'Memorial to great life well lived'

Ground was broken April 9 for a new building at BYU that President Gordon B. Hinckley said "will become as a memorial to a great life well lived and dedicated to the improvement of people and circumstances in which they live."

President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, presided over and addressed a ceremony to break ground for the Ezra Taft Benson Science Building on the BYU campus. President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, also addressed the gathering of several hundred people. They had assembled in a large tent south of the Eyring Science Center and east of the Joseph Smith Building, where the new building will be constructed.The design for the new 180,000 square-foot building, which will be one of the largest buildings on campus, features three connected wings.

The east wing, which will house biochemistry facilities, will be two stories high, with both floors above ground. The central and west wings will have faculty and student offices, laboratory and classrooms for the other chemistry areas: physical, analytical, inorganic and organic. The central building will consist of four above-ground levels plus a basement. The west wing's ground-level space will be devoted to classrooms and three auditoriums. (See March 27 Church News for architectural rendering of the new building.)

President Benson was unable to attend the groundbreaking ceremony because of his health.

BYU Pres. Rex E. Lee, in conducting the ceremony, recognized four of President Benson's six children and their spouses: Reed Benson and his wife, May; Mark Benson and his wife, Lela; Barbara Benson Walker and her husband, Robert; Beverly Benson Parker and her husband, James. President Benson's other two daughters were unable to attend. Beth B. Burton is in Europe where her husband, David, is president of the Germany Frankfurt Mission, and Bonnie B. Madsen lives in Littleton, Colo., with her husband, Lowell. Many of President Benson's grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended the ceremony. Also, Pres. Lee recognized the presence of one of President Benson's sisters, Lera Benson Whittle of Provo.

At the ceremony, President Hinckley announced that after the Ezra Taft Benson Science Building is completed, the Eyring Science Building will be renovated.

President Hinckley commented on the continuing growth of BYU's campus, and reflected on an occasion about 25 years ago when it was said no more buildings would be constructed at the university. But that has not been the case, President Hinckley said, stating, "The fact is that you can't stand still. In the world in which we live, you have to keep up with the world; in fact, you have to stay a little ahead. That's the purpose of this building, a science building, in which primarily chemistry will be taught.

"I am sobered by the thought that during my lifetime there has been more scientific discovery than in all the preceding generations. This is the great age of science. This is the age of chemistry. When I arose this morning, thinking of this occasion, I looked out the window through my plastic lenses - artificial implants in my eyes as a result of surgery - and thought, `Look at the beautiful morning.' " He said he was able to see it through the fruits of chemistry.

"I put on clothing that is the result of chemistry," President Hinckley continued. "The suit I wear is part wool and part polyester. I put on shoes, the leather of which was tanned through chemistry; the soles of which were made possible through chemistry. I came down here in a car, and as I looked around at the beautiful interior of that car, I noticed all the plastic inside that is the result of chemistry. The beautiful paint on the surface came through the fruits of chemistry. Chemistry has become the very essence of our lives.

"In fact, when you reflect on it, the greatest of all chemists was the Creator. There will never be another to excel, regardless of what is done in this building or any other building."

He cited an advertising slogan of a chemical firm: "Better things for better living through chemistry."

President Hinckley spoke of the need to construct a new science building at BYU, and expressed concern about what it is going to cost. "This money comes from [the tithes of] the faithful of the Church across the world," he said. "That vast sum of money will be spent to serve relatively few who will be the beneficiaries of this new structure and the teaching and learning processes that occur within it. I hope every student who learns here will feel a deep sense of gratitude for those who have made possible this beautiful place of science, and I hope that every faculty member who teaches here will likewise look upon this with appreciation and gratitude because there will be no finer facility, when this is completed, for the teaching of chemistry anywhere across the world. This will represent the very latest in the art for which is it being created."

He spoke of the San Diego California Temple, which will be dedicated April 25-30, saying it will be dedicated as a House of the Lord. "We break ground today for a different kind of temple of learning, a temple of science, a temple of becoming acquainted with the great processes under which the Master Chemist created the Earth and all that is found therein."

He expressed gratitude that the new building will bear President Benson's name. He pointed to a portrait of the Church leader at the front of the tent and said it was a reminder of where President Benson stands as the prophet of the Lord, president of the Church, and chairman of the board of trustees of Brigham Young University. President Hinckley said the new building will worthily bear President Benson's name. "It will become as a memorial to a great life well lived and dedicated to the improvement of people and circumstances in which they live," President Hinckley said.

President Monson, in his address, expressed regret that President Benson could not attend the ceremony. He said he knew if it were possible President Benson "would be right here leading the parade."

He spoke of his years of associating with President Benson. "I have had the opportunity of following in his footsteps on the National Executive Board of Scouting and following his assignment to serve in leadership responsibility in Europe, particularly with respect to Germany. I know the large footprints that Ezra Taft Benson leaves behind wherever he serves. One can only hope to fill a portion of them as he follows him in those assignments."

President Monson spoke of President Bensons' love of country, love of family and love of God.

"President Benson has always had a great love for his country. I mentioned to President Hinckley and to Sister Monson the other day that I know of few leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have the international acclaim - the reputation - of President Benson.

"His service in the science of agriculture has been unique."

(During World War II, President Benson served on a four-man agricultural advisory committee to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1952, nine years after he had been called to the Council of the Twelve, President Benson was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He has received numerous honors, including the American Farm Bureau Federation's award for Distinguished and Meritorious Service in the interest of organized agriculture and has been awarded 11 honorary degrees.)

President Monson said President Benson has maintained an interest in the International Rice Research Institute (based in the Philippines); and BYU's Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute.

"Always he has been concerned with the development of a better life for the people who are dependent upon agriculture," President Monson said. He spoke of farming methods that have been influenced by the agencies and institutes with which President Benson has been affiliated. Among farming methods he has influenced are crop rotation, small-plot farming, and disease-resistant strains of crops. "In the scientific advances, President Benson has left a record which is the envy of all," President Monson said.

He spoke of accompanying President Benson to a presidential inauguration. "It was an opportunity to see the respect with which President Benson is always held in the Washington scene," he said.

Speaking of President Benson's love of family, President Monson said he and Sister Monson enjoyed attending a wedding anniversary celebration for President and Sister Benson in 1988. He described how President Benson enjoyed his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and then sang old-fashioned songs with his family.

"As I reflect on that wonderful evening and the songs President Benson sang, the love he personified and the example he set, I believe the words of John describe the hope that President Benson has for this great posterity of his: `I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.' " (3 John 1:4.)

President Monson continued: "President Benson loves God, and the Lord Jesus Christ. His entire life is one of service and doing good to all men. Certainly, he fulfills the statement of King Benjamin: `When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.' " (Mosiah 2:17.)

Still speaking of President Benson's love of God, President Monson said, "I think we should not overlook the personal, spiritual side of Ezra Taft Benson. He has often said, In this work, it is the spirit that counts.' In Eastern Germany, when there was a wall and there was an absence of freedom, I have seen people of his generation come forward and ask that they be remembered to the man who saved their lives. Tears would flow from these elderly German saints as they would describe how the wheat came to their homes and to their lives, and spared them starvation. One little woman said,I can remember President Benson standing as the wheat was being distributed and all of us ran our hands through that wonderful, precious life-preserving grain that he helped to develop and, more particularly, brought to our starving children.' "

Of President Benson's many accomplishments and his spiritual attributes, President Monson said, "This is the legacy of the work of the man for whom this building will be named. May every student who has the opportunity to study in this facility remember him for whom it was named and pattern his life accordingly."

After the program inside the tent, President Hinckley, President Monson, members of BYU's administration and members of the Benson family stepped outside the tent where a strip of lawn had been removed. There, they each turned a shovelful of earth, symbolically breaking ground for the new building.

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