Is The Internet Causing People To Leave The Mormon Church?

Hans Mattesson

Hans Mattesson is an emeritus leader in the Mormon church of his community in rural Sweden. Now, thanks to an article and video released by The New York Times, he is also the highest ranking member of the church to express his crisis of faith with the church, and just one member of what the Times is calling "a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith." 

Not only has the internet brought to light a multitude of counter-arguments and contrary evidence to Mormon teaching, but it has also given skeptics, both inside and outside the church, a various forums to express their doubts. Mattesson describes the sensation as "an Earthquake"…

"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."

"Consider a Catholic cardinal suddenly going to the media and saying about his own church, 'I don’t buy a lot of this stuff,'" said Greg Prince, a Mormon historian and businessman living in Washington. "He is, as far as I know, the highest-ranking church official who has gone public with deep concerns, who has had a faith crisis and come forward to say he’s going to talk about it because maybe that will help us all to resolve it."

Mormon-Temple-Salt-LakeMattesson said that his decision to go public came after he tried to articulate his doubts to higher ranking members of the church. He presented them questions, such as why the Church chose to keep quiet about Joseph Smith taking many wives, or why were black men excluded from the priesthood before 1978. Mattesson was told to keep quiet about his doubts, even to his wives and children, a demand that did not sit well with him. Instead, he and his wife hosted sessions of what they called the "Crucible of Doubt" for questioning Mormons across Europe. Hundreds were supposedly in attendance. 

Mattesson's sessions are one of many examples of groups and forums opening up and sharing their doubts with the church. Another is "Mormon Stories", an online group of podcasts and forums seeking to promote "he open discussion of Mormonism". They released a study last year entitled "Why Mormons Question", which illustrated how "more than half of the men and four in 10 of the women had served in leadership positions in the church."

Eric Hawkins, a spokesperson for the Mormon Church, said that the organization strives for transparency. "The answer is not to try to silence critics, but to provide as much information and as much support as possible to those who may be affected." Unfortunately, both Mattesson and Mormon Stories can both attest to the ostracizing and broken relationships suffered by those who question. Mattesson insists that his intentions are far from malicious. "I don’t want to hurt the church," he told the Times, "I just want the truth."

You can read more about Mattesson and watch the video HERE


  1. JonnyNYNY2FLFL says

    Religious superstition & myth cannot survive in the Information Age. The only reason faith-based philosophies are still held today is the practice of brainwashing children from birth. Once parents allow education to guide their kids’ growth into adulthood, all religions will seem as preposterous as the worship of gods on Mt.Olympus.

  2. sean says

    I was raised LDS…what the heck is an emeritus leader of the LDS church? Is this guy a bishop or stake president? Is he a mission president? Or just some loser looking for attention? He is not a member of either quorum of the seventy, nor is he a member of the quorum of the twelve or the first presidency…So whoever he is, he certainly is not a high level member of the church hierarchy. Of course, the uninformed will just believe that he is an “emeritus” leader in the church.

  3. Edward says

    The idea that religion cannot survive in the information age suggests that religion flows from knowledge or rationality. Religion is based on faith in doctrine for which rational proof does not and can not exist. Yes, religions are often grounded in real people and real events. But beyond that everything religion ascribes to these people and events is an “I believe” statement rather than an “I know” statement. By definition divinity is supernatural–i.e. it is above our ability to know it through our human senses. Myth, superstition, etc. will be around as long as humans live in a universe in which we can’t fully explain 100% of everything, which will be always.

    But religion will probably grow to look much different than it once did, at least in the developed world. What will struggle in the information age is hypocrisy–inconsistency between church teachings (or a broader sense of social justice) and church actions. So dannyineastvilalge is right–information is dangerous to blind allegiance to hierarchical authority. This man seems not to be questioning his core beliefs, but rather to be questioning institutional practices that fly in the face of these beliefs. It’s the same questioning spirit that exposes sexual abuse, misuse of charitable funds, etc.

  4. Bollux says

    What do you mean? Access to copious amounts of unadulterated information turns people into free-thinking skeptics of religious and political dogma? Hoodah guesst dat.

  5. TGD says


    Google it. There are actually 8 quorums of the 70. 3 to 8 are called area authorities. For someone who was raised in the church, you seem to know very little about it. I was raised in the church too and I’m still shocked at how little other LDS members know their own religion.

  6. Chad says

    In response to Sean, Mattson was an Area Authority Seventy. That will mean something to a former member and nothing to anyone else, but it does put him at a little higher level. However, my understanding is that area authority seventies are just released and not made “emeritus”, but I get how that can all be very confusing for people not associated with the Mormon church.

  7. sean says

    But to compare his level of authority to that of a Catholic Cardinal ( the people who elect the pope) is just dishonest. It gives people who do not understand the structure of the LDS church the wrong impression. If he is truly the first area authority to have doubts or lose faith in this way…then I think the church is in pretty good shape.

  8. Kenthomes1 says

    Good!! I was raised a Mormon drone – part of the group think collective and it is past time to start questioning all religion – which is nothing more than man made control systems to stop personal self empowerment. I hate what the Mormon church has done and continues to do to gay people everywhere. Screw them and the horse they rode in on.

  9. David From Canada says

    The Mormon religion was Made In The U.S.A. as were also the Jehovah’s Witness’s, the Evangelicals, Scientology, etc.
    The U.S.A. has created more extreme religions than any other country in our Western Civilization.
    Time for America to turn down the volume on these outpourings of extremism and become more low-key and moderate.

  10. Paul R says

    It’s really tough for me to decide who are worse, Mormons or Catholics. Catholics have had a lot more time to get a lot more blood on their hands, but Mormons are often even creepier hypocrites and liars. Both believe in fantasy to explain things they don’t understand. Most of both are driven by fear and the desire of church leaders to impose ignorance.

    It’s utterly beyond me how anyone of any intelligence can be hyper religious. If you can read, you could have found out about the myriad failings of both religions many years ago. And it’s not like the Internet came out last week. This guy was a fool to believe, like most people who put their blind faith in things with shortcomings they don’t want to acknowledge, instead clinging to imaginary friends.

    Sort of like gay Republicans and untold numbers of other groups. It would make me sad, but I realized it when I was very young. That it takes someone dozens of years tilting at windmills and hoping against hope they somehow chose the “right” religion is so pathetic and destructive, to them and everyone they lambaste. Ugh.

  11. TampaZeke says

    DAVID FROM CANADA, I think Palestine has us beat since they are the source of the religions that represents over 50% of the earths population and over 95% of all historical religious violence.

  12. FuryOfFirestorm says

    Honestly, if more people actually read about the origins of Mormonism, they’d realize that it’s up there with $cientology in terms of a being a huge scam based on ridiculously stupid made-up b*llsh*t.

  13. johnny says

    This is what happens when you base a religion on a story about golden plates that was told by a charlatan who’d been arrested for various crimes prior to fabricating that horse crap.

    People are gullible. Vulnerable people are even more so. And rich, vulnerable people can be tapped into like a maple tree full of liquid gold.

  14. anon says

    While the Internet, among many other sources of information, can cause some people to have doubts about their religions, like other sources of information and opinion it will probably not affect the bulk of the religious population that relies on religion for psychological support regardless of what the evidence suggests. Most people are immune to doubts about their core beliefs and simply get upset when those beliefs are challenged. This applies to political beliefs as well. What really erodes belief for most people is changing their environment and their peer groups. Hanging around with atheists will have more effect than looking up info on Wikipedia.

  15. Mmike1969 says

    Wow. People educating themselves and realizing they were being LIED to and start leaving a false “church”.

    No wonder Utah and teapubs wants to end public education.

  16. Kevin-in-Honolulu says

    @ Kent Holmes–

    ” is which is nothing more than man made control systems to stop personal self empowerment.”

    An absolutely brilliant and cogent description!

  17. sam says

    If only the same happened to Evangelicals and Fundies. Too bad they have the internet packed with “apologetics” that any gullible believer would buy to reassure their faith.

  18. gomez says

    not just mormons. it will be interesting to see how the evangelical mov’t in Africa, china, south korea deals with the rising tide of secularism and reason that the internet naturally promotes

  19. XenuLuvsU says

    Short answer: yes. If you look at the history of Scientology vs. the internet, it’s rich with examples of followers finally gaining access to information that the organization tries desperately to filter. There are a lot of good people who just haven’t been able to grasp the full picture until they get information that hasn’t been spoon-fed to them. Frankly, a lot of them leave when they realize how badly they’ve been duped.

  20. Duwayne Anderson says

    Sean wrote: “I was raised LDS…what the heck is an emeritus leader of the LDS church?”

    “Emeritus” is a title that roughly translates into “retired with honors.”

    Hans H. Mattsson is a 3rd generation LDS church member from Sweden who served as a bishop and stake president in Sweden before serving in the LDS church 3rd Quorum of the Seventy from 2000-2005 in the Europe Central area under LDS Apostle L. Tom Perry (one of the twelve apostles in the LDS Church)

  21. Amos says

    To Sean,
    I protest that you said “some loser looking for attention”. The pain of ex-Mormons’ experience is too often trivialized by still-believing Mormons. This dismissive attitude has at least two consequences- 1) It is transparently insulting and disrespectful to most fair-minded people who try to see both sides, and 2) it eclipses the actual reasons Mormons leave the church.

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