Follow Up Questions We Wish Larry King Had Asked Gordon Hinckley

Follow Up Questions We Wish Larry King Had Asked Gordon Hinckley 

By Bill McKeever

If there is one thing you can say for LDS President Gordon Hinckley, he has a way of charming normally tenacious media personalities. On September 8, 1998, he was able to do it again, this time with talk show host Larry King.

Perhaps King felt it would be best to go soft with the Mormon prophet. After all, he recently made a member of the LDS Church his sixth wife (not all at the same time). Perhaps he understood all too well that offending your wife’s prophet does not make for a very good marital relationship.

After experiencing Mike Wallace’s puff piece with Gordon Hinckley back in April of 1996, I guess I wasn’t expecting much more from Larry King. After all, these men are not experts in Mormonism. Their lack of experience dealing with the semantical game many Mormons play would make it difficult for them to ask tough rebuttal questions.

Asking the Mormon prophet questions about his retirement, the amount of countries Mormonism is in, the wealth of the LDS Church, genealogy, Mark McGwyre’s 62nd homerun (hit the same day), and the problems of President Clinton hardly make for a hard-hitting interview. At times King appeared very ignorant of basic LDS positions. For instance, King was apparently unaware Mormons claim to be Christians when he asked, “You don’t call yourselves Christian, right.”

Hinckley did make some interesting statements that are worthy of comment. When King asked if people are “ever thrown out of your church,” Hinckley responded affirmatively. When asked for what reasons, he said, “Doing what they shouldn’t do, preaching false doctrine, speaking out publicly. They can carry all the opinion they wish within their heads, so to speak, but if they begin to try to persuade others, then they may be called in to a disciplinary council.”

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “What would happen should someone openly question your teachings?” 
  • “Are your teachings infallible? If not, why can’t you be challenged? If so, are your teachings consistent with the teachings of your predecessors?”

When King mentioned that blacks at one time could not “attain any hierarchy” in the LDS Church, Hinckley brushed it aside.

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “Why were blacks not allowed to hold priesthood positions in the first place?” 
  • “How many black LDS General Authorities does your church have today?” 
  • “Didn’t Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders teach that blacks could never hold the priesthood until after the resurrection? 
  • Since your church did not wait to make the change, did he (and they) lead the church astray by teaching this?

Hinckley also had to mention that local leaders in the LDS Church are not paid.

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “Are you paid?” 
  • “Doesn’t the Doctrine and Covenants say bishops should receive just remuneration for their services? Why aren’t they?”

When asked about the rise of polygamy in Utah, Hinckley quickly separated his church from those making headlines in his state. When asked by King if he condemned the practice, Hinckley said, “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.” Later in the interview, King said the issue of polygamy did affect him because “it’s associated with the past of the Mormons.” Hinckley rebuffed the question and said, “I made a statement; I made some now. We’ve made other statements. It’s simply not a church issue.”

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “But didn’t at least two leaders (Joseph F. Smith & Heber J. Grant) defy the law and continue practicing polygamy long after your church promised to stop?” 
  • “If polygamy became legal tomorrow, would you cease to condemn it? Would it again be a requirement for true salvation as taught by Brigham Young in 1866?” 
  • “Doesn’t your church teach that polygamy will be re-instituted in the next life?” 
  • “Is it true that Mormon leaders have taught that your God, as well as Jesus were practicing polygamists?”

King asked if “the essence of the church was that Christ was in [the] Americas.” Hinckley said, “Yes, at one time.”

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “What evidence do you have that the people Christ allegedly visited really existed?” 
  • “How many non-LDS archaeologists and anthropologists believe the Book of Mormon has historical value?”

King acknowledged that there are splinter groups of Latter-day Saints. Hinckley said, “Oh, there are splinter groups. You expect it.”

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “What makes your group any more correct than theirs?” 
  • “Some of those groups say it is your church that has left the true faith and denied the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Would Joseph Smith and Brigham Young be welcome in your church if they were alive today and believed what they did back then?”

King noted that “Mormons are certainly famous for having children.”

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “Is it not true that Mormons have large families so they can bring as many of God’s ‘spirit-children’ into the world in order to teach them how to become Gods themselves?” 
  • “Is it not true that past President Joseph F. Smith taught that practicing birth control of any kind would result in damnation?” 
  • “Doesn’t the fact that many LDS couples have very few children demonstrate that they may not be following Smith’s advice and will be damned according to LDS teaching?”

When a caller from Houston, Texas asked if the LDS Church believes in censorship of books and films, Hinckley responded, “No, we don’t censor books or films as a practice, no.”

A good follow-up question could have been:

  • “But doesn’t Church-owned Brigham Young University not allow certain films to be shown on campus? Didn’t they try to edit portions of Schindler’s List but were denied? And didn’t your Apostle Richard G. Scott tell students at the same school not to read the Kenneth Starr Report?”

When asked by a caller if he could “just get by on the Old and New Testament,” Hinckley answered by quoting Matthew 18:16, “‘In the mouths of two or more witnesses shall all things be established.’ That is a biblical statement. The Bible is a witness of the divinity of Christ. The Book of Mormon, we assert, is also a witness of the divinity of Christ. And these two, hand-in-hand, become two voices, speaking in declaration of the divinity of the Lord.”

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “What does Matthew 18:16 have to do with books? This passage speaks of proper procedure when judging civil matters or disagreements between brethren. Aren’t you taking that passage out of context when you apply it to the Book of Mormon?” 
  • “You seem to assume the Bible is only one book. Since it contains 66 books, would that not be 66 witnesses to the divinity of Christ? Aren’t 66 enough? 
  • “Can’t people conclude that Jesus is Lord without the Book of Mormon? They seem to have been doing it for centuries.”

King asked, “When someone only preaches the New Testament, are they in error?” Hinckley said, “Oh, I don’t know if they are in error. They’re going as far as they feel disposed to go.” King asked, “And the Old Testame
nt as far as they feel disposed to go?”
Hinckley answered, “Yes.”

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “But doesn’t 2 Nephi 29:6 in the Book of Mormon say that those who accept only the Bible are fools?” 
  • “What unique teachings are contained in the Book of Mormon that are not taught in the Bible?”

When asked by a caller from Salt Lake City about the Word of Wisdom (LDS health law), Hinckley said, “It covers many things. It covers the excessive use of meat, as I see it.”

A good follow-up question could have been:

  • “But doesn’t D&C 89:13 specifically say that flesh of the beasts and fowls of the air, ‘should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine’? Do you only eat meat during those periods?”

Hinckley later insisted, “We have no animosity toward any other church. We do not oppose other churches. We never speak negatively of other churches.”

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “You don’t feel that every time you claim that your church is the only true church and that all other churches are in a state of apostasy that you are speaking negatively of other churches? When non-members say such things about your church, don’t you take it in a negative way?” 
  • “What about all the negative things past LDS leaders have said about other churches? “You don’t think that describing non-Mormon Christians as being a part of ‘apostate Christendom’ is negative?”

King asked, “Can an adulterer stay in the church by admitting it?” Hinckley responded, “Oh, yes. There are various penalties, but yes. We’re not a harsh people in that sense. We’re a very kindly, forgiving people; we really are.”

A good follow-up question could have been:

  • “But didn’t Joseph Smith illegally ‘marry’ several women and then lie to his wife Emma about it? Could a person like that be a member in your church today?”

When asked about “those huge temples,” Hinckley responded by saying, “Those huge temples are monuments, if you please, to our belief in the immortality of the human soul.” He then proceeded to quote 1 Corinthians 15:29 to support the LDS doctrine of baptism for the dead.

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “What do you do in those buildings? After all, Jesus said He never did anything in secret? What doesn’t the LDS Church want the public to know about these buildings?” 
  • “Outside of being practiced by heretical groups such as the Marcionites and Montanists, can you point to a time in Christian history when baptism for the dead was considered orthodox?”

When asked by King if resisting temptation was hard, Hinckley said simply, “No.” He then attributed his resistance to “self-discipline” and said, “What does the proverbs say: it is easier — it is more difficult to control the spirit than to rule over a city. Self-discipline is not easy. It requires effort. It requires strength. It requires thought; it requires prayer sometimes, maybe.”

Good follow-up questions could have been:

  • “Could you give me a chapter and verse for that proverb? I don’t think the Bible, Book of Mormon, or the D&C says that. Perhaps you are confusing Proverbs 25:28?” 
  • “Mormon Apostle Orson Whitney said that to get into the celestial kingdom, you must follow celestial law. He defined celestial law as complete obedience to every law and ordinance of God. Do you personally follow every law of God? If so, wouldn’t that mean you do not sin?

During the course of the interview, Hinckley quoted a UCLA study that said, “Mormons have a life expectancy that is eight to 11 years longer than that of the general white population in the U.S.” In closing let me quote the words of a 16-year-old Christian who watched the interview and wrote MRM to say, “I saw LDS President G. B. Hinckley on Larry King last night. He said that a new study had shown that following the Word of Wisdom’ and the Mormon lifestyle cause the life expectancy of Mormons among the white population to increase by eight to eleven years. I thought to myself, “How many will trade eight to eleven years for an eternity?” Now that’s a very good question.