Monday, January 28, 2008
CNN: Larry King in Conversation with Gordon B. Hinckley, Posted By Robert Paisola
LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: Tonight, exclusive. A rare hour with one of the world's distinguished religious leaders, with millions and millions of followers worldwide.
Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - the Mormons. From faith and forgiveness in the world today to the myths and realities of his own church - next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. We have a special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE tonight with a very special guest.
He's President Gordon B. Hinckley, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, known as the Mormons. He is the fifteenth such president or prophet in that great church's long history.
And we're in an unusual building. We're across from the temple. What is this, Mr. President - Mister - what do I - president, right? I can call you Mr. President, and George Bush will jump in.
GORDON B. HINCKLEY, PRESIDENT, THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS: This is our conference center. It's a new building. It's a magnificent building. It seats some 21,000 people without any pillars anywhere to stand in the way of their sight.
Great organ. A wonderful organ. Wonderful choir section. Orchestra here. And seating for 21,000 people.
KING: How does it differentiate from the church itself?
HINCKLEY: Well, it's just a part of our structure. The tabernacle just got too small for us. And, moreover, it's getting tired. We're going to have to shut it down for a year and work it over. It's 137 years old.
It's just a remarkable and wonderful thing that we built this before we were faced with that problem.
KING: And how is this structure used?
HINCKLEY: This structure's used for our general conferences, which are held twice each year, for other conferences, other meetings held for Christmas concerts.
We had the other night Audra McDonald and Peter Graves here with the Tabernacle Choir and the orchestra. Had a wonderful program.
KING: In fact, we're showing scenes from it throughout the program
HINCKLEY: Well, it's - it was a wonderful program.
KING: Why does this church concentrate so much on building things?
HINCKLEY: Well, you have to house people. You have to house people if you're going to have members. You've got to take care of them.
KING: But you're building everywhere. You've traveled the world - where you build temples.
HINCKLEY: Building everywhere. We build nearly 400 new buildings a year across the world.
We face two great problems as we grow. One is the training of local leadership. The other is construction of houses of worship where the people can meet, carry forward the program of the Church.
KING: Why do they have to be so grand?
HINCKLEY: Well, they're not so grand. They're just beautiful.
KING: Ah, they're pretty grand.
HINCKLEY: They're beautiful. They're beautiful. Nothing's too good for the Lord.
These are houses of God devoted to worship. Nothing's too good for Him.
Now, in doing this, we don't neglect humanitarian efforts, welfare efforts, things of that kind.
KING: Because you can say a dollar spent on a building could be a dollar spent on a family.
HINCKLEY: Well, we take care of the family as well.
KING: You do both.
HINCKLEY: We do both.
We have, this very year of 2004, spent millions of dollars in humanitarian aid and sent it across the world. Worked with Catholic Charities, American Red Cross, Red Crescent, Habitat (ph) and other organizations, Salvation Army.
Our concern is to take care of people who are in need and help them in their distress.
KING: Want to touch a lot of bases tonight. How old are you now?
HINCKLEY: How old? I'm old. I am exactly six months into my 95th year.
KING: And you've lost none of your brain power? None of your - how do you feel?
HINCKLEY: Well, I feel pretty well, except I have to use a cane to get around.
This end of me seems to work all right, but this end doesn't.
KING: Do presidents ever retire? Or must they finish their term by death?
HINCKLEY: They finish their term by death. Yes.
KING: So, no prophet has ever left the priesthood, in a sense, by retiring, ...
KING: ... due to health or something.
KING: You lost your wife this year after ...
HINCKLEY: Yes, I did. It was a terrible loss.
KING: How do you - how do you recover from - you were married, what, 67 years.
HINCKLEY: Sixty-seven years. Yes. Feel pretty lonely at times.
KING: How do you get over that, because you've become part of each other, right. You finish each other's sentences.
HINCKLEY: Absolutely. Well, you never get over it. Of course you don't.
But the best thing you can do is just keep busy, keep working hard, so you're not dwelling on it all the time. Work is the best antidote for sorrow.
KING: She lived a long life, though.
HINCKLEY: She did. Ninety-two.
KING: She died peacefully?
HINCKLEY: Peacefully and wonderfully. But I miss her so much. She was a great lady.
KING: She traveled with you a lot, too.
HINCKLEY: Oh, every continent. Spoke on every continent, all across the world.
KING: On this wonderful Yuletide time of year, we're talking with one of the more powerful religious leaders in the world, President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the conference center in Salt Lake. And we'll be right back.
KING: We're back at the conference center in Salt Lake City with President Gordon B. Hinckley. You're watching lots of scenes tonight from the Tabernacle Choir proceedings.
We're also showing you military scenes around the world celebrating the Christmas season. I would imagine there are members of your faith in Iraq.
HINCKLEY: There are.
KING: How does that affect you, that whole war? Is it hard to deal with - a man of peace - in this war?
HINCKLEY: Of course it is. We believe in peace. We work for peace. We pray for peace.
But we are all citizens of the nation. And we meet our responsibility, as that responsibility is defined by our leadership in the nation.
KING: What if you disagree with the leadership?
HINCKLEY: Well, we can disagree, but we still have an obligation, a responsibility.
KING: Have you spoken to men or women who have gone over to Iraq?
HINCKLEY: Oh, yes. I've spoken to some, yes.
KING: Have you ever had to deal with them? Have you lost anyone yet?
HINCKLEY: We've lost some here, yes. Not right here. But, yes. It's a tragedy. It's a terrible tragedy.
I pray every night that this thing may come to a peaceful conclusion, that we can get along together without carrying on war endlessly over there.
KING: Billy Graham - a friend of yours and mine - told me once that, basically, he thought his mission had failed in that, with all the preaching and all the talk, we still have war. We still have prejudice. We still have people hating people.
HINCKLEY: Meanness. So much meanness.
HINCKLEY: Well, God gave us our agency. He taught us a way. He showed us what to do. But he gave us our agency and left us free to act as we choose to do.
But with that freedom comes responsibility and accountability. And we shall have to answer for that which we do.
KING: Do you feel, therefore, that the message has not gotten through?
HINCKLEY: Oh, I don't think religion has failed. It's man who has failed. Christ hasn't failed. The Gospel hasn't failed. The teachings of God have not failed.
KING: But if man hasn't listened ...
HINCKLEY: Men have failed.
KING: ... if men haven't listened, that is ...
HINCKLEY: They have not listened. That's right.
KING: So, is that a failure?
HINCKLEY: It's a failure for them, yes. Of course it is.
KING: Not for the teacher.
HINCKLEY: Not for the teacher.
KING: That's a good way to keep going though.
HINCKLEY: Yes, sir.
KING: Did you - you met with the Dalai Lama.
HINCKLEY: Yes, I did.
KING: What was that like?
HINCKLEY: Oh, I had an interesting experience with him. A very interesting ...
KING: Tell me.
HINCKLEY: ... conversation.
We talked about various things. I don't remember all the details, but we had a very pleasant visit. Very pleasant visit.
KING: An extraordinary man.
HINCKLEY: He is. He is. He is.
KING: Do you share views with lots of other church leaders? Do many of you at this kind of hierarchy gather together?
HINCKLEY: We don't gather together much, but we work with people all over the world, with other churches. In causes of common concern, yes, of course we do. In extending humanitarian aid, of course we do.
We keep our theological differences. We hope we can be agreeable and not every become disagreeable in talking about doctrinal matters.
KING: When people say that you are a very rich church - financially rich church - where does that come from?
HINCKLEY: Well, that comes from the perception they have of what they see.
KING: It's just a perception.
HINCKLEY: This marvelous building here.
KING: How did it get built?
HINCKLEY: It got built through the tithes of the people. We practice the law of tithing. It works.
It's the Lord's law. He sets it forth in about that many words. You contrast that with the Internal Revenue Code, and note the difference.
But this is the way we ...
KING: You're in favor of a flat tax, then.
HINCKLEY: We - the Church is sustained by the tithes of the people, which are generously given.
KING: You don't go out and raise money beyond that?
HINCKLEY: Oh, we invite people for some things. For instance, we - three years ago, we decided to set up what we call the Perpetual Education Fund.
As I traveled about, I saw these young people who were in poverty - members of the Church - who for generations their people had been in poverty. I said, we've got to do something to help these people.
So we established a program. We didn't have a dollar toward it. We invited people to contribute, and they've contributed a very, very generous corpus. And the earnings of that corpus are devoted to extending loans to young people to go to school, so they get training.
We now have about 16,000 of them in school on loans.
KING: How many members worldwide?
HINCKLEY: Twelve million worldwide.
KING: We'll be right back with President Gordon B. Hinckley. Don't go away.
KING: We're back on this holiday weekend with President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Twelve million members worldwide.
And we are seen worldwide, and we would imagine many of that membership watching tonight.
Again, I want to touch a lot of bases. Do you see the war on terrorism as Christians versus Muslims?
HINCKLEY: Oh, I don't see it in that light. I see the war, the terrorism factor, as the work of a group of misguided, evil men.
Their interpretation of their religion may be a factor in what they do. But that is not representative of the great body of the Muslim people across the world.
KING: Is it important to you that the president be as - for want of a better term - religious as he is? Does that comfort you that politics and religion somehow have come together in this administration?
HINCKLEY: The president of the United States? Yes. I'm glad to see that he is religious, that he does pray. I believe in prayer, in divine power. And I'm grateful that he's a prayerful man, yes.
KING: When you pray, what is that? What's occurring? Are you talking to God? You're a prophet, so God talks to you.
HINCKLEY: I'm talking to God, yes. I do pray. Of course I do.
KING: What do you do when they're not answered?
HINCKLEY: Well, they are answered, but not always just the way you'd want them.
KING: Sometimes it's no.
HINCKLEY: Sometimes it's no.
KING: And when it's no, how do you explain that to yourself?
HINCKLEY: You accept it and go forward with faith.
KING: Isn't that hard?
HINCKLEY: Oh, it may be. But after all, that's the challenge of life.
KING: You ever doubted it?
KING: Never doubted your faith.
HINCKLEY: I don't think so. Can't recall when I have. I have faith in the eternal nature of things.
KING: Do you like the president's idea of faith-based initiatives? Having various churches get involved in things that previously government was involved in?
HINCKLEY: Well, I think that the churches do a better job in many respects than the government does in various kinds of things. Extending aid, the helpfulness, and so on, yes.
KING: There's been so many changes in the social culture of this country. And in your 96 years, you've seen a lot of ...
KING: So much like the Jews. You are very similar to the Jewish people, right?
HINCKLEY: Hope so. Sure.
KING: Family concepts?
HINCKLEY: Good people.
KING: I mean, right, you know. We are all ...
KING: ... last time I checked, ...
KING: ... we were all people.
But as the mores have changed - for example, I know that the Church is opposed to gay marriage.
KING: Do you have an alternative? Do you like the idea of civil unions?
HINCKLEY: Well, we're not anti-gay. We are pro-family. Let me put it that way.
And we love these people and try to work with them and help them. We know they have a problem. We want to help them solve that problem.
KING: A problem they caused, or they were born with?
HINCKLEY: I don't know. I'm not an expert on these things. I don't pretend to be an expert on these things. The fact is, they have a problem.
KING: Do you favor some sort of state union?
HINCKLEY: Well, we want to be very careful about that, because that - whatever may lead to gay marriage, we're not in favor of.
We - many people don't get married. Goodness sakes alive. You know that.
Many people who have to discipline themselves. If they transgress, they become subject to the discipline of the Church. But we try in every way that we know how to help them, to assist them, to bless their lives.
KING: It's hard to be a Mormon, isn't it?
HINCKLEY: No. It's wonderful.
KING: Not hard.
HINCKLEY: No, no. It's just wonderful. It's demanding. Great expectations. I should say so. But it's wonderful.
KING: Wonderful to resist the temptations of life?
HINCKLEY: Oh, you don't go around resisting. You just develop a positive outlook and walk forward with faith.
KING: What do you do ...
HINCKLEY: We don't dwell on the negative. We dwell on the positive.
KING: What do you do with temptation? What do you do with it?
HINCKLEY: Set it aside. Put it behind. Leave it there.
KING: And you've been able to do that all your life.
HINCKLEY: I tried to, yes.
KING: Were you ever, as a youngster, did you ever stray?
HINCKLEY: Oh, I was a natural boy growing up, of course I was. Just a freckled-faced kid. Sure.
KING: I'll bet you were.
KING: I'll bet you had a little rascal in you.
HINCKLEY: Sure I did.
KING: OK. It's good to know ...
KING: ... that God blessed you this way.
HINCKLEY: I've been blessed so abundantly that I can never get over it. I just feel so richly blessed that I want to extend that to others wherever I can.
KING: Hope you have a long life.
We'll be right back with President Gordon B. Hinckley. Don't go away.
KING: The Mormons' public image in dealing with stereotypes. One, women are regarded lesser in the Church.
HINCKLEY: Oh, there's no substance to it. Ask the women. You'll get the answer.
KING: They can't get your job, though.
HINCKLEY: No, they can't. They've got one of their own, and that's a very responsible job. They have their own organization. They have their own board.
It's the largest women's organization in the world with four million members. There's nothing like it anywhere else in the world. And they run a tremendous organization.
KING: How is the Church doing with black membership?
HINCKLEY: Wonderfully. Wonderfully. I was in Africa last January, dedicated a temple in Accra, Ghana. We have a great facility there.
I'll be back in Nigeria sometime this coming year to dedicate a new temple there. And that temple will be devoted almost exclusively for the work that black people will do there.
KING: Do you envision someday a black prophet?
HINCKLEY: Could well be within the realm of possibility.
KING: So you've come a long way in that regard.
HINCKLEY: We've come a long way.
KING: You once said that you didn't like women working outside the house. Has that changed? The realities of economic life?
HINCKLEY: I think we're paying a price for it ...
HINCKLEY: ... in family life, in looking after children. The family across America, across the world, is under terrible stress. We all recognize it, I think. You see it. Latch-key children. Gangs in our cities.
The absence of a mother in the home is a very serious thing, I think.
KING: But the absence also of strong financial help causes many, many families to require ...
HINCKLEY: That's ...
KING: ... both people to work.
HINCKLEY: That's true. That's very, very true. But I simply say this. Be careful. Do the very best you can.
When all is said and done, the greatest satisfaction you'll have in this life as you grow old will be seeing your children grow in righteousness and faith and goodness as citizens of the society of which they are a part.
There'll be no greater satisfaction than the satisfaction you'll gain from your family.
KING: Holding the post you hold, this kind of responsibility, is it ever a burden? I mean, ...
KING: ... you're the leader of a flock of 12 million.
HINCKLEY: Yes. Yes.
KING: That's a big CEO.
HINCKLEY: Well, ...
KING: I mean, do you feel it often? Do you ever feel like ...
HINCKLEY: Oh, sure. You feel inadequate at times, of course you do. You face vexing problems, stressful problems. But everything works out. I just go forward on the assumption that everything works out.
KING: You're an optimist.
HINCKLEY: I'm an optimist.
KING: How do you deal when - and we've had a couple of cases this year in Utah - when Mormons commit crimes against others.
KING: And your faith, while it's 12 million strong, tends to get singled out.
HINCKLEY: Sure it does.
KING: How do you deal with that?
HINCKLEY: Well, you just accept the facts as they are. Somebody's failed. Somebody's made a serious mistake. It happens in every society,
Fortunately, I think it happens less among us than it does in many other areas.
KING: Do you think that's why you get singled out?
HINCKLEY: Oh, I think so. Sure. Yes. They never fail to mention it.
KING: Do you ever call victims of crime?
HINCKLEY: Sure I do. Oh, of course, I have done, yes.
KING: When you get to be your age, you attend a lot of funerals.
KING: Don't you?
HINCKLEY: All of my friends who jog.
KING: As a famous coach here in Utah once said, I don't jog, I want to be sick when I die.
But isn't that hard, to keep - you know, as Frank Sinatra once said, all of my friends are gone.
HINCKLEY: Yes, that's right. I sometimes feel like the last leaf on the tree and the wind's blowing.
KING: I met your son. What does he do?
HINCKLEY: I have two sons. Good sons. They're both businessmen. Yes.
KING: Are they very much into the Church?
HINCKLEY: Very much so. They've held high, responsible positions. Yes. My daughters, likewise.
KING: How many grandchildren?
HINCKLEY: I have 25 grandchildren.
KING: How many great-grandchildren?
HINCKLEY: Oh, at the last count about 40. They keep coming.
KING: There are other things the Mormons do.
We'll be right back with President Gordon B. Hinckley. Don't go away.
KING: We return. You're seeing lots of scenes of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and also military choirs, as well, on this holiday weekend with so many American and British and Australian and other servicemen serving in ports unknown in faraway places.
We're talking with the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Are you concerned about health in America? I know the Mormons concentrate a lot on eating well and doing the right things. No smoking, no drinking, watching the foods they take. But America is ...
HINCKLEY: Getting fat.
KING: ... what, getting fat, not healthy.
HINCKLEY: That's what they say. That's ...
KING: We don't have the ...
HINCKLEY: ... what I read.
KING: We don't have the best health system in the world any more.
HINCKLEY: Well, we're so affluent. That's one thing. We probably overdo
KING: Do you ever preach on that?
HINCKLEY: Oh, of course. I've given talks on the word of wisdom, as we call it. A great thing. It's a remarkable thing. In 1833, the Church received this teaching on health that has blessed our people in a wonderful way.
Statistical evidence shows that, by and large, we live longer than the normal population. And I think it's directly attributable to that law of health.
KING: Do you believe in healing?
HINCKLEY: Surely. Of course we do.
KING: And there are those who go around and say they heal. How does the general public separate the genuine from the fraud?
HINCKLEY: Well, I don't know that they do all these. But we do healing, of course. We bless people.
The scripture indicates that if there be any sick among you, let them call in the elders of the church and anoint them with oil and bless them. And that's what we do.
It's a sacred thing. It's a sacred ordinance in our Church.
KING: What happens when you die?
HINCKLEY: When you die? Well, I'm not fully conversant with that. I haven't passed through that yet.
KING: Well, call me. Knowing you, I'll be there and I'll call you.
KING: But you do believe that something happens.
HINCKLEY: Oh, of course we do. But we believe that death is a part of an eternal journey, that we lived as spirit children of our father before we came into this life.
That we're here in mortality as a part of an eternal living, and that we will go on living after this life, purposefully. And that through the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ, men will be resurrected. There will come a time of resurrection.
And those who walk in obedience may go on to exaltation.
KING: And you've been waiting so many years for this, the return of the Messiah. When do you expect it?
HINCKLEY: I don't - I don't know. Even the angels in heaven don't know. I have no idea.
But I'd welcome it at any time. The world has so many problems, that if he were to come, it would be better, I think - far better.
KING: There's no doubt that, in your mind, he is coming.
HINCKLEY: He is coming, but I have no idea when.
KING: You are the prophet, right?
KING: Does that mean that, according to the church canon, the Lord speaks through you?
HINCKLEY: I think he makes his will manifest, yes.
KING: So if you change things, that's done by an edict given to you.
HINCKLEY: Yes, sir.
KING: How do you receive it?
HINCKLEY: Well, various ways. It isn't necessarily a voice heard. Impressions come. The building of this very building I think is an evidence of that.
There came an impression, a feeling, that we need to enlarge our facilities where we could hold our conferences. And it was a very bold measure. We had to tear down a big building here and put this building up at great cost.
But goodness sakes, what a wonderful thing it's proven to be. It is an answer to many, many needs. And I think it's the result of inspiration.
KING: And that came from something higher than you.
HINCKLEY: I think so.
KING: Tell me some other things. How do you feel about young Mr. Huntsman being the next governor?
HINCKLEY: I think he's a good man. I think we're going to have a good governor.
KING: You go back a long way with that family, don't you?
HINCKLEY: Yes. I think very highly of them. Good people.
KING: Do you ever get involved in politics?
HINCKLEY: No. Not since I was a very young man and I was a - went to the state convention as a delegate.
KING: You did.
HINCKLEY: Yes, I was.
KING: I had that feeling.
HINCKLEY: But I have not - I voted for men and not for party. The Church doesn't become involved in politics.
KING: You've voted for people in both parties, then.
HINCKLEY: Yes, sir.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments in a special presentation that just might be the best gift I've ever gotten - right after this.
KING: One of the things that the Mormon Church is famous for worldwide is its expertise in genealogy - it may be the number one - looking back and telling people where they came from and why.
And tonight before we went on, President Hinckley presented me with - I can't believe this - the genealogy of my own family. The arrival of my mother and my father at Ellis Island in 1907 and 1923. The papers they filled out at Ellis Island.
How do you do this?
HINCKLEY: Well, we have a ...
KING: I'm so honored by it. I can't tell you what this means to me.
HINCKLEY: We have a tremendous family history resource, perhaps the greatest in the world in many respects. And we have some very dedicated and very able people.
And sometime ago, they went to work on your genealogy. And when they heard that we were going to be on this show, they finished it off in a hurry and brought to me, so that I can make a presentation to you.
And I'm pleased and happy to do so.
KING: I'm pleased and honored to accept it.
HINCKLEY: And Larry, this sets forth some things that you didn't know about your own family. And I hope that it'll be a source of satisfaction and joy to you, and that you'll gain great pleasure in going through it and seeing these documents concerning your father and your mother.
KING: There are documents in here, for example - I don't know if the camera can catch this - the naturalization papers ...
HINCKLEY: Naturalization papers ...
KING: ... that my father filled out when he arrived in this country in 1927.
HINCKLEY: That's right. And here are ...
KING: And then my mother's whole genealogy. She came with her six sisters, ...
KING: ... who are all listed on the manifold. All their names.
HINCKLEY: Census records.
KING: Where they lived in Europe.
HINCKLEY: Where they lived in Europe, and what happened to the ...
HINCKLEY: People who were left behind. Tragedy. Tragic story.
KING: I even wrote a book once in which I had that my father's death - and I had the wrong year - I had - the book said 1944. They correct me. It was 1943. And they are right.
They have the ships that each of my parents came in on.
Now, you do this for - and then you put it together in a wonderful book and also a CD, ...
HINCKLEY: Yes, sir.
KING: ... a DVD ...
KING: ... of this.
KING: What got the Church involved in genealogy?
HINCKLEY: Well, we do this because of our interest in family life. The family is the most important unit of society. And we think it very important to do that.
And so we trace our ancestry and do work for the dead in the temples that we have, in behalf of our ancestry.
KING: Well, ...
HINCKLEY: Extending to them the blessings that we've enjoyed.
KING: It's amazing. Here's the ship my father arrived on.
They even have the newspaper story of my father's death - a copy of the newspaper story - the population of his home town in the Ukraine, where he worked in Kearney, New Jersey, in the federal shipbuilding, what happened to the ship he came in on. It was scrapped in 1936.
My mother's ship. She came on the ship, the same company that owned the Titanic.
HINCKLEY: Yes, sir.
KING: You people - you really get - and maps of where they were born.
HINCKLEY: Here's a map of where your father was born and your mother was born. KING: That is - as I said, I've received some enormous gifts in my life. This I will treasure more than any other, including your friendship.
HINCKLEY: Well, when all is said and done, as I've said before, nothing is more important than the family.
And this is your family, your forbearers, your roots. And I hope that this will be a source of satisfaction to you. And we're just so pleased to do it.
KING: Well, I am honored to accept it.
HINCKLEY: Thank you, sir.
KING: What can you tell us - what about 2005?
HINCKLEY: 2005, I think, is going to be a good year. I'm optimistic.
I think that we can look forward with hope and faith. I hope there'll be a resolution of the Iraq situation. I earnestly hope so.
I hope that the economy will be good. And I hope that there will be peace across the world.
KING: And you'll be traveling.
HINCKLEY: And I'll be traveling, at my age.
KING: Thank you so much.
HINCKLEY: Thanks to you, Larry.
KING: President Gordon B. Hinckley, the fifteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - the Mormons. And we - I join with President Hinckley in wishing you and yours the very best of holiday seasons.
Tomorrow night, Kevin Spacey and Dodd Darin, the son of Bobby Darin. Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.
Stay tuned now for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN.
From Salt Lake City, good night.