45 years ago today - Sep 9, 1975-Tuesday

[Leonard Arrington]
In his address which preceded his dedication of the BYU Law School, President [Marion G.] Romney told a story of his early life in the Church. He had been appointed Assistant to the Twelve and manager of the Church Welfare Program. From time to time important matters came up which he attempted to clear with President Clark and the First Presidency. Occasionally he received no response [from] the First Presidency and he used to go in and plead with them to give him an answer, and if he continued to plead long enough and wait patiently, he eventually would get an answer. He finally decided they didn't want to be bothered and decided to decide on his on and give them the opportunity of vetoing his policy before he put it into effect. He wrote a letter to President [J. Reuben] Clark and the First Presidency saying that he had been presented with such and such a problem which needed immediate solution, and he thought the answer was clear and explained what he planned to do and then he said, if I don't hear from you by such and such a time, I'll assume you have no objections and I'll go ahead and do it. Shortly after writing the letter, he received a telephone call from President Clark saying, 'Hello, Kid. Since when have you decided to tell the First Presidency what should be done?" It was obvious President Clark was miffed at his presumption and President Clark went ahead to say, "If you write to the First Presidency and get no answer, then you must realize that that is an answer!" When President Romney had told this story everybody laughed and he went on with his talk. To me it was not very funny. We have had some similar experiences ourselves and these experiences would suggest that it is not true that the failure of the First Presidency to answer means that that is their answer. ...

At Rotary today I ate at the same table with Wally [Wallace G.] Bennett, son of Senator [Wallace F.] Bennett, who runs the paint and glass business of his family. He was also formerly a president of the British South Mission during the administration of President Joseph Fielding Smith. He says that the most important problem which came up during his mission was the acquisition of land in a town, the name of which I do not recall, on which to build a chapel. The city had an arrangement that a church group like ours might be able to acquire the land at a nominal figure so long as it was devoted to social purposes such as religion. They applied to

purchase the land to build a chapel and before there was a hearing on the matter, the local Methodist minister prepared a fourteen-page document with quotations from Church leaders and scriptures saying that our view of the Negro was such that building a chapel and giving us a presence in the community would cause racial strife-that we would promote racial strife. He had quotations from Mark E. Petersen and Brigham Young and various other people well studied and documented-quotations that Brother Bennett had never heard of. This paper by the Methodist minister had been circulated among all those attending the hearing except President Bennett, who was not aware of it until it was read in his presence. He had to report off the cuff and was not prepared to do so. He reported this to his supervisor and received essentially no reply. He wrote in further and made further contacts with Church officials who visited the region, but nobody would reply to it or tell him what to say in reply. Finally a meeting was held at which were present President [Spencer W.] Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Gordon Hinckley, Theodore Burton, Boyd Packer, and others. They asked him to present the matter. They then discussed it to some extent and someone tentatively suggested that Brother Bennett ought to withdraw his request to the city housing authority and just buy the land through commercial channels. Brother Bennett replied that he didn't want to do that. He thought we could win it and thought we ought to see it through. Nobody would say anything or write anything or tell him what to do or say. ... It is Brother Bennett's understanding that they are now building or are scheduled to build a chapel on the location. I have the impression that all of this occurred in 1971-72 and that the British South Mission ....

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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