Larry King/President Hinckley Interview
Transcript of the interview with President Hinckley on Larry King Live (aired on CNN)
Larry King Live
Gordon Hinckley: Distinguished Religious Leader of the Mormons
Aired September 8, 1998 - 9:00 p.m. ET
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: a rare live interview with Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He's one of the distinguished religious leaders in the world. It's an honor to have him as our guest tonight for the full hour. Later we'll be including your phone calls. He's Gordon Hinckley. Gordon B. Hinckley is president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons. He is 88 1/2 years old.
GORDON B. HINCKLEY, PRESIDENT, CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER- DAY SAINTS: Correct.
KING: Do you think, like, maybe retiring?
HINCKLEY: No there's no chance, got to keep going, right until the end.
KING: You're going to go until the calling comes?
KING: What does the president entail? I have heard you called the prophet. Are you the -- when you speak, do you speak for the church?
HINCKLEY: I speak for the church, yes, I think so, yes.
KING: And this is a position you're appoint -- how do you get this? How do you get to be president?
HINCKLEY: You're appointed a member of the counsel of 12 and you out live everybody else.
The senior member of the 12 becomes the president of the church.
KING: The council takes turns?
KING: We'll cover some little bit about the faith and then lots of issues. Why are you a Mormon?
HINCKLEY: I believe in it. I believe very strongly in it. I come from a Mormon background. I am a third generation in the church, only the third -- from pioneer days, my grandfather came across the plains in a wagon with oxen, and my father was active in the church. I'm here, part of it, as a young man, I went on a mission and came back and I've moved up through the various steps.
KING: All your life has been in the church?
HINCKLEY: Yes, because when I came home from my mission I'd received my doctor -- my bachelor's degree before I went on a mission. That's unusual now, but it was not uncommon then. And when I came back, the heads of the church asked me to come and work there. I pioneered in the public relations work of the church.
KING: You're the one taking this church even wider worldwide?
HINCKLEY: I hope so.
KING: What's your goal?
HINCKLEY: My goal is to move it as fast and as solidly across the world as we can.
KING: How many countries you in?
HINCKLEY: One-hundred and sixty-one.
KING: "TIME" magazine reported that you have, like -- the church has over ten million members worldwide, right.
HINCKLEY: Yes, sir.
KING: Half in America?
HINCKLEY: Yes, approximately.
KING: And it's growing outside as well as inside?
HINCKLEY: Absolutely. Yes.
KING: How about the wealth -- why is your church so wealthy? I mean $5.9 billion.
HINCKLEY: Well, I don't know about that figure, but we get along. We have enough to take care of what we need to do. The financial law of the church is the law of tithing. It goes back to the Old Testament.
KING: They give -- all the church members...
HINCKLEY: Ten percent is expected of our people and they pay it faithfully.
KING: And the money is used how? When people hear that much money and they associate it with religion they often think of why does a religion, any faith have to raise funds?
HINCKLEY: We have to build many buildings. As this church grows we have to accommodate our people. We'll finish or dedicate 600 new buildings this year. That's a tremendous undertaking. We maintain Brigham Young University, the largest private church sponsored University in America.
KING: That's your school, right, I mean, you own that school?
HINCKLEY: Yes, sir, yes, sir. We have many other projects, great family history resource, used by people all over the world.
KING: You check the genealogy, right?
HINCKLEY: Yes, yes, sir.
KING: In Israel they work with you.
HINCKLEY: If you would like to know about LARRY KING LIVE we'd probably have a record on you.
KING: I know you have a record on my wife because I married a Mormon it should be stated.
HINCKLEY: We have them on not only those in the church, but out of the church as well.
KING: The things -- let's discuss first the president.
HINCKLEY: All right.
KING: Many religious leaders are now speaking out. In fact, a major church this morning said he should resign. What, President Hinckley, are your thoughts on President Clinton?
HINCKLEY: Well, I feel very sorry for him in the first place. Here's a man of great talent and capacity who has evidently just hurt himself so seriously that it must be a terrible thing for him. Personally, I forgive him. The Lord has said, I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive. But of you, it's required to forgive all men. And in that sense I forgive him of any offenses committed against me. But he still has accountability. He's accountable to the Congress. He's accountable to the people of the United States who elected him. He's accountable to God. I believe that. And that's what he must face.
KING: And who determines that accounting?
HINCKLEY: The Congress of the United States, the House of Representatives, where it will go first. And if they make a judgment there that -- in the direction of impeachment, then it will go to the Senate.
KING: If the charge, as we have heard it, that -- just what he admitted too, obviously, that part is true. If that's it, there are some saying he should resign. Some saying he shouldn't. Do you think he should leave the post if he has morally impaired it?
HINCKLEY: Let me say that I still believe that right is right, and wrong is wrong. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shall not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. These aren't suggestions, these are commandments.
KING: It was a fait accompli.
HINCKLEY: Given by Jehovah on Sinai -- the Ten Commandments. They're as applicable today as they were when they were first given.
KING: Should he then resign, Mr. President.
HINCKLEY: I think he must make his own decision and the Congress must make their decision.
KING: So when you say you forgive, you forgive the act or you forgive the actor, not the act?
HINCKLEY: I forgive the actor as far as I am concerned. I am not trying to hold any malice against him or anybody else. I think that's my responsibility to extend the hand of forgiveness and helpfulness. But at the same time, the position of president of the United States of America carries with it a tremendous trust. In my judgment, an inescapable trust.
KING: What do you think it's done to the country?
HINCKLEY: I think it's fractured the country, for one thing. I see the evidence of that everywhere, as I have listened to your program -- various congressmen on. I have said to myself, this is divisive. It's happened, but it's divisive . Let's get the report from Mr. tarr. Let's have the Congress act on it. Let's make a decision. Let's move on.
KING: Are you shocked, as some in the religious field are that a lot of the public still continues to be in his favor?
HINCKLEY: Well, I am surprised. I am not shocked. I am surprised. I am disappointed in a sense because I -- it's my feeling that ou cannot divorce private behavior from public leadership.
KING: Can't divorce it?
HINCKLEY: I don't believe so.
KING: That includes then your private behavior.
HINCKLEY: My private behavior, absolutely.
KING: Is your business?
HINCKLEY: I have an accountability. I carry a trust that's incumbent upon me -- yes.
KING: We'll be right back with President Gordon Hinckley, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Lots of issues to discuss -- your phone calls too. Don't go away.
KING: In a major front page story on the Mormons "TIME" magazine quoted the sociologist, Rodney Stark, of the University of Washington. He said that "in about 82 years Mormon membership worldwide will be 260 million." What is the attraction?
HINCKLEY: I won't be around when that prophesy is fulfilled.
KING: I wouldn't bet on it at 88 and a half. What is the -- what attracts people to the faith other -- those not born of it?
HINCKLEY: I think it -- many -- several things do. One, we stand for something. We stand solid and strong for something. We don't equivocate. We don't just fuss around over this and that. People are looking for something in this world of shifting values, of anchors that are slipping, many people are looking for something that they can hold on to, an anchor to which they can attach their lives. That's one thing.
KING: You require helping people less fortunate, right?
HINCKLEY: Yes, sir, we do.
KING: Are people ever thrown out of your church?
HINCKLEY: Doing what they shouldn't do, preaching false doctrine, speaking out publicly. They can carry all the opinion they wish within their heads, so to speak, but if they begin to try to persuade others, then they may be called in to a disciplinary council. We don't excommunicate many, but we do some.
KING: Concerning morality, in the past, the church has had some problems in this area. One was the racial area.
KING: The story was that blacks couldn't attain any hierarchy.
KING: Has that changed?
HINCKLEY: Yes, it has. In 1978 that was changed. We now work strongly among the blacks. I have been to Africa recently up and down that continent meeting with wonderful people, great leaders. All of our local leaders are local people who work on a volunteer basis. None of them is paid.
KING: Could there someday be a black president?
HINCKLEY: Oh, it could be. It's conceivable, yes.
KING: Just as there could be a black pope someday?
KING: So that's all equal.
HINCKLEY: Yes, all equal.
KING: Now the big story raging in Utah -- before we get back to morals and morals, is -- the big story, if you don't know it, is polygamy in Utah; there's been major charges. The governor, Mike Leavitt, says that there are legal reasons why the state of Utah has not prosecuted alleged polygamists. Leavitt said plural marriage may be protected by the First Amendment. He is the great-great-grandson -- is the governor -- of a polygamist.
HINCKLEY: When our people came west they permitted it on a restricted scale.
KING: You could have a certain amount of...
HINCKLEY: The figures I have are from -- between two percent and five percent of our people were involved in it. It was a very limited practice; carefully safeguarded. In 1890, that practice was discontinued. The president of the church, the man who occupied the position which I occupy today, went before the people, said he had, oh, prayed about it, worked on it, and had received from the Lord a revelation that it was time to stop, to discontinue it then. That's 118 years ago. It's behind us.
KING: But when the word is mentioned, when you hear the word, you think Mormon, right?
HINCKLEY: You do it mistakenly. They have no connection with us whatever. They don't belong to the church. There are actually no Mormon fundamentalists.
KING: Are you surprised that there's, apparently, a lot of polygamy in Utah?
HINCKLEY: I have seen the thing grow somewhat. I don't know how much it is. I don't know how pervasive it is.
KING: Should there be arrests?
HINCKLEY: It's matter of civil procedure. The church can't do anything. We have no authority in this matter, none whatever.
KING: Would you like to see the state to clamp down on it?
HINCKLEY: I think I leave that entirely in the hands of the civil officers. It's a civil offense. It's in violation of the law. We have nothing to do with it. We're totally distanced from it. And if the state chooses to move on it, that's a responsibility of civil officers.
KING: President Hinckley, when the press pays attention to it, it does affect you, certainly, in a public relations sense?
HINCKLEY: It does, because people mistakenly assume that this church has something to do with it. It has nothing whatever to do with it. It has had nothing to do with it for a very long time. It's outside the realm of our responsibility. These people are not members. Any man or woman who becomes involved in it is excommunicated from the church.
KING: Prosecutors in Utah are quoted as saying -- they told "The Salt Lake Tribune" -- that it's difficult to prosecutepolygamists because of a lack of evidence; that ex-wives and daughters rarely complain about it. Do you see that as a problem?
HINCKLEY: Well, it's secretive. There's a certain element of secretiveness about it. I suppose they have some difficulty -- they say they do, in gathering evidence.
KING: Should the church be more forceful in speaking out? I mean, you're forceful here tonight, but maybe -- they've been saying that it's rather than just a state matter, encouraging the state to prosecute.
HINCKLEY: I don't know. We'll consider it.
KING: I'm giving you an idea.
KING: Would you look better if you were...
HINCKLEY: I don't know that we would or not. As far as I'm concerned, I have nothing to do with it. It belongs to the civil officers of the state.
KING: You condemn it.
HINCKLEY: I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.
KING: The essence of the church is that Christ was in the Americas, right?
HINCKLEY: Yes, at one time.
KING: That is the essence of the concept of the church.
KING: And that is the Latter-day Saints?
HINCKLEY: That's one of the elements of it. Now that's the background out of which comes the Book of Mormon. The Bible is, as I see it, the Testament of the Old World. The Book of Mormon is the Testament of the New World, and they go hand-in-hand in testimony of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
KING: We'll talk with President Hinckley about the Mormon Church speaking out on great world issues, right after this.
KING: We're back. This is a historic night. We have the president of the Mormon Church as our special guest, and Mark McGwire has bested the all-time home-run record, hitting number 62 tonight in St. Louis. A lot of games left to play. Here's the way it looked.
ANNOUNCER: Down the left field line. Is it enough? Gone! Gone! Sixty-two! Touch first, Mark, you are the new single-season home-run king!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KING: Appropriate enough , this historic event happened at home at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Mark McGwire, the all-time home-run king, a great story. Complete details at 11:00 on "SPORTS TONIGHT." Also repeated later on "SPORTS TONIGHT," more coverage later in the evening if you're watching this as a repeat. But we're on top of it. At 11:00, on "SPORTS TONIGHT," you'll get the full stories.
We're with the distinguished Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I guess you congratulate Mr. McGwire, too.
HINCKLEY: I do most heartily.
KING: You've seen a lot of baseball history in your life.
HINCKLEY: It's a big cause for celebration.
KING: You were around when Ruth was playing.
HINCKLEY: I was around when Ruth was playing.
KING: Did you ever see Ruth?
HINCKLEY: No, I never did. We didn't have television then.
But we read about it in the paper. We had a scoreboard on Main Street.
KING: Where? Main Street in Salt Lake?
HINCKLEY: In South Temple, yes. A baseball scoreboard.
KING: Put up the scoreboards?
HINCKLEY: Yes. Oh, well, the ball was moved around on the board, and people would stand out there by the hundreds and watch it.
KING: And everyone knew "The Babe."
HINCKLEY: Oh, absolutely.
KING: We discussed Mike Leavitt, the governor of Utah, and that -- his difficulty in trying some of these cases. "The L.A. Times" -- "New York Times" reported widespread reports of girls as young as 10 into arranged marriages and a difficult time dealing with it. Tell us your thoughts about this governor?
HINCKLEY: Well, the governor is a native of Utah, young man, part of the economy in the insurance business, other things, grew up there. I know his father and mother well, know him well. I regard him as a good man doing a good job.
KING: Is this a tough spot for him?
HINCKLEY: It's a tough spot for him. He's dependent on the county attorneys -- the prosecuting attorneys. They have to make the decision on this matter.
KING: Why would they be hesitant, do you think?
HINCKLEY: Well, I don't know. I haven't gone into it. I don't know why. But they are. There are many factors, I think. Gathering of evidence is difficult. What do you do with children? And their parents? A very difficult situation to face. It's a hard thing to deal with, but as far as we're concerned, it's behind us, a long ways. We're out moving across the world.
KING: There are splinter groups...
HINCKLEY: Oh, there are splinter groups. You expect it.
KING: That have splintered off your -- as they have off many faiths.
HINCKLEY: Oh, sure, we have some splitter groups.
KING: Why do you -- does the church -- or maybe I'm in error -- not speak -- like I've gone to services and I never -- there's no priest, or rabbi, or minister...
KING: ... but I've never hear -- I never -- I have not heard a Sunday service that would discuss world poverty, or President Clinton, or what they think of Bosnia. Why?
HINCKLEY: We don't think much about it, but we act. That's what happens. We've carried on a grave humanitarian effort.
KING: Feeding people.
HINCKLEY: Feeding people, giving them medicine, clothing, food. North Korea, we don't let politics stand in the way of what we do.
KING: Do you work in North Korea?
HINCKLEY: Yes. We've just been very helpful there. We've given them a lot of money. We've sent a farmer there, an expert from Canada, to show them how to raise crops.
KING: This is politics aside then?
HINCKLEY: Politics aside. The church does not become involved in politics. We don't favor any candidate. We don't permit our buildings to be used for political purposes. We don't favor any party.
KING: But you do speak out, or will speak out more on moral issues?
HINCKLEY: We speak very strongly on moral issues. Gambling, liquor, what have you, yes.
KING: Against them all, right?
HINCKLEY: That's right.
KING: How about guns?
HINCKLEY: Guns, we haven't done much with. I don't have one.
KING: Neither do I, but are you thinking about maybe speaking out more on guns?
HINCKLEY: I don't think we've given it any consideration that I remember.
KING: We'll be right back with President Gordon Hinckley. In a little while we'll go to your phone calls. He's president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Senator Joseph Lieberman will be here Thursday night. Senator John Ashcroft, tomorrow. Don't go away.
KING: In Washington on a fairly regular basis there are prayer breakfasts.
KING: Billy Graham has been at some. I am sure you have attended some. Should we pray for our president?
HINCKLEY: I think we should pray for our president.
KING: And the prayer should say what?
HINCKLEY: I don't know. I haven't given that a lot of thought. But it would -- pray for strength to stand up in these difficult circumstances. Now he's going through something terrible. His wife must be going through something terrible. His daughter must be going through something terrible. He needs help.
KING: You used the word "mischief." is this worse than mischief?
HINCKLEY: Yes, sure.
KING: It is?
HINCKLEY: That's the thing of which he's accused.
KING: And he admitted to.
HINCKLEY: Candidly and straightforwardly that I am speaking to a principal now and not particularly to a personality.
HINCKLEY: This is a principal, concerning the kind of behavior of which he has been accused.
KING: Yet you can love and forgive him...
HINCKLEY: I think so.
KING: ... at the same time condemning him for what he's done.
HINCKLEY: I have been in President Clinton's office, the Oval Office, had a very delightful visit with him about a year or two ago. I don't remember what it was. We gave him his family history.
KING: Oh, you did?
KING: Traced it back through...
HINCKLEY: Yes. And had a wonderful visit with him. The man has tremendous ability, tremendous capacity. Now he jeopardizes all of that with this kind of thing. It's just a tragedy.
KING: You knew President Reagan too, did you not?
HINCKLEY: Yes, yes. I presented his family history to him.
KING: I thought you'd bring mine tonight. Anyway, we'll be right back with President Gordon B. Hinckley of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with your phone calls next. Don't go away.
KING: Mormons are certainly famous for having children. In fact, I believe one of your hospitals in Salt Lake City is the busiest maternity ward in America.
HINCKLEY: I don't know.
KING: And I know I'm not -- in that regard, what does this current tribulation with the president say or do to children? Do you think?
HINCKLEY: I think it has a corrosive influence on everybody, not everybody. There are some people who just brush it off.
KING: Look the other way?
HINCKLEY: Many, many people. I think it's damage to go children. They can't watch television without bumping into it. I think it's a difficult thing and children need help these days. Families need strengthening. That's our great undertaking, one of many, strengthen the families, put father at the head of the house, again.
KING: In charge?
HINCKLEY: In charge.
KING: Of the...
HINCKLEY: A good man, a good father.
KING: In charge of the...
HINCKLEY: Who loves his wife and who is wife loves him and who's children love him let them grow together as good citizens of the land. I'm not the great problem facing this nation, in my belief, is what's happening to the American home. It's falling apart, families are falling apart all over the world.
KING: When you say father in charge, you mean he's the boss of the moment?
HINCKLEY: I don't mean that boss. Look, I've been a father; you've been a father.
HINCKLEY: Do you go around bossing people?
HINCKLEY: No. Of course not. You're acting with love and appreciation...
KING: Family unit, you're talking about?
HINCKLEY: ... and respect. Family unity.
KING: Why do you think it's gone? Traveling, age, movement, television?
HINCKLEY: People have abdicated their responsibility, fathers have. I read in the "Reader's Digest," some years ago, an article by a judge in New York, who said that his experience indicated that the problem with the families falling apart was that there was no father in that family. Now, here we have children born to husbandless wives, hundreds of thousands of them, 23 percent of the births in the United States in fatherless homes. With that kind of phenomenon going on, what do you expect?
KING: What do you feel about the effect of all of this on Chelsea Clinton?
HINCKLEY: Oh, I could only guess. That's purely speculating. But I would think it would be very, very difficult. I think it would be difficult on any child.
KING: Let's take some calls for President Hinckley. We start with Houston, Texas. Hello.
CALLER: Yes. A recent news story said that videos of the movie "Titanic" being sold in Utah were having certain parts edited or censored. What parts are they or why? And do you or the Mormon church believe in the censorship of books or films?
HINCKLEY: No, we don't censor books or films as a practice, no. This thing that's taking place has nothing whatever to do with the church, not a thing.
KING: Do you know what they're taking out?
HINCKLEY: Yes. I read just a newspaper story on it. That's all I know about it.
KING: What was taken out?
HINCKLEY: They excised the portion in the film where there was nudity and things -- something of that kind.
KING: But that's not a church thing.
HINCKLEY: No. It has nothing whatever to do with the church, I should say not.
KING: Tallahassee, Florida. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry.
CALLER: One of the things that I'm asked constantly is why doesn't the church come out many a times when they are accused or attacked and oppressed, or in the media in general?
HINCKLEY: We do come out sometimes, but you have to know this: that if you get into a fight with somebody, you just excite more curiosity and create more problems than you settle.
KING: But if stories affect you -- like this polygamy story affects you because it's associated with the past of the Mormons...
HINCKLEY: I made a statement; I made some now. We've made other statements. It's simply not a church issue.
KING: London, England. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, good morning, Larry.
CALLER: Mr. Hinckley, I have a question.
CALLER: I just have a question. As a representative of the Christian faith, I just had a question about if you feel that the president is doing a good job, why can't we just forgive and forget his human errors and you know get on with it. Because he is human.
KING: We're hearing a lot of this, he's human, forgive. And if you forgive, you forget.
HINCKLEY: Your question is well phrased, well taken. A lot of people feel just as you feel, I just get back to the fact that I would appreciate in our public leaders more of valuing personal probity. If you don't establish values at the top and live by those values, you seriously jeopardize behavior down below in the ranks.
KING: But when you say, as this woman is saying, he's doing a good job -- she's a Christian. You're of the Christian faith -- you don't call yourselves Christian, right.
HINCKLEY: Of course we do.
KING: You are Christian. OK. You're of the faith.
KING: The founder of all Christianity is forgave...
HINCKLEY: Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
KING: She said forgive and forget.
HINCKLEY: I've said exactly that on this program tonight.
KING: Well, then...
HINCKLEY: That I forgive him, but he is still accountable to the people that elected him; he's accountable to the Congress who sit in judgment of him, and I believe he's accountable to God.
KING: And do you believe that God calls in his accounts?
HINCKLEY: Oh, I don't have much doubt about that.
KING: You think we pay the piper?
HINCKLEY: What is it that revelations says: the books were opened, and we were judged out of the books. Sure, I think we have to stand before God and make an accounting of our lives.
KING: We'll be right back...
HINCKLEY: God expects something of us.
KING: Do you ever doubt your faith?
KING: We'll be right back with President Hinckley on LARRY KING LIVE after this.
KING: All right, before we take our next call, apparently, there's a lack of clarity in some areas, a lot of people calling in. If asked -- if he asked you, would you recommend resignation, or would you say wait until Congress hears it? Out of pure personal recommendation basis?
HINCKLEY: I would say wait until Congress acts on it. He hasn't been convicted of anything. He's made certain admissions, but he has not been convicted of malfeasance in the office, or any of those things. I would let it take its course.
KING: Do you fear the worst in the Starr report, on personal feelings?
HINCKLEY: No, I don't. I don't.
KING: You don't.
HINCKLEY: No, I haven't -- no, I don't think so.
KING: Because there are a lot of rumors...
HINCKLEY: Oh, there are rumors all over the place. Washington leaks like a sieve.
KING: Louisville, Kentucky, with President Hinckley. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, this is Hugh Elgen (ph), and my question is to Mr. Hinckley. If I just read the Bible, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and preach out of it, is that incomplete -- in other words, do I need to read the Book of Mormon and preach it as well, or could I just get by on the Old and New Testament?
HINCKLEY: As you read the Bible, you will find the statement: "In the mouths of two or more witnesses shall all things be established." That is a biblical statement. The Bible is a witness of the divinity of Christ. The book of Mormon, we assert, is also a witness of the divinity of Christ. And those two, hand-in-hand, become two voices, speaking in declaration of the divinity of the Lord.
KING: So you should refer to, and read from three books?
HINCKLEY: Three books: Old testament, New Testament and the Book of Mormon.
KING: That's three books, right?
HINCKLEY: Yes, yes, yes.
KING: When someone only preaches the New Testament, are they in error?
HINCKLEY: Oh, I don't know they're in error. They're going as far as they feel disposed to go.
KING: And the Old Testament as far as they feel disposed to go?
KING: And you're saying to them, bring your faith with you, right?
KING: You're not saying, leave your Catholicism.
HINCKLEY: I say this to other people: you develop all the good you can. We have no animosity toward any other church. We do not oppose other churches. We never speak negatively of other churches. We say to people: you bring all the good that you have, and let us see if we can add to it.
KING: Salt Lake City, Utah, hello.
CALLER: Hello. How are you doing, Larry?
KING: Hi, I'm fine.
CALLER: I was wondering about some of the guidelines in dietary restrictions Mormons live by, and how strictly members follow it. Because I was reading, once, the word of wisdom. My impression was that its major point was that one should respect all life, including animals and, as such, only consume them when absolutely necessary to sustain life, and to then eat them sparingly. But I've noticed that Mormon -- this is rarely followed by Mormons, and I'm wondering if this has anything to do with, as reported by "TIME" magazine.
KING: OK, president?
HINCKLEY: Oh, I don't know. You've read a part of the word of wisdom. The word of wisdom covers many things. It covers the excessive use of meat, as I see it. It covers, in a very particular way, the use of tobacco and alcohol.
KING: By saying no?
HINCKLEY: By saying, by proscribing those things.
KING: No to caffeine?
HINCKLEY: No to caffeine, coffee and tea.
KING: Do you know why? Dietary -- in the Old Testament were based on the health of animals and stuff.
HINCKLEY: Well, the wonderful thing is that the Book of Mormon -- I mean, the word of wisdom has shown to be fruitful in what -- the accomplishments.
KING: You are ahead of yourself in the health craze?
HINCKLEY: Yes, this man I met here not too long ago at UCLA, Inkstrom (ph), I think his name is, who has conducted a study for some 14 years, taking a peer group of Latter-day Saints, a peer group of the other population, and reached a conclusion that because of the degree to which we observe the word of wisdom, Mormons have a life expectancy of from eight to 11 years longer.
Now, who in the world wouldn't give almost anything for eight to ten years of life? I have here with me, right now, a statement from "The Los Angeles Times" on this very fact. "The study conducted by UCLA tracks the morality rates and health practices of nearly 10,000 California high priests and their wives for 14 years. As a follow up to research Inkstrom published in 1989, the study confirms that the healthiest active Mormons have a life expectancy that is eight to 11 years longer than that of the general white population in the U.S.," close quote.
KING: Based on those figures, my wife will outlive me by 67 years?
HINCKLEY: I wouldn't be surprised.
KING: Neither would I. We'll be right back, don't go away.
KING: We're back with President Gordon B. Hinckley, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we go back to St. George, Utah. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, this is a question for President Hinckley.
CALLER: Number one, it's good to see you in good health. And two, I have a question: What would your counsel be for us of the church regarding this President Clinton issue?
KING: Well, counsel to whom, sir?
CALLER: To President Hinckley.
KING: I know, but counsel to people in the church, you mean?
CALLER: Yes, yes.
KING: What should you say to your parishioners.
HINCKLEY: Let the established procedures run their course. Wait for the Starr report, wait for Congress to act. We don't condemn until there has been some basis for condemnation.
KING: But you condemn what he's admitted to?
HINCKLEY: There are some things that he's admitted that we're disappointed in, seriously so. But let's let the regular processes of the law run their course, then we can take a position.
KING: Many churches have atonement...
KING: The Catholics, you can gather and ask for forgiveness.
HINCKLEY: Yes, yes, we do.
KING: Can an adulterer stay in the church by admitting it?
HINCKLEY: Oh, yes. There are various penalties, but yes. We're not a harsh people in that sense. We're a very kindly, forgiving people; we really are. Our responsibility is to save people; ours is a gospel of salvation. Ours is a gospel to lift people, to lift the world, to help people.
KING: What are those huge temples mean, though?
HINCKLEY: Those huge temples?
KING: Everyone knows them?
HINCKLEY: Those huge temples are monuments, if you please, to our belief in the immortality of the human soul.
KING: You will go on after death?
HINCKLEY: Yes, of course, I believe that.
KING: And those buildings are a symbol of that?
HINCKLEY: Yes, and they become an expression of that, yes. Baptism for the dead, for those who are beyond the veil. The Lord said "except the man be born of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven." He didn't exempt anyone. Lots of wonderful people have lived and died without that opportunity. Paul said, "What shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead not rise at all." Why are they then baptized for the dead? It is a scriptural doctrine.
KING: How is the Tabernacle Choir doing?
HINCKLEY: The Tabernacle Choir is doing just wonderfully.
KING: One of the great singing groups of all time. Atheists love them.
HINCKLEY: National treasure.
KING: We go to Rexburg, Idaho, hello.
CALLER: Hi. I was just wondering if I could ask a question.
CALLER: On whether or not they discriminate, like, non-LDS people, like for Ricks College, or for like BYU?
KING: If you want to go to BYU, do you have to be a Mormon?
HINCKLEY: No. No, you don't.
KING: Do you have many non-Mormons?
HINCKLEY: Quite a few, yes. We have non-Mormons there; we have non-Mormons at Ricks. We have non-Mormons at...
KING: Ricks is another school?
HINCKLEY: Ricks is another school that we have. Yes, there's no discrimination in that.
KING: Are you happy with the way the sports program at Brigham Young has developed?
HINCKLEY: Yes, I hope we have a better football season this year.
KING: But you've had some very good basketball teams and some very good...
HINCKLEY: We've had some very good basketball teams in the past; not so much recently. We've had good football teams and I hope we have a good team this year.
KING: Do you have a Salt Lake City of Europe? By that, I mean a center city in Europe?
HINCKLEY: No, but we have what we call area officers across the world. We have them in Tokyo, in Hong Kong, in Manila, in Sydney.
KING: What place aren't you in that you want to go in?
HINCKLEY: No place that I know of today.
KING: You're in Moscow?
HINCKLEY: We go in the front door. We go in legally.
KING: You're in China?
HINCKLEY: We go in with the public officials, knowing what we're doing. We don't try any subterfuge.
KING: But you proselytize the faith, though, right?
HINCKLEY: Yes, we do. Yes...
KING: You want people to come to you.
HINCKLEY: Yes. Our job is to make bad men good and good men better.
KING: We'll be back with a pretty good man, the president of the Mormons, Gordon B. Hinckley. Our remaining moments, after this.
KING: We're back. Berry, Vermont for President Hinckley. Hello.
CALLER: Yes. Since we're getting into the 21st century, President Hinckley, what is the chance that women may hold a priesthood in the Mormon church?
HINCKLEY: Well, they don't hold the priesthood at the present time. It would take another revelation to bring that about. I don't anticipate it. The women of the church are not complaining about it. They have their own organization, a very strong organization, 4 million plus members. I don't know of another women's organization in the world which does so much for women as does that, as this church has. They're happy. They sit on boards and governance in the church. I don't hear any complaints about it.
KING: Do you know why they can't be priests?
HINCKLEY: Well, only that the Lord has not designated that they will be.
KING: And the same -- that's the same position as the pope?
HINCKLEY: Same principle, yes, I think so.
KING: So a revelation could come to you or it could come to the pope or the next president or the next pope?
HINCKLEY: That's what it would take -- that's exactly what it would take.
KING: And everyone has seen, all around America, and the world your elders?
KING: A young man who goes out on missions.
KING: My wife's brother returns from one.
HINCKLEY: Yes. He's a good missionary.
KING: Brett is good, huh?
HINCKLEY: I checked on him. He's a very good missionary. He's released on the 11th.
KING: Released. When he answers to Dale Murphy (ph)...
KING: ... who's going to go in the hall of fame next year. He stayed active in the church?
HINCKLEY: Very busy.
KING: What are the elders in their black suits and worn our shoes -- sounds like a song. What do they do?
HINCKLEY: They do missionary work. They call on people.
KING: At a young age?
HINCKLEY: Yes missionaries. Yes, 19 years of age. I've had five grandchildren on missions now at one time and they've been scattered across the world.
KING: I saw a letter he wrote recently to his sister saying that his life has changed totally through this experience; he's quite a football star and he's going to go back to athletics.
HINCKLEY: That happens.
KING: What does it do for them?
HINCKLEY: Look, 57,000 missionaries, most of them young men, sent out into the world at a time when they're most likely to be thinking of themselves, interrupting their schooling, to go at their own expense to teach the gospel of peace across the Earth. What greater force for good in all the world can you have than an army like that? What does it do for them: builds self confidence, builds faith, builds interest in people, builds a great concern for the poor and the needy of the Earth. They learn languages. They work in humanitary work.
KING: Women go, too?
HINCKLEY: Yes, some do. What...
KING: We only have about a minute and a half. What is the role in the society of a leader of a sect? What is your role? you're the leader of a major religion?
HINCKLEY: Yes sir.
KING: What's your role?
HINCKLEY: My role is to declare a doctrine. My role is to stand as an example before the people. My role is to be a voice in defense of the truth. My role is to stand as a conservator of those values which are important in our civilization and our society. My role it is to lead people.
KING: And if you ever stray or lose that role, the effect is monumental right?
HINCKLEY: It is monumental. It would be monumental and it would deserve to be monumental.
KING: Is resisting temptation hard?
KING: Not hard?
HINCKLEY: No, self discipline. What does the proverbs say: it is easier -- it is more difficult to control the spirit than to rule over a city. Self discipline is not easy. It requires effort. It requires strength; it requires thought; it requires prayer sometimes, maybe.
KING: And people with responsibility should have more of it?
KING: Because they're...
HINCKLEY: Because they're examples before others, sure.
KING: This has been a wonderful hour.
HINCKLEY: Larry, it's been wonderful to be with you.
KING: My pleasure.
HINCKLEY: Thank you ever so much.
KING: Our guest has been President Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the prophet. I'm Larry King in Los Angeles, up next, "THE WORLD TODAY" with Jim Moret and more on McGwire. Don't go away.