45 years ago today - Sep 18, 1976

Former BYU president Wilkinson gave the invocation before Benson spoke at this dedicatory service of the Freemen Institute on 18 September 1976. ... Skousen, Wilkinson, and Benson had been allied as advocates of the Birch Society for more than a decade. Now, for the first time, all three participated at an ultra-conservative political meeting also attended by the secretary to the LDS church president. The evident news black-out of this meeting in all the regular newspapers of Provo, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, Utah, apparently resulted from the fact that newspaper reporters were excluded from this dedicatory service of the Freemen Institute. Even the Mormon-Birch Utah Independent reported only Benson's attendance at the dedicatory service.

D. Arthur Haycock, President Kimball's secretary, specifically linked the Birch Society with this ceremony at the Freemen Institute in September 1976. After Wilkinson gave the prayer at the Freemen dedication, Haycock confided to him on this day that "nearly all of them believed in the concepts of the John Birch Society." That may have been an overstatement, but more importantly it showed that the Birch Society and Benson in particular had a partisan friend in the First Presidency's office. Haycock had been private secretary to Benson as Secretary of Agriculture and was a confidant and significant influence on President Kimball.

[Wilkinson diary, 18 Sept. 1976. 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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