One place setting at the dinner table was marked "Bride," another was designated "Groom." The wedding had taken place 62 years ago, on Sept. 10, 1926, but the couple celebrating their anniversary this past Sept. 10 said "it seems like only yesterday" when they got married.
A self-described "Idaho farm boy," Ezra Taft Benson had taken the lovely Flora Amussen to the Salt Lake Temple where they were married by Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Council of the Twelve. The love they had for each other then was only a bud compared to the full-blossomed bouquet it has now become.On their 62nd anniversary, President and Sister Benson and about 40 family members - including their sons and daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren - gathered in the home of one of their daughters, Beverly, who recently moved to Salt Lake City from Burke, Va., with her husband, James M. Parker. The Parkers were host and hostess for the anniversary celebration.
President Thomas S. Monson, President Benson's second counselor, and his wife, Frances, also joined with the family to help celebrate the happy event. President Benson's first counselor, President Gordon B. Hinckley, was on an assignment in the Philippines.
Soon after they arrived, President and Sister Benson sat together on an old-fashioned sofa, holding hands. He presented his "bride" a colorful arrangement of flowers, with an accompanying card that read, "Thank you for 62 glorious years of marriage. Love `T' ." ("T" is the nickname he has been known by to family members and friends since his boyhood days growing up on a farm in Whitney, Idaho.)
An anniversary cake was then brought to the celebrants. Their faces beamed as they realized the cardboard figures of a bride and groom atop the three-tiered cake were exact duplicates of decorations used on place cards at their wedding breakfast, which had been held in the Hotel Utah after their wedding ceremony 62 years ago.
With his right arm lovingly encircling his wife's shoulders, President Benson recounted what has made their marriage such a success. He gave much of the credit to her, saying she had stayed home with their two sons and four daughters, and had been a great support to her husband.
Then, with President Benson sitting at the head of the table and his "bride" seated at his right, the family and friends enjoyed a seven-course dinner, which featured the couple's favorite dish, "Bankekoed," a Danish steak and gravy seasoned with bay leaf.
The dish, pronounced "bon-a-koo," was a favorite of Sister Benson's father, Carl Christian Amussen, a Danish convert to the Church. Through the years, especially when General Authorities visited in the Benson home, Sister Benson prepared the dish on special occasions.
After dinner, President and Sister Benson were entertained by family members performing musical numbers. The piano, violin, cello, and flute were played; and several songs were performed as solo numbers, duets and trios.
When the last number was performed, President and Sister Benson were invited to sing. They chose "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." After they had finished their duet, the rest of the family began singing the song as President and Sister Benson danced together.
In a family sing-along, President and Sister Benson enjoyed some of their long-time favorite songs: "My Buddy," "I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad," "There's a Long, Long Trail," "I Love You Truly," "Memories," "Keep the Home Fires Burning," "Bicycle Built for Two," "Shine on Harvest Moon," "School Days," and "Love's Old Sweet Song."
President Monson, who had been invited to speak to the family gathering, spoke of the long-time association he and his wife have had with President and Sister Benson and their family.
He quoted 3 John 1:4, which describes a sentiment felt strongly in the Benson family: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." President Monson said, "When this family walks in truth, you bring the greatest joy to this noble father and grandfather and the wonderful woman at his side."
As a gift from the family, President and Sister Benson were presented a leather-bound edition of poems by Edgar A. Guest. Upon unwrapping the gift, President Benson recited one of the poems, "A Real Man." He has quoted that poem often. Guest was the author of one of Sister Benson's favorite poems, "Home."
Family members took home with them a printed program, which included duplicates of the cake's decorations, the dinner menu, names of the program's performers, and words to the songs from the sing-along.
For their anniversary, President and Sister Benson were surrounded with some of the things that matter most: family, friends, music and laughter. The evening was a pleasant way for them to recall the events of 62 years ago.