Cards, flowers and candy aren't necessary for President and Sister Ezra Taft Benson to express their love for each other, but those symbols of affection are evident in their home because the prophet and his wife enjoy Valentine's Day about as much as any couple.
They will have been married 62 years this September, but in the eternal scheme of things they are still on their honeymoon."I sent her the first Valentine when she was on her mission in Hawaii," said President Benson. "It was store bought, but it wasn't quite as big as the one one I gave her this year."
The cards they exchanged this year have been placed next to a bouquet on a table just inside the front door of their apartment. During the days preceding Valentine's Day, the cards have been among the last things they looked at before going out and the first they ahve seen upon returning home.
Last Sunday, Feb. 7, President and Sister Benson attended conference of the Salt Lake East Mill Creek Stake, where they sat together on the stand, holding hands as they usually do whenever they are side by side.
During the conference, President Benson spoke briefly and bore his testimony. With a smile, and twinkle in his eye, he confided to the congregation, saying he was "breaking doctor's orders" by addressing the conference, but he would do so if those present would "agree not to tell on me."
He then expressed his love for the gospel, for the work of the Church, and for the Book of Mormon.
After the conference's closing prayer had been said, President Benson returned to the podium, and declared, "I hope you have read the book."
Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of the Twelve, who had spoken at the conference, was standing beside the Church president at the podium. With his arm around the prophet's shoulder, Elder Ashton asked knowingly, "Which book is that, President Benson?" President Benson and the congregation laughed. The answer was obvious to all.
President Benson then turned and looked at his wife, who was waiting for him on the stand. "She has been a stalwart of the 61 years we have been married," he said. He spoke of his assignment as a member of the Council of the Twelve to post-World War II Europe, during which time they were apart from each other for 10 1/2 months.
"I shall never forget her sweet and kind letters that came when I was awa y from her and our children," he told the East Mill Creek congregation.
The letters he mentioned have become legendary among people who know President and Sister Benson. Her letters to him, added to those he wrote to her, have been saved and are among the dozens of keepsakes from their romance that spans more than six decades. Each communication was filled with love, hope, encouragement and warmth. Sister Benson even included some recipes so he could enjoy some of his favorite foods while in Europe.
That kind of caring and encouragement continues. As they were returning home from the East Mill Creek conference, Sister Benson told her husband: "You gave a fine talk. Those people were so pleased to see you."
President Benson gratefully acknowledges his wife's devotion. He, in turn, expresses his devotion to her in numerous little ways: asking if she has enough to eat, covering her with an afghan when she is asleep, aking her how her day has been. They treasure their weekly trips to the temple.
When they were younger, they enjoyed sitting on their front porch, holding hands while their children played on the lawn. Today, they are content to sit on the sofa in their living room, looking at the Salt Lake Temple just a block away. They read from their journals, and she still delights in stories about his missionary days in England.
During a photo session last week with the Church News, Sister Benson was asked, "Does President Benson give you candy for Valentine's Day?" Her response was quick and to the point: "He's sweet enough without it."
But he gives her candy, anyway.