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Reed Benson's varied career included teaching religion for 25 years at Brigham Young University — plus a run for Congress in 1962, a stint as national public relations director for The John Birch Society and becoming an advocate for home schooling.

Benson, 88, died Aug. 24. Funeral services are scheduled Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Pleasant View Chapel, 650 Stadium Ave., Provo.

Benson was born Jan 2, 1928, the eldest child of Ezra Taft Benson, who would become president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and secretary of agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In his early years, Reed Benson received a bachelor's degree from LDS Church-owned BYU in political science and history, and later would earn a master's in communication and a doctorate in education. He was a Mormon missionary in Great Britain and an Air Force chaplain during the Korean War.

He made an unsuccessful run as a Republican for Congress in 1962, taking strong stands against the spread of Communism.

After that loss, he said he was approached by the anti-Communist John Birch Society. Benson said in a 2010 Salt Lake Tribune interview that he found the organization believed, as he did, "in less government, more individual responsibility and a better world."

He became the Utah coordinator for the controversial right-wing group and later served as its national public-relations director — giving interviews, lecturing and writing for it.

In part because of Reed's ties to the Birch Society, Ezra Taft Benson at times praised the group — and created controversy by doing so.

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, was a friend of Reed Benson. She says he had great influence on her and other conservatives.

"His message continues on because the rest of us share it, and I often quote him," she said. "He was a man we could trust. When he said something, we knew it was the truth. After a while of checking out messages and finding he consistently had it right, he provided a lot of confidence."

She said Benson's style was to persuade and educate people by asking questions, and help them to find answers for themselves.

Reed Benson later became a professor of ancient scripture at BYU for 25 years and taught an estimated 30,000 students.

In 1981, he wrote a dissertation for his doctorate on the development of a home school, one of the first dissertations in the nation on the subject. He became a top advocate for home schooling, and won awards for it.

Ruzicka said she first met Benson when she lived in Arizona because of his advocacy for home schooling.

"He was a favorite speaker at home-school conventions. His conviction to home schools was contagious," Ruzicka said. "I think he influenced a lot of people to make that decision to home-school."

Benson held numerous positions for the LDS Church through the years, including president of the Kentucky Louisville Mission, a member of the Jerusalem, Israel District presidency, director of the Northern Virginia Seminaries and Institutes, a stake high council member and a temple worker.

He wrote, or was co-author, of numerous books, mostly on church topics. They included a personal glimpse of his father and a collection of his dad's sermons.

Ruzicka said, "He was one of the best men I ever knew, very kind, very loving and a wonderful father."

Benson was married to Mary May Hinckley for 58 years. They are the parents of nine children, and have 32 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.