Interview with President Gordon B. Hinckley of the LDS Church
INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY
Aired: November 09, 1997
David Ransom: Sir, you�ve called your Church an anchor in an unstable world. How is it?
President Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes, sir. We are. We have fundamental, basic doctrines which have held fast through more than a 150 years of time. We don�t bend with every wind of doctrine that comes along. Our doctrine is stable, it�s secure. Programmes change, we make adaptation according to the circumstances. But the basic doctrine remains the same and that becomes a solid unshifting foundation to which people can cling in this world of instability and drifting values.
DR: In Australia many of the established Churches are losing members, you�re gaining members.
Gordon B. Hinckley: I hope so.
DR: Why do you think that is?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Well we have that programme to offer. Our ministry�s unique. We make heavy demands on people. The interesting thing is that a Church that demands great things from it�s people, attracts people.
DR: Extraordinary in a way, isn�t it?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes. Where as if they pick up every kind of shifting doctrine, they seem to lose people.
DR: You said last night. �We�re a peculiar people�.
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes we are peculiar people.(laughs….) Yes we are a peculiar people. We�re a little different. We�re living in the world, but trying to save ourselves from becoming a part of the world. The drift of the world. The world�s adrift somewhat. Homes are breaking up all over the world. We�re espousing strong family values and trying to maintain solidity in our homes.
DR: But you do condemn so many things that are commonly accepted. For example no sex before marriage. No tobacco, no alcohol, no gambling not even coffee.
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yeah that�s right.
DR: And very, very strict.
Gordon B. Hinckley: That�s wonderful. And you live longer. And you�re happier. And you�re healthier.
DR: What�s wonderful about not drinking coffee?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh ah coffee has all kinds of caffeine in it, other things. You don�t need coffee. Nobody needs coffee. You can get along without it, David (laughs).
DR: Not even early in the morning for an interview like this?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I had a cup of Milo.
DR: And that worked?
Gordon B. Hinckley: That worked.
DR: There does seem to be though an uncritical acceptance of a conformist style?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Uncritical? No. Not uncritical. People think in a very critical way before they come into this Church. When they come into this Church they�re expected to conform. And they find happiness in that conformity.
DR: But not allowed to question?
Gordon B. Hinckley: If what?
DR: They�re not allowed to question?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh they are allowed to question. Look – this Church came of intellectual dissent. We maintain the largest private university in America.
DR: And that continues to this day?
Gordon B. Hinckley: 27,000 students.
DR: And that dissent continues to that this day?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh absolutely, absolutely. We expect people to think for themselves. Now, if they get off and begin to fight the Church and that sort of thing as one or two do now and again, we simply disfellowship them and go our way. But those cases are really very, very few.
DR: Just looking at the missionaries as I came in today it reminded me very much of the fifties. The sort of values of the fifties in Australia.
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yeah.
DR: Do you agree?
Gordon B. Hinckley: It’s cleaned up. The shirts on. White shirts, ties, suits. Conservative dress. Does remind you of the fifties. Contrast that with what you see today. And you get the whole picture.
DR: Do you think the fifties were a better time?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I think the fifties were a good time and I think this is a great time. I don�t think we�ve retrograded across the world. I think there are many good people everywhere. And our appeal is to those people. We don�t down grade any Church. We don�t speak disparagingly of any Church. We simply say to people of other Churches, bring all the good that you have and come and let us see if they if we can add to it. Now that�s all there is to it.
DR: Now I�m interested in your beliefs. Very briefly what do you imagine heaven to be?
A: Oh I think it will be a place of beauty and a place of work. There�ll be effort there. We won�t be sitting around playing harps. We�ll be busy.
A: And God. How do you envisage God?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Absolutely as an individual being. The first Article of our faith states we believe in God the eternal Father and in His Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost. That�s a basic doctrine with us.
DR: So with you, God has a physical body?
Gordon B. Hinckley: He�s an individual – as is His Son, Jesus Christ.
DR: And God has a wife?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I don�t know, but I suppose so. As we have a Father I assume we have a mother.
DR: I understood your teachings said that God has a wife?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes. Well we…. Yes we have a mother in heaven. We believe so. We�re sons and daughters of God.
DR: And at the end of our lives
Gordon B. Hinckley: If you�re a child you have to have a mother.
DR: And at the end of our lives, what happens?
Gordon B. Hinckley: At the end of our lives we step across the threshold or death and enter into a new and better world. I believe that. It�s just that simple.
DR: Now I understand to you our ancestors are very important. And you have a way of Baptism of dead ancestors. Can you explain that very briefly?
Gordon B. Hinckley: We have proxy Baptism. That isn�t a new doctrine, that goes back to the New Testament. When Paul declared “What shall they do who are baptised from the dead if the dead rise not at all?� Why are they then baptised for the dead?” Paul wrote all that. That isn�t a new practice. If Baptism is necessary for everybody (and there are no exceptions) then some such doctrine becomes necessary.
Gordon B. Hinckley: Jesus said “except a man be born of water and of the spirit. He cannot enter into the kingdom of God”. There are no exceptions. Baptism is a necessary ordinance.
Gordon B. Hinckley: Now we don�t need a lot of continuing revelation. We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation. But if a problem arises, as it does occasionally, a vexatious thing with which we have to deal, we go to the Lord in prayer. We discuss it as a First Presidency and as a Council of the Twelve Apostles. We pray about it and then comes the whisperings of a still small voice. And we know the direction we should take and we proceed accordingly.
DR: And this is a Revelation?
Gordon B. Hinckley: This is a Revelation.
DR: How often have you received such revelations?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh, I don�t know. I feel satisfied that in some circumstances we�ve had such revelation. It�s a very sacred thing that we don�t like to talk about a lot. A very sacred thing.
Q: But it�s a special experience?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I think it�s a real thing. It�s a very real thing. And a special experience.
DR: Now the book of Mormon tells about Christ�s dealings with ancient people in America. I know that�s a long story, but can you put that in a nutshell for me?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Well He said when during His ministry other sheep I have which are not of this fold, and that they those He would visit following His death, following His resurrection we believe He appeared to the people on the American continent and ministered to them for a brief period. Talked to them much the same as He talked to people in Palestine. Just as The Bible is a Testament of the old world, so the book of Mormon is a testament of the new world.
DR: So Jesus went to America and taught there. Is there any historical proof of this?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh I don�t know there are many confirmatory evidences of that civilation civilisation. The record of theses people we think is a testament or remembrance of that occasion. Yes to that degree. But not a lot. Most people didn�t write very much that we�ve been able to decipher. Now.
DR: But this information came to…..?
Gordon B. Hinckley: The book of the Mormon.
DR: Er through Joseph Smith?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Correct.
DR: Now I understand these revelations came on golden plates. Can you tell me something about that?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes. This was a book written in the language of the Egyptians on golden plates and they were hidden away in a hill in Western New York. And Joseph Smith was led to that hill and those plates were delivered to him. And he translated from those plates what has become the book of Mormon. Here it is. You can hold it in your hands. You can heft it. You can read it. You can feel the spirit. You can try to explain it. But when all�s said and done, it�s there.
DR: So where are the plates now?
Gordon B. Hinckley: The plates are not here. The angel who delivered them took them back.
DR: Now how does this all fit with other Christian teachings? And how does your faith sit with other Christians?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Let me say first that the book of Mormon becomes a second witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe in Jesus Christ as the Saviour and the Redeemer of the world. We carry the name of the Saviour and the name of the Church. We are Christians in a very real sense.
DR: And others are not?
Gordon B. Hinckley: And others are if they chose to call themselves such.
Gordon B. Hinckley: The term Christians in a generic vein.
DR: Do they need though….
Gordon B. Hinckley: A group of people who believe in Jesus Christ.
DR: Do they need though to believe in these new revelations to be truly Christians?
Gordon B. Hinckley: They will get great satisfaction believe in in these new revelations. They will have in their hand a second witness for the reality and validity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
DR: So how do you respond to those who say that you�re not really Christians?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I simply say that�s a that�s a misconception. We are Christians in a very real sense. And that�s coming to be more and more widely recognised. One time people everywhere said we�re not Christians. They�ve come to recognise that we are and that we have a very vital and dynamic religion. Based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.
DR: Now up until 1978 I understand Blacks were not allowed to be priests in your Church?
Gordon B. Hinckley: That is correct. Although we have Black members of the Church. They felt that they would gain more in this Church than any other with which they were acquainted and they were members of the Church. In 1978 we (the president of the Church) received a revelation under which all worthy men would receive all the blessings of the Church available to them as well as to any others. So across the world now we are teaching the Gospel to Blacks, Whites, everyone else who will listen.
DR: So in retrospect was the Church wrong in that?
Gordon B. Hinckley: No I don�t think it was wrong. It things, various things happened in different periods. There�s a reason for them.
DR: What was the reason for that?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I don�t know what the reason was. But I know that we�ve rectified whatever may have appeared to be wrong at that time.
DR: Is it a problem for the Church that it it still has a tag of being racist?
Gordon B. Hinckley: No I don�t think so. I don�t see that anywhere. I�ve been to Africa. I�ve been to other places. I don�t see any evidence of that any more. There�s some misconception of course that among some people. But I don�t see much evidence of that any more.
DR: At present women are not allowed to be priests in your Church. Why is that?
Gordon B. Hinckley: That�s right, because the Lord has put it that way. Now women have a very prominent place in this Church. They have there own organisation. Probably the largest women�s organisation in the world of 3.7 million members. And the women of that organisation sit on Boards. Our Board of Education things of that kind. They counsel with us. We counsel together. They bring in insight that we very much appreciate and they have this tremendous organisation of the world where they grow and if you ask them they�ll say we�re happy and we�re satisfied.
DR: They all say that?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes. All except a oh you�ll find a little handful one or two here and there, but in 10 million members you expect that.
DR: You say the Lord has put it that way. What do you mean by that?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I mean that�s a part of His programme. Of course it is, yes.
DR: Is it possible that the rules could change in the future as the rules are on Blacks ?
Gordon B. Hinckley: He could change them yes. If He were to change them that�s the only way it would happen.
DR: So you�d have to get a revelation?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes. But there�s no agitation for that. We don�t find it. Our women are happy. They�re satisfied. These bright, able, wonderful women who administer their own organisation are very happy. Ask them. Ask my wife.
Gordon B. Hinckley: Are you happy? (to his wife…)
Mrs. H: Very happy! (laughs)
DR: Um look I don�t want to be indelicate here but this um American �60 minutes� program did deal with this business about the spiritual undergarments. I must ask you, what are they? And do you wear them?
Gordon B. Hinckley: The spiritual what?
DR: The spiritual undergarments?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh, well that�s simple – many people wear particular types of clothing. Many Religions, the Jews do, vestments of various kind worn by other Religions. It isn�t an unusual thing at all. It�s sacred. We regard it as such. It�s a token as it were of our membership in the Church and our eligibility to go to the Temple.
DR: And the sacred undergarments protect you?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh, I think so. Yes.
DR: Do you wear them?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes.
DR: All the time?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes.
DR: And and have you
Gordon B. Hinckley: They�re very comfortable.
DR: Have you ever received protection from them?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Protection from them? Oh I think so I�m 86 years of age and going on 87 and I�m still here.
DR: After you leave here, you�ll go out and you�ll talk to 450 young missionaries. Does it bring back memories for you?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh, yes indeed. As a missionary in the British Isles about 65 years ago. It was a great experience, a tremendous experience.
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh yes. You know the English. They�re tough, but they�re wonderful. DR: I meant the rules that apply. I understand that um as a missionary you er you can�t er be alone with a member of the opposite sex. You can�t watch television, no listening to music apparently other than listening to the Mormon tabernacle choir, no swimming, no dating. It sounds like a tough call.
Gordon B. Hinckley: You�re looking at it the wrong way. You�ve got the wrong end of the telescope. You have to look at it the other way. Here they are. They�ve consecrated two years of their lives. To go in out and serving other people. To doing their missionary work. They concentrate on one thing. As there whole objective is to teach the Gospel. They don�t bother with these other things. They don�t get in the way of them. They are consecrated and devoted to this great work of teaching the Gospel. They don�t need to be bothered with these other things and they�re not. You don�t miss them when you�re in this work. Really you don�t. You just so ??? all fired up over teaching the Gospel to people and nothing else matters. It�s strange to you David, but it�s so.
DR: You can tell it�s strange I know. If they are distracted by TV, by music, by girls, what happens?
Gordon B. Hinckley: What happens? Nothing happens. They just go forward with their work. When they go home they get back and er social life. There�s plenty of time for a young man. He�ll take care of those things naturally. He�ll be back in school most of them. And er he�ll date, he�ll go on into marriage. And they�ll be happy and productive citizens.
DR: Finally, in Australia as in the US, I understand you ??? government on social issues. Especially in the name of protecting the family. What sort of things would you like to change as far as Australian society is concerned?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I don�t know much about er your social structure here. I�m only… I only come as a visitor and so I can�t say very much, but I was sorry to read that the great emphasis being put on gambling down in er ..Victoria? Victoria, yes. Institutionally the Church speaks out on moral issues. Other than that we draw a strict line of separation of Church and State. The Church institutionally does not get involved in politics. Does not endorse candidates, does not endorse parties. We encourage our people as citizens of the land to exercise their franchises individuals. And to be active in these things, but as an institution the Church maintains a strict line of separation of Church and State speaking out only when there is a moral question at issue.
DR: You put forward an opinion I understand here about the the sex on video and about um the internet and the effect that may have on society?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh, yes all of these things are down grading. There isn�t any question about it. These are one of the causes for what�s happening. The illegitimate birth way up er dropping out of school up, many things. We put great emphasis on education for instance.
DR: And you believe the reason for this is a sexually permissive society?
Gordon B. Hinckley: It�s a permissive society in which we live, yes. And unfortunately parents are largely responsible for that. They�ve taken an indifferent attitude towards the action of their children. We�re trying very hard and I think we�re succeeding in maintaining the traditional family life. And we have a great, huge number of young people who�re growing up in the faith and who are just wonderful.
DR: And you�d advocate greater prohibitions in society generally?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I would think that we would advocate those values which have made of this a great nation in the past. And which have made of America a great nation. And those values are slipping unfortunately. DR: And the way to correct that is to ban certain things?
Gordon B. Hinckley: The way to correct that is to teach. Joseph Smith the founder of this Church said �I teach the people correct principles and they cover themselves�. That�s the essence of the thing. Teach the principle and learn and let people govern themselves.
DR: President Hinckley thank you very much.
Gordon B. Hinckley: Thank you very, very much, David.
© 1997 Australian Broadcasting Corporation