LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley denounced polygamy, fatherless families and the actions of President Clinton Tuesday in an hourlong interview on CNN.
The interview with Larry King drifted from questions about missionary work and tithing to Mark McGwire's record-breaking 62 home runs. President Hinckley was at ease and pleasant, but he spoke emphatically about morality and the nation.He also reiterated that polygamy now practiced in Utah is in no way associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which stopped the practice in 1890.
"When our people came West they permitted it, on a restricted scale. The figure I have is between 2 percent and 5 percent of our people were involved in it. It was a very limited practice, carefully safeguarded."
In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff received revelation and directed the church to cease the practice.
That was 108 years ago. "It's behind us," President Hinckley said. "They have no connection with us whatever. They do not belong to the church. There are actually no Mormon fundamentalists."
President Hinckley said he condemns the practice and leaves it in the hands of state officers.
"I condemn it, yes, as a practice. Because it is not doctrinal. It is not legal and this church takes the position that we will abide by the law."
The major issue of the interview on "Larry King Live" turned out to be the questionable actions of President Clinton, whom President Hinckley met a few years ago when the LDS Church presented him with his family history.
The 88-year-old church leader said Clinton holds a "sacred trust" and he cannot divorce what he does in his private life from his public leadership. Still, President Hinckley said, though he cannot forgive the act, he can forgive the actor.
"I feel very sorry for him. In the first place, here's a man of great talent and capacity who evidently just hurt himself so terribly. It must be a terrible thing," President Hinckley said. " . . . But he still has accountability. He's accountable to Congress. He's accountable to the people of the United States who elected him. He's accountable to God."
When asked whether Clinton should resign, President Hinckley said that was a decision left to others.
"I think he must make his own decision and the Congress must make their decision," he said. He added that church members should let the process run its course. "Wait for the (Kenneth) Starr report, wait for Congress to act. We don't condemn until there has been some basis for condemnation."
President Hinckley, leader of 10 million members of the LDS Church around the world, said the church is attractive to people because it stands for something in an uncertain world.
"People are looking for something. In this world of shifting values, of anchors that are slipping, many people are looking for something they can hold on to, an anchor to which they can attach their lives."
He said children and families need help and strengthening and they also need fathers in the home. "The great problem facing this nation in my belief is what's happening to the American home. It's falling apart. Families are falling apart all over the world," President Hinckley said.
President Hinckley also commented on other topics Tuesday evening during the live broadcast:
On blacks holding the priesthood: "We now work strongly among the blacks. I've been to Africa recently, up and down that continent meeting with wonderful people, great leaders."
On Mark McGwire: "I was around when (Babe) Ruth was playing."
On Mike Leavitt: "I know his father and mother well. I know him well. I regard him as a good man, doing a good job."
On world affairs, like poverty and the situation in Bosnia: "We don't think much about it but we act, that's what happens. We carry on great humanitarian effort, feeding people, giving them medicine, clothing, food. North Korea, we don't let politics stand in the way of what we do."
On public office: "I don't think it's asking too much of any public officer to stand tall, be a model before the people, not only in the aspects of leadership but in the manner in which he conducts himself."
President Hinckley's appearance on the Cable News Network show, shot in Los Angeles, came about because of King's wife, Shawn Southwick, said LDS Church spokesman Don LeFevre.
When King and Southwick, who married in 1997, visited Utah nearly a year ago, Southwick, who is a member of the LDS Church, made arrangements for her husband to meet President Hinckley. That meeting led to an invitation for President Hinckley to appear on the Larry King Live show, Le-Fevre said.
It was President Hinckley's second national television appearance. In 1996, he was interviewed by Mike Wallace for the CBS newsmagazine show "60 Minutes."
The complete transcript of President Hickley's CNN interview can be found at our Web site (www.desnews.com).