Home / Testimonies / George Bennion

I suppose I am qualified to say I know that God lives. I don’t know it in the way I know who my children are or the way I know the difference between an apple and a potato. It is more like the way I know that kindness is better than roughness. I have a brother who, all his adult life, had “spiritual” experiences. I am not sure I have had such. Perhaps twice, but I can’t be sure the emotion of the moment didn’t induce the sensation. I had gone to Pearl Harbor soon after the December 7th attack. An uncle of mine had been killed in the attack and had been buried at Aiea, a promontory overlooking the harbor. I had been given a number marking his place, and found it on a day off. I went there several times, the last on an Easter Sunday. As I stood there, I thought about him, about a pleasant visit I had had with him while he was alive, about the circumstances reported of his death. And I prayed. During the prayer, I had the strongest impression that he was there, acknowledging me. I didn’t see him or hear him, but I was sure. Years later, I wondered if the intensity of my own feelings and the circumstances—my affection for him, my loneliness in those days—might have induced the sensation. I think he did respond, but I don’t know that.

There have been times when I needed help with a problem and thought I was given that help—an idea, a way to proceed. I was in Japan at the end of the war and had driven my commander from Sasebo Harbor to Tokyo and then took a train back to camp. I could not speak or read Japanese, and needed help to get off at the right station. It was evening when I boarded and the wee hours when I thought I must be close. The train was loaded with Japanese still in their uniforms, and, in my mind, not necessarily delighted to have a GI riding with them, but I had to ask someone. Most Japanese soldiers had had English in school. Two of them assured me that the next stop was mine. I got off, but immediately felt it was wrong. I quickly got back on the train. At another stop, there was a sign in English announcing my depot, the only English sign I had seen on the entire trip. I was sure, again, that I had been ‘helped.’ But it was not apples and potatoes.

In fact, that sort of thing is not the basis of my belief. I am pleased with the idea that in this life we walk by faith. That’s not just good enough for me, it is very productive. There is something wonderfully wholesome in the idea that I have to trust and to reach out. That’s great not only in religious matters, but in family relations, in friendships, in buying and selling, in science. It is a basic of life. The apostles are by definition special witnesses for Christ. And it is a conviction of mine that God would not require this of them without giving them a valid basis for doing so. I believe them when they say, “I know.” But it is sufficient for me to believe and to trust.

The real basis for my belief is the doctrine. The ideas of my religion are at least as important in my believing as any sense of contact with “the other side.” What good would it be if someone from the other side came to me openly, visibly, and said, “It’s true,” but the business on “the other side” were foolishness? The ideas in Christ’s teachings are all-important. For instance, some years ago I was reading a doctoral dissertation that had to do with the question of Jesus’ divinity. It reported a dispute between some of the early Christians. One position held that Christ’s divinity was inferior to the Father’s because he was born of a mortal woman. The opposite position, championed by Athanasius, was that “God became man, that man could become god.” That is a revealed doctrine of the LDS church: “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become,” the doctrine of eternal progression, one of the beautiful ideas.

Another appealing belief has to do with our agency, and addresses one of the hang-ups for some people: the problem of evil and suffering in the world. Some ask, “How could God let my daughter be raped?” Or “How could a just God allow the genocide in Somalia?” Enoch asked God how it was that he could weep. And God told him.

The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; and unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood. . . . Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also. Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren. But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them. . . . Wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? . . . And That [capital ‘T,’ meaning Christ] which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me. (Moses 7:32-39)

So he can weep. Pain and anguish are not ours alone. He suffers for our misbehavior, and for our loss. But in spite of all his desire for us to “make it,” it is eminently clear that he will not interfere with our decisions. Agency is sacrosanct. He will not prevent our folly or our evil.

Another idea: Christ tells us (in Doctrine and Covenants 93:29, 31) that “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. . . Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man.” We are coeval with God, of the same species, cut from the same cloth. This indicates that our minds, or something about them, are sacred to him—precious in his view. I am not sure about the idea that he gave us agency. Perhaps what is meant is that he endorses it, champions it. Surely, where there is intelligence, there is volition. In any case, he does not stop a person from criminal acts or even childish misbehavior. Since this mortal experience is a testing time, we must be free to choose our course. If it were not so, we could scarcely be either blamed or praised for what we do. What would we be but a tool someone else used? Further, the Chinese principle of Li insists that a child’s reverence for his father and a citizen’s for the emperor be reciprocated: the emperor must revere the citizen and the father his son. That concept prompted me to wonder what there is about us that could evoke awe in God, the great creator. What could he see in me that would explain the enormous investment he has made? It could not be my mathematical ability. It could hardly be the consistency with which I have applied myself in any way. It has to be something about my potential, and that has to do with my mind, my being in charge of and responsible for myself—my agency. The gospel of Christ is beautiful to me. I love it. I believe it.

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I was born on January 6, 1920, in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I attended primary and secondary schools. In 1937, I entered the University of Utah. In 1939, I began working at a bank in Salt Lake and took evening classes at the “U.”

I am a fifth-generation Mormon, grew up in a family of “believing folk.” I don’t remember a time when my faith was challenged. Science was not an attack on my belief, but a complement to it, explaining things not clear in the scriptures. I doubt if I ever thought of life in such categories when I was growing up. It was all one. My father, a rancher and at times a writer, was of a more technical turn of mind than I; he believed firmly that “you go where the facts take you,” in religion and science.

During World War Two I worked at a naval air base at Pearl Harbor until I was drafted. After basic training, I was assigned to a field artillery battalion in northern Luzon, in the Philippines. Later, in Japan, our duty was the demilitarization of an area in Sasebo Harbor. I was discharged in late 1946. While in Hawaii, I served as a part-time missionary in the Central Pacific States Mission (Japanese).

After World War Two, I attended Brigham Young University and took an undergraduate degree in banking, and went to work with a banking system in Phoenix, Arizona, where, in 1948, I married Joye McRae. The Korean War interrupted that with about a year of stateside duty. While at BYU, I had applied for a Desert Land Entry (similar to a homestead). When it was approved, I left the bank, no doubt with their ready endorsement, and returned to Utah and homesteading. To keep afloat, I taught at Delta Junior High School. After six years, we moved to Provo to teach in the English Department at BYU. I did graduate work at BYU and Arizona State University. After I retired in 1990 as a professor emeritus of English, my wife and I taught in China for five years.

My wife and I are the parents of ten children.

Posted February 2010