In April 1972, the first date that my future wife and I went on was to a Brigham Young University multi-stake fireside where the speakers were Elder Ezra Taft Benson and his wife Flora Smith Amussen Benson. We had often heard President Benson speak at general conference, but this was our first opportunity to hear Sister Benson. Like her husband, she was a dynamic and insightful speaker. Both of them counselled students on how to prepare to be righteous fathers and mothers. As we celebrate Mothers’ Day nearly 50 years later, we still find it inspirational to look again at the lives and teachings of President and Sister Benson about motherhood.
Equal Partners in the Work of the Lord
In describing his wife, President Benson said of Flora, “I could see that I had a spiritually perceptive woman at my side” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson , 191).
At a press conference on Monday, November 11, 1985 President Benson announced that the day before he had been ordained and set apart as the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He continued with these words: “My wife, Flora, and I have prayed continually that President Kimball’s days would be prolonged on this earth … Now that the Lord has spoken, we will do our best, under his guiding direction, to move the work forward in the earth” (Don L. Searle, “President Ezra Taft Benson Ordained Thirteenth President of the Church,” Ensign, Dec. 1985). The phrases “Flora and I” and “we will do our best” showed that both husband and wife were united—as they had been all their marriage and in raising their family—in continuing the work of leading the restored Church of Jesus Christ.
Home: “A Refuge from the Storm”
Concerning their family life, their son Mark said: “I would have rather been home than anywhere. It was a refuge from the storm … Mother had more faith than any woman I’ve ever known. … I’ve never seen more praying in my life. At the drop of a hat she’d be on her knees, praying for the children, whether it was about a test or a fight on the school grounds, it didn’t matter. She and Dad both had that simple faith” (Teachings: Ezra Taft Benson, 191).
Because President Benson was frequently away at work and on Church assignments, Flora assumed many of the responsibilities for managing daily home life. It was clear to her children that she loved and cared for each one of them. Concerning the importance of motherhood, Flora wrote: “If you want to find greatness, don’t go to the throne, go to the cradle. There is mighty power in a mother. She is the one who molds hearts, lives, and shapes character” (Teachings: Ezra Taft Benson, 192).
10 Suggestions for Mothers
With love in his heart, President Benson recommended the following ways for mothers in Zion to spend effective time with their children:
“[First,] whenever possible, be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going—when they leave and return from school, when they leave or return from dates, when they bring friends home.
“Second, mothers, take time to be a real friend to your children. Listen to your children, really listen. Talk with them, laugh and joke with them, sing with them, play with them, cry with them, hug them, honestly praise them. Yes, regularly spend one-on-one time with each child.
“Third, take time to read to your children. Starting from the cradle, read to your sons and daughters. … You will plant a love for good literature and a real love for the scriptures if you will read to your children regularly.
“Fourth, take time to pray with your children … Have your children participate in family and personal prayers, and rejoice in their sweet utterances to their Father in Heaven.
“Fifth, take time to have a meaningful weekly home evening. Have your children actively involved.
“Sixth, take time to be together at mealtimes as often as possible. This is a challenge as the children get older and lives get busier. But happy conversation, sharing of the day’s plans and activities, and special teaching moments occur at mealtime because parents and children work at it.
“Seventh, take time daily to read the scriptures together as a family. … Reading the Book of Mormon together as a family will especially bring increased spirituality into your home and will give both parents and children the power to resist temptation and to have the Holy Ghost as their constant companion. I promise you that the Book of Mormon will change the lives of your family.
“Eighth, take time to do things as a family. Make family outings and picnics and birthday celebrations and trips special times and memory builders. Whenever possible, attend, as a family, events where one of the family members is involved, such as a school play, a ball game, a talk, a recital. Attend Church meetings together and sit together as a family when you can.
“Ninth, mothers, take time to teach your children … Teach them a love for the gospel of Jesus Christ and a testimony of its divinity … Teach your children sexual purity, proper dating standards, temple marriage, missionary service, and the importance of accepting and magnifying Church callings. Teach them a love for work and the value of a good education. Teach them the importance of the right kind of entertainment, including appropriate movies, videos, music, books, and magazines. Discuss the evils of pornography and drugs.
- “Tenth and finally, mothers, take the time to truly love your little children. A mother’s unqualified love approaches Christlike love” (Teachings: Ezra Taft Benson, 198-200).
As we read President Benson’s suggestions, it reminded us of what he and Sister Benson taught at a fireside in 1972. We believe that how they lived their lives and the gospel principles that they taught continue to be relevant for us to implement in our marriage and family relationships today.