An Interview With Gordon Hinckley

A Look Back At Mike Wallace's 1996 Interview With The President Of The Mormon Church

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Fact is, most Mormon women don't want to be priests. They accept that men control the church and dominate Mormon society. And this has triggered complaints about how the church handles child sexual abuse. Child abuse among Mormons is surely no greater than among non-Mormons, but a study has found that many Mormon women who went to their clergymen for help believe the clergy were just not sympathetic.

"A sociologist tells us that the root of the problem is the fact that men, in effect, in your church have authority over women so that your clergymen tend to sympathize with the men, the abusers, instead of the abused," Wallace told Hinckley.

"That's one person's opinion. I don't think there's any substance to it. Now there'll be a blip here, a blip there, a mistake here, a mistake there. But, by and large, the welfare of women and children is as seriously considered as is the welfare of the men in this church, if not more so," he replied.

Hinckley said the church had been teaching its clergy how to handle abuse more effectively. "We're working very hard at it. There are cases. They're everywhere. They're all over this world. It is a disease. It's an illness. It's a sickness. It's a reprehensible and evil thing. We recognize it as such," he told Wallace.

Mormon clergy are not professionals. They are not paid; their church work is in addition to their regular jobs outside the church.

Whatever their jobs, just being a Mormon is expensive: Mormons are expected to give 10 percent of their salary to the church.

The church reportedly takes in several billion dollars a year and has never had a major financial scandal. Most of the money, they say, is spent building 375 chapels a year all around the world.

"We're reaching out across the world. We're not a weird people," Hinckley told Wallace.

"A weird people?" Wallace asked.

"Yes," Hinckley said.

Mormons know that some outsiders think they are weird. Why? Well, for one thing, devout Mormons wear sacred undergarments for protection from harm, cotton undershirts with undershorts that reach to their knees.

Bill Marriott also said he wears the sacred undergarments. "And I can tell you, they do protect you from harm," he told Wallace.

"I was in a very serious boat accident, fire. The boat was on fire. I was on fire," Marriott explained. "I was burned. My pants were burned right off me. I was not burned above my knee. Where the garment was, I was not burned."

"And you believe it was the sacred undergarments?" Wallace asked.

"Yeah, I do, particularly on my legs because my pants were gone. My undergarments were not singed," he said.

Steve Young, the star quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers is also the great-great-great-grandson of Brigham Young, one of the Mormons' early leaders.

"And do you think that the sacred undergarments have kept you from harm on the football field?" Wallace asked Young.

"I actually take them off to play football. The sacred nature of them, I find that the nature of football and the sweating and so forth, I actually take them off. And I think that's probably prevalent with athletics in the church," Young said.

"But my teammates have enjoyed it," he admitted. "When, you know, you're getting dressed and you're putting your garments on, they think they're pretty cool, a lot of them. 'Hey, where'd you get those?' And I'd always tell them they're way too expensive."