DENVER — Even in a time of war and the threat of terror, President Gordon B. Hinckley said Tuesday, this nation's greatest challenge is the disintegration of the family.
"Since 9/11 we have established in America a large agency titled Homeland Security to deal with any present or future threat," the worldwide leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told 6,500 people gathered on the University of Denver campus. "May I say that it is likewise urgent that we work at 'Home and Family Security.'"
His address was part of a yearlong series sponsored by Colorado State University and the University of Denver, "Bridges to the Future: American History and Values in Light of September 11th." The series is keyed to a statewide Colorado effort to promote values and link the present with the future, said University of Denver Chancellor Daniel L. Ritchie.
The series began last fall with an inaugural address by former U.S. senator and astronaut John Glenn. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, columnist George F. Will and 2003 Academy Award nominee Michael Moore, among many others, have also participated in the series.
Ritchie said "Bridges to the Future" organizers wanted to invite world leaders who could talk about traditional values and inspire people. He said they also wanted to invite presenters from different backgrounds with different points of view.
During his address, President Hinckley said that even as an old man he enjoys planting trees whose shade he will never enjoy.
"I will be 93 on my next birthday. You ask, 'What future is there for you?'" he said. "I hope I can assist in building bridges, bridges I will likely never walk across but which will be crossed and appreciated by many."
President Hinckley said tragic events in history — including 9/11 — have always led to significant change. That event led to the war on terrorists, chiefly in Afghanistan and ultimately to the present conflict in Iraq.
While Iraqi cities now have been occupied by U.S. and coalition forces, "terrible problems remain," he said. "We have won the war and we now face the perplexing challenge of winning the peace."
The war, he said, has also brought anger against America from those who were once allies and friends. "As a nation we must build bridges to cross those rivers of bitterness."
But, he added, there are also bridges that must be built within this nation.
"In my judgment the greatest challenge facing this nation is the problem of the family, brought on by misguided parents and resulting in misguided children."
The strengthening of the home is of paramount importance in building bridges to the future, he said.
President Hinckley said a huge responsibility lies with "the man and woman who are responsible for the children. And to put it bluntly, too many of them are cop-outs."
President Hinckley also addressed divorce, pornography and drug use, and he talked about the LDS Church's family home evening program.
As people work to strengthen the family, "America will be strong not only in her arms and military affairs, she will be invincible in her moral values and in the integrity of her people," he said.
"I urge each of you to work at it, to become involved, to reach out to lift those who stand in need of help," he said. "We will not entirely solve the problem, but we can reduce it."
With characteristic wit, President Hinckley also answered questions, prepared and submitted in advance. He urged those in attendance to "trust in the Lord and move forward," said political leaders would be "well advised" to seek or accept advice from religious leaders who have at heart the interest of the nation, and responded that peace will be established in the nation as it is established in the individual and cultivated in the family.