I’m excited to introduce Hans Mattsson. Hans will talk about his calling as the first Swedish Area Authority and growing up in the LDS Church.
Hans: Well, my name is Hans Mattsson, and I’m a Swedish citizen. I used to be holding a call as an Area Authority Seventy from 2000 and on to 2005. During this time, I met a lot of good, high-position members of the Church.
Hans: [I wrote] a book called Truth Seeking. It gives the story about my life and how I experienced my family, the Church and why I have got some problems and why I left the Church, really, and that includes meeting with Marlin Jensen, and includes Swedish Rescue, it includes the New York Times and things like that. I just wanted to say, also, that Christina Hanke is the one who wrote most of it. But I talked to her, as they interviewed me a lot. It’s the way it worked.
GT: So, you’ve got that in multiple languages, I believe. So you’ve got an English and Swedish and what other languages?
Hans: Actually, people just contacted me and asked, “Can I translate it into German? Can I translate into Spanish? Can I make an audiobook of it?” So I said, “I don’t have any money for that project.” But they said, “No, no, no, you’ve done so much for so many people, and I just wanted to do something.” I said, “Well, just go ahead.” So I’ve been really blessed. I used to say to my wife, “That’s a blessing for tithing I used to pay. The windows of heaven opened. The only thing is, the money is not coming in, but the books are selling through Amazon.
GT: That’s right. I really appreciate you sending me a copy. As I said before the interview started, I can’t figure out where I placed it, but it’s an interesting book. So, of course, my current interview right now is with Dr. Matt Harris and Dr. Newell Bringhurst and we talk about the Swedish Rescue, which you had a major part of there. So, I definitely want to talk about that. As we go here, I think– some of my listeners, I think, are going to be very familiar with you. Others are not. Can you give us just kind of a thumbnail sketch of how you were in the Church and how you became a general authority and that sort of thing?
Hans: I was born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden. In Swedish, we would say Goteborg. There, I have three brothers, and a very faithful father and mother. We were really, really faithful and really believed in everything of the Church. I served a mission for two years in the England Central Mission that later became the England, Birmingham Mission.
GT: And that’s how you learned English?
Hans: Yeah, I tried to practice there. You’re right, really. Then after my mission, I did my military service in Sweden. Actually, there I met my future wife. She was working in the kitchen serving the militaries. That’s a wonderful story. You can read all about in the book.
Hans: We had four wonderful children, no, five children. I’m so sorry. [We had] three boys and two girls. In the Church, I had callings as a branch president, Bishop, counselor to Bishop, counselor to a Stake President, High Councilman. I served as a Stake President. Then we moved to Stockholm. There I was called as a High Councilman, but also as the counselor to the mission president, because there are no stakes all over Sweden. So the northern part of Sweden is the districts. So that’s where I, as a counselor, had to take care of them. After a while, I was called to visit with one general authority up at the airport of Stockholm. There I received a letter from the First Presidency, calling me to be an Area Authority Seventy and belong to the Third Quorum of the Seventies. So, that’s 2000, in the early part of 2000, and then on the General Conference coming up the first Sunday in April, I was sustained as a Seventy and Elder Holland, and Marlin Jensen were the ones who set me apart.
Hans: From there, it’s just, “Go on.” I was nervous, happy, and delighted. Of course, in Sweden, I was the first Swedish Area Authority and that’s a humbling experience. I remember the first meeting, we had been taught by the Twelve and the First Presidency and Seventies every year at the Church Office Building, before the conference and when I looked around there–so, Brother Marriott, so some famous people, Elder Rasband. I was called as the same time as Elder Renlund. They’re both apostles now. We get together and I thought to myself, “What are you doing here?” You feel kind of humble. Kind of a voice from inside said, “Don’t blame yourself, blame God because He is calling you, so just do what, who you are and do the best.” So that’s what I felt. Of course, I have to travel in Europe, mostly, even part of the old eastern block areas like Hungary, Romania, those countries that used to belong to the Soviet Union from many years ago. Then, of course, [I travelled to] Germany, Austria, the Nordic countries. About two different milieus, so to speak, [I traveled to] the ones where the Church was organized and had Stakes. Of course, I went to the countries that didn’t know anything really, that were brand new, that had missionaries for branch presidents and so on. So it was kind of exciting.
Hans Mattsson first began to question LDS Church history while serving as an area authority in the 3rd Quorum of Seventy. We’ll talk about some of the resources he used. Were they anti-Mormon? Were they Church approved?
Hans: We were on our way to a stake conference in Sweden. There were some questions, though, from some members. I said, “I will have Elder [L. Tom] Perry coming up on this conference. So if we can meet together with the stake president there, and we three, together, can find out.” Of course, that stake president [came] prepared. He had a huge lot of papers and asked questions about the Church’s early days that we didn’t know anything about. Then, Elder Perry said, “Listen. In my briefcase, I have a manuscript that will solve all the problems. [They] will show that they are all false, and we’re not only going to show them false, we’re going to prove them wrong. We’re going to go after them, and we’re going to nail them.” Of course, I didn’t know what that meant, to nail someone, but I was so happy that, “Wow! There is an answer. There is an answer to all those questions.” Of course, we went back to those members and leaders that were asking questions, and said, “Hey, listen, no problem. That will come out [in] the book that will answer all the questions, and we’re going to prove them as false and it’s just an anti-Mormon propaganda.” Well, after a few months, the questions are coming back to me. “Hey, have you seen the book? Have you read the book? Where is the book?”
Hans: So I called Frankfurt where Elder L. Tom Perry then was presiding from. Then I was told that you’re not supposed to ask questions like that to the apostles and that was it. Of course, that tricked me a lot. I wondered why is it that he’s telling things like that, and then he’s not giving us any ? So then I really, really thought myself, “I have to find out myself.” That’s when it started. I started to search on the internet and read lots of books and found out. Then I was released in 2005, after five years. They wanted me to stay for a few more years. But then I had a heart problem and I couldn’t make it physically or psychologically.
GT: I think it was about this time that you started listening to John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories podcast. Is that right?
GT: Was that while you were still an [area] authority, or was that after 2005?
Hans: Afterwards, because I had this open heart surgery. After that, I have to be kind of still for awhile and, my friend, Christina Hanke, that I know as a youth in Gothenburg, also lived in Stockholm. The bishop called me to be a home teacher for her. I didn’t know that she already had found out things that I didn’t know about. So, she opened her heart and we, together, found more things. Christina found out by googling about Mormon Stories and introduced me to it.
GT: So Christina Hanke, she was your author or she’s the one that helped you write your book?
Hans: Yeah, she did.
Hans details how he came to question Church History. High profile church leaders flew to Sweden in 2010 to try to answer difficult church history questions to Swedish Latter-day Saints. How did the meeting go? Hans Mattsson gives his impressions of the meeting.
Hans: First of all, it was a secret meeting. No one should know about it.
GT: Oh, it wasn’t public.
Hans: No. We had the New Area Authority Seventy Ingvar Olsson and he was inviting those that the bishops would [recommend] to have at the meeting, to straighten us out. I called him because I know him quite well. I said, “Hey, listen. I can help you. Because I knew all the people that you should have there.” He said, “No, I’ll go through the bishops and stake president.” We were there in the evening, a Sunday evening after everything was closed in the church. We were about 20 struggling, seeking-truth people. At the same time, they had also called bishops and stake presidents and some high councilmen and PR people from the Church. We were about 40-45 people, and also the Area President, Elder Kopischke came up from Germany. So there was quite strong leadership there. Elder Jensen went out and welcomed him and helped him. I said, “I’m glad to see you again. I hope you can give us some good answers.” They said, “Oh, I’m glad you’re here, Elder Mattsson. I’m glad, and you can help me.” I said, “Well, I only wanted to know the truth.” So, we started there. So anyway, we were into the meeting and Elder Jensen says, after we introduce ourselves, and told why we were there and who we are, Elder Jensen started the meeting by [drawing] on the whiteboard, making a line from top to bottom, divided in two sides. [On one side] was Jesus, God, and the Church. Another [side] was Satan and the world. He gave a lot of scriptures that proved that if you’re not in the Church, you’re in the world and in the hands of Lucifer. So, it was a very, very tough way to start with them. We felt like we were not here to discuss if we are Satan’s people, or if we are God’s people. We just wanted to know the truth. But it was very black and white then. After that, Elder Turley went up and we were asked what kind of questions we had, and they wrote it down, I think about 12 questions down. [The questions were about] the hat and stone, polygamy, polyandry. Do we believe in polygamy still? I can’t remember all the questions, but today [these questions] are very common. So, we really tried to ask questions, or discuss them, with them.
Find out what else went on during the meeting, and how it ended. Were you aware of his story? What are your thoughts?