In 2001-02, I served as president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the oldest free-market educational institution in the United States.
When I arrive I felt at home immediately when I saw the photographs of three members of my faith who had served as members of the FEE board – Ezra Taft Benson (former Secretary of Agriculture), J. Reuben Clark, Jr. (former ambassador to Mexico), and Ernest L. Wilkinson (president of BYU).
Here is the story when Ezra Taft Benson came to FEE headquarters in May, 1977, and addressed supporters and then the board members.
In May 1977 Ezra Taft Benson addressed the board of the prestigious Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), of which he had previously served on the board of trustees (as had J. Reuben Clark, Jr. and Ernest L. Wikinson). He warned that while America had become the world’s richest nation because of free enterprise, today’s citizen was learning to depend on the state, thus jeopardizing personal freedom.
The following day he was invited by the president of the foundation, Leonard E. Read, to attend a trustees meeting. “The first question [they asked me] was on the Church, and they never left that theme,” President Benson wrote that night, “so I spent an hour answering questions, telling them about the Church, bearing my testimony to them and telling of Church policies and my experiences in the Cabinet.” One board member lingered afterwards and told him, “I want what you have. When we go home, I’m going to look up your church.”
Shortly thereafter President Kimball received a letter from Leonard Read, who wrote, “Last evening we had some 160 freedom friends to hear President Benson’s lecture, ‘The Productive Base of Society.’ Imagine the audiences and lectures I have arranged during…more than 31 years as President of FEE….Well, last evening was the best of all. Never have a witnessed such interest, approval, esteem. This forenoon, however, even topped last evening—this being an hour’s discussion with 26 of our Trustees and many guests. All were profoundly moved by Ezra’s economic, intellectual, moral and spiritual insights. Among my acquaintances in this and 22 foreign nations, I have never come upon his equal.”
President Benson sent an engraved copy of the book, Meet the Mormons, and a copy of the Joseph Smith story to each trustee of the foundation.
–“Ezra Taft Benson, A Biography,” by Sheri L. Dew (Deseret Book, 1987), p. 451.