Though news reporters who have interviewed President Gordon B. Hinckley "are men and women of great capacity, who know how to ask questions that come at you like a javelin," he still grants such interviews.
His reason: "It represents an opportunity to tell the world something of our story," he said at the priesthood session Saturday evening. "As Paul said to Festus and Agrippa, `This thing was not done in a corner.' (Acts 26:26.) We have something that this world needs to hear about, and these interviews afford an opportunity."He talked of one such interview, conducted by Mike Wallace on the CBS program "60 Minutes" and broadcast nationwide last Easter Sunday. To restate his position on some matters, President Hinckley read during his address parts of two interviews conducted in preparation for the program, taken mostly from material not used in the broadcast.
Here are some of the questions, asked by Mike Wallace, with their extemporaneous, unrehearsed answers by President Hinckley.
Are you concerned about misconceptions about the Mormon Church?
There are still many ideas that persist concerning us. We are not well-known, our people. We have grown up in the West. The Church originated in Palmyra, N. Y. You have heard of the Mormon migration to the West . . . where we established some three or four hundered different communities. . . . We would like to . . . let people come to know us for what we are and what we are trying to accomplish."
Since World War II, we seem to be splintering; we seem to be becoming more selfish, more self-absorbed, less community-minded. Families don't seem to mean so much, and morality has gone to hell [his expression] in a handbasket. Why?
The basic failure is in our homes. Parents haven't measured up to their responsibilities. It is evident. A nation will rise no higher than the strength of its homes. If you want to reform a nation, you begin with families, with parents who teach their children principles and values that are positive and affirmative and will lead them to worthwhile endeavors. That is the basic failure that has taken place in America. And we are making a tremendous effort to bring about greater solidarity in families. Parents have no greater responsibility in this world than the bringing up of their children in the right way, and they will have no greater satisfaction as the years pass than to see those children grow in integrity and honesty and make something of their lives. . . .
Your church has a very strict code of health. Why is that a part of religion?
The body is the temple of the spirit. The body is sacred. It was created in the image of God. It is something to be cared for and used for good purposes. It ought to be taken care of, and this thing which we call the Word of Wisdom, which is a code of health, is most helpful in doing that.
You also have a moral code.
We believe in chastity before marriage and total fidelity after marriage. That sums it up. That is the way to happiness in living. That is the way to satisfaction. It brings peace to the heart and peace to the home.
There are those who say that Mormonism began as a cult. You don't like to hear that.
I don't know what that means, really. But if it has negative connotations, I don't accept it as applying to this Church. People may have applied it, they may have applied it in the early days. But look, here is this great church now. There are only six churches in America with more members than this Church. We are the second church in membership in the state of California. We are reaching out across the world. We are in more than 150 nations. This is a great, strong, viable organization with a tremendous outreach. . . . We are rather ordinary people trying to do an extraordinary work.
The Mormons, Mr. President, call you a `living Moses,' a prophet who literally communicates with Jesus. How do you do that?
. . . Let me say first that there is a tremendous history behind this Church, a history of prophecy, a history of revelation, and . . . decisions which set the pattern of the Church so that there aren't constant recurring problems that require any special dispensation. But there are occasionally things that arise where the will of the Lord (is needed and) is sought, and in those circumstances I think the best way I could describe the process is to liken it to the experience of Elijah as set forth in the book of First Kings. Elijah spoke to the Lord and there was a wind, a great wind, and the Lord was not in the wind. And there was an earthquake, and the Lord was not in the earthquake. And there was a fire, and the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire a still, small voice, which I describe as the whisperings of the Spirit. Now, let me just say, categorically, that the things of God are understood by the Spirit of God, and one must have and seek and cultivate that Spirit, and there comes understanding and it is real. I can give testimony of that.
How big a problem, Mr. President, is child abuse in the Mormon church?
I hope it isn't a big problem. . . . This is a serious phenomenon that is finding expression all over the world. It is a terrible thing. It is a wicked thing. It is a reprehensible thing. It is a thing of which I have spoken time and again.
What are you doing to reduce it?
We are doing everything we know how to reduce it. We are teaching our people. We are talking about it. We have set up a course of instruction for our bishops all across the nation. All last year we carried on an educational program. We have set up a help-line for them where they can get professional counseling and help with these problems. We have issued a journal dealing with child abuse, spouse abuse, abuse of the elderly, the whole problem of abuse. We are concerned about it. I am deeply concerned about the victims. My heart reaches out to them. I want to do everything we can to ease the pain, to preclude the happening of this evil and wicked thing. . . . I know of no other organization in this world that has taken more exhaustive measures, tried harder, done more to tackle this problem, to work with it, to do something to make a change. We recognize the terrible nature of it and we want to help our people, reach out to them, assist them.
In conclusion, President Hinckley encouraged the brethren, saying, "None of us ever need hesitate to speak up for this Church, for its doctrine, for its people, for its divine organization and divinely-given responsibility."