Representing Utah since 1976, Sen. Orrin Hatch is known both as a principled conservative and as one who is ready to compromise--an ability that has often earned him criticism from his own party. His recent book, "Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator," tells the story of some of those fights, as well as his triumphs. Beliefnet's Editor-in-chief Steven Waldman talked with him about life as a faithful Mormon in a position of power.

One of the reasons you decided to run for president was to educate people about Mormonism.
Not so much to educate, but to knock down some of the barriers and misconceptions. Some of the Christian faith believe very sincerely that Mormons are not Christians. Well, Orrin Hatch is a fervent believer in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice and that He died for all of us. Mormons are very misunderstood.

When you were running did you encounter more prejudice than you were expecting?
From time to time. Immediately after I announced, I was told that 18 percent wouldn’t vote for a Mormon under any circumstances. I answered by saying that leaves 82 percent.

You were far out ahead in opposing abortion early in your career, and yet you didn't get support from some Christians. Do you think your religion was the reason?
I hope not. But there’s no question that with some people it was. I think the real reason is I’m not a radical on the issue. I don’t center everything on that particular issue.

Do you have a favorite passage from the Bible or Book of Mormon?
Ephesians 2.8-10 is one of my favorites. James 1, verses 5 and 6. Beautiful set of scripture. It gives me a great faith, if we don’t waiver, and we have faith, God will help us. I’ve been through a lot of travails but He’s always pulled me through.

Oh, and there’s the Moroni--last book, chapter 10, verses. 4-5 ["And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."].

That’s an amazing set of scriptures because that’s the way millions have come into the Mormon church--asking God in the name of Christ if it’s true and having the feeling it is and that this is a new witness for Christ in America.

You went into public life in part because of your sense that there was moral decline. Do you think things are better or worse than when you came in?
In some respects they’re better, in some worse. Kids—they're the absolute best we’ve seen, and the absolute worst. Hardly anything in between.

The temptations for kids today are so overwhelming compared to what they were for us. I remember when Howard Hughes did "The Outlaw" with Jane Russell. It was just a scandal! That would be a children’s matinee now.


I watched one of the leading programs on TV. I wanted to see what this great program is because it’s so heralded all the time. It had the most vile swear words throughout--uttered by women!

Sex in the City?
Yeah. It was awful! Kids are faced with drugs, vice, crime and pornography and bad movies and bad music; it’s amazing any of them come through. We have just about every vice in this country right up front and in our face all the time.

You recommended President Bush to pardon Bill Clinton. Did your faith have anything to do with that?
I believe in repentance. I believe we can overcome sin. The idea is to reduce the sinning as much as we can so we don’t have to repent so much. Clinton left a lot to be desired, morally, spiritually, and politically, but he’s one of God’s children. I care for him. I do to this day--not because he changed a lot, but because we as Christians should never give up on anybody.

Do you think Clinton recognizes that what he did was wrong?
I can’t judge him and won't judge him. But my personal belief is that he hasn’t changed a whole lot. He never thought he did anything wrong and said that publicly. You’ve got to recognize what you did was wrong. Then again, who am I to criticize him? I have to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. I’m not going to judge him. I hope he does right and I hope he is honorable to Senator Clinton, his wife.

Your relationships with Senator Ted Kennedy is an interesting one. You describe him as a very good friend, as someone who during particular moments in your life was the only one who showed up.
I've been there for him, too. We're like fighting brothers. We fight each other most of the time. But there's a mutual respect. He's a leading liberal and there's nothing going to change that and politically he's brutal. For political advantage, he'd do almost anything. But there's a very good side to him I happen to love. He was good to his mother, to his brothers and sisters. He's been very good to his children. And deep down when you can get him out of the partisan mode, we can get a lot done.

Would you say that, all in all, he's a man of good moral character?
I'm not going to judge him. That's a mixed bag. He's the first to admit that there've been things in his past that he feels bad about. But Vickie, his wife, has brought a great light in his life, and I believe he's leading a very good life with her.

When he's needed help, I've been there. There been times when I was down, he's one of the few who's gone out of his way to make sure I knew he cared for me. My grandson had colitus. They operated on him and the operation did not take well. He got an infection that almost destroyed his organs. I'd been praying and fasting for him. Kennedy called me and said, "Look, I'm getting you the name of one of the top surgeons in the world at Mass General. You call him. He'll take your call and he's going to call your doctor out there and make sure everything turns out."

When his mother died, I wasn't invited, but I flew up to the funeral. When my mother died, I was shocked to see Ted and Vicki fly out to Utah. Having him there meant a lot to me. Some people think if a person [isn't] just exactly what he or she should be, then they're not going to associate with them. I think we can hate the sin and love the sinner. I hope people treat me that way. I feel great love for Ted Kennedy.

The stem cell issue is very important to you and one on which you've taken criticism from your own allies.
Very severe criticism.

You've developed a thick skin about criticism.
Well you're wrong about that. It hurts me every time. I just don't show it.

I almost got the sense that the criticism on stem cell stung more. Why is that?
Well I'm very pro-life. Everyone knows that. I'm the only one who brought a constitutional amendment on abortion to the floor of the Senate and House. I've been at the forefront of that battle when the going's been very tough. I've studied [the stem cell question] as intensely as anyone could. It was a very difficult decision. Many sincere people [believe] that eggs at in vitro clinics are potential human beings--and they are--but the fact of the matter is those eggs are going to be discarded, and when they're discarded they're going to die. And at that stage no neurological development has occurred.

These cells might treat or cure heart disease, cancer, Alzheimers, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis. There's a little fellow in Utah named Corey Anderson. His grandfather died at 48 after having his legs and feet removed. He had a horrible life--28 operations--because he had sugar diabetes. This little boy has exactly same thing and he's going to go through the same thing unless we can find some way of helping him. And according to every Nobel laureate, this one thing might give him some hope.

You said life begins at implantation because without that human life cannot happen. That standard--`it wouldn't have a chance'-applies to a 10-day-old implanted embryo too. Isn't your position on the slippery slope toward allowing first trimester abortion?
I don't think so because literally once that egg is implanted it's a living human being.

One thing I've never understood about this debate is that the folks arguing against your position are nonetheless fine with the proliferation of fertility clinics.
Well, they weren't fine with it when it started. They were against in vitro. But now 200,000 babies have been born through in vitro fertilization in the United States alone, so they more or less tolerate it.

So it's not a moral position as much as a bowing to practicalities?
I think that's right. And I think this is along the same lines. Why would we allow those blastocysts be thrown away and killed when they could be utilized for life? For me that's the most firm pro-life position. Everywhere I go I have people say, almost sheepishly, "You're right about that."

So do you think Bush should revise his policy?
Yes, naturally I do. Ultimately, President Bush will have to face either legislation that will permit this kind of research to go forward for the benefit of mankind or make a decision himself based on the best science.

When you've prayed on this, how did that affect you?
I'm a great believer that the Lord expects us to do everything in our power, to learn, understand, grow and make up our own minds before he's going to come in and help you to finally make up your mind. I did all of that. And then I have to say through fervent prayer, I feel like this [is] the right thing--and that this is a pro-life stance.

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