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SERVICES FOR PRES. BENSON SATURDAY IN S.L. TABERNACLE

SHARE SERVICES FOR PRES. BENSON SATURDAY IN S.L. TABERNACLE

If past viewings of deceased church presidents are any indication, thousands of mourners will stand in a line stretching for blocks outside the church's Administration Building to pay their final respects to the late LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson.

The viewing in the building's foyer at 47 E. South Temple will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday. Funeral services are set for Saturday in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, beginning at 10 a.m.KSL-TV will broadcast the services locally. Outside of Utah, the church's extensive satellite network will carry the broadcast to more than 3,000 church buildings in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean area. Listeners throughout North America and in Central America who have radio sets that can tune into the LDS Radio Network can also hear the services. The network can also be picked up via satellite dish or through TCI Cablevision and Dimension Cable in Orange County, Calif.

A scheduled visit by Vice President Al Gore to church headquarters has been canceled. A church spokesman said schedules could not be worked out and Gore volunteered to forgo the visit because of the time constraints of church leaders preparing for Saturday's funeral.

A letter written by Gore will be delivered to church offices to be read at President Benson's funeral, a Utah Democratic Party official said.

Following the funeral, family and friends will travel to President Benson's boyhood home of Whitney, Idaho, where he will be buried next to his wife of 66 years, Flora Amussen Benson, who died in 1992.

Town Mayor Walter Ross told the Associated Press he would declare Saturday Ezra Taft Benson Day in honor of the second Idahoan to serve as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President Benson died of heart failure Monday at his Salt Lake City apartment. He was 94 and had served more than 50 years as a general authority. He became the church's 13th president in 1985.

About 40 of his relatives, including three of his children, were in Whitney decorating their mother's grave when they got word of their father's passing, said Lourena Benson, the 87-year-old widow of President Benson's younger brother Orval. Orval Benson had purchased the 80-acre family farm, where Lourena Benson still lives.

"They called Salt Lake about 10 minutes after he had died," she said, noting the call was made from the room where President Benson was born in 1899.

After hearing the news, the family gathered for prayer. "We had kind of a weepy afternoon," she said. "But we had expected this for a long time."

President Benson had been in frail health for several years and rarely appeared in public since his last general conference address in 1989. His children living in Salt Lake City visited their ailing father daily and saw him the day before he died, his son Mark Benson said.