I am a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and family therapist.
I am the only child of Jewish parents, born in 1934. My family was not religious and only had a very dim and somewhat gloomy feeling that there is a God without mercy, especially with all the things that had been done to Jews in general and to our family, since my grandparents and one aunt had been murdered in Auschwitz.
While we were lucky not to have been sent to a concentration camp, survival in Vienna was bad enough. In the end we had to go into hiding.
We survived in a dangerous and inimical world with a knowledge that to be Jewish is something to hide because we are not wanted and are outcasts anyway.
When I grew up I learned about the atrocities that were done by Christians in the name of Jesus Christ and I had to find other ways to understand the world. So I very early turned to psychoanalysis and my ultimate goal was to explain God psychologically, as a self-created image, a fantasy of man. Yet the dim image, especially of my father, of a “Father” in heaven went with me. But I never resorted to it.
Since the Americans had come to occupy part of Austria and had established an “Information Center,” I had the chance to read a lot about the American way of looking at and dealing with the world and that gave me hope for a better world. A book I found in this library dealt with polygamous families. They were very positively described.
While in my internship during my medical training I met a nurse whom I started to date. I was afraid to tell her that I was Jewish, and when she told me that she was Mormon I told her about that book and that I had a received a good impression about those families. We married and tried to build our own life as a family.
My wife invited me to Church activities. It was nice but I was sure I would never join that church. I wanted to stay free of any religious ideology. My wife never tried to convince me. We had had the missionaries come over for lunch. They were nice fellows and I had treated them accordingly. When they had health problems I tried to give advice. That was it. I had avoided reading the Bible and especially the Book of Mormon.
What was important, however, was the idea I learned of gathering the House of Israel. A Christian church with such an idea? That was interesting and lessened my distance a little bit toward the Church.
Though this was interesting I wanted to stay free and thought I had to find facts that would help me decline any suggestions for joining the Church. I wanted to prove it wrong so I had to overcome my dislike of reading religious books and started to read the Book of Mormon to prove that it was just another book to support “their ideology.”
When I started to read I could not stop. I read all night and it was like being encircled by fire. I did not logically understand what I read and yet I could not stop.
When I had finished I was excited and exhausted at the same time. I knew now—no, I felt—that somehow it was true.
When our branch president asked me the following Sunday if I wanted to be baptized, I answered without hesitation, yes.
I had no discussions from the missionaries, yet I did and still do everything that is part of my religion. It has greatly enhanced my vision of man as son or daughter of God and of what “man can become.” I had already developed a method to help people see themselves as they really are, in full health and wellbeing, that is very helpful to lead people out of illness and depression, and was confirmed by the teachings of the Church. I am showing it to patients and they gain hope. I am teaching it in seminars and the participants enjoy it and use it with success. Teaching family therapy at the medical university in Vienna is like teaching gospel knowledge, and my students enjoy it and appreciate it.
And it is all about “what man may become” and what we can do to help.
The teachings of the church are true; the Gospel as the Church teaches it is the saving instruction for mankind in this troubled world. The Lord Jesus Christ truly is the Savior.
Dr. Harry Merl, born in 1934, is married, with five children and eighteen grandchildren. He graduated from the medical faculty of the University of Vienna with an MD, specializing in psychiatry and neurology. He is the retired Director of the Institute for Psychotherapy at the County Clinic „Wagner-Jauregg“ and Assistant Professor of Psychotherapy at Graz University. Currently, he is teaching “Systemic Single and Family Therapy” for the Department of Psychiatry in the Vienna Medical University and “Self-Management” (eco-systemic thinking) at the Johannes Kepler University, in Linz.
An analytic group therapist and psychoanalyst (training analyst), and, since 1969, a family and systemic therapist and supervisor, Dr. Merl introduced family therapy to Austria, with trainings for trainees since 1972. He has received decoration for special merits for the Austrian Republic.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Dr. Merl has served as bishop of the Linz Ward, high councilor, first counselor in the Salzburg Stake presidency, and temple missionary (2001-2003). Currently, he is teaching Institute together with his wife.
Posted December 2010