INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY
Aired: November 09, 1997
David Ransom: Sir, youíve 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 donít
bend with every wind of doctrine that comes along. Our doctrine is stable,
itís 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
DR: In Australia many of the established Churches are losing members, youíre
Gordon B. Hinckley: I hope so.
DR: Why do you think that is?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Well we have that programme to offer. Our ministryís
unique. We make heavy demands on people. The interesting thing is that a Church
that demands great things from itís people, attracts people.
DR: Extraordinary in a way, isnít 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. ĎWeíre a peculiar peopleí.
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes we are peculiar people. (laughs....) Yes we are a
peculiar people. Weíre a little different. Weíre living in the world, but
trying to save ourselves from becoming a part of the world. The drift of the
world. The worldís adrift somewhat. Homes are breaking up all over the world.
Weíre espousing strong family values and trying to maintain solidity in our
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 thatís right.
DR: And very, very strict.
Gordon B. Hinckley: Thatís wonderful. And you live longer. And youíre
happier. And youíre healthier.
DR: Whatís wonderful about not drinking coffee?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh ah coffee has all kinds of caffeine in it, other things.
You donít need coffee. Nobody needs coffee. You can get along without it,
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
theyíre expected to conform. And they find happiness in that conformity.
DR: But not allowed to question?
Gordon B. Hinckley: If what?
DR: Theyíre 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 donít think weíve retrograded across the world. I think there
are many good people everywhere. And our appeal is to those people. We donít
down grade any Church. We donít 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 thatís all there is to it.
DR: Now Iím 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. Thereíll be
effort there. We wonít be sitting around playing harps. Weíll 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. Thatís a basic doctrine with us.
DR: So with you, God has a physical body?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Heís an individual - as is His Son, Jesus Christ.
DR: And God has a wife?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I donít 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. Weíre sons and daughters of God.
DR: And at the end of our lives
Gordon B. Hinckley: If youíre 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. Itís just that
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 isnít 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?í Why are they then
baptised for the dead?" Paul wrote all that. That isnít 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.
DR: As the world leader of the the Church, how are you in touch with God? Can
you explain that for me?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I pray. I pray to Him. Night and morning. I speak with Him.
I think He hears my prayers. As He hears the prayers of others. I think He
DR: But more than that, because youíre leader of the Church. Do you have a
Gordon B. Hinckley: I have a special relationship in terms of the Church as an
DR: And you receive........
Gordon B. Hinckley: For the entire Church.
DR: You receive?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Now we donít 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 donít know. I feel satisfied that in some
circumstances weíve had such revelation. Itís a very sacred thing that we
donít like to talk about a lot. A very sacred thing.
Q: But itís a special experience?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I think itís a real thing. Itís a very real thing. And a
DR: Now the book of Mormon tells about Christís dealings with ancient people
in America. I know thatís a long story, but can you put that in a nutshell for
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
DR: So Jesus went to America and taught there. Is there any historical proof of
Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh I donít know there are many confirmatory evidences of
that civilization. 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 didnít write very much that weíve 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 allís said and done,
DR: So where are the plates now?
Gordon B. Hinckley: The plates are not here. The angel who delivered them took
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
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 youíre not really Christians?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I simply say thatís a thatís a misconception. We are
Christians in a very real sense. And thatís coming to be more and more widely
recognised. One time people everywhere said weíre not Christians. Theyíve
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
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 donít think it was wrong. It things, various things
happened in different periods. Thereís a reason for them.
DR: What was the reason for that?
Gordon B. Hinckley: I donít know what the reason was. But I know that weíve
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 donít think so. I donít see that anywhere. Iíve
been to Africa. Iíve been to other places. I donít see any evidence of that
any more. Thereís some misconception of course that among some people. But I
donít 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: Thatís 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 womenís 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 theyíll say
weíre happy and weíre satisfied.
DR: They all say that?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes. All except a oh youíll 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 thatís a part of His programme. Of course it is,
DR: Is it possible that the rules could change in the future as the rules are on
Gordon B. Hinckley: He could change them yes. If He were to change them thatís
the only way it would happen.
DR: So youíd have to get a revelation?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes. But thereís no agitation for that. We donít find
it. Our women are happy. Theyíre satisfied. These bright, able, wonderful
women who administer their own organisation are very happy. Ask them. Ask my
Gordon B. Hinckley: Are you happy? (to his wife...)
Mrs. H: Very happy! (laughs)
DR: Um look I donít want to be indelicate here but this um American Ď60
minutesí 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 thatís simple - many people wear particular types
of clothing. Many Religions, the Jews do, vestments of various kind worn by
other Religions. It isnít an unusual thing at all. Itís sacred. We regard it
as such. Itís 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 have you
Gordon B. Hinckley: Theyíre very comfortable.
DR: Have you ever received protection from them?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Protection from them? Oh I think so Iím 86 years of age
and going on 87 and Iím still here.
DR: After you leave here, youíll go out and youíll 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. Theyíre tough, but theyíre
DR: I meant the rules that apply. I understand that um as a
missionary you er you canít er be alone with a member of the opposite sex. You
canít watch television, no listening to music apparently other than listening
to the Mormon tabernacle choir, no swimming, no dating. It sounds like a tough
Gordon B. Hinckley: Youíre looking at it the wrong way. Youíve got the wrong
end of the telescope. You have to look at it the other way. Here they are.
Theyíve 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 donít bother with these other
things. They donít get in the way of them. They are consecrated and devoted to
this great work of teaching the Gospel. They donít need to be bothered with
these other things and theyíre not. You donít miss them when youíre in
this work. Really you donít. You just so ??? all fired up over teaching the
Gospel to people and nothing else matters. Itís strange to you David, but
DR: You can tell itís 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. Thereís plenty
of time for a young man. Heíll take care of those things naturally. Heíll be
back in school most of them. And er heíll date, heíll go on into marriage.
And theyíll 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 donít know much about er your social structure here.
Iím only... I only come as a visitor and so I canít 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 isnít
any question about it. These are one of the causes for whatís 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: Itís a permissive society in which we live, yes. And
unfortunately parents are largely responsible for that. Theyíve taken an
indifferent attitude towards the action of their children. Weíre trying very
hard and I think weíre succeeding in maintaining the traditional family life.
And we have a great, huge number of young people whoíre growing up in the
faith and who are just wonderful.
DR: And youíd 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 ĎI teach the people correct principles and they
cover themselvesí. Thatís 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.