Being excommunicated for apostasy by the Mormon church is one thing, but Lyndon Lamborn is livid that his stake president has ordered bishops in eight Mesa wards to take the rare step of announcing disciplinary action against him to church members today.
“I thought if he could go public, so can I,” said Lamborn, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who said his research into church history gave him “thousands of reasons the church can’t be what it claims to be.”
Stake President R. James Molina acknowledged Friday he intends to have Lamborn’s excommunication announced to the wards at men’s priesthood meetings and womens Relief Society gatherings, even with Lamborn now taking his case public. Molina, as well as officials at church headquarters in Salt Lake City, call such a public warning about an ousted member extremely rare.
They say, however, church members must be protected from what discordant ex-followers may say to damage the church.
In a letter to Lamborn dated Sept. 2, Molina noted that a disciplinary council had been held Aug. 19 and excommunication was ordered. Lamborn, 49, a Mesa resident who has been a priesthood leader for 20 years, was informed he was no longer a church member, could not “enjoy any membership privileges, including the wearing of temple garments and the payment of tithes and offerings.”
He could attend public meetings if his conduct is orderly, but would be denied giving any talks, offering prayers, partaking of the sacrament or voting.
“Because of the nature of your excommunication and your involvement with people in this area, an announcement will be delivered to the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Society in each of the wards in our stake ... on Sunday, September 23, 2007, that you have been excommunicated for apostasy,“ Molina wrote.
“We need to let people know if there is a danger to them, such as him teaching doctrine that is contrary to what is taught by the church,” Molina said Friday.
Lamborn, a member of the Thunder Mountain Ward, said his Mormon roots go back generations, with a great-grandfather in the famed Mormon Battalion that trekked from Iowa to San Diego in 1846 and 1847.
Lamborn served a two-year Mormon mission in 1977-79 in Belgium, was elders quorum president four times and led a Mormon Boy Scout troop. Most recently, he said he was assigned to teach older men in his ward and held other roles.
But everything changed in early 2005. Lamborn, an engineer employed at Boeing in Mesa for nearly 25 years, was asked by a work colleague about the wives of church founder Joseph Smith. She had read “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith” by John Krakauer and asked Lamborn if what she had read was accurate.
Smith, the first LDS prophet and president, had at least 33 wives by many accounts.
“Well, I had no knowledge of multiple wives, so I did some research, including using the church’s own genealogical Web site, familysearch.org,” Lamborn said.
He found the information concurred with the book. “Nonmembers seemed to know more about the personal life of Joseph Smith than me,” he said.
Lamborn conducted further research, which led him to question many church teachings. He said he went to Molina with his questions, but received no definitive answers.
Lamborn has been attending the three-hour ward meetings with his wife and 16-year-old son. His two daughters, 22 and 24, “are totally out of Mormonism.”
He said he learned that his five brothers “were doing the same research and arriving at the same conclusions” and doubts, he said. The same was true for his best friend since childhood. In a meeting earlier this summer with Molina, Lamborn acknowledged that he wanted to give up his church membership.
“I was planning to leave the church quietly, but was denied that opportunity, presumably because I was speaking openly to other members about my findings and (was) writing things down,” Lamborn said.
Lamborn has compiled his research into a lengthy testament called, “Search for Truth 6/07,” in which he states: “There comes a time in the life of many church members when the desire to know the truth about the church becomes stronger than the desire to believe the church is true.”
He said he intends to continue to accompany his wife, Nancy, to ward services.
“It is tough to go, tough to attend, but I enjoy the fellowship,” he said.
He said he has no desire to join another church, adding that the Mormon faith has many merits, such as its strong family values and its internationally recognized welfare system to help those in need.
The public announcement of his excommunication will be toughest on his wife, Lamborn said. “There’s the embarrassment,” he said. “Friends won’t know how to treat her. The awkwardness. It is going to be tougher on her than anybody.”
Clark Hirschi, manager of the area relations division in Salt Lake City, said Friday he talked to Molina after the stake president was contacted by the Tribune.
“Despite the fact that he has told you this is going to happen, it is up to the priesthood leaders,” Hirschi said. “There may be a letter read to some of the adult members this Sunday. It might be in a few weeks. It may not happen. That is going to be at the discretion and call of the stake president.”
Hirschi said he has never been in a meeting in his own 20 years as a Mormon where a public announcement about an excommunication has been made. He said he had only heard of one being made in a neighboring stake.