This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Posted: 9:30 PM- The following is a transcript of a Feb. 1, 2002, interview with President Gordon B. Hinckley conducted by The Tribune's Vern Anderson and Peggy Fletcher Stack:
Anderson: a little bit about your career as a sort of a shaper of the world's view of the church, both here and abroad and our questions will be in that vein.
Hinckley: Go ahead.
Stack: We just wanted to start with how you're feeling on the eve of the Olympics. What are your thoughts?
Hinckley: Well, I am feeling excited. This is a great thing. The world is coming here to participate in these wonderful games. This is a season of, to give athletes from across the world an opportunity to excel. That's the great emphasis - is on excellence. That's a great thing for anybody in any community.
Stack: Are you going to carry the torch?
Hinckley: No, well I'm going to, yes I am going to hand the torch, we're just going to, I don't know the details of it, we do what we're told.
Stack: Is Marjorie going to hold the torch at all?
Hinckley: No. I don't think so, I don't believe so.
Anderson: Are the other members of the First Presidency going to be involved?
Hinckley: Well, what's going on now, they're still working it out. I can't say for sure. I don't understand, I just do what I'm told to do.
Anderson: President Hinckley are you going to the opening ceremony?
Hinckley: Yes. Plan to be, yes. It's going to be a great occasion. I think it will be.
Stack: Is there anything you would, now we're almost to the Olympics, is there anything you or the church would have done differently, building up to the Games, maybe to counter that idea that these are the Mormon Olympics?
Hinckley: Well I don't think so. I think we've done the right thing. We have acted as we have been requested to act. We haven't pushed ourselves into it but we have responded to requests from the officials to do what they've asked us to do and we'll try to do it and do it well.
Stack: You've been interviewed by many journalists--
Stack: --from across the world. What's the funniest question you've been asked.
Stack: Or most ill-informed or mistaken?
Anderson: The oddest.
Stack: The oddest.
Hinckley: Oh, I don't know. I find them to be generally very open and straight forward, they're not interested in a lot of this old nonsense. They're interested in what's going on today with the church and really, we've had some very good interviews. I suppose there's been a blip or two but that's to be expected when you have as many as you have, yes.
Stack: How do you think the church is perceived overseas, internationally?
Hinckley: How it is perceived?
Stack: [affirmed uh-huh].
Hinckley: Perceived in many lights I suppose. Where it's understood, it's honored, respected, praised. Where there may not be familiarity with it that we might wish for, that appraisal may not be quite the same. But by and large, we're not suffering from a bad reputation that I know of anywhere now. Church is respected and becoming more respected all the time.
Anderson: Do you believe that's true also in the United States?
Hinckley: Well, I'm sure it is, yes. Confident it is. When people get to know the facts, when understanding increases then appreciation and respect follows.
Anderson: President Hinckley, I'd like to take you back to your slave days.
Hinckley: I'm still in them.
Anderson: I was going to say, did you ever leave them. You began your career with the church putting together educational materials to distribute to missionaries and interested outsiders, you launched the church's public relations effort, you have- throughout your career, you've pushed LDS leaders to think progressively about the church's image in the world. Do you see the Olympics as the capstone of this work in public affairs?
Hinckley: I don't know that I see it as a capstone. I see it as a chapter.
Anderson: An important chapter.
Hinckley: Oh yes, but we'll go on doing other things, efforts. We'll continue to work as we have in the past. Build understanding and respect and appreciation, yes. This is a chapter but it is certainly not a summit.
Anderson: Right. In effectively projecting Mormon beliefs and practices, LDS beliefs and practices, what have been the greatest challenges and the greatest frustrations for you personally?
Hinckley: Oh, I don't know. I don't have many frustrations, I don't let them bother me.
Hinckley: I move on. I maintain a positive outlook. I try to be-I'm optimistic, I'm confident. I see this church as a marvelous and wonderful thing. I'm proud of it. I don't make any apology for it, I think the story of this church is one of the great stories of all time. The only religious organization to come out of the soil of America that has spread across the world. And when you think of it, in terms of history, of the coming here of our people, of the laying out of this community, of our expansion across the world, the programs, our educational program, our missionary program, our welfare program, our humanitarian program, our all of these great things that we're doing. You see something that's wonderful, that's magnificent really. I don't know of anything else in all the world quite to compare with it. And I'm very proud about it, proud of it, and happy to see it moving forward. Now, there's a little blip here and a little blip here in our history. But to me, that's all they are. A great panoramic picture of this church is a picture moving forward, moving onward, moving constructively. Of lifting people, of training people, of building and increasing appreciation for who they are and what they can do and accomplish as sons and daughters of God.
Anderson: In your nearly seven years as president, you have become something of a media star.
Hinckley: Oh, I wouldn't say that for a minute.
Anderson: Interviewed by Mike Wallace, Larry King, Tom Brokaw and numerous print journalists. I would venture to guess that no church president, since Brigham Young, has maintained a higher profile than have you.
Hinckley: I don't know about that.
Anderson: You wouldn't agree?
Hinckley: I don't know. I don't know. I haven't paid any attention to it. Anderson: Okay. Do you feel comfortable in that role? And how has it helped the church?
Hinckley: Well, I hope it's helped the church in bringing understanding, appreciation, respect. I hope so.
Anderson: Do you personally feel good about it?
Hinckley: Yes. Yes. But I think it's a natural outcome. I think in these days, (unintelligible word - media?), much, well they get around much more than they used to, we have things we never had in the earlier administrations. Radio, television, internet, newspapers, whatever. All of your kinfolk in this business. There is just more of you and your more aggressive in seeking out reaching out for information. I think it's just a natural outcome of the times in which we live. But I am, I have had a personal and interesting desire to put before the world an understanding and appreciation of the, of this church, of it's history, of it's accomplishments, of it's mission and of it's stature in the world.
Stack: Back to your slave days for a moment. Could you have imagined, you know, forty, fifty years ago that there would be this event where literally thousands of journalists would come here. Did you imagine it?-
Hinckley: Never thought of it.
Stack: -In your dreams?
Hinckley: Never thought of it, no, never. It is a remarkable thing, it's a wonderful thing for this community that we're having these Olympics with all that go with it. The tremendous influx of media people, the tremendous television coverage which will be seen by millions if not billions across the world. The exposure to which this community will be put, will be tremendous. And we, every citizen, regardless of religious affiliation or anything of the kind, it seems to me ought to be very proud of that and anxious to do everything possible to put our very best foot forward and make of it a great experience for all who come and for all who see.
Stack: During the Olympics I was told that you've sort of cleared your schedule so that you could be available to the media. Is that true?
Hinckley: Well, I don't think so. I don't think I've made any changes. Ask Don [Staley], he runs my life.
Stack: Well you better tell Elder Eyring [spelling] this isn't true.
Hinckley: We still carry on with our program.
Hinckley: We're going to change the hours of operation, but we'll be here everyday, sure.
Stack: But you'll still do some media interviews during the Games.
Hinckley: Oh, whatever comes along.
Stack: Are you going to any events?--
Stack: --Any sporting events?
Hinckley: We'll maybe, I'm going to see. I don't know.
Stack: Ice hockey? Hinckley: I'm getting old and I have to be careful about getting out in great crowds of people and so I'll just play it by ear. But I do look upon it as a great time, a great season. A wonderful opportunity to mingle with people of the world, be a part of the citizens of this area and the opportunity we have to show hospitality, friendship, kindness and decency in every respect, yes.
Stack: What do you think of the press coverage so far, especially what do you think about the New Yorker article?
Hinckley: Oh, I better not comment on that.
Stack: But in general, the press coverage?
Hinckley: The press coverage, by and large, has been excellent, really it has. And I think it will continue to be, I think as people come here and see what's here, the magnificent scenery of this area, this beautiful city with all of it's facilities, as they rub shoulders with the people who are here. Feel of their cosmopolitan spirit. Meet those who speak their languages, they'll be very, very favorably impressed.
Anderson: It's been said, President Hinckley, that you have done everything you can to dispel the notion that Latter-day Saints with their unique history and unique beliefs are somehow weird. Is that a fair assessment of your efforts as far as it goes?
Hinckley: Well, I don't know. I hope we're not considered weird. We're not weird people, of course we're not. I've simply tried to let people see us, understand us, know of us as we are. I think we have nothing to be ashamed of, we have so much to be proud of, we hope we don't flaunt it, I hope we don't hide it. That we will follow, be as we are. Let people see us as we are. Anderson: What would you tell members of the church about how to respond to criticism of the church?
Hinckley: How to respond to it?
Hinckley: Well the first place we don't argue, we don't fight. Our missionaries don't hold debates. I look for the positive. I look for the contributions that every organization makes. Every church has something to contribute. Every good cause builds the community. There's no question about that. My attitude is simply this; You bring with you all that you have that is good, and let us see if we can add to it. Now, that's my, the spirit of my effort. And that's the only way in which I hope I approach these things.
Anderson: Would you say that, that the church in the last 50 years, has become much more part of the mainstream of the world?
Hinckley: Well, I don't think we've changed, but I think the perception of others concerning us has changed and is changing. And they looked upon us once as strange and to use your word, weird, group out here. Now as understanding has grown as they've learned more this has become a byway of nations, people come from everywhere here, they see us as we are. They see us in their communities as we are, as they grow to know us and understand us, they appreciate the fact that we're just good people trying to do good things-
Anderson: Good citizens.
Hinckley: - and live a good, decent life, and be good neighbors, good friends, good citizens.
Stack: When people read some of these press accounts, do you recommend keeping a good sense of humor? Do you think sense of humor's important to reading a newspaper?
Hinckley: Oh sure, you have to have a sense of humor when you read The Tribune.
Stack: I think so too. In terms of some of the things people are saying about-
Hinckley: Oh sure, you have to, you can't get angry over these things, that doesn't do any good, of course it doesn't. There's no point in arguing with people, put a smile on your face and act decent and friendly, that's all you have to do. You don't have to argue with anybody, no.
Stack: How do you respond to criticism that the recent church leaders have tried to clean up the church's history and take out some of the--
Hinckley: Oh, we haven't done that Peggy. We haven't changed the church's history.
Stack: There are critics who would suggest that this historical writing--
Hinckley: The what?
Stack: That the historical writing leaves out some of the more unpleasant points in church history. What do you say to that?
Hinckley: Well I simply say this: As I've said in the beginning, when I look at the history of this church, I see perhaps a blip here, a blip there. An unfortunate thing that may have happened or something of that kind. But as I look at the overall picture, I see something wonderful, tremendous, a great cavalcade of events that begin back in New York and moved west into this community, establishing here a great base of operations and from here, spreading across the world, doing good wherever it goes, building communities of worshippers, building people who struggle and strive and work for education. Building people who have charity in their hearts, building people who want to serve. People who want to grow. People who have a developing consciousness of who they are and the purpose of life and what they can do to make the world better.
Anderson: President Hinckley, when you look ahead at the church, say 50 years from now, are there things that you see happening today that might develop in greater ways in say in 50 years?
Hinckley: Well I see the onward growth of the church. The church has never taken a backward step since beginning.
Anderson: That's true.
Hinckley: And I see that continuing. I think what we're doing to day is laying the foundation for future growth. The establishment, for instance, of various presidencies across the world, we've expanded, we have area offices in many, many places. And that will continue without any question in my mind. A fact that we're now larger outside the United States than we are in the United States says something. And in pursuit of that, we have two great challenges: One is the training of local leadership. All of our congregations wherever we go are presided over by local people. They need training, they need to get the concept of how the church operates, how it's programmed, functions. The other thing is, we need to build facilities, houses of worship in which to meet. And those two things become great challenges that are associated with growth. I think we're meeting them, we've been able to do so thus far. We carry on great training programs and we carry on a great building program. I don't know who else is building buildings to the degree of what we're building, 400 new buildings a year, that's a very, very significant thing made possible by the faith of our people who contribute their tithes and offerings. That becomes the basis, the tithing is the Lord's law of finances, we regard it. That becomes the basis for what we're able to do. And construction of facilities for instance and other works.
Anderson: Is there anything in the seven years of your presidency that have been the most gratifying to you?
Hinckley: Oh yes, there have been a number of things that I've been pleased with, happy about. I've been happy about the growth of temples. It's been a very significant thing and the effort we've made to bring the temples to the people across the world. And I, we've done a tremendous work in that regard. The construction of the conference center here. There is no other religious edifice of which I know to compare with anywhere. It is a tremendous facility, tremendous, it's been something. The very growth of the church has been a thing of great significance and source of great satisfaction. I can just look back and say yes. It's been a satisfying experience for me. I've had the opportunity since I became president, traveling wherever our people are. I don't think there's much of any place that I haven't been to and met with and seeing them and encouraging them and seeing the blessings that have come into their lives. It's wonderful, it really is. Puts a smile on a man's face.
Stack: A couple of quick questions, one is, again when you were younger, could you have imagined not only all the world attention, but Salt Lake City filled with, you know, armed guards and the level of security we've had to have the Army with their guns everywhere just to protect an event like this. Are you troubled by that at all?
Hinckley: We all, we all just feel terrible about the events of last September 11th. That was a day of infamy in the nation's history. A great insult to this nation. A greater front to the good people of the world in my judgment. And the thing which has left such a mark upon our nation, our nations involved with conflict because of it, our nation's suffered in many ways because of it. And we've all been put to some inconvenience because of it. But it follows when you have a great international event of this kind, it's inevitable after a thing of that sort, that you have to have a measures of security that you never quite dreamed you would need, but which have become, the need for which have become apparent in these circumstances.
Stack: I personally have never seen so many-
Hinckley: Oh, you won't see.
Hinckley: You won't see, no.
Stack: I mean it's really
Hinckley: No, it just has to be, I guess it has to be, we all regret it, we all regret it. It's an unhappy commentary on the world in which we live.
Stack: Lastly I meant to say, during the Olympics there will be many heads of state here, many visiting dignitaries in addition to the athletes, will you be greeting many of them?
Hinckley: Hope to.
Stack: Will they all be coming here to--
Hinckley: I don't know, but we know that some will and we, yes we have.
Stack: So you'll be a busy man during the Olympics.
Hinckley: Hope to be. Hope to be.
Stack: Maybe not as busy as we are.
Anderson: I know our time is up but I have one last question for you. Are you filled with gratitude that you never realized your early dream to become a journalist?
Anderson: I saw in print your reference to journalists as scribblers.
Hinckley: Well I have great respect for journalists. I, there isn't any question, we live in a world dependent on communication. There are two great factors that are so important in society. One is communication. The other is transportation. People getting about. But communication is so important and journalism, the art, science, the hobby, whatever it is, journalism is a very important part of that business of communication. And so I have a great appreciation for journalists. I don't fear them, I don't run from them, I value them as associates in this great business of communication. Telling people things. Letting them know what is going on, yes. Sure.
Stack: I think it's obvious that you do. I mean, it shows that you care and treat journalists, even lowly ones like ourselves with respect.
Hinckley: Sure. I love ya.
Hinckley: I do. I do. Well, good luck to you.