Revisiting the LDS excommunication of Lyndon Lamborn who talked too much
It was nearly four years ago that a Boeing engineer, Lyndon Lamborn, contacted me at the East Valley Tribune to tell me the Mormon Church was excommunicating him and making it quite public — as a kind of warning to the rest of the flock that his ideas and criticism of the church were too explosive.
I especially remember my front-page Sunday morning article for the huge reaction — more than 18,000 hits on the Website story (the newspaper’s record at the time) and hundreds and hundreds of reader comments. I did a number of follow-up stories and was amazed by the public interest in the controversy about the 49-year-old life-long Mormon, who had previously devoted his time, energy and resources to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Lamborn’s intellect, predisposition for exhaustive research and grit prompted him to share his findings with his fellow Saints. Church authorities labeled that apostasy.
While excommunication itself in the church is not uncommon, Lamborn’s stake president informed Lamborn in a letter, dated Sept. 2, 2007, that because of “the nature of your excommunication and your involvement with the people of this area, an announcement will be delivered” to the priesthood quorum and Relief Society of each of eight wards in the Mesa Arizona Salt River Stake on a forthcoming Sunday. They would be told that “you have been excommunicated for apostasy,” said that letter from State President R. James Molina.
Lamborn was offended that authorities chose to make him a public exhibit, so he came to the Tribune to trump them and get it announced publicly, on his own terms, in the press. Certainly, once I called Molina for the church’s side of the issue for the article, he pondered whether to go forward with the announcements. He subsequently abandoned the plan of mass notification at the wards, but, by then, the story was out there.
I had all but forgotten that Lamborn intended to write a book about that experience. Recently a friend told me he checked out the book from the Mesa Public Library and found me mentioned several places in the book, “Standing For Something More: The Excommunication of Lyndon Lamborn.” I ordered the book (AuthorHouse, 278 pages, 2009), and emailed Lamborn that I looked forward to reading the book. He has laid out his story also online. He also speaks out on videos there and on YouTube.
“Standing for Something More” is a bold, courageous and compelling book. It chronicles the awakening of a once-earnest and devout Mormon who had never before acted on the inconsistencies and troubling aspects of the history and teachings of the 13 million worldwide church founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith Jr. in New York State. He tells in detail how he grew up in an obedient Mormon family with seven children. Lamborn went on a two-year Mormon mission to Belgium, returned to get his two university degrees, married and had three children, and took on the demanding church assignments for decades including teaching priesthood classes. He adhered to the 10 percent tithing to the church and said the church received more than $100,000 in giving by his family. He was fully part of the subculture that Mormons live in, much of it apart from non-believers.
When Lamborn read Jon Krakauer’s book, “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith,” it triggered more personal research. A work colleague asked him about the polygamous wives of Joseph Smith, some 33 by one account. Lamborn couldn’t answer her, but what he found in his research incensed him — that the Saints were woefully uninformed about the true history of the church and that information is manipulated to keep members in the dark.
Lamborn was a bulldog in going into the darkest history of the church and raising questions. He was troubled how the church has shut its archives to researchers and how authorities purchased many forgeries of church documents lest they be seen by members and open doors of doubt. Lamborn has mounted a long list of unreconciled issues in the church, especially the Book of Mormon’s authenticity. Why did it so much resemble and parallel portions of Ethan Smith’s “A View of the Hebrews,” published just seven years before in a town not far from Joseph Smith’s home in New York. Why are mistakes in that book repeated in The Book of Mormon? He questioned the timeline of events in The Book of Mormon, which is said to recount the transplantation of a Hebrew tribe in the Americas. It talked of steel spears long before steel was developed in Europe, and there was no evidence of steel remnants from battles in America. The Book of Mormon suggested domesticated animals in the Americas, but none was found in the fossils. The Laminite people of America were said to be descendants of the Hebrews of Israel, but physiologically the American Indians did not match, and anthropologists generally believe Indian tribes were ancestors of eastern Asians. There were reports of massive four-digit battle deaths when other accounts suggested a population of two digits.
“Standing for Something More” is a title take-off of the late Mormon President and Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley’s “Standing for Something.” Lamborn said the prophet had been in the position to have reformed the Mormon church and corrected falsehoods and ambiguities. Much of the book rightly goes after all formal religions for mind control, imparting guilt, groupthink, shunning and ostracizing those who break out and the pressures on families and individuals to meet unreasonable expectations. Mormons especially work their members to a tired pulp — keeping them so occupied they aren’t disposed to probe, study and question history and teachings.
Lamborn didn’t rebound to other faiths. Many who leave Mormonism move on to conventional Christian churches, with mixed experiences. Lamborn’s evolution out of the Mormon way of life allowed him the extensive research on the methodology of faiths and the strategies most traditions use for recruitment and retention. He describes himself as a “naturalist” where “there is a natural explanation for everything; there is no supernatural anything … The naturalist eliminates a vengeful, capricious and judgmental God concept. The naturalist does away with the wrong motivations for treating other people well, such as the promised rewards in heaven or to please God.”
Lamborn opens his chapters with powerful indictments of religion, theology, mind control and the damage done by religious ideology. Here are some of those statements:
– Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. — Blaise Pascal.
— He who know only his own faith knows no faith. — Anonymous
–Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. — Frater Ravus.
–In comes ideology and out goes common sense. This is my experience of life — Doris Lessing
–Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned. — Anonymous.
— When one person suffers from delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called religion. — Robert Pirsig
— A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows. — Mark Twain.