Sister Flora Amussen Benson, who died Aug. 14 at age 91, was praised at funeral services Aug. 19 as an elect daughter of God, devoted wife of President Ezra Taft Benson and exemplary mother.
Speakers at the funeral in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square were President Benson's counselors, President Gordon B. Hinckley, who also conducted the services; and President Thomas S. Monson.The service was personalized by the participation of President and Sister Benson's children. Their sons, Mark A. Benson and Reed A. Benson, delivered remarks. Their daughters - Barbara B. Walker, Beverly B. Parker, Bonnie B. Madsen, and Beth B. Burton - sang "Love at Home."
Prayers were offered by Elders Marvin J. Ashton and Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Council of the Twelve.
Expressing condolences to the Benson family, President Hinckley said he knew of their loss, but also knew of their faith. He cited a passage of scripture in which the Lord said: "Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, . . . And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them." (D&C 42:45-46.)
"While this is a time of sorrow, it is also a time of gladness," President Hinckley said, adding that Sister Benson's departure from mortality represents her leaving beautiful and choice associations to prepare for the renewal of beautiful and close associations.
President Hinckley related that on Aug. 15 he dedicated three monuments honoring the handcart pioneers. (See page 3.) "Among those who passed that way [along the Mormon Trail] was [Sister Benson's] father, Carl Christian Amussen," President Hinckley noted.
He said Carl Amussen, a jeweler, had picked up a missionary tract in Christchurch, New Zealand, and was so impressed with it that he went to Liverpool, England, where the tract had been issued, and, in 1865, traveled to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. He met Brigham Young, who sent him on a mission back to New Zealand. When he completed his mission, he returned to Utah and later met Barbara McIsaac Smith, the daughter of Scottish parents, whom he married. They had a daughter, Flora Amussen.
President Hinckley said Sister Benson's mother taught her a three-part creed: "1. Live the gospel. 2. Be loyal to your husband and be satisfied with what he can provide. 3. Teach your children to obey their parents."
Of President and Sister Benson's sons and daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, President Hinckley said, "This tremendous family is but a lengthened shadow of a great woman." He said she walked with kings but never lost the common touch. He concluded by speaking of her great faith and the power of her belief.
President Monson said Sister Benson had lived a rich and rewarding life. "Her talents were many, her faith unshakable, her love overflowing and her character above reproach," he declared. "Truly, she was an elect daughter of our Heavenly Father.
"And," President Monson said to President Benson, who was seated on the front row of the Assembly Hall with his family, "your eternal companion."
President Monson briefly reviewed highlights of Sister Benson's life, beginning with her school days at Utah Agricultural College, now Utah State University, where she was student body vice president and "active in everything on campus."
He spoke of her mission to Hawaii, where she served with her mother.
Of her marriage, President Monson said: "The jeweler's daughter and the farmer's son - a match some say was made in heaven." He spoke of their "years of sacrifice, times of struggle, and sweet fruits of success."
President Monson mentioned the "Washington years," when President Benson served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Cabinet. Her willingness to move to Washington, said President Monson, was found in her ever-ready response: "I'll go where he [her husband] goes."
In Washington, President Monson noted, Sister Benson was known as a gracious hostess who lived a family-oriented life. She was named Homemaker of the Year for 1955.
President Monson spoke of another phase of Sister Benson's life. When Elder Benson, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, was called to take supplies to starving Church members in Europe after World War II, she carried on with family responsibilities. President Monson read examples of letters they exchanged, citing the love expressed in them.
President Monson related that Sister Benson "passed peacefully away, surrounded by family members." He described how President Benson sat by her side in her final hours, holding her hand. Their sons gave her a blessing, and also laid their hands on President Benson, "extending God's comforting blessing on the prophet." The family sang hymns, and joined in family prayer with his daughter Beverly being the voice. Among the songs they sang was"Let Me Call You Sweetheart," one of President and Sister Benson's favorite songs.
The prophet was able to sing a few words of the song one final time to her. "The last words he said to his beloved wife were,
I love you, Flora.' " President Monson said. "Had she been able to answer, I'm sure she would have said,I love you.' "
In his remarks, Mark A. Benson commented on the hymn, "Do What Is Right," which was sung earlier in the service, mentioning it is not a usual number for funerals. "It was one of mother's favorite hymns and it personified in so many ways what was in her heart and the teachings to her children," he said, noting that she guided her life and taught her children, when faced with making a decision, to always ask, "Is it right?"
He said she was devoted to the principle expressed in the scripture ". . .seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. . . ." (Matt. 6:33.) He observed that she taught her children to "just keep the commandments and all will work out."
Of Sister Benson's reliance on the Lord, he said, "She was a diligent worker, but also prayed constantly."
He described Sister Benson as "the happiest person I knew." He remembered his parents as sweethearts who always held hands.
Reed A. Benson said his mother believed that character is better than intelligence, and goodness is better than diamonds. He quoted one person who said, "If more women were like Sister Benson, there would be more men like Brother Benson."
He depicted his mother as a "yea-sayer," one who looked for and sustained the positive, and who had faith in the Lord and in His purposes. "She believed all things worked for the best," he noted. He referred to her as an idealist who felt home had to be a bit of heaven on earth.
"She believed in, lived for, and acted upon personal revelation," he declared.
In concluding, he read Sister Benson's favorite poem, "Home," by Edgar A. Guest.
Under direction of Jerold D. Ottley, some 120 members of the Tabernacle Choir provided music for the service. In addition to "Do What Is Right," they sang "O, My Father." At the conclusion of the service, the choir and congregation sang "I Know that My Redeemer Lives."
After the service in the Assembly Hall, family members, friends and associates traveled to Whitney, Idaho, where Sister Benson was buried in the family plot in the Whitney cemetery. Reed A. Benson dedicated her grave.