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Former Swedish church leader just wants the “truth”

By Eric Johnson

On  July 20, 2013, the New York Times published an article and video (“Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt”) featuring the testimony of Hans Mattsson, a Swede who once served as a local area authority in his country (third quorum of the Seventy, 2000-2005).

According to the article:

“When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history and teachings, he dismissed it as ‘anti-Mormon propaganda,’ the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members’ doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.”

However, Mattsson–who is a third generation Mormon–felt his life “began to crumble” when he found out historical information on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon that did not coincide with what he had been taught. The New York Times theorized:

“Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church.”

The article quoted Mattsson,

“I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet,” said Mr. Mattsson, now an emeritus area authority. “Everything I’d been taught, everything I’d been proud to preach about and witness about just crumbled under my feet. It was such a terrible psychological and nearly physical disturbance.”

According to the article, Mattsson served a mission in England and was later the first Swede called as an area authority.  He worked a secular job during the week in the field of technology marketing and traveled throughout Europe on the weekends, “preaching and organizing the believers.” He stepped down from his church position in 2005 when he had some medical issues.

There were a number of questions that Mattsson fielded from fellow Swedes who had gotten their information on the Internet. The issue of Joseph Smith’s polyandrous ways really threw Mattsson for a loop, so he asked Salt Lake City for help. Apostle L. Tom Perry came, and according to Mattsson, “told a meeting of Mormons that he had a manuscript in his briefcase that, once it was published, would prove all the doubters wrong. But Mr. Mattsson said the promised text never appeared, and when he asked the apostle about it, he was told it was impertinent to ask.”

Mattsson began his own research, including reading Richard Lyman Bushman’s book Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, a work that provides plenty of information unknown by many Latter-day Saints, as such information is not considered “faith promoting.”

According to the article, when Mattsson started to share his new information with other believers,

“the stake president (who oversees a cluster of congregations) told him not to talk about it to any members, even his wife and children. He did not obey: ‘I said to them, why are you afraid for the truth?’ He organized a discussion group in Sweden, and more than 600 participated, he said. In 2010, the church sent two of its top historians, Elder Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley Jr. to allay the Swedes’ concerns. They had a remarkably frank and sometimes testy exchange, especially about Smith and polygamy.”

It doesn’t appear Hans and his wife have officially left the LDS Church, but taking his doubts public has upset some of his family members. The Mattssons have five grown children.

The last sentence in the article is key: “I don’t want to hurt the church,” he said. “I just want the truth.”

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