Transhumanism and Two 2013 Spring LDS Conference Talks

Conference talks (Spring 2013) by two General Authorities–Elder Richard G. Scott and Elder Jeffery R. Holland–address issues important to Mormon scientists and transhumanists.

During the Saturday afternoon session, Elder Scott made the following observation:

You live in a world where technological advances occur at an astounding pace. It is difficult for many of my generation to keep up with the possibilities. Depending on how technology is used, these advances can be a blessing or a deterrent. Technology, when understood and used for righteous purposes, need not be a threat but rather an enhancement to spiritual communication.

I’m not sure why he said “You live” instead of “We live,” but that is a minor quibble.  The concept of technology moving ahead at an increasingly rapid pace is a very useful observation and one that should be carefully explored.  Unfortunately, Elder Scott drops the ball by pointing out a rather mundane example of how technology can be used:  “Mark important scriptures on your [personal electronic] device and refer back to them frequently.”

Rapid technological change has caused the LDS Church all kinds of problems, and not all of them are bad.  It has encouraged change in procedures and doctrine, and a fine tuning of our history.  As change continues to accelerate, members are going to be increasing bombarded with information, not all of it positive.  And as interest groups assemble using social media, the leadership is going to have to streamline its decision-making processes.  They are going to have to seek guidance from the Lord on an ever increasing basis.  As the world and the Church evolve, members are going to have to deal with updated doctrine, procedures, and ideas.

Elder Holland, in his Sunday afternoon talk, seems to be talking to bloggers and others who have serious doubts and concerns: 

When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.

I’m glad to hear a General Authority admit the existence of doubt, without making the doubter feel like a leper.  His talk seems very much designed for those of us (primarily the young, which is not me) who struggle to understand why there isn’t a better convergence between science, technology, and Mormonism.  After all, doesn’t Mormonism encompass all truth?

The two sentences in the above paragraph that I relate to best are:

I am not asking you to pretend to faith that you do not have.  I am asking to be true to the faith that you do have.

This sentiment is perfect.  Although I suspect that Elder Holland probably has something different in mind than I do.  I suspect that he is encouraging those who doubt to hold onto the principal doctrines and values of the institutional LDS Church.  But for me, each person has his own personal religion.  For example, no two Mormons agree on everything.  Thus, I would interpret the above two sentences as saying that each of us needs to be true to our “personal” belief system.

I do have a quibble with Elder Holland’s statement:

Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith.  It is not!” 

Elder Holland encourages all to lead with faith.  I would personally prefer that we all lead with the most honest explanation for the situation, beit faith or doubt.

Transhumanists by their very nature will sometimes be doubters.  After all, many are “cafeteria” Mormons.  But they are also optimists.  Thus, they can look at the future with a very positive, but critical, eye.  This is an attitude that most Church members need badly.  It is good to see that the General Authorities are giving at least cursory attention to both important human and futuristic issues.

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6 Responses to Transhumanism and Two 2013 Spring LDS Conference Talks

  1. I like those observations, Roger. Thanks.

  2. Allen says:

    Interesting post, thanks, Roger! You mentioned the “convergence between science, technology, and Mormonism”. I have a blog on that specific topic. There are many parallels between science and Mormonism, many. However, we currently use faith to gain truth in religion and the scientific method to gain truth from science. Thus, our different approaches to truth mean there aren’t many examples of the convergence we all seek. Someday, we’ll see the convergence, but not now. However, the parallels between science and Mormonism are interesting. One of the best examples of this convergence is the change by the church to the Introduction to the Book of Mormon, concerning ancestors of native Americans.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Allen, Faith removed from science or history or whatever can end up in strange places. For example, if you look at OT literalists, they have faith in a literal interpretation of Genesis. Not a position I would like to defend. I would argue that is more important to learn how God created the earth than it is study scriptural minutae (particulary OT minutae). I think it is important for Mormons to study evolution for a multitude of reasons. It teaches us that everything is in flux including, man, the earth including all of it’s inhabitants, institutions (including God’s), etc. Apostle Widtsoe said that Mormons are great evolutionists (although he personally did not believe in “common descent”) because eternal man can evolve toward some undefined form of perfection. A belief in God may require just faith. But everything else requires science, history, archeology, etc. For exmaple, there is the commandment to help the poor. But how do we best do that? Christianity needs help from a variety of sources. Roger

  3. “Straightway,” the scripture says—not slowly nor skeptically nor cynically but “straightway”—the father cries out in his unvarnished parental pain, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” In response to new and still partial faith, Jesus heals the boy, almost literally raising him from the dead, as Mark describes the incident.

  4. endtimelect says:

    You Mormons are all gonna fucking burn…How do you like them apples?

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