“I feel especially humble this afternoon as I stand
before you for the first time as a General Authority and contemplate the
sacredness and the importance of this great call,” said Elder William H.
Bennett in October conference 1970, after he had been
sustained an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve the previous April.
“I ask for an interest in your faith and prayers, not just here today but
on a continuous basis, that I might be able to serve in the way the Lord
would like me to serve.”
That term of service closed 23 July 1980 with Elder
Bennett’s death at his home in Bountiful, Utah, at 69 years of age. He
was an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, to which he
had been appointed in 1976.
Elder Bennett was born 5 November 1910 in Taber,
Alberta, to William Alvin and Mary Walker Bennett. He attended Taber schools,
the Raymond School of Agriculture, Utah State University from which he
graduated with bachelor’s and
master’s degrees, and the University of Wisconsin from which he received
By the time of his call in 1970, he was serving Utah
State University as its director of extension services. He had previously
been that division’s assistant director and had also been dean of the College
of Agriculture and associate professor of agronomy. Among his professional
honors are the President’s Citation from the Soil Conservation Society
His devotion to the Church was as constant as his
devotion to education. At the time of his calling in 1970, he was Regional
Representative for the Cache and Logan Regions, a calling he had held since
1967. Other assignments included membership on
the Priesthood Welfare and Priesthood Missionary committees, counselor
in the East Cache Stake (Logan, Utah) presidency, counselor in a stake
Sunday School superintendency, member of a stake Sunday School board, and
genealogical chairman for the East Cache and Carbon Stakes.
Another of Elder Bennett’s unfailing interests was
sports. He participated in the Canadian Olympic Trials in 1936 in the shot
put and discus events. In 1946, as an infantry captain, he participated
in the Pacific Army Olympics. He often used sports
events to illustrate ideas in his addresses, and his last conference
talk, April 1976, used the summer Olympics in Montreal to illustrate his
theme of attaining perfection.
Elder Bennett was survived by his wife, Patricia June
Christensen, his five daughters, one son, seven grandchildren, four brothers,
and two sisters.
In that first address in 1970, Elder Bennett told
of participating in the high jump in a tri-stake MIA track meet. A nervous
fifteen-year-old, he received the confidence he needed to make his best
jump from his stake president, Hugh B. Brown.
“In the days of my youth,” he reflected, “the Lord saw fit to bless me
with an inferiority complex. I say ‘blessed’ because in wrestling with
this problem I learned the meaning of humility. I learned what it meant
to get close to my Father in Heaven through prayer on an almost continuous
basis. I learned that in problems we find our challenges. In those challenges
lie opportunities. If we can just identify those opportunities and capitalize
on them, growth, progress, and success will result. I learned that strength
comes from facing up to problems squarely and realistically, not from disregarding
them or avoiding them.”