Mormon Church President
Gordon B. Hinckley
In an hourlong interview with Cable News Network host Larry King, the 88-year-old leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints displayed characteristic wit and composure in responding to questions about his church, the President Clinton debacle, the nation's moral climate and even Mark McGwire's historic 62nd home run.
In recent months, Utah and national news organizations have reported heavily on polygamy, a vestige of the LDS Church's early history, in light of criminal child-abuse and incest charges leveled against two members of a shadowy Utah polygamous group.
When King asked him about the subject, Hinckley explained that Mormon pioneers brought plural marriage with them when they settled the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, but only ``on a restricted scale . . . it was practiced by between 2 and 5 percent of the people and it was carefully safeguarded.''
In 1890, Mormon President Wilford Woodruff ``received a revelation that it was time to discontinue it,'' Hinckley said. Six years later -- in part because of that decision -- Utah was allowed to become a state.
Since then, however, breakaway groups have continued to live in plural marriages, but only at the cost of excommunication from the LDS Church.
``It's behind us,'' said Hinckley, a man believed to be a ``prophet, seer and revelator'' by the church's 10 million members. ``I condemn it as a practice. It is not doctrinal. It is not legal.''
Current polygamists in Utah ``don't belong to the church,'' he said. ``There are no Mormon fundamentalists.''
The church has no position on whether to prosecute today's polygamists, he said. ``We are totally distant from it . . . it is outside our responsibility.''
Some scholars have noted that certain church leaders stayed in plural marriages even after the ``Woodruff Manifesto'' and say the principle has not been erased from Mormon scripture.