A new ABC News Studios docu series follows two women who left their Mormon faith to embark on an emotional journey of self-discovery after they fell in love.
The show details the story of Lena Schwen and Sally Osborne as they navigate their way out of the Mormon church and out of their marriages all while co-parenting their seven children.
“I remember saying in Sunday school, not that long ago, ‘Who am I without Mormonism?’” said Osborne. “This is a feeling of grief and just the pain of change, and the pain of not being naïve anymore. It's hard to know the truth.”
Told in four parts, the docu-series captures the couple as they work to reconstruct their lives while maintaining relationships with their ex-husbands, parents, friends and siblings.
Throughout, the series includes interviews and powerful vérité from other Mormon and ex-Mormon members of the LGBTQ+ community, who wrestle with reconciling their identity with the church’s prohibitive doctrine on same-sex relationships.
All four episodes of “Mormon No More” begin streaming Friday, June 24, only on Hulu.
According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS,” same-sex relationships are prohibited, same-sex relationships are prohibited.
“Exaltation can only be attained through faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman,” said President Dallin H. Oaks at the April 2022 LDS General Conference. “Satan's most strenuous opposition is toward exaltation by distorting marriage, discouraging child bearing, or confusing gender.”
ABC News requested to speak with representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding their policies on LGBTQ+ issues. They declined to comment.
Schwen and Osborne were introduced by a mutual friend at a Mormon ward party. Quickly, they realized their friendship was something more.
“When I was Mormon, I was as happy as I thought I could be,” said Osborne. “ I didn't know that there was anything else to be searching for... Mormonism was like a box and it kept me safe and it kept me in a familiar space… And then I fell in love with my friend.”
Osborne was born into the church and said she had grown up as a “quintessential Mormon.”
“The more devout you are, the more blessings you will get,” said Osborne. “I was fully committed to making it to the celestial kingdom, the highest degree of glory in heaven where you can live with your family and God and Jesus for all eternity. My whole worldview was Mormonism.”
Osborne said she married her ex-husband Shane Harris right after her 20th birthday.
The two toured in a band, Love You Long Time, with Sally’s brother for a few years before having children. and the two started having children.
“We were creating the perfect Mormon family. We had three kids,” said Osborne.
Schwen was raised Catholic before converting to Mormonism when she was 18 years old.
“I was so deeply entrenched in Mormonism...It was my life,” said Schwen. “[My ex-husband and I] had four boys in four years...On the outside I was putting on a good face and convinced myself every day that I had the life of my dreams and this is what heavenly father wanted for me. But, I was sad, lonely, and repressed just beneath the surface.”
After realizing that they were in love, the two said they struggled with the idea of how being together would affect their children.
“At first I felt super selfish for even thinking about leaving my husband and reconfiguring our family,” said Schwen. “[My ex-husband] and I come from broken homes and we made a really deep commitment to our kids.”
But Schwen said her ex-husband, Paul Schwen, has been supportive from the beginning and is still very much involved with her children’s lives.
“A lot of people question, like, ‘Why do you do this, Paul?’ And I don't have any animosity towards Lena and Sally. I love my kids and I want to see them as much as possible. We're always involved, we’re always co-parenting,” said Paul Schwen.
Osborne and Schwen’s kids have even come up with a name for their blended family of nine: The Rainbow Squad.
“You couldn't have convinced me in a million years that this was going to be my life,” said Osborne.
“That I would be in a lesbian relationship, raising seven kids together...And we're getting married soon,” Schwen added.
In the series, the couple works to maintain their relationships with their ex-husbands, parents, friends and siblings. Where Paul Schwen has decided to be a part of the new dynamic, Osborne’s ex-husband Shane has kept more of a distance from Lena Schwen.
Osborne said she does not judge her ex-husband for feeling the way he does. Shane Harris said he feels emotional about the situation.
“I never did think that Sally was gay. When she told me, she had romantic feelings for Lena… It was hard. Just flipped my whole world upside down,” said Harris, who said he is supportive of his ex-wife being true to herself. “I just want to make sure my kids are okay.”
“I think everybody deals with hard things in different ways and Paul and Shane are just handling things differently because they’re different people with different life experiences, and we have different relationships,” said Osborne. “I don’t like comparing Shane and Paul. I don't want my kids to ever think that Shane is less than.”
Even after leaving the safety of the church and facing the hardship of a new family dynamic, Osborne and Schwen agree that reconciling their own identity and living their authentic truth has been more than worth it.
“What I have learned is no matter what the journey is, we always end up where we are meant to be authentically living and nobody can avoid the truth that living a lie isn't going to bring you happiness. Getting to that place is sometimes really painful,” Osborne said.
She added it is worth it to come out “so much more evolved and beautiful and stronger...There's no sense in trying to be anyone but yourself.”