I am a ‘born in the covenant’ fourth generation pioneer heritage Mormon, with polygamists on both sides of the family tree. I held every important priesthood leadership calling as a youth, was on the Logan High School Seminary Council, served an honorable and successful (above average baptisms and a six-month assignment as Branch President) mission to Belgium and France 1977-79. During the years following my mission I served as Elders Quorum President four times, served as a stake missionary and in the Stake Mission Presidency, was a ward membership clerk, and scoutmaster for 6 years.
I worked diligently with my son to help him earn his Eagle Scout rank. I also taught Primary, Sunday school, Elders quorum, High Priests group, and Gospel Doctrine classes. Many ward members were guessing that I would be the next Bishop when in fact I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable attending church each Sunday. I was finding that Sunday was rapidly becoming the most dishonest day of my week. Life is full of irony.
Many things had troubled me about Mormonism over the years. The first one was the central concept of the infinite and eternal atonement. Christ didn’t just suffer for the sins of the inhabitants of the earth, he suffered for everyone everywhere, in every world throughout the galaxy – the atonement was both infinite and eternal. 1 So, people in other worlds like our earth, would have different scriptures describing an extra-terrestrial named Jesus, who would suffer for the sins of the people, but would never live on their own world. Jesus was sent to our earth because we had, here on our earth, the most cruel people in the galaxy, the only ones that were wicked enough to crucify the sinless Son of God.
I took issue with the infinite and eternal atonement doctrine for several reasons. First, there was the probability aspect. I was already reeling with the improbability of my selection to be born in a special time, a special promised land, to special parents, in the only true religion. I was chosen in the pre-mortal life due to my extreme valiance against incredible odds. The flattery was transparent and did not sit well with me, it seemed too contrived. Now, I had to factor in an astronomical improbability about how this earth was special above all other worlds. It just didn’t work for me. There comes a time for every individual when the story becomes, like the proverbial fisherman’s tale - too tall. I had reached my limit.
Secondly, the people in other worlds would not be able to relate to the story of Jesus, the Jewish culture and Roman rule, or have a chance to visit the Holy Land and see the landscape of history. This was not fair; it just seemed that God’s plan would not put people in other worlds in such a dreary condition. People in other worlds would have their most honored hero an extra-terrestrial and not even part of their civilization. This was nonsensical and offended my intellect. Surely somebody was mistaken. I anxiously awaited clarification – I felt in my heart of hearts that there would come a day when this doctrine would be expounded upon and brought back into the realm of reasonableness. I waited for 30 years for somebody to help me understand this or correct it to no avail.
Another major issue for me was the Mark Hofmann affair. Here was a guy that had easily duped the Lord’s anointed, which was not a big deal, but the part that was very disconcerting was that the documents bought by high-ranking church authorities were being purchased primarily to keep them hidden.2 Why would they need to do that? Surely the true church has nothing to hide. This made no sense. Something was definitely amiss here; I could feel it in my gut.
I buried these troubling concerns deep inside and tried to keep them suppressed. For some, this can work for a lifetime, but ultimately it did not work for me. These issues and others (polygamy, dark skin curse doctrine, etc.) eventually began to surface and I became increasingly uncomfortable with my core beliefs. The desire to know the truth at whatever cost finally outweighed the desire and need to believe and belong at about age 45. I eagerly began to study. I wrote book reports, I recorded trends and patterns, and I immersed myself in books.
As I studied the realities associated with the so-called ‘restoration’, unfiltered and un-whitewashed for the first time, I recalled the scripted and coached approach to evaluating the Book of Mormon as a boy. Read, study, pray, and ask yourself this question; “Could an uneducated 14-yr old boy have written this book?” Now I found myself taking a parallel approach in objectively evaluating the restoration. I began to ask myself a similar question: Would a loving and benevolent God…:
Choose Joseph Smith, a confessed con man, to restore His gospel?
Tell His prophet (Smith) to have sex with women who were already married?
Threaten His prophet with an angel armed with a sword if he hesitated to recruit additional polygamous/polyandrous partners?
Instruct His prophet that polygamous/polyandrous relationships were to be kept strictly secret, especially from Emma?
Instruct Smith to use a seer stone and peer into a hat to ‘translate’ the golden plates, when the plates were not even in the room?
Instruct Smith to conjure a nonsensical “Egyptian alphabet” to translate the ‘Book of Abraham’ papyri, when the papyri writings were actually ordinary funerary documents having nothing to do with Abraham?
Plant incontrovertible evidence contradicting a worldwide flood, and then require me to literally believe in same?3
Plant evidence of artistic and religious peoples living thousands of years before Adam and Eve, yet still expect me to believe that Adam and Eve were the first humans?
Instruct His prophets to adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in regard to its vast financial holdings?4
Instruct His prophets to harbor racial prejudice against blacks, and then instruct His prophets to change policy only under extreme duress in 1978?
Intentionally allow thousands of religions to proliferate and fill the earth, and expect me to somehow sift through and find the one and only true one?
Visit the Earth with one calamity after the next and fail to notify His prophet to avoid large scale loss of life among His precious children?
While mathematics and the scientific method cannot be directly applied to measure the likelihood of all the claims and doctrines in Mormonism, it can be applied to some of the tangibles, and I eagerly calculated and evaluated.5
In aircraft analysis, methods are employed to establish when the probability of a failure is low enough to be safely ignored, and the lives of the pilots and passengers are not put at significant risk. In my work, I deal with this premise every day and am paid to determine when that probability of failure is low enough to put lives on the line. Well, now I had reached that same threshold in evaluating the cumulative probability that the church was true. I found that it was easily low enough to be safely ignored, that my eternal life was not in jeopardy.
But what was more striking was a conclusion I had not expected. It become blatantly evident, as I stepped back and considered the whole picture, that the God defined by Mormonism was not an entity worthy of my worship, worthy of emulation, or even an entity with whom I would want to associate at any level.
I took a step back and took a hard look at core values and realized I was not supporting what I knew in my heart to be good and correct. I was playing for the wrong team. I found that the definitions of good and evil given to me by Mormonism were lacking and tortuously complicated, even immoral in some instances. I decided that behaviors that enhance life are good and those that diminish life are evil. It is that simple. I found that pious religiosity is the polar opposite of true spirituality and harmony with self and the humanity surrounding me.
I found that the classical concepts of sin and punishment and a capricious God to administer the whole thing is a thinly-veiled ‘Santa Claus for adults’ myth. The sin concept puts one in a state of conflict, which is the opposite of harmony and therefore the antithesis of spirituality. Sin puts one in a servile condition throughout one’s life. 6 The sin concept robs mankind of the opportunity of adopting correct behavior voluntarily and the innate satisfaction derived thereby. Identifying with the positive aspects of life and choosing to embrace life enhancing behavior on a want-to, choose-to basis was a big boost for me. Another huge relief was realizing that the natural man is not an enemy to God, and is not in need of external help to find joy and peace. The ‘rotten to the core’ doctrine is one of the most destructive ideas ever to be introduced to theology, in my opinion.
After I was jolted out of my slumber, I reevaluated my life contribution. Twenty years after I die, what will my children and grandchildren believe my life has stood for? Did I leave them a demon-haunted world and an environment of guilt and shame? Do I want to be remembered for perpetuating illusions and half-truths? Will I have left things better than I found them, or made them worse? Will I be counted among those who believed that mankind is inherently evil, that charity and goodwill are only achieved through the delivery system of religion?
Throughout my life it has been my observation that religious zeal leads to one of two end states. The first end state is an escalation of self-perceived righteousness and arrogance. The religious zealot never intends this to be the end state, but it is inevitable because he values his code of righteous behavior, and by default is compelled to think less of those who cannot attain it. The second end state is a self-deprecating condition as the person realizes he can never measure up, and never will – the standard is too high, and depression ensues. Neither circumstance is healthy or beneficial. I do not want these limited choices for me or my family.
I seriously considered simply setting aside the weird doctrinal baggage and look for the good and continue to believe in some portions of the religion. I asked myself, why not? On the surface this seemed innocuous and perhaps even beneficial. But I found that in addition to the dangers, it is simply not the best approach to long term human happiness and fulfillment. Some Indian tribes, when faced with a difficult decision, would consult the eldest tribal women who would then base the choice on the projected effect of the decision on the sixth generation. The tribe was interested in the long view (sixth generation) and the humanitarian view (asking the opinion of the eldest women).
If I were to remain a member, my descendants, at the sixth generation, would be in high risk groups for:
Depression, use of anti-depressants, and mental illness (Deseret News8 and ABC news9)
Financial woes10 (keep up with the Jones’, giving up retirement $, etc.)
Becoming victims of fraud11, especially affiliation fraud.
Having their lives governed by guilt and shame.
Perpetuating this cruelty on my posterity was simply unacceptable. I had to leave and do what I could to stop the chain of maltreatment in the generation of my children. I am happy to report that I have succeeded in that endeavor.
I have found that for every falsehood a person embraces, that person is crippled in proportion to the depth and breadth of the falsehood he embraces. Mormonism has enormous dimensions, and discarding this falsehood has been like adding a supercharger to my life engine. My discernment is sharpened, my energy and motivation are heightened, my human biases are more easily squelched, my mind is open to new ideas, I have shed prejudices and truly feel all humans are created equal, my friendships are more genuine, the world is more beautiful, there is more joy in giving, there is more authentic meaning in living. All this, and I get to choose my own underwear too! Our family financial problems abruptly stopped the day I stopped paying tithing. In a nutshell, leaving the church has lengthened my stride, extended my vision, and lifted my burden. I have never been happier.
I would like to publicly thank those who have had courage to leave the church when there were no support groups and information was sparse, who faced the lonely road and left the tribe in order to be true to self. I remain in awe of your bravery. You know who you are. I hereby publicly apologize for perpetuating the lies and spreading the half-truths found in abundance in Mormonism for 30+ years of my life. I did not check my facts and am guilty of spreading this great falsehood, something I did with zeal. I was a beast of burden for the wrong team. I am truly sorry.
In the second verse of the song, “The Man’s Too Strong”, Dire Straits accurately portrays corporate religion in general and Joseph Smith Jr. in particular as follows:
I have legalized robbery, called it a belief.
I have run with the money, and hid like a thief.
I have rewritten history with my armies and my crooks.
Invented memories, I did burn all the books.
And I can still hear his laughter; I can still hear his song;
The man’s too big, the man’s too strong.
To amplify this excellent montage of how humanity justifies its conduct using religion (which I will refer to as “faith” in this poem), I add the following:
An Ode to Dire Straits
We have legalized robbery and called it faith, but that is not all;
We have exalted gullibility and called it faith.
We have censored the voice of reason, embraced delusions, and called it faith.
We have granted power to demons, feared the imaginary, and called it faith.
We have sanctioned discrimination and called it faith.
We have numbed our intellect with conformity and called it faith.
We have justified suppression of information and perpetuated lies and called it faith.
We have condoned inhumanity and called it faith.
Our elderly have abandoned life in preference for death and we called it faith.
We have surrendered our free will and called it faith.
We have declared ourselves the Chosen Ones and spat on our neighbor and called it faith.
We have apologized for reality and called it faith.
We have traded sanity for security and called it faith.
We have abused our children with guilt and shame and unbridled fear and called it faith.
We have demeaned our women, esteemed them as property, and called it faith.
We have laid waste to families and called it faith.
I sit on the sand and feel the rhythm of the waves.
I lay down my burden and watch it dissolve with the tide.
12. Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data, 2006, Federal Trade Commission, 2/07, page 18 (back)
Lyndon Lamborn is a cum laude graduate of Utah State University with a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering, and a graduate of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University with an MS degree in Aeronautical Engineering. He has been employed as an Engineering Scientist at Boeing since 1983, and is also a professor of mathematics, currently teaching algebra and calculus at Mesa Community College in Mesa, AZ. He is a prolific technical writer for Boeing, has published technical papers for the American Helicopter Society, and is the author of the book Standing For Something More, which chronicles his exit from Mormonism and intertwines his spiritual awakening with the psychological aspects of religious belief. He is the father of three lovely children, and has three wonderful grandchildren. He has been married to his wife, Nancy, since 1980, and resides in Mesa, AZ.