Introducing Benson only as Eisenhower’s secretary of agriculture, and omitting any mention of his subsequent role leading the LDS Church, Beck noted that his listeners were likely the same age as Benson’s grandchildren. Then came Benson’s voice, describing an ominous conversation he once had with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev:
As we talked face to face, [Khrushchev] indicated that my grandchildren would live under communism. After assuring him that I expected to do all in my power to assure that his and all other grandchildren will live under freedom, he arrogantly declared in substance, “You Americans are so gullible! No, you won’t accept communism outright. But we’ll keep feeding you small doses of socialism, until you finally wake up and find that you already have communism. We won’t have to fight you. We’ll so weaken your economy until you fall like overripe fruit into our hands!”
Church and state
DIVINE INSPIRATION Former LDS Church president Ezra Taft Benson once claimed communists would weaken the US economy with “small doses of socialism,” a frequent Beck rant.
Benson and Skousen were products of the Cold War’s heyday, in which Americans of all religious stripes were spooked by real and imagined manifestations of the Red Menace. But they also emerged from the distinct culture of Mormonism — which was shaped in its earliest days by violent conflict with the US government, and which still brings its own unique understanding to bear on key political concepts and institutions.
Take the US Constitution. As Michelle Goldberg explained in Kingdom Coming (Norton), Christian nationalists of every denomination believe that the Constitution is a fundamentally Christian document — and that the separation of church and state, as currently understood, represents a radical departure from the Founders’ ideals.
But Mormonism goes a step further. According to the Mormon scriptures, the Constitution isn’t merely a document written by deeply Christian men. It is, instead, the indirect handiwork of God himself. (See, for example, Doctrine and Covenants 101:80, in which God explains: “[F]or this purpose” — i.e., the preservation of moral agency — “have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.”)
In addition, there’s a widely known concept in Mormonism — not contained in the Mormon scriptures, but attributed to Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, and still influential among some believers — that effectively places believers on perpetual Red Alert for the Constitution’s possible demise. According to this tenet, commonly known as the “White Horse Prophecy,” there will come a time when the Constitution is in great jeopardy — when it will “hang by a thread,” in Smith’s purported words — at which point the Mormon people will come to its rescue.
Apparently, Beck believes that this terrifying crisis is now at hand (or just thinks LDS apocalypticism makes great radio). On Election Day in 2008, Beck interviewed Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who’s also Mormon, on his radio program: