During an interview that aired on NBC Feb. 22, President Gordon B. Hinckley talked to Tom Brokaw about Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon, tithing, polygamy and the Church's roll in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
"The Olympics will bring people here from everywhere," President Hinckley said. "I think there will be a better understanding as a result of people coming here. There are still all kinds of misconceptions. I think those will largely fade and I think that our people the world over will take some pride in the fact that we were here and a part of it when it all occurred."
Mr. Brokaw, NBC news anchor, explained that Church members did not use the "home field advantage" to win new members or "impose themselves in an unwarranted fashion" during the Olympics, but no doubt welcomed the opportunity to convey a positive image to the world.
The report, broadcast during prime time Olympic coverage, showed striking pictures of the Salt Lake Temple, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Welfare Square as well members and missionaries attending Church meetings around the world.
"Today's Latter-day Saints," said Mr. Brokaw, "are perhaps best known for their conservative lifestyles prohibiting alcohol, tobacco and gambling, while encouraging strong family values."
Referring to the Brigham Young's prophecy that someday emperors and kings, the wise and noble from around the world, would visit Salt Lake City, Mr. Brokaw asked President Hinckley if Brigham Young had the Winter Olympics in mind. "I don't know what he had in mind," President Hinckley said. "But it is coming to pass. The Olympics will bring people here from everywhere."
People see the Church, President Hinckley added, "as an anchor of strength in a world of shifting values. They see our great emphasis on the family. They see something very solid and substantial that they can get hold of and cling to."
Calling President Hinckley an energetic, enormously thoughtful man who has a great vision of how the Church should run, Mr. Brokaw spoke of the Church's vast resources and membership made up of devout tithe payers.
"[Tithing] is not a matter of money as it is a matter of faith," said President Hinckley. "The faithful pay their tithing according to their income. We regard the tithing funds as sacred money, the Lord's purse. And we want to be very careful how we spend it."
Among those expenditures, said Mr. Brokaw, is a highly developed internal welfare system and a humanitarian center that assists the world's nations.
Of the Book of Mormon, Mr. Brokaw said that many Christians are troubled by a book that places the story of Jesus in another plane.
"I can understand why people question it, why they criticize it," said President Hinckley. "I just think that comes of misunderstanding. Of course, we are a Christian Church. The very name of the Church denotes that. The central figure of our worship is the Lord Jesus Christ. Our interpretation of some things may be different. The fact of the matter is that we are printing more copies of the Book of Mormon than ever before in the history of the Church."
Speaking of polygamy, President Hinckley said: "It is a thing of the past, but, of course, it still rises as one of those sensational things that people like to talk about, read about. There was so much misunderstanding of it, but it is pretty well behind us."
Concluding, Mr. Brokaw noted that today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day has a reach that extends well beyond Utah's borders.
Illustrating the vast reach and growth of the Church, he said while visiting rural Mongolia, he ran into two LDS missionaries. Having met President Hinckley before, Mr. Brokaw took a picture of the missionaries and sent it to the Church leader.
"I thought he would be pleased to know that I ran into these missionaries," said Mr. Brokaw. "He wrote me back a note and said, 'Well Tom, thanks so much for that picture. But I hope it wasn't Sunday because they were not in a coat and tie.' "
So, said Mr. Brokaw, the Church's standards are not ever relaxed, "even in Mongolia."