During President Ezra Taft Benson's term as leader of the 8.5 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of the most dramatic political events of the century occurred, opening doors previously closed to the spread of the gospel throughout the world.
President Benson was named the church's 13th president Nov. 11, 1985. He selected President Gordon B. Hinckley as his first counselor and President Thomas S. Monson as his second counselor in the First presidency.In a press conference, President Benson said the church would continue its threefold mission: to proclaim the gospel, to perfect the saints and to redeem the dead. He called on church members "to be faithfulo and keep the commandments of God."
Several other significant events occurred during the remainder of 1985. They were:
-Creation of the church's 10,000th ward on Nov. 24.
-Groundbreaking ceremonies for the Las Vegas Temple, Nov. 30.
-President Benson addressed his first annual First Presidency Christmas devotional in the Tabernacle on Dec. 1. He urged members to do as the wise men of old and continue to seek the Savior.
-Dedicatory services for the Seoul Korea Temple, the only temple on the mainland of Asia, were held Dec. 14-15. An open house Nov. 26 through Dec. 7 attracted 12,500 visitors.
-On Dec. 20, the First Presidency was host for a Christmas open house for about 60 Salt Lake religious leaders of 11 denominations. It was the first time the First Presidency has held such a reception for local religious leaders.
-The First Presidency issued a special statement Dec. 22, inviting members who have become inactive to return to the church. Their Christmas message extended love and compassion to those who sorrow or are otherwise burdened, and encouraged people to reach out and bless the lives of others.
-After a full schedule his first two months as a prophet, President Benson entered his first full year in that position in 1986. He started the year by visiting Washington, D.C., Jan. 4-6, for his first official trip outside Utah since becoming church president. He paid courtesy calls upon President Ronald Reagan and then-Vice President George Bush in their White House offices, and upon other Washington dignitaries. President Benson reported to President Reagan on contributions by church members to fight hunger around the world--including $3.8 million donated after the church's First Presidency urged members to participate in the National Day of Fasting declared by Reagan Nov. 24.24, 1985. Church members had also donated $6.6 million in a similar fast earlier in 1985.
-The visit kicked off a year full of temple dedications, official visits and awards for President Benson. The Lima Peru temple was dedicated Jan. 10-12, bringing the total operating temples in the church to 38. Dedicatory services were held Jan. 17-19 for the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple.
-President Benson and his counselors were formally sustained by members of the church during a solemn assembly the afternoon of April 6 in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. The sustaining was done during the concluding session of the church's 156th annual General Conference and marks only the 11th time such a solemn assembly has been called in the history of the church.
-April 30 marked the church's 6 million membership milestone.
-President and Sister Benson spent four days on a two-island visit in Hawaii May 10-13. While there, President Benson spoke to some about 800 priesthood leaders and addressed about 6,000 members.
-On May 18, the first-ever Aaronic Priesthood commemmoration meeting that also involved the Young Women of the church was held, with President Benson counseling all the church's youth to be morally clean, stay close to their parents and "watch and pray."
-On june 18, President Benson was presented with the Service to Freedom Award by the Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation. He was honored for a lifetime of service in activities that support and reinforce the basic values of freedom and responsibility.
-During the 156th Semiannual general conference in October 1986, an announcement was made discontinuing seventies quorums in stakes of the church and the calling of new members to the Council of the Twelve and the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
-President Benson presided over the dedication of the Denver Temple in late October.
-On Nov. 11, some $6.5 million raised from a churchwide fast in 1985 was disbursed to organizations fighting hunger in Africa.
-The church's first of what became annual Christmas devotionals was held Dec. 7, and included an address by President Benson. It was beamed via satellite to meetinghouses through the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
-The Tabernacle Choir presented its 3,000 radio broadcast Feb. 15, making the program the longest-running in the free world.
-On March 12, the First Presidency said the church-owned Westin Hotel Utah--a Salt Lake landmark for 76 years-- would be closed as a hotel Aug. 31. The building was renovated into a meetinghouse and office building for church departments.
-President Benson undertook his first journey outside North America since becoming president, traveling to Finland May 16-17 to address a conference in Helsinki.
-Latter-day Saints throughout the British Isles participated in three days of celebration July 24-26 in commemmoration of the 150th anniversary of the first church missionary work in Great Britain. President Benson and other general authorities attended.
-The Frankfurt Temple was dedicated Aug. 28 by President Benson. The 11 dedicatory sessions over three days were attended by a total of 12,570 members.
-In September, President Benson participated in celebrating the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, speaking during a special commemmorative fireside at Valley Forge, Pa., on Sept. 13. He also participated in the church's Constitutional Bicentennial Ball at the Hotel Utah Sept. 18.
-President Benson suffered a mild heart attack on Oct. 15 and was hospitalized for nine days.
-On Feb. 27, President Benson broke ground for the San Diego Temple. It was his first trip out of Utah since being hospitalized.
-A fireside at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Feb. 14 honored the church's 75th anniversary of association with the Boy Scouts of America. President Benson, who hold Scouting's highest honor, was also honored.
-On May 11, President Benson was honored as the most distinguished alumnus in Utah State University history as part of the institution's centennial celebration.
-On June 8, members commemmorated the 10th anniversary of the revelation giving the priesthood to all worthy male members.
-The church reached a milestone in mid-August, with the completion of 100 million endowments and baptisms for the dead.
-On Oct. 28, the German Democratic Republic granted the church the right to conduct missionary work in that country and to allow missionaries from the GDR to serve both in their native country and elsewhere in the world.
-In April, President Benson received the highest honor in international Scouting, the Bronze Wolf, during the priesthood session of LDS General Conference.
-April 10, the LDS Church Foundation announced establishment of the Ezra Taft Benson Merit Scholarship Fund at Utah State University.
-On June 27, he attended the dedication of the newly renovated $1 million Carthage Jail complex and spoke briefly.
-President Benson received the Freedom Award at America's Freedom Festival in Provo July 1.
-President Benson presided and spoke briefly at the Portland Temple dedication Aug. 19-21.
-Brent Scowcroft, assistant to President Bush, presented President Benson with the U.S. Presidential Citizens Medal for "a lifetime of dedicated service to country, community, church and family," on Aug. 30.
-On Nov. 18, President and Sister Benson attended a celebration of the 120th anniversary of the Young Women's organization in Provo and rang a bell symbolic of Brigham Young's call to his daughters to organize themselves.
-In December, he presided over the dedication of the Las Vegas Temple.
-On March 3, he served as the grand marshal for a parade in Salt Lake City commencing the world's largest Scout-O-Rama event.
-On June 20, he was admitted to LDS Hospital and released four days later after treatment for a bacterial infection.
-On Sept. 19, he underwent surgery to remove fluid collected around his brain. More fluid was surgically drained on Sept. 23.
-About May 1, the church's 500,000th full-time missionary was called.
-About Sept. 1, church membership reached 8 million.
-On Jan. 16, he received the first Humanitarian Lifetime Achievement Award.
-On May 2, he broke ground for the Bountiful Temple.
-On Aug. 14, his wife, Flora Amussen Benson, died.
-Church membership at the end of 1992 was announced at April conference as 8.4 million, with more than 46,000 full-time missionaries.
-On June 27, the former Westin Hotel Utah was reopened as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
-On May 13, he was inducted into the University of Idaho Alumni Hall of Fame.