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HOMETOWN CENTENNIAL: PRESIDENT BENSON RETURNS TO BOYHOOD HOME TO SHARE HANDSHAKES, MEMORIES

SHARE HOMETOWN CENTENNIAL: PRESIDENT BENSON RETURNS TO BOYHOOD HOME TO SHARE HANDSHAKES, MEMORIES

On June 9, 1889 - the date accepted as the founding of the town of Whitney - the Whitney Ward was organized. One-hundred years later, the community's favorite son returned to help celebrate the town's centennial.

On June 10, 1989, President Ezra Taft Benson returned home to the community where his grandfather and father lived before him. For an hour and a half, President Benson and his wife, Flora, shook hands, and shared tears and memories with many of the 800 people - current and former residents - who attended the celebration.Whitney, a small rural community in southeastern Idaho near Preston, was named after Orson F. Whitney, who later served as a member of the Council of the Twelve and as President Benson's mission president in England. President Benson was born here Aug. 4, 1899, to George T. and Sarah Dunkley Benson. While in his late teens, he served as one of the ward's first Scoutmasters.

His strong ties to the community have continued to bring him back through the years. The community is still very dear to him. In 1979, President Benson dedicated the ward's current meetinghouse, located on the site where once stood the original rock meetinghouse that he attended as a youth.

As soon as the prophet arrived early Saturday morning, June 10, he was greeted with the singing of "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet." Many of the people, like President Benson, were past residents of Whitney, returning to celebrate the ward's 100th anniversary. In a bowery behind the meetinghouse, President and Sister Benson greeted celebration-goers, who lined up to shake their hands. Many were old friends, some were former school mates, and a couple were the boys who once called him "Scoutmaster."

Whitney residents also presented President and Sister Benson with a quilt featuring a representation of the rock church house.

People here still consider the prophet a member of the community, said Bishop Linden D. Beckstead. The prophet's father and mother reared their family in Whitney and are buried here.

Though the prophet's visit was brief, he left a feeling of love and community pride with those who remained.

Whitney has changed since President Benson lived here. The businesses are all gone, and the only public building is the ward meetinghouse. But as far as President Benson and the other people who attended the centennial celebration are concerned, it's the people and the memories that will always make Whitney their home.