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In Theory: Is the Internet the enemy of faith?

August 06, 2013

The Internet can be a source of information and illumination, but for some it's also a cause for worry, and in some cases, a loss of faith, as one Mormon man discovered.

Hans Mattsson, a "solid believer" in his faith, began to have doubts after friends emailed him about websites that contained information about Mormonism that contradicted the church's official history and teachings. Mattsson began looking deeper into the contradictions and discovered evidence of historical anomalies in the Book of Mormon, among other things. "I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet," said Mattsson. "Everything I'd been taught, everything I'd been proud to preach about and witness about just crumbled under my feet."

Q: Does the thought of your congregants possibly developing doubts because of information found on the Internet concern you?

I feel sympathy for Hans Mattsson and hope that he can work through his doubts. This must be a very difficult time for him, for his family and for those who knew him as a leader.

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Despite his experience, the Internet doesn't really pose a threat to the faith of Mormons or members of any other denomination. On the contrary, the access to knowledge and communication that the Web provides is a great asset.

I have to point out that issues Mattsson raises aren't new. Most have been discussed within the church and among its critics for decades. Even the more recent matter of DNA and the Book of Mormon, mentioned in his videotaped interview, has been thoroughly debated.

Having served as a lay leader in the church I am surprised — actually, a bit skeptical — that his appeal for help was rebuffed. Even if that is true, church universities have websites that address Mattsson's questions at length. (One example: a 2011 Brigham Young University paper that looks unsparingly at Joseph Smith's marriage to 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball.) There also are numerous sites created by individual members who discuss faith, history and doctrine.

Personally, I enjoy studying the church's history — even these controversial topics. They don't shake my faith in Smith or in the church he restored. Despite the sometimes rough edges of history, the fact is there is Truth, with a capital T, in what Joseph Smith taught. There is Truth in the Book of Mormon.

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