Larry King Interview-President Gordon B. Hinckley
KING: Now the big story raging in Utah -- before we get back to morals and morals, is -- the big story, if you don't know it, is polygamy in Utah; there's been major charges. The governor, Mike Leavitt, says that there are legal reasons why the state of Utah has not prosecuted alleged polygamists. Leavitt said plural marriage may be protected by the First Amendment. He is the great-great-grandson -- is the governor -- of a polygamist. First tell me about the church and polygamy. When it started it allowed it?
HINCKLEY: When our people came west they permitted it on a restricted scale.
KING: You could have a certain amount of...
HINCKLEY: The figures I have are from -- between two percent and five percent of our people were involved in it. It was a very limited practice; carefully safeguarded. In 1890, that practice was discontinued. The president of the church, the man who occupied the position which I occupy today, went before the people, said he had, oh, prayed about it, worked on it, and had received from the Lord a revelation that it was time to stop, to discontinue it then. That's 118 years ago. It's behind us.
KING: But when the word is mentioned, when you hear the word, you think Mormon, right?
HINCKLEY: You do it mistakenly. They have no connection with us whatever. They don't belong to the church. There are actually no Mormon fundamentalists.
KING: Are you surprised that there's, apparently, a lot of polygamy in Utah?
HINCKLEY: I have seen the thing grow somewhat. I don't know how much it is. I don't know how pervasive it is.
KING: Should there be arrests?
HINCKLEY: It's matter of civil procedure. The church can't do anything. We have no authority in this matter, none whatever.
KING: Would you like to see the state to clamp down on it?
HINCKLEY: I think I leave that entirely in the hands of the civil officers. It's a civil offense. It's in violation of the law. We have nothing to do with it. We're totally distanced from it. And if the state chooses to move on it, that's a responsibility of civil officers.
KING: President Hinckley, when the press pays attention to it, it does affect you, certainly, in a public relations sense?
HINCKLEY: It does, because people mistakenly assume that this church has something to do with it. It has nothing whatever to do with it. It has had nothing to do with it for a very long time. It's outside the realm of our responsibility. These people are not members. Any man or woman who becomes involved in it is excommunicated from the church.
KING: Prosecutors in Utah are quoted as saying -- they told "The Salt Lake Tribune" -- that it's difficult to prosecute polygamists because of a lack of evidence; that ex-wives and daughters rarely complain about it. Do you see that as a problem?
HINCKLEY: Well, it's secretive. There's a certain element of secretiveness about it. I suppose they have some difficulty -- they say they do, in gathering evidence.
KING: Should the church be more forceful in speaking out? I mean, you're forceful here tonight, but maybe -- they've been saying that it's rather than just a state matter, encouraging the state to prosecute.
HINCKLEY: I don't know. We'll consider it.
KING: I'm giving you an idea.
KING: Would you look better if you were...
HINCKLEY: I don't know that we would or not. As far as I'm concerned, I have nothing to do with it. It belongs to the civil officers of the state.
KING: You condemn it.
HINCKLEY: I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.