50 years ago today - Apr 4, 1970

Shortly after the presidency's statement against the ultra- conservative NET organizations, all local LDS leaders received an announcement which began: "There are dangerous sinister trends developing within the church due to the liberal factions gaining control." The announcement urged all "those of the conservative mind" to "cast a dissenting vote against the liberal factions" of "the First Presidency with its social-democrat thinking" on 6 April 1970. This would remove from office the new presidency of Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, and N. Eldon Tanner, all of whom were known as opponents of Benson's ultra-conservative activism. In their place, this proposal claimed that "Brother Benson will sound the trumpet and thousands, yes tens of thousands, will heed his call and stand forth ready to sustain and support the fight for truth, right and liberty." Thus a general conference vote of Mormon ultra-conservatives would propel Benson into the office of LDS church president in place of the current president and ahead of other senior apostles.

Rather than dismissing this document as the work of a lone crank and giving it no further attention, Counselor Harold B. Lee publicly denounced it two days before the sustaining vote of April 1970 conference. He told the general priesthood meeting that "there is one vicious story to the effect that one of our General Authorities is allegedly being urged to present himself to lead the Church contrary to the Lord's revelation and to make people think there is some division among the authorities of the Church." Lee indicated that this petition and its supporting documents "are finding their way into our Relief Society meetings, into priesthood quorums, firesides, institutes, and seminaries." That was an extraordinary acknowledgement by Lee of the threat to the LDS church he perceived from ultra-conservative Mormons.

["TO ALL STAKE PRESIDENTS INTERESTED IN TRUTH AND LIBERTY THIS CALL IS MADE," photocopy of typed document, undated, in folder 22, box 5, Buerger Papers, with signed copies by J. Wilson Bartlett in MS 2461, LDS archives, and in folder 3, box 124, Hinckley Papers; Lee, "To the Defenders of the Faith," 4 Apr. 1970, Improvement Era 73 (June 1970): 64. From D. Michael Quinn, Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992), also in Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3.]

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