women to the noble role of mother.
“The home is the center of our moral affections.” Accordingly, family members were to bear each other’s burdens and each other’s ambitions.
“Mother was a natural motivator, a great encourager. We always had a sense that if Mother was behind us, we could do almost anything.”
I loved this snippet about President Benson as a father: He would give one of his children a book or talk and ask them their opinion about it. “It elevated me to think he wanted my opinion, and he’d ask questions about it later. Now I realize it was also his way of getting good material into our hands.” He also left material on the table for babysitters.
Atmosphere of the Home
“Elder McKay completely changed the atmosphere in our home. He literally lifted us and filled us with hope and assurance and had us counting our blessings as we attend the funeral of that angel mother.”
Flora’s strategy built loyalty within the family. Home became a safety net. “I would have rather been home than anywhere.” Mother was the protective element, and Dad was there with his strength.
“I am so grateful I have been raised in a home with a foundation in spirituality—where everything that ever occurred, the question was asked beforehand, is it right? There I learned to pray in family prayer. There I learned the power of faith…you always showed me the better way. How can I help but succeed?”
“Mother was never a faultfinder. I was disciplined, but never berated. She handled the situation when we misbehaved, but never in a way that took away our self-worth.” Anything negative to be said to the children was discussed in private.
“It is better to lose than lose your temper.”
“No one is perfect. In our family it is not our objective to magnify each other’s shortcomings, but to encourage one another to improve.”
Family Comes First
There were two vital areas – family loyalty and obedience – where she was emphatic. Both she and Ezra were firm about the children’s not quarreling, stressing that they expected them to get along with each other.
The children had disagreements, but never in public. Never did they criticize or belittle a family member in the presence of others. If a brother or sister ran into difficulty, the others came to the rescue. A pattern of the older watching out for the younger ones developed. Family came first.
Despite ordinary squabbles, a deep unity developed as the Benson family matured. They worked together and counted on one another—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Whatever else had happened during the day, the Bensons prayed together. One significant by-product of their pleadings was deep family loyalty, a quality that sank to the heart of Ezra’s soul—loyalty to family and also to country.
As a Citizen
“I have a firm philosophy you cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves. I had to help the people stand on their own feet.”
The aim of the Church is to help the people help themselves.
This was a huge theme in his book and I love that he was passionate about the skill of learning self-reliance.
As a Christian
“Remember that whatever you do or wherever you are, you are never alone. Our Heavenly Father is always near. You can reach out and receive His aid through prayer.”
Ezra couldn’t remember when he didn’t have a testimony—not that his early life was marked by dramatic spiritual milestones, but he accepted the gospel and was willing to try to live its teachings.
“I’ve never had a real test of my faith, because I’ve always felt that regardless of the seriousness of conditions, the Lord was on our side.”
As a Church Leader
“The Lord has a way of magnifying men who are called to positions of leadership.” When in my weakness I was able to state that I loved the Church he said, ‘We know that, and the Lord wants men who will give everything for His work.”
“It seems like the Lord always strengthens the back for the burden, if you’re willing to take it.”Flora
Spirit of Gratitude, Family Prayers
George Benson was a man who took Church leaders at their word. Morning and evening prayers, with everyone kneeling round the table were never missed. “The spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving was always emphasized in our family prayers.” Because his parents relied heavily upon the Lord, Ezra, while still a boy, patterned after them.
Ezra couldn’t remember his father ever going to the field without first having family prayer. If he forgot, Sarah always reminded him.
“When mother prayed, you knew her prayers were getting through the roof. She got very specific with the Lord in her prayers and talked out situations with Him; even as a little boy I felt that when she prayed for me, things would work out fine.”
“the Lord has blessed us with health and prosperity and wonderful new opportunities. May we strive more fully to be worthy of His bounteous blessings.