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Maria and Henning

Maria and Henning Schnurr – We are German ExMormons

We made this video not to attack the faith of happy church members or to enlarge our “Exmormon-team” but because we want to help people with doubts about the “truth” of the church. We like to help them leave the church in a constructive way and to show (like in the other videos) that there is a life after Mormonism. We think it is always important to have different sources of information to be able to make a well-founded decision. If someone wants to remain a church member because she/he is deeply convinced we think that’s fine and we understand that. The most important thing is, that we find joy and happiness as individuals as well as mankind. We think anyways that it doesn´t matter WHAT someone believes but HOW. As for us, we are not able to believe in the Mormon church anymore and we want to tell everyone that we enjoy our life and look forward to a happy, exciting future.

-Maria & Henning Schnurr

Henning Schnurr:

I‘m 34 years old and currently work as a freelance industrial designer in Cologne/Germany. I love biking and the outdoors – and I‘ll be a Dad very soon. I grew up in a very nice Mormon family with parents who taught me a lot of good things for life. I’m still grateful for what my parents did for us and how much they showed us love and taught us good principles which were often based on the teachings of the church. However, besides the good aspects I started to notice some negative things about the church.

In my youth I learned that to live standards equals standardization. In church I was taught that we are all individuals but that there is only one way to real happiness. All things that contradicted this path like certain music, movies, or just the way I wanted to dress were more or less seen as a danger to my happiness. I was not forced to follow these standards, but I had a lot of situations where I had to justify myself. Why are such superficial rules so important for some members, I was wondering?

Even though it was more a rebellious motivation during my youth it caused me to start thinking critically. After my rebellious period (from the time I went on my mission until now) I came to understand more and more the systematic mind control within the church. Especially with the youth and the missionaries.

For a long time I noticed that within the church most members think much more about what someone believes than how a person believes something. For example, living together out of wedlock is one of the biggest sins of our generation in the eyes of the church. But isn’t the way a couple lives together much more important than the formality? I noticed that most members can’t really have a differentiated view. A lot of the members become self-righteous and think very categorized which is a limited form of thinking.

My doubts grew over the years.. There were always things I did not understand in the scriptures. How could a just god curse a people up to the Third and Fourth Generation as he did in the Old Testament and Book of Mormon, especially when the church claims that there is no original sin? Why did Adam and Eve have to break the law? Why was the Pharaoh punished because of taking Sarai when Abraham just lied? Why should it be the worst sin to deny the Holy Spirit? Why was one country/land more holy than others? Why was I taught about doctrines that seemed irrelevant such as the New Jerusalem, Kolob and so on? How can the church believe in the story of Noah’s Ark? To this and many other questions I never got an answer that satisfied me. And I saw a lot of things I was not agreeing on with the church. So I put most of the stuff on a shelf because I still believed because I had felt “the Spirit”.

But over the years I got more serious questions, and I noticed more and more that my principles were not the standards of the church.

I was often concerned about the problems that the world was facing and less concerned about the problems that the church deemed to be important. I saw that due to our western lifestyle we produce a lot of poverty and injustice in the world. I noticed that the church members very often supported fundamentalist politicians with nationalist tendencies. A lot of the members supported a war that the UN did not agree to (the Iraq war). Many members were thinking that it is the way of spreading the gospel to other parts of the world, what I considered to be deep fundamentalism. A lot of members agreed with torturing people during war. The church teaches that the earth is a gift from god but most members generally seem to be apathetic to environmental movements. I noticed the church fought against abortion but at the same time most of the members opposed a medical care system. I noticed a church that wanted humility but taught us patriotism in a manner of national pride. I did not understand why homosexuals are a big problem to my marriage and thought that the church is wrong in this point.

I could continue for a long time. But to all these concerns I was told that the problem lies with myself or the imperfections of other members. And even the church leaders are only humans. My problem was that I thought that the church leaders function as a corrective. As a missionary I taught my investigators that we need prophets to guide the church by divine inspiration so that the church will not go astray. But I saw that the church ignored lots of the principles I believed in or even nourished the problems in the world. The central question to me was: Why do we need prophets when they are not talking about the things that are important (in my opinion) or sometimes even harmful? I asked my bishops, my parents, my wife, lots of friends – but did not get any answers.

I noticed more and more the contradictions in the church’s teachings. The questions got deeper and deeper and the doctrines and history of the church no longer seemed consistent to me anymore.

In university I took philosophy classes and loved it a lot. Here I could ask open questions that were not constrained. I noticed many friends and just people around me in “the world” who had very high and reasonable moral principles (personal conviction) and not only moral standards (group/institutional standards). They were not that categorized in their thinking and were mostly more open in finding good arguments for support. I noticed that the motivation model the church was using most of the time uses extrinsic motivation instead of intrinsic. The result is that people act out of fear or for obtaining blessings. I wondered for a long time how people could become a God (what always seemed an abstract teaching to me anyway) when just being motivated extrinsically. Just following rules because I wanted to receive my blessings was not the personal progress I saw for me.

What really frustrated me is that the church has no open discussion culture. You can ask questions but please the right ones! We should notice the good fruits of the church and ignore the bad ones. I thought it was a joke by Dieter F. Uchtdorf when he mentioned last year in a broadcasted stake conference for Germany that we can prove the truth of the church by looking at its fruits. That woke me up. I noticed more and more that church members ignored many global problems like poverty, environmental destruction, energy consumption, peace etc. How was it possible that Utah with about 70% Mormons has the highest online pornography rate in the US, that they have the highest consumption rate of antidepressants, the highest suicide rate among the youth, the highest bankruptcy rate and so on? Are these the fruits of the gospel?

I was told that I have to differ between church culture and the church doctrine. I was fed up being told that the bad fruits are related to “church culture” and not doctrine/institution – but the good fruits of course ARE related to the church doctrine/institution. Aren’t the church leaders supposed to correct habits and members? Who makes the handbooks and doctrine that influence the church culture?

I did not want to share the gospel with non-member friends for a long time but was not able to deny the church on the other hand because I was afraid to deny my feelings. It really troubled me to notice more and more that my belief was not as consistent as I thought it was. What made this situation even worse was the thought about Maria, my parents, my member friends inside the church and the church’s expectations in general. I knew that I would disappoint a lot of them if I left. But I knew that I had to change something in my life.

When I started to share my doubts with Maria years ago, it was not that easy. The problem was that she understood my doubts pretty well. Especially the problems the church was ignoring (look at Maria’s report) was something she understood much too well. And since she understood it pretty well, it made her even more sad. I did not attend the temple for years because I was not able to say (in the temple recommend interview) that I really believed in the prophets as men who are called by god.

At this time I did not know about the real story of the church but I noticed anyways the systematic contradictions. I tried for years receiving an answer from god by praying, reading the scriptures and so on but sometimes I felt even more frustrated when reading the scriptures or praying sincerely to God. When I thought during scripture study, reading on the LDS homepage and praying I noticed even more the faults of the gospel. Many member friends understood my concerns but told me to rather ignore my doubts. I had very bad years living in that ambivalence. It really depressed me. When I look back I can’t explain why I did not start earlier with my research in church “critical” literature to find out the truth about the church. I can only say that I was not resistant enough against mind control and I think if someone believes she/he is resistant she/he is probably a victim of mind control. Education and intelligence don’t protect anyone from subtle brainwashing.

When I began to study on the FARMS and FAIR websites I started to be really concerned. I knew FAIR and FARMS are not official publications of the church, but the church makes no official statements about some uncomfortable facts in order to remain neutral. Reading some of the apologetics about things I had no clue about was just shocking. When I read that the apologetics justify that the prophet Joseph Smith did not just live polygamy but also married a 14 year old girl I was just disgusted. That is a pedophile, and no excuse because he lived in another “era”! The church always claims to have higher standards than the world, and these standards are claimed to be independent of the zeitgeist. Then why do the apologetics mention the zeitgeist? By the way, today the youth of the church are not even allowed to date someone from the other gender until the age of sixteen.

That was just the tip of the iceberg and the start of researching the church without the limitations of avoiding so-called “anti-Mormon” information. Very soon I found out a lot more about polygamy, polyandry, racism, the first vision, the Book of Abraham and all kind of things I did not know about. I always had a problem with polygamy anyway, and it was hard to believe that God would allow a husband to go looking for another wife while being married. If a man was forced to marry a certain woman it would be even worse because it would contradict free agency. That the blacks were not allowed to hold the priesthood was something I never understood because as we are all supposed to be created in the image of God I wondered how the church could be so racist over 130 years?

I was wondering how we could stay in a group like the Mormon church for so long and believe still in its truth and how the group was influencing me. That is a very long topic which I will touch on only briefly.

The Mormon church uses a very intelligent balance of personal experiences we are promised to obtain through worthiness, obedience, offerings (time, money, ideology, physically etc.), trust, prayer, scripture study and so on, and the group which has lots of respectable and eloquent people who testify about their experiences. If you don’t feel the spirit it’s more or less your fault because everyone else felt it before. The testimony by the Holy Spirit is a feeling that is the highest proof of the truth, which is actually an example of circular reasoning. Real truth and real feelings are two different things! The Holy Ghost is not fail-proof as the example of Paul H. Dunn shows us (a member of the seventy who told many inspirational stories caught lying).

The influence of group emotions became more clear to me during the football (soccer) world championship in Germany in 2006. When growing up in Germany I had always a big problem with patriotic feelings because I was alarmed by our own history. While watching the games with lots of other Germans, I noticed strong emotions towards our team and our country. I felt a new spirit towards my nation I had never been proud of before. Almost everyone in Germany from a craftsman to my professors (people I highly respected) and from a native German to Germans with immigrant background were joining the new national feelings in public. We had a mission and a rival. That is nothing I think is bad (as far as the rivals are not viewed as enemies), but I noticed the group dynamics influencing me. The style and the emotions at a world championship are totally different than the spiritual feelings at church but I noticed that the feelings seemed unique and convincing (at least for the moment). I started to think again about my positive feelings towards my country and thought that I’m not better because of it but that I could identify with it a lot. But I notice always at big sport events and inside church that it is very important for some people to which team you belong. When I watched the movie “The Wave”, I thought about the Third Reich and similar examples, I recognized the danger of rituals, leaders who are “infallible”, strong and irrational opinions, defined enemies, the danger of failure, the joy about success and so on.

A movement like the Mormon church needs (trustworthy) people as examples (leaders), a goal, standards that make the members special and different, an enemy, signs (dress code, greetings etc.), and many more. (I noticed how much the church was using these mechanisms). Today I would say the Mormons do a pretty “good job” in combining group dynamics and personal experiences based on funneled questions so people think they found out by themselves. The personal experience is shared by a group of more or less trustworthy members that comfort each other. Church members may ask: How can 13 million people be wrong? I can‘t say – neither can I say how a billion other believers “know” that their religions are true or how millions of Germans followed their leaders in the 3rd Reich with the strongest trust. Who will deny that some of them had been deeply convinced to do such irrational evils? How strong they had been convinced is absolutely impressive, but the effects of their blind obedience were devastating. The degree to which people are convinced of something is not at all a sign of truth or of the good. It should be rather alarming.

Today, Neo-Nazis all over the world are trying to deny the holocaust. Many church members try to ignore or justify polygamy, racism, or changes in the history of the church. Apologetics and church leaders filter and change the history when presenting it to members. Before I will be misunderstood, I don’t want to compare Mormons with Nazis but I want to show the dangerous parallels of the mechanisms both are using. I know a lot of wonderful people including my family that are Mormon. I see absolutely no reason to see any danger in people who are active Mormons. There is a big difference between a member and a system. I’m not angry at church leaders even though I see that they deny the real history and doctrine that is not officially revised. I think that they do it because they mostly really believe in it. I don’t see myself as a victim of a bad system. Nothing is just black and white. I learned good things in church and had experiences I don’t want to miss. To work (think) me out of Mormonism really taught me things I would not have learned without all the bad and good things during my time in church.

To finally recognize that the church is a complete hoax was a wonderful, refreshing feeling of freedom for me. It is hard to describe to an active Mormon how beautiful, nice and mind-expanding that step was for me. I think this feeling can be compared pretty well to the feeling the biblical Adam and Eve must have had when their eyes were opened and they had to leave the Garden of Eden. The way out is hard but more than worth it.

My name is Henning and I’m an Ex Mormon.

Maria Schnurr:

I’m 33 years old and I was a convert to the Church 15 years ago. I got to know the Church when I was an exchange student in Oregon where I lived with a great Mormon family. Back in Germany I decided to get baptized and was an active member ever since. I went on a mission to France, married my husband Henning in the temple and always held callings in the Church, most of them enjoyable and full of learning opportunities. As to my professional background – I studied politics and communication sciences and currently work in a foresight consulting company, meaning I assist companies and institutions to develop a vision and strategy for facing the challenges of the future. I’m also about to finish a PhD thesis on sustainable mobility in Europe.

As to my current private background – in the fall of 2010, Henning and I moved to the bustling city of Cologne, the 4th largest city of Germany, located in the west on the Rhine river, and we love it here! And I’m pregnant, due with our first child, a boy, in May! While we’re preparing our home for our baby, we are also preparing our minds for raising it in liberty and love without the spiritual (and other) limitations of institutionalized religion.

A year ago I would not have guessed I would ever be an Ex-Mormon, especially not so soon. I believed most of what was preached, I felt comfortable at Church, we belonged to a nice ward, and had (and have) wonderful friends and family in the Church, so I had no intention of leaving the Church. The doctrinal issues that bothered me were put on a shelf and never made me question the “restored truth”. Among these were:

* Why does the Church hardly address important global issues (social disparities, poverty and hunger, organized crime, environmental destruction and climate change, global migration) and instead put so much effort into other, from a global perspective less important causes like homosexuality, pornography “addiction”, and the moral decline of the youth? I’ve been involved in foresight and sustainability consulting for some years now and have a pretty clear overview of the major global challenges humanity faces. I could never figure out how a Church led by a modern prophet could be so silent on these pressing issues.

* Why were blacks denied the Priesthood until 1978? If it was due to “culture” (i.e. American racism) as it was claimed by some Church leaders, why wasn’t the Church ahead of its time? After all, Jesus Christ never cared for the traditions of his time but rather stuck to his (or God’s) principles.

* Why do we have to be loyal to our government? It’s easy to be loyal to any of the Western democratic governments, but having grown up in socialist Eastern Germany I know how hard (and courageous and important) it is not to be loyal to your political leaders. In an act of civil disobedience, my parents left Eastern Germany because it suppressed free press and opinion and many more civil rights. So I think there is a cause for civil disobedience!

* Why did the Church practice polygamy in its beginnings – and will we have to practice it again in eternal life? Already for a few years I was thinking: I would rather not “live together with Heavenly Father” than having to practice polygamy in eternity. Polygamy in my opinion is the worst form of family life as studies and eyewitness reports from around the world show. And why should only males be allowed to marry plural wives, not the other way round? This never made sense to me. Polygamy, in my eyes, is just outright disgusting, serving the sexual desires of men.

* Why does the Church stress formalities and outward appearance so much if God only “looks at our heart”? I always thought he probably won‘t care whether I attend Sunday service in jeans instead of a skirt. Actually, at the time I got to know the Church 15 years ago, I did not even own a skirt or dress, I always had to borrow one.

* Why can‘t women lead the Church and hold the Priesthood? Why is their role reduced to the auxiliary organizations and the home? I don’t want to belittle women’s role as mothers as I will be one myself very soon, but I think they should have more options than just wife and mother.

* Why is the Church so patriotic, especially U.S.-patriotic while I‘m living in Germany and couldn’t care less about the U.S. and its dominant, aggressive politics and lifestyle? It really upset me some years ago when in General Conference they prayed for the American soldiers in Iraq – why would they not pray for all soldiers there, even the Iraqi ones, or even better: why did nobody pray for peace? Prayers for peace are even institutionalised in other churches, and Christ is called the “King of Peace” – why were any references to global peace missing in Church leaders’ rhetorics?

* Why did the Republicans, especially during the second election of this warmongering criminal George W. Bush, always get the highest votes in Utah?

I hoped to find satisfying answers to these questions one day. Even though I figured that there probably might be one or two things wrong about the Church’s history and teachings I would have never thought that I would soon find out that there are HUNDREDS of such problematic issues. This still leaves me bewildered, and every time I find out something more it’s hard for me to take. I feel a little betrayed; however I’m aware of the fact that most members and even top Church leaders are probably not aware of these issues. Therefore, I don’t hold a grudge against them.

Henning had harboured similar doubts for some years, but while I could put mine on the shelf for most of the time, Henning at some point couldn‘t bear it anymore. Last summer came a point in his life where he had to find out and went to Church-related sources like FARMS and FAIR. What he stumbled upon led him to the decision to leave the Church for good. He told me on the day I found out I was pregnant which I thought was not a perfect point of time but I would understand later. Of course I was sad about his decision but I accepted it – because Henning was sincere about it and already then I realized how much happier he was because he could finally follow his own conscience. I just wasn‘t quite ready to follow his path because 1) besides being pregnant I also was finishing my PhD thesis and we were about to move to Cologne because I had found a new job there, all of which did not leave much time for deeper doctrinal inquiries and 2) I felt comfortable at Church despite my doubts. Yet I wanted to understand Henning’s concerns and to study some of the materials that had pulled him off the Church. A couple weeks later, I eventually found the time and nerves to study and ponder for myself. Even though I initially had no intention of leaving the Church the basis of my faith was shattered pretty quickly by what I read (as with Henning, most if it was on Church-related websites such as FAIR and FARMS!). I was shocked what I found out about Joseph Smith, polygamy, racism and the Masonic origin of the temple ceremony. The whole Church a big fraud? I felt so betrayed. How could I have been so wrong for so many years? (Through further studies I have found out that other denominations and “Gods” also seemed man-made – so now it does not shock me that much anymore.) I realized though that I did not have to blame myself because I had no idea of most of these disturbing facts – if I had known them before, I certainly would have left the Church much earlier. For example, had I known that the temple ceremony used to include cruel death oaths or resembles the Masonic ritual so closely I would have never attended the temple in the first place. Had I known that the Book of Mormon contains over 4000 corrections (most of them grammar/spelling related, but some of them also content related), contradicts later writings of Joseph Smith in several points and contains a vast number of untenable scientific contradictions (see http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no107.htm) I would not have taken it for the word of God translated by Joseph Smith. It truly was not fun finding all these things out (and I‘m still shocked every time I find out more), yet it felt liberating.

You can imagine how relieved my husband was when I told him that I had come to the same conclusions. It became one of the happiest times in our marriage. And it laid a completely new foundation for our little family which we would be starting soon. I am so glad that I will never have to answer skeptical questions of my children regarding the Church to which I would either not have the answers or feel uncomfortable telling them. I will not have to raise them within a strict and tight worldview, and nobody, neither the Church nor we as parents, will expect them to become some “standardized” person which has to follow prescribed paths of obedience, service and “enduring to the end”.

When we stopped going to the Church, we did not immediately tell our family and closest friends which did not live in our ward (plus, we had just moved to a new town where nobody knew us anyway). We did not want to hurt anybody – even though we felt somehow hurt ourselves by all the lies and inconsistencies in the Church’s history and doctrine – and we did not want to lose cherished friendships or even break family ties. We carefully selected whom we would tell in which order and what to say or write (see our 24-page German “exit letter” for download below). Surprisingly, most took our decision very well! Nobody accused or condemned us even though, understandably, most were not happy about our decision. Ever since our decision which obviously was perceived as really well thought through has affected some members we know, even to the point that a few have come to the similar conclusions as we have. This was not our primary intention and still isn’t but we can’t say that we are not happy for those who come to face reality as we did and feel the liberating effect of it.

Faced with the reality about the Church, several reactions are possible. Denial and apologetic rhetorics are very common ones, but also retreat as a closet doubter. Becoming an overt Ex-Mormon certainly is not the easiest option and not everybody is able (or allowed) to take this “leap of faith” out of the Church, but it is certainly worth it and allows the individual to live up to his/her conscience. I hope that websites like this one and other internet resources will help others to “take a leap of faith” and make the transition into a new, wonderful world. I‘m grateful that we were given the opportunity to take this path out of the Church because it has held so much joy and liberty for us. For me, the benefits of being an Ex-Mormon include:

* Our marriage was strengthened. We can now freely talk about our doubts. I do not have to be concerned about my husband’s lack of commitment to the gospel, leadership qualities or faith. I’m not expecting him to make a typical “Church career” anymore. I’m grateful that he is so authentic and happy.

* I don’t have to defend the Church on issues that I’m not comfortable or familiar with myself, like polygamy, temples or racism.

* I don’t have to harmonize my opinions and attitudes with Church doctrine but with my conscience only. I don’t have to comply with the Church’s standardized role of women or people in general.

* I don’t have to be concerned about anybody’s salvation anymore and “preach” the gospel or be a good example. I can be a good example for its own sake, not for the Church or any other institution.

* I can invest my time and efforts into causes which are really important to me and, in my opinion, to the world. I always thought that the Church is missing out on some of the most important problems the world faces right now – climate change, environmental destruction, poverty and injustice, war and catastrophes – while putting disproportionate efforts into less important (or in my opinion even wrong) causes like genealogy, missionary work, and the fight against homosexuality and the supposed “moral decline” of society.

* I’m much less judgemental about people. I don’t divide them into members and non-members anymore.

* I don’t have to try to understand weird doctrines and rituals anymore. I will not have to explain them to my children.

* Because I don’t have the answers to all of life’s questions anymore I’m searching much more intensively and sincerely than before – and I’m not afraid of generating even more questions with the answers I find.

* I don’t have to adopt dichotomous (black or white) perspectives anymore. Nothing is either 100% good or 100% bad (not even the Church!).

* My husband and I enjoy having a long weekend every week now with two days of time off. This will be even more rewarding once our son is born. We can spend our time more freely, deciding which activities we want to do on which day of the week.

I’m grateful for the course my life has taken. Without the Church I would have never met my wonderful husband, and for most of the time, I had a fairly good time in the Church, got to know many wonderful, sincere people and became acquainted with Christ’s teachings which I still think to be very beneficial to mankind if applied correctly. But I know now that good people don’t make a Church or any other institution “true”. Even though I feel somewhat betrayed especially by the founders of the Church I’m not bitter but I’m grateful for the reflection process my transition into and out of Mormonism has initiated. Now I have de-institutionalized my spirituality and de-personalised my image of “God”, considering myself a believing agnostic – but my worldview may evolve further.

One of my favorite scriptures was and is “Prove ye all things and hold on to that which is good” in 1 Thess. 5:21. I can take a lot of good things from what I learned in Church and add to it by looking around me – all this without having to “harmonize” my new findings with Church doctrine each time. I feel closer to reality and life because the barrier of Church doctrine does not stand between me and reality anymore.

My name is Maria and I’m an Ex Mormon.




Maria und Hennings deutscher Ausstiegsbrief (24 S.) als PDF [English: To view Maria and Henning’s 24 page exit letter in German please click here]:
http://www.iamanexmormon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Lebenswandel_Maria-Henning.pdf



Links that helped us in our research and recovery:

* Historic documents and analyses of the LDS church: Utah Lighthouse Ministry (Sandra and Jerald Tanner)
http://utlm.org/
* Ex-Mormon Scholars Testify http://www.exmormonscholarstestify.org/
* Website of Steven Hassan (religious cult expert and psychologist): http://freedomofmind.com/bite/
* “Why bad beliefs don’t die” by Gregory Lester: http://www.csicop.org/si/show/why_bad_beliefs_dont_die/
* MormonThink http://mormonthink.com/
* German: Mormonismus Online http://www.mormonismus-online.de/
* Sam Keen – An inquiring philosopher http://samkeen.com/
* Really good video series on Theism and Atheism: http://www.youtube.com/user/Evid3nc3#p/c/A0C3C1D163BE880A/2/12rP8ybp13s

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April 16th, 2011 at 10:30 am

Thank you for your beautiful video. It is wonderful to see ex-Mormons across the world speak up and share their story. <3

Sif
April 16th, 2011 at 11:11 am

Vielen Dank! Leider, die meisten Mitglieder in die Kirche in Deutschland haben keine Ahnung wie es geht. Mein mann ist auch Deutscher. I vermisse die Leute in Deutschland sehr. Viel Glueck und Liebe,

Sif

Maria
April 18th, 2011 at 12:19 am

Sif, I’m not sure if German members are less aware of the problematic issues with the Church than in the US. In general, Europeans tend to be more critical about leaders and politics, especially b/c we have better newspapers etc. And a lot of European members tend to be irritated by the America-centric view of the Church. With the Internet and (at least the younger generation) many Europeans speaking English very well, we have quite good access to “real” information about the Church – but you’re right, it’s not that easy to find and especially to find people one could exchange thoughts with. So we’re glad to have found this forum – there isn’t anything like it in Europe as far as I know.

Jake
April 16th, 2011 at 11:21 am

Henning and Maria,
Thank you so much for sharing your story. My wife and I have a very similar story. I doubted for years before I finally opened up to her. Although she was devastated at first, when she finally began to research on her own, it only took her about two weeks to accept the fact that the church was not what it claimed to be. In the year since she decided to join me on this journey our friendship and our marriage have grown stronger than ever. We have reached out and made new friends and we are excited to raise our two young children outside of the church. Like you, we still have a lot of warm feelings towards the church and to church members. That being said, I completely disagree with the way the church stifles freedom of thought and the questing spirit. I am upset by the way the church misrepresents its history to its members and to investigators. I know that there are a lot of people out there that feel the same way. We have also been approached by other LDS couples who feel the same way but are afraid to open up about their disbelief. I really admire people like you who are willing to stand up for what you believe and let the world know who you are. It takes a lot of strength and courage to do what you have done. I wish you all the best as you prepare to welcome your first child.

Sophia
April 16th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

What a story! Henning’s Neo Nazi statement jumped out of the page as my husband and I recently were watching a 6 part series on Auschwitz and I was reflecting on the fact that even Nazi’s alive today being interviewed don’t seem sorry. I will admit I sort of likened it to the evolution of the church. Similarly, I am not saying the LDS church is like the Nazi’s but there can be drawn some strong parallels to be made. Growing up in the church we don’t ever ask, “why were all those people so mad at the mormons and driving them west?” because we are told time and time again that it was satan and opposition to snuff the truth from being brought back to the earth and believe it easily! I share Maria’s feelings, if someone would have told me a year ago I would be an exmormon I would have laughed in their face. I don’t think anyone who even takes a small amount of time to look at the information can come to the same conclusions they had prior. Even if they choose to remain in the church!
Nice to meet you. Thanks for doing your story!

Denise
April 16th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Thank you for sharing your stories. I think it took conviction and courage. As I read both your stories to my husband, he said, “We could do this, you know.” My reply was that I would like to. He then reminded me that it would surely get back to my mother. I am approaching 60 years of age and I have been an ex Mormon for over thirty years. Still, I find myself somewhat hesitant to fully expose my mother, my step son, my cousins, my uncles and aunts to my own truth. I think I am free of the fear and intimidation that I was raised with, but here it sits. It’s been right here all along. I have a feeling what you have done has been very freeing. I am hopeful that someday I will share my story publicly and honestly as you have. My name is Denise, and I am an ex Mormon.

Carlos
April 16th, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Hi Denise how are you? I am 46 and my wife and I left the church in October of last year after 10 years filled with doubts. ( We thank Boyd K. Packer for giving us the last push with his hateful antigay speech) I told me father that we had left the church and he told me that I was trying to destroy the church and fighting against God. Two months later I told my father that I had returned to church, in part to avoid that thoughts of him wishing me to be condemned for leaving the LDS organization. I know how you feel and I hope that I will have the courage to let everyone know that the church is not true. And that there is a free world outside of it.

Take care,

Carlos

denise
April 17th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Carlos,
I appreciate learning about your examination of your own “faith”, and I thank you for your personal comments to me. I respect you and your wife for choosing to leave the church, and I really understand how difficult it is to be open about it. I am hoping that this website and others can help build peace and strength to live with the decision I made so many years ago to be outside of an organization that so many of my loved ones are more comfortable being inside of.
I have enjoyed the “free world” I have experienced outside of the church. One of my Mormon friends told me that the only truly happy people she knows are outside of the church–using me as one example. I think she has a point there!
Thanks again, Carlos. My best to you and your family as you face truth and find freedom.

Tobin
April 16th, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Interesting. I’ve always thought the church was too US-centric and myopic when dealing with the needs of citizens of other countries and I like it when people state that my suspicions are true. The church tends to take an Big-Blue IBM attitude (one-size fits all) to people in other countries. I remember my time in Paris, discussing various topics that these former members had questions about. I still smile at how shocked members were in Europe that I would dispute the official line – that I distanced myself and disliked the US/Utah centric, republican, fundamentalist, puritan methodology being applied world-wide. I really got a sense the church wasn’t very firmly rooted in Europe either. Members there felt very uncomfortable disputing the offical pronouncements coming out of Salt Lake City and so there were alot of unanswered questions and a lack of discussion of the many topics that Maria and Henning highlighted. I would point out to them that there are members of the church that have thought about those questions and there are journals in the US (not endorsed by the leadership of the church) such as Dialogue that squarely deal with these problems. However, it is generally not understood outside of the US that there are members of the church with different views than the official line and that is a perfectly fine way to be Mormon as well.

Jeremy
April 16th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Thank you for sharing your story. I passed through a very similar process. As I read Henning’s story I kept thinking “Wow, I guess I’m not the only one.” The problem I face now is coping with the existential void that this has created in my psyche. Before I had the answers to those 3 important questions, “where did we come from?, why are we here?, and where are we going?” Now I feel like I only have the answer to “why are were here?” I believe that we are here to learn and become more loving people. But I am plagued by the question, “where are we going?” I don’t want to have to re-incarnate and yet so many people believe that’s what’s next. Has anyone found a way to overcome this concern?

Henning
April 17th, 2011 at 11:51 am

Hi Jeremy,

I think I understand you. It was very hard for me when I realized that I could not believe anymore. It was relieving on one hand and at the other I thought a lot of my hope was gone, too. I never believed in reincarnation but I think that is rather a formal thing. I believe that we can never find out for sure what will come after this life. I feel a lot of hope without a clear image but it is something that needs time to understand. Sorry, I can’t give you a definite answer (and probably nobody else can do that either) on that question, but I would love to discuss that topic with you further – just ask the admin for my e-mail adress, so we can have a email conversation, if you like.

April 16th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Wow, what an excellent contribution to this site! Auzgezeichnet!! :) Your video is profound, and your exit stories so powerful and positive.

As I began by reading Henning’s, I couldn’t help but think how extraordinary it is that so many of us – even in different parts of the world – have such parallel journeys “thinking” our way out of the Church. I even used the same Adam/Eve metaphor to title my blog about my journey out of the church (“Leaving the Garden”). Your story gives me hope. Congratulations on your beautiful family.

Henning
April 18th, 2011 at 4:26 am

I looked at your blog and really like it.

Carlos
April 16th, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Thank you very much for sharing your stories. The perspectives that you both bring to all of us are amazing. I feel very happy that I have left the church, I felt like Paul when he said that he felt like scales fell from his eyes.

William
April 16th, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Danke! Schön! Sehr Schön.

Catherine
April 17th, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Thank you for sharing your story. I love hearing about lds church life in other areas of the world! As a Canadian, and a woman, and a mother, I have many of the same concerns as you have had Maria. I had often felt like an “outsider” inside the LDS church because I was not “of pioneer stock”. It has been my experience too that the ‘higher ups’ hold a high esteem on pioneer roots. You worded so well so many of the same concerns I have.

I am so happy for both of you as you start this new exciting time in your lives: the arrival of your first child. How wonderful! I wish you much happiness. Your baby is very fortunate indeed to have such thoughtful, caring parents.

Again, thank you for the courage to say the things of your heart.

Maria
April 18th, 2011 at 12:05 am

Thanks for your warm words, Catherine. Fortunately, the “pioneer stock pride” issue isn’t that big here in Germany as there aren’t any real pioneers here, if you understand. It makes it easier for converts to feel at home, I think. But it’s really irritating (and boring …) to have to study all the pioneer stories in Church lessons. It’s changing a bit with Dieter Uchtdorf being an Apostle from Germany. He frequently stresses the importance of the Church to be international and to appreciate the efforts of “modern day” pioneers, too.

Catherine
April 18th, 2011 at 5:03 am

>>>But it’s really irritating (and boring …) to have to study all the pioneer stories in Church lessons.<<<

That always drove me crazy too! Although I'm Canadian, I actually live within driving distance of Palmyra NY, but non of my ancestors had their log cabins' doors knocked on (LOL!) so I have no "pioneer stock". I do agree that the LDS church seems to be making an effort to be a more worldwide church… but those pioneer lessons! Sheesh!

Tobin
April 18th, 2011 at 6:14 am

Clearly you don’t know how to have alot of fun when those topics come up. I turn it into a circus when those lessons come up. You open up the D&C and point out where God warns them to behave and then whack – they get it. Time and time again. By the time I’m done with the lesson, the pioneers were the worst sinners ever. No wonder they got sent to hell – I mean Utah.

KJB
April 17th, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your stories. One of the real red flags for me was seeing how so much “Church doctrine” seems to be a thinly veiled version of right-wing Republican dogma. The fact that so many Mormons I know act like Obama is the Anti-Christ while Glenn Beck gets treated like the Thirteenth Apostle really speaks volumes to me. Political idealogy is fine and even necessary, but don’t try to pass off your personal biases as “the word of God.” If there is a God, I don’t think that He/She/It would act or speak the way the LDS Church does. It may have a lot of good people who I look upon fondly, but it isn’t everything it claims to be, and I’ve found a great deal of piece by accepting that

Thanks again from a proud Oregonian…

Maria
April 18th, 2011 at 12:13 am

The fact that many US members are so uncritical of George W. Bush and now ostracize Obama is a real problem to many European church members. The political arena here is quite different, and Church members here are not that conservative as in the US (but probably more conservative than the average European population). Yet, we value high social standards (like medical insurance for everyone – hardly anybody would question that because it’s a sign of progress) and I think being Christian and charitable should equal charitable politics, shouldn’t it?

Tobin
April 18th, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Nah, GWB was an idiot. Obama is an entirely different idiot altogether. Clearly, we can tell the difference. After all, we have a long history of dealing with idiots in the church. 😛

jean
April 17th, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Very well told Maria and Henning. I talk occasionally to a Dutch person who talks about the ‘colonization’ of other countries by the Church. This member has been disturbed by the way the American Church goes into other countries and tries to take away their own culture.
In South Africa they go so far as telling the members that they should not practice their ancient tradition of lobola – (bride price). They have their own reasons for this practice, so what right does an American church have to tell them they cannot do it that way? Or what right to tell them they cannot do their traditional ‘solidarity’ handshakes?
The church is WAY too controlling, as you say, about silly issues which have no reason for being, except to control members behavior, what they wear, how they should feel and what they should think and believe.
My Dutch friend says that church should be a warm nest, and I say that when we are fully grown, we fly away from the nest and build our own in the way that we want to do so.

All the best on the birth of your baby Maria.

Scott Monet
April 17th, 2011 at 6:42 pm

It’s always inspiring to see people who, despite societal conditions that will definitely result in challenges – if not widespread excommunication, follow their hearts and do what they believe to be what is right for them. I wish I had gotten to know you Maria when you were in Oregon (and I was in Paraguay)…

Follow your heart – and congratulations on the baby-to-be!

Maria
April 17th, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Hi Scott, nice to get to know you via this website :-) Yes, we take interesting journeys in our lives, real and mental ones. I would have never thought that my exchange year in Oregon would initiate such a transition process. Take care, Maria

Yessica
April 17th, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Hi guys

I just say one thing…praying will answer all the questions and doubts you have, weather is gonna answer you in one way or another or is gonna make you to forget about a principle nobody will answer you right now.

Of course there is a happy life beyond being mormon, but I can assure something is for sure: when you did get a testimony of church there will be a point in your life when you will feel a lack of “something” that you dont know what it is and sooner or latter you will recognize that chuch is true. This is not gonna happend if you didnt get a testimony.

I jus wish you the best for you.

jean
April 18th, 2011 at 10:50 am

Yessica, did you not hear and read this couple talking about praying for answers? If it works for you then you are either delusional or you are one of God’s favorites.

I do not like a god who plays favorites and the Mormon god does. He pays the first presidency to work for him, but not me. He pays the apostles, the seventy too. He lets them build shopping malls and businesses that will make more money for them while people in Africa and many other countries starve.

When Henning and Maria say they prayed, who are you to insist that they need to? Don’t you think that they felt badly enough that god didn’t answer them without you pouring salt into their wounds?

You keep praying then, and getting the answers that you need and be happy, but just do not assume the right to tell them what they need to do.

Dan Johnson (admin)
April 18th, 2011 at 11:58 am

Thanks so much for your comment Yessica!

I can tell you made this comment out of love, and that is why I respect you.

As you can guess, we will have to agree to disagree (about gaining a testimony). One thing has been made very clear to me as I have met with each of the individuals in these videos- they do not regret their decision to leave the church and most (if not all) feel like they used to lack “something” while IN the church- which may be difficult for you to understand, but I know I have felt it in my own life. Rather than feeling a lack of “something” outside of the church as you claim, we are discovering an incredible love for ourselves and life in general- simply by leaving the Mormon church. We find a more fulfilling and amazing world outside of the the church.

If you watched Lyndon Lamborn’s video, he talks a little bit about this. He describes how he believes that whenever you accept a falsehood, it handicaps you from understanding the universe, understanding relationships, understanding people etc.

Thanks again for your comment Yessica and I hope you come back to watch more of the videos in the future!

Henning
April 18th, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Yessica,

I already felt something in church. I felt something when I prayed and when I read in the scriptures. I feel in different situations different things. These feelings can be more or less strong. The problem is, that it doesn´t matter how strong the feelings are. Like I said there are people who do the most evil things that are fare from rational thinking. All fundamentalists (political as religious) try to reach your emotions and funnel (limit) your thinking. If we should trust our feelings and look away from the real history of the church I think its really dangerous. If there is a God, I can´t believe that she/he/it would confuse us with such strange things and want us to believe in it. Why would God give us a brain when it rebells against the “truth”?
It was hard for me to find out that the feelings I had where just feelings. That I was told these feelings are an evidence of god is something I can´t believe anymore. I understand that you believe because I did it for the same reasons over years as you did but as you can read in my story I know why I left it. When I was still believing in god and decided to leave the Mormon church because I could not believe anymore I had a warm and good feeling, too. I thought for a wile it was the Holy Ghost but I believe today it was just a feeling.

If you believe that God is talking to us I respect that. But for me, I don´t believe that anymore.

Tobin
April 18th, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Agreed. And yes Dan, I’m going to say it!?! Feelings are nice, puppies are nice – neither proves there is a God however. Now, I would encourage you to seek God, but this time have a real face-to-face with God (no more feelings). It is a much more satisfying experience (well, most of the time at least). BTW – it isn’t unreasonable to doubt the church or its doctrines (alot of the stuff that is taught is pretty much junk to start with). Much better to clean the slate and start over with what you can reasonably believe and go from there. (BTW, I’m the Mormon on the forums if you couldn’t tell – the SANE one, well, maybe that is debatable).

April 18th, 2011 at 1:01 am

Henning, Maria your stories were beautiful to hear.

April 18th, 2011 at 7:40 am

i “felt the spirit” at 2.55 =)

Celestialbound
April 18th, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Tobin,

You tell god that I am ready anytime for a face to face. Hell, I’ve asked for it enough.

Tobin
April 18th, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I’ll check his appointment book and get back to you. :)

In all seriousness though, it isn’t up to me. That’s between you and God. Oh well, nothing to be done but be a good person, treat people nicely, look for the truth and question everything and keep being the wonderful person that I’m sure you already are.

Shannon
April 18th, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Hi Henning,
I just finished reading your story. Wow! Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it and could identify with a lot of what you described experiencing. I am so glad I saw your video! What you wrote about the Third Reich and Mormonism really struck a chord with me, as I had never really thought about it in that way but once you pointed it out I can very much see the parallels. One thing that always bothered me about the church was how they would export their culture to all over the world and just expect that it would work and be relevant to the people they imposed it on.

Another thing that I had a hard time saying was that I believed in the prophet Joseph Smith. It was when that really started to bother me that I really started looking into and researching who he was, and that was when I really figured out that the church was a complete lie from the beginning. I don’t know how people can ignore the money-digging, polyandry, polygamy (w/out his wife’s consent), the bank scheme, etc. I remember how it felt the moment I completely realized the church was a fraud – like you said it was like having your “eyes opened”. It then made sense to me why for so long I had so many conflicting feelings about being mormon. I no longer had to wonder why I wasn’t happy as a mormon. I am so much happier and at peace with myself now than I had ever been when I was in the lds church.

I’m so happy for you and your family. Congratulations on your soon to be little one. That is very exciting. I often wondered about you and your family, and what happened in the time since I left. I would love to chat more. Please feel free to email me, or I can email you. How can I get your email address?

Shannon
April 18th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Maria,
I just finished reading your story, and again thank you for sharing it. You bring up so many good points. I especially enjoyed all the benefits you shared.

I’m very happy for you and Henning. It took a lot of courage and time to put this together and share with people. I just having had my first baby in March of last year feel so glad that I won’t have to explain so many things I never really felt were right to begin with. So I definitely understand that.

I wish you the best in your future and for the upcoming birth!

Maria
April 19th, 2011 at 12:11 am

Shannon, thanks for your warm words and wishes. You can easily find us on facebook, just contact us there. Your name is to frequent on FB so we didn’t find you, sorry 😉
Maria&Henning

Les
April 19th, 2011 at 6:42 pm

It’s great to see you two young, intelligent people who have finally seen the light. Your search for the truth and for honesty is an example to all. There are too many people who blindly follow and will not see the truth of things.

I’m also an ex-mormon who is now a confirmed atheist and doesn’t believe anything that has come from the mouths of men. I have the mormons to thank for my mistrust and skepticism.

Good luck to you both!

YHW
April 20th, 2011 at 10:03 am

Praise the Lord that you know how kind and loving is our loving Lord!

I am a confirmed believer of Jesus and God and the infallible Word of the Holy Bible. All this thanks to the LDS Sci-Fi! I am not the common results of Agnoticism or Atheism nothing can piss them more off when you join Christianity and you are happy and Bible Believer! LOL

I am having the last laugh…I will go to heaven for sure with God! They are never sure will they will end up?

If you are an atheist or Agnostic a common result of EX Mormons keep searching

http://www.creation.com

Evolutionist to Creationist testimony

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1Eb7nAyu5E

Don’t give up on the real God just turned away form, the Mormon Gods. Evil Spirits feel good and deceived us.

Tobin
April 20th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Le sigh, nothing I love more than TBMs are Fundie Christians (or fill in the blank with your religion du jour). Here’s a novel idea, if anyone comes knocking on your door selling you a magic book with magic sayings – RUN!!

Kathy Kurtz
April 21st, 2011 at 10:09 am

I am not Mormon but was born and raised in the State of Utah, USA. I post here a website of what the LDS Church is in the middle of right now. They pretty much run the State of Utah, USA. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/51664127-78/bills-church-illegal-immigration.html.csp. Anyway, interesting reading. Its a local newspaper.

Tobin
April 21st, 2011 at 12:36 pm

They formed the State of Utah, so mmmmm – yes – they do. What’s your point? Now, I agree. They seem to be up to alot of non-sense that doesn’t seem to be right. Unforunately, that’s what happens when men are in-charge and they aren’t particularly inspired. If it were up to me, the church would stay out of politics, cattle ranches, super-mall building, and mountain meadow massacres – but unforunatley, some people in charge know better than I do.

Carole and Günter
April 27th, 2011 at 3:07 am

Hi there Maria and Henning, I have nothing whatsoever to do with the Mormons but I am a lover of Richard Dawkins. Maybe you should try his book “The God Delusion” – in
German “Gotteswahn”. Your names were given to us by Pascal and Werner Meyer – good friends of ours. They often talked about you and what nice people you are. All the best
for you and your child in the future. I think if we all persevere we will find the “right”
way. It`s difficult but worth a try All the best to you both – Carole and Günter

Andrew
May 4th, 2011 at 10:30 am

Hello Maria and Henning, I enjoyed listening to your story. I am an ex-mormon atheist. Leaving the church was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, since I’m from Utah, my mormon roots go back six generations on both sides of the familhy, and my wife and sons are still LDS. My well-being depended on making the decision to leave. I learned the same things you learned and felt betrayed. I tried forcing myself to live with the cognitive dissonance for years for the sake of my family, but only harmed myself as a result. I am happier now that I’ve “come out” to everyone, but every day is still a challenge. It is very hard to be on this road alone. I’m very glad you were able to learn the truth about Mormonism together.

I want you to know that I love Germany! I moved here in January and live near Heidelberg (our home is in St. Leon-Rot). My family will join me in a few weeks. I am hoping that as we live here and raise our sons in your wonderful country, that my wife will see how happy and progressive the Germans are, mostly completely without much religion in their lives, and be persuaded that our family’s happiness does not depend on maintaining ties to the LDS church. Good luck on your journey and who knows, maybe one day our paths will cross. :)

Andrew

Maria
May 4th, 2011 at 11:54 am

Hi Andrew, thanks for your words. That is wonderful that you will be living in Germany with your family. It will be quite a change for them/you to live in a Mormon diaspora. I hope you get in contact with Germans very soon b/c as a foreigner it’s sometimes easier to stick with your fellow expatriates. Put your kids in a German school (they are better than American schools anyway), and it’ll be easy for you to immerse yourself in the German culture.
Good luck to you too, and it would be great indeed if our paths would cross one day!

Bill
May 12th, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Great video. Thanks for sharing. great to see people in Germany discovering the truth as well.

March 13th, 2012 at 1:19 am

Many people try to excuse their problems of faith with the church.
If you live in the age of Jesus when he preached and organized his church, surely would have the same problems.
Only two examples.
1. I do not know why God did not give to blacks the priesthood blessing for a time. But I do know that when He wished, authorize it.
Problems? Perhaps Jesus was racist when commanded the apostles not to preach the gospel to the Samaritans and Gentiles.
What would you think if you were Samaritan?
Why Jesus changed his mind later?
2. Why do you judge to Utah for their problems?
Are you going to judge the majority religion in New York or California for their levels of crime?
If any city in Utah or have problems at all levels, would be a opocision people that progress. Or consequences of evil deeds of the people living there. And I do not judge their families.
Although it is sad, we should respect his desicion to move away from the church, but please, have personality, not the fault of the church.
Sorry for my bad english 😀

March 13th, 2012 at 1:33 am

If I were Catholic and would like to leave the church. I do not I’d leave because their priests are gay or pedophiles, not by their stories of killings authorized in the crusades, wars, abuse and Inquisitions.
I Need to recognize my internal issues of faith, that will affect me anywhere. And do not justify IT, by other facts.
And always encourage my friends to live their faith in the best way, wherever they are. Obtain the best of every religion and person, the rest leave it to God.
My name is Andy, and I am an ex-missionary. : D

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