The Mormon Faith & Black Folks
Question #51

Q. Didn't a Mormon Apostle say that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Communist and that the entire Civil-Rights Movement was a Communist conspiracy?

A. Yes. That was Elder Ezra Taft Benson. Elder Benson was an admirer of The John Birch Society; a right-wing organization which opposed Communism and was popular with ultra-right-wing Americans in the 1959s and early 1960s and still continues today in some quarters. It appears that Elder Benson (ordained an Apostle in 1948) was convinced that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was part of an overall Communist conspiracy; deceiving blacks and out to establish a Communist government in the United States.

On Dec. 14, 1963, Elder Benson spoke at a meeting in Logan, Utah, sponsored by the John Birch Society:
"LOGAN, UTAH--Former Agriculture Secretary Ezra Taft Benson charged Friday night that the civil-rights movement in the South had been 'formatted almost entirely by the Communists.' Elder Benson, a member of the Council of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a public meeting here that the whole civil-rights movement was 'phony'.***" (Deseret News, Dec. 14, 1963)
Elder Benson's views at the time were not shared by other members of the Quorum of the Twelve. Indeed, some other Apostles were quite disturbed that Elder Benson did sometimes preach Birchism from the pulpit・in front of Mormon audiences.

In 1961 Elder Benson was scheduled to speak to a large gathering of Members in Los Angeles, and one Institute Director wrote to a journalist, "May a dumb spirit possess Bro. E.T.B."(The Snubbing of Ezra Taft Benson, p.1 online)

President Hugh B. Brown, a member of The First Presidency under President David O McKay, was particular upset with Elder Benson's conspiracy theories and his sometimes use of Mormon publishers and pulpits to promote them. President Brown was perhaps the most Liberal of all the Church leaders at that time. In 1963 The First Presidency decided to send Elder Benson on a mission・ to become the new Mission President of the European Mission. This was the first time an Apostle had been put in charge of a mission of the Church since the beginning of the 20th century. W. Averill Harriman, then the U.S. Under-secretary of State for European Affairs, wrote to Hugh B. Brown; asking him how long Elder Benson was intending to stay in Europe (Elder Benson was the Secretary of Agriculture under U.S. President Eisenhower and the State Dept. was worried he would stir-up the Communists with his Birchism). President Brown wrote back:

的f I had my way, he'll never come back!・(Snubbing, p1)

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, at that time the president of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote to Congressman Ralph R. Harding of Idaho the following:

的 think it is time that Brother Benson forgot all about politics and settled down to his duties as a member of the Council of the Twelve. He is going to take a mission to Europe in the near future and by the time he returns I hope he will get all of the political notions out of his system. I am glad to report that it will be some time before we hear anything from Brother Benson, who is now on his way to Great Britain where I suppose he will be, at least for the next two years. When he returns I hope his blood will be purified.・lt;span style="mso-spacerun: yes"> (Snubbing, pp.1-2)

After returning from his assignment as European Mission President Elder Benson continued his duties as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. He did write a book titled An Enemy Hath Done This where he continued the theme that the Civil-Rights Movement was Communist inspired and directed. He did say some harsh things about Dr. King in that book; which was not published by the Church but by a small private Mormon publisher. At the 1965 General Conference in Salt Lake City, he told the Members:
"What are we doing to fight it [communism]? Before I left for Europe I warned how the Communists were using the civil-rights movement to promote revolution and eventual take-over of this country." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 7, 1965, p.A-5)

At the Church Semi-Annual General Conference in October, 1967, Elder Benson declared:
"The Communist program for revolution in America has been in progress for many years and is far advanced. While it can be thwarted in a fairly short period of time merely by sufficient exposure, the evil effects of what has already been accomplished cannot be removed overnight. The animosities, the hatred, the extension of government control into our daily lives--all this will take time to repair. The already-inflicted wounds will be slow to heal.
First of all, we must not place blame on the Negroes. They are merely the unfortunate group that has been selected by professional Communist agitators to be used as the primary source of cannon fodder. Not one in a thousand Americans--black or white--really understands the full implications of today's civil-rights agitation. The planning, direction, and leadership come from the Communists, and most of those are white men who fully intend to destroy America by spilling Negro blood, rather than their own.
Next, we must not participate in any so-called 'blacklash' activity which might tend to further intensify inter-racial friction. Anti-Negro vigilante action, or mob action, of any kind fits perfectly into the Communist plan. This is one of the best ways to force the decent Negro into cooperating with militant Negro groups. The Communists are just as anxious to spearhead such anti-Negro actions as they are to organize demonstrations that are calculated to irritate white people.
We must insist that duly authorized legislative investigating committess launch an even more exhaustive study and expose the degree to which secret Communists have penetrated into the civil rights movement. The same needs to be done with militant anti-Negro groups. This is an effective way for the American people of both races to find out who are the false leaders among them." (General Conference Report, Oct. 1967, p.38)
Elder Benson was convinced that the Communists were behind both the civil-rights movement and many anti-Negro groups (KKK, White Citizen's Councils, etc.). This was all part of a Communist conspiracy to start race wars and enter power after the United States government could not control the chaos. From his book An Enemy Hath Done This it is clear to see that he believed that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., now an icon and martyr for African-Americans (and many white Americans) was a secret Communist, immoral, and a knowing player in the conspiracy.

*Was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a Communist?

The John Birch Society has claimed from the early stages of Martin Luther King Jr.'s public career than he was a "Communist". Later, they declared King plagarized works in university for his Master's thesis and doctrinal dissertation. They also claimed that King was an "adulter" (had affairs) and "whoremonger" (used white prostitutes). White-supremacist organizations have since promoted these claims on the Internet and in their publications.

Since the early 1970s the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been presented as a very noble man. In the U.S. there is an annual holiday (Jan. 15th) called "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day"). His image is constantly on television, and in public libraries. The African-American Community, and in a growing number of African countries, he has become an icon and a hero.

Is there any truth to what The John Birch Society said about him?

Unfortunately: YES!

Although not well-known the general public, most American historians and scholars of the 20th century history know the following as facts regarding Dr. King:

1) He did plagarize heavily in his masters thesis, doctrinal dissertation, and in a number of sermons he gave.

2) He did have numerous affairs with black female aids and friends. Several of them have publicly stated this over the years. He did use prostitutes upon occassion; including white prostitutes. The night before he died, at the Lorrain hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, he had two white prostitutes in his room with him.

3) He close advisor and secretary from 1955 to 1961 was Bayard Rustin; a black member of the Communist Party USA. His personal secretary from 1961 until his death in 1968 was Jack O'Dell, who was a member of the National Community of the Communist Party USA in 1962. In 1979 Evans-Raymond Pierre, a close associate of MLK Jr., told the Senate Judicial Committee: "While I was in the Communist Party, as a loyal American Negro, I knew Martin Luther King Jr. to be closely associated with the Communist Party." (Martin Luther King's Communist Connections, p.1 online) As a young man MLK Jr. attended the Highlander Folk School; which today is recognized as a private school founded by the Communist Party USA to train young Communist leaders (both black and white).


A young MLKJr. at Highlander Folk School next to know American Communist Party members

4) Althought an ordained Baptist minister like his father, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Sr., MLK Jr. did not believe in Jesus' virgin-birth or resurrection from the dead. He considered these "myths". He believed Jesus was the "Son of God" in only the most metaphorical, non-literal, sense.

Recently, the African-American scholar, Prof. Michael Eric Dyson of Columbia University, published a book titled I May Not Go There With You. In the book he admits that MLKJr. committed plagarism, adultery, used white prostitutes, and had Communist "connections". Prof. Dyson then goes on to defend MLKJr.; placing the blame upon "white society"; MLKJr. associated with Communists because without their money he couldn't accomplish their goals, he used white prostitutes because white society had "emasculated" the black man, etc., etc.

The reaction of MLKJr.'s family and some of those who have come to revere him to the ongoing "revelations" of his private self has either to remain totally silent, or to claim that "it's all lies" and part of a right-wing "conspiracy" to damage King's reputation and to lessen him in the eyes of African-Americans and white Americans who admired him.

In An Enemy Hath Done This Ezra Taft Benson called MLKJr. a "hypocrite". This is perhaps because Elder Benson knew things about MLKJr. that the general public didn't know. Elder Benson's soon, Reed Benson, was a member and public relations director of The John Birch Society at one time. It seems also apparent that the FBI (then under J. Edgar Hoover) had bugged rooms that MLKJr. stayed in as well as telephones he used for years. Hoover deliberately leaked damaging information about him to the American press; hoping it was ruin him, or that he would even commit suicide once people knew he used white prostitutes. It is also probable that FBI agents who were also members of The John Birch Society shared information with the society that even the American media didn't have at that time.

*Was or is The John Birch Society a racist or white-supremacist organization?

Socialists and radical liberals claim that The John Birch Society is "secretly" white-supremacist and racist. They say "secretly" because the society has always accepted black and Jewish members; although comparatively few blacks have joined it. The John Birch Society has never advocated segregation, nor has it published Anti-Black racist literature. The John Birch Society seems to be what it claims to be: an avidly Anti-Communist (by "Communist" they mean card-carrying Communist and Socialists and Liberal Democrats and Liberal Republicans who believe in what they consider to be socialist programs). It's magazine, The American Opinion and The New American has never published an "anti-black" or anti-semitic article.

Critics of The John Birch Society point-out that a number of racists and anti-Semites have been members of the society. The society admits this, and declares when racists and anti-semites are discovered, they are thrown out of the society.

*Conclusion

It is not the purpose of this book to judge or condemn the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to better the lives of African-Americans. He preached peace and tolerance instead of hate and anger. He tried to improve the lot of his oppressed people; regardless of whom he thought he needed to work with, and get help from, to do it; and regardless of his personal failings as a man. In that respect he was indeed a "hero"; for even on the battlefield a "hero" is made by his actions in the heat of battlefield, and not when he is or does elsewhere!

But~the evidence is clear~Elder Benson was essentially correct in what he wrote about Dr. King, and what he wrote about the Communist influence over the Civil-Rights Movement. According to Elder Benson, the white Communists cared nothing for the "Negro", but to use them and spill their blood (not their own) in order to take over the U.S. and make it a communist state.

It is unfortunate the Elder Benson did not champion the cause of the Negro while he condemned the Communists. Like most Mormons in his day, the only time Elder Benson even saw African-Americans was during train trips; where African-American porters, waiters, and cooks "smiled" (they did so for larger tips) and seemed "happy". This convinced Ezra Taft Benson (and many other white Americans at the time") that "the Negro is happy". Blacks who worked for the railroad probably were happy; since they got paid more than most blacks in their day. But, at the same time, blacks in the South had no vote, could not sit on juries, could not usually attend public universities, had to give up their seats on buses to white folks, had to show utmost respect to whites as a matter of course and only get respect back if the whites thought to be "kind" to them, and were constantly harassed by white-racist "gangs".

But Elder Benson never saw that part of African-American life; as didn't most white Americans of his generation.

The First Presidency, and other members of the Council (now called "Quorum") of the Twelve were very displeased with Elder Benson "preaching Birchism" from the pulpit at General Conference and at Stake (local) conferences. This is probably why he was sent to head the European Mission; as no apostle in the Church had done since the late 1800s! Hugh B. Brown, a Counsellor to David O. McKay (and therefore Benson's superior in the Church) was particularly upset. President Brown was an avid supporter of the Civil-Rights Movement and a known Liberal in politics and belief. He may have be the author of the move to send Elder Benson to Europe for three years; as a form of punishment for his "Birchism".

We don't know if all the other apostles of the Church thought like Hugh B. Brown did. They probably had their own personal feelings about Communism, the civil-rights movement, and even MLKJr. However, most or all of them (except for Elder Benson) believed that one's personal politics should be kept out of Church business! To speak politics at General Conferences or even Stake conferences, or even inside Mormon chapels, is considered taboo (forbidden) in the Mormon Faith. Members who do so are admonished to "cease and dissist". If they ignore that counsel, they can be put on probation, disfellowshipped, or even excommunicated.

*Hugh B. Brown and the Priesthood-ban

Rumors say that President Brown disbelieved in the Priesthood-ban, thought it was a mistake, and wanted President McKay to overturn it, and that President McKay agreed to do so but died of natural causes before he could act.

Any truth?

I can find no facts to substatiate that. If it was true, then the Minutes of the Joint Meeting of The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve would have revealed that; if President McKay ever spoke of it at those joint meetings. Unfortunately, the Minutes of those meetings are not open to the public; not even to Members of the Church. Also, President McKay seems to have accepted the Priesthood-ban as from God; according to all his public correspondance. In the last years of his life, President McKay did suffer from senility, and it is possible that he may had shook his head "yes" or "agreed" with something President Brown may have said, but, again, there is no confirmation of this rumor.

In 1985 Elder Benson, then the senior Apostle, became President Ezra Taft Benson; the 13th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His time as President of the Church was marked by an emphasis on reading and studying The Book of Mormon, but in no sermon did he mention politics, the Civil-Rights Movement, nor Communism.


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