I reckon that I first met Allen Lambert roughly fifteen or twenty years ago, when he appeared in the audience for a paper that I was delivering at Cornell University. (He lived there, in Ithaca, New York.) We ended up having two fascinating and very long conversations that weekend. He was an original — the first devout Mormon I’d ever met who was deeply impressed with Karl Marx. I assumed, at first, that he would be a liberal, dissident Latter-day Saint. On the fringes. But he wasn’t. He was fiercely, even passionately, orthodox, and he had very little (if any) ideological sympathy for theologically-leftist dissidents, let alone for the elitist sneering at the Brethren that was, and is, so depressingly common in some of their circles.
Over the years, I came to know Allen as a kind, friendly man who could also be a disconcertingly tenacious debater on the Internet, with strong interests in questions relating to naturalism, scientism, evolution, social theory, and the like. He was also a loyal friend who came to my defense amidst the academic political nonsense of last year and the sometimes defamatory claims that (to my astonishment) still continue, to some extent, to flow from it.
I last saw him, I think, at one of Royal Skousen’s lectures on the textual history of the Book of Mormon back in late February or early March. He was out in Utah to visit with, and to see to the care of, his 101-year-old mother. He looked fine. He offered his editorial assistance for Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.
Lately, though, he had gone silent. I heard reports that he was sick, but I knew no details. So I was shocked, yesterday — stunned — to learn that Allen Lambert had passed away from cancer. And deeply sad. How I wish I could say one last thing to him, express my gratitude to him. My prayers go out for his family. Despite the fact that Allen and I didn’t even communicate every month, my world, too, is poorer without him. But the world of spirits has just gained an extraordinarily spirited conversationalist, intensely interested in — and with a stimulating opinion about — just about everything.
I was privileged to know him, and to count him as a friend.
Posted from the 2013 FAIR Conference, in Provo, Utah