There are 34 thoughts on “What is Mormon Transhumanism? And is it Mormon?”.

  1. I was originally snagged by Lincoln Cannons’ insanely ingenious reworking of the King Follet sermon as he eulogized fellow scientists who had recently passed from MTAs community. He nailed Joseph Smiths Transhumanisim “God is a man like yourselves”. The great secret in mormonism rejects the trinity and declares that we must “learn how to become Gods” ourselves, and that you are “saved no faster than you get knowledge.” That we will “do works greater than these” as Christ said – comparing his miracles of raising the dead, healing and making others whole to the works his followers would eventually be doing.

    This is, in the past, the umbrella under which most of the gist of MTAs positions/discussions have occurred. Bushman and Givens have chided them for being the modern day Talmages, Widsoes and Roberts…

    Considering that we now have a Prophet who has literally raised people from the dead, and healed hearts with technology, we ought to be excited and welcoming to this kind of speculative forum.

    Currently, unfortunately the MTA seems bogged down in a hyper-focused motherland of LGBTQ advocacy.

    Call me a microaggresing cis white male heteronormative patriarch but every Sunday when I get their newsletter there seems to be yet another Blaire Ostler tirade anti-patriarchy/pro-Queer.

    We who look to the MTA to get us into AI, Stem Cells, Gene Splicing, Telomere Lengthening, Singularity theorizing, Nano, and Simulation Theory, all in service of spirituality, have been lately instead been receiving overwhelmingly LGBTQ focused identity politics, gender issue, and patriarchal hit pieces.

    If you really want to go after MT, you have more of an opportunity to cry apostate as- through Ostler – they are publicly challenging the brethren on these issues in ways Dehlin and Kate never did.

    Over all I love the MTA. They are keeping their ears to the tracks in ways Joseph Smith would have loved.

  2. Pingback: Is ‘Mormon Transhumanism’ An Echo Of Ancient Apostasy? | Conflict of Justice

  3. My criticisms of transhumanism: I don’t want my mind uploaded. And I think that A.I. could be a grave danger to humanity.

    However, I would want to point out that even Mormon orthodoxy makes a distinction between Intelligence and Spirit. Why is that? It is confusing and not clear. I can see the argument that an Intelligence is more informational based (yet material – like 1’s and 0’s is information yet have a physical presence) and a spirit has progressed to gain more god like features like individuality, compassion and tendencies. In any case, it is not clear what Mormon doctrine is and what are the differences. I don’t think that our existence has to be dualistic in the commonly understood sense. It could be an aspect of physical reality that we can’t understand yet and is far superior so that it is not easily understood. That would fit nicely with a materialism worldview.

    In addition, I believe in the divine and sole role that Jesus Christ did with the Atonement and his ressurection. No one else could have done what he did. Aside from the Atonement what precludes us from being collectively involved. Was creation in anyway a collective effort or not? I think it may have been. Will God allow us in the far future help with resurrection? I don’t know. But if he did it wouldn’t shatter my faith. But I think it is an interesting possibility.

    Of course, I would hearken to the counsels of God. As it says in 2nd Nephi 9:29 “But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” If priesthood leaders/prophet/apostles are specific about a topic related to this I would listen. But I am not sure that they have been yet.

    Science changes over time and sometimes religion can change if there is more truth revealed or something more in depth is given. It would not surprise me that over time both may become more similar in certain respects than they become dissimilar. Quantum mechanics, astronomy, biology, the study of consciousness are awe inspiring sometimes and I feel that over time this will grow more so but in the end it would lacks the ultimate insights we need. And good religion, as the Mormon faith does, would take note of this and highlight the good that is taking place. Is it bad to reverse aging, if one accepts the divine role of Christ? But at the same time, if I die I am counting of God and his Son to rescue me from death – but if God wills that ingenuity and inspiration in his Children to eventually catch up then it is also God’s will.

  4. I am honored to have Louis Midgley respond to my comment. I thank you for your mild but firm rebuke. What I was trying to say is that transhumanism feels Mormonish is some ways.

  5. I suspect that Mormon Transhumanism has more in common with Yuval Noah Harari’s book “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” than it does with Mormon doctrines. Both of them seem to say, “If there is no God now, there will eventually be one in the future.” Perhaps many gods. Maybe that is Mormonism after all.

    • Corrado:
      Turning the name Mormon into an ideology called “Mormonism” opens the door to endless rubbish. All kinds of strange things have been imagined and hence attributed to or fashioned by critics and by mere cultural Mormons and then advanced as speculation about what constitutes Mormomonism, understood as a mere ideology. To those who genuinely see themselves as members of a covenant community of Saints it has to be absurd to imagine that they can turn themselves into divine beings through some mere technology. Instead, the necessary moral rebirth is the work of the Holy Spirit, which can sanctify us and hence transform us into genuine Saints.

      A genuine Latter-day Saint must see our mortal probation as a moral testing and training where we must learn to make and keep covenants with God. Becoming a genuine Saint is not some self-deification though morally ambiguous technology.

  6. I don’t believe a lot of the things that Lincoln Cannon believes. But Mormonism is indeed very thoroughly Transhumanist, even though Transhumanism came along a lot later. If Joseph Smith would have lived in our day, people would have noticed just how transhumanist-like his ideas were.

    While it is true that classic Mormonism does not espouse the idea of immortality through mind-uploading, and does not espouse the idea that the mind/spirit exists only in the mortal body as information, Mormonism still comes very close to the idea of Posthumanity, so much so that this part of Mormonism is practically identical to this idea in Transhumanism.

    Other things in Transhumanism do not come so close, but a “reformed Mormon Transhumanism” might contain the idea of a Dark-Matter-based entity for a “spirit,” which would be the actual “substrate” that contains the mind. In other words, perhaps there is another plane of existence that has life that is dark-matter based, instead of only life made of baryonic matter. And that baryonic-matter-based life is essentially driven by these Dark-Matter symbyotes. If this were introduced into the mix, this would come much closer to classical Mormonism, but still be describing an entity which is unseen that contains the mind. This would put the “mind” and “spirit” in scientific terms that may be more attractive to classical Mormons, and would put these things in terms that science-friendly individuals are familiar with.

    I used to be part of the MTA, but was sort of turned off by some of the Liberal politics in it. But I still find that I gravitate toward Transhumanist thought a lot.

    My hope is that “Mormon Transhumanism” of the Cannon variety can be sort of reformed to perhaps be something that attempts to have hypotheses that may attempt to scientifically explain some aspects of Mormonism instead of trying so hard to synchronize or syncretize Mormonism with Classical Secular Transhumanism. Or at least, other ideas can be adopted that are closer to classic Mormonism in the MTA. Because I believe that it has gravitated too far towards trying to turn Mormonism into some sort of secular thing for a secular, technology-based salvation. I personally, only believe that technology is a tool that helps us bring people to salvation, not salvation itself. That will be through priesthood power.

  7. To Ross Richey,

    I think your scriptural reference was well-selected, but I think exceprts from the second chapter of Isaiah, and related verses also mentioned, are even more apropos.

    “2:8 Their land is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made;

    12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon everyone that is proud and lofty, and upon everyone that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low;

    18 And the idols he shall utterly abolish.
    19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
    20 In that day shall a man cast his idols of silver, and is idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;

    22 Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein. is he to be accounted of?”

    There are many such warnings in the scriptures, and if the scriptures are true, the worshipers of science have cause for concern. Not that the scientific method has no validity or utility, but that the perceptions and thoughts and ways of man and the perceptions, thoughts, and ways of God do not coincide (cf. Isaiah 55:8,9 and also Ecclesiastes 3:10,11).

  8. I’ve been saying the same thing over on my blog for quite awhile, though not with the depth and eloquence of Dr. Smith. I would just echo, independently, after reading lots of MTA stuff, and attending two of their annual conferences that he’s basically right on the money. In particular:

    1- The minimization of Christ’s role. That essentially everyone can be Christ. Lincoln’s entire presentation at the last conference was on exactly this subject.

    2- The overly broad reading of the role of technology in salvation, with a default position that what technology can do, is good.

    3- This ties into very non-mainstream view on things like gender and sexuality. If someone has gender dysphoria and they can change their gender through technology that’s a good thing.

    That said they’re good people who are trying to do their best with their (incorrect) understanding of the gospel. I just think they don’t realize how schismatic they actually are.

    I came across this scripture recently and it seems pretty on the money:

    And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men; -2 Nephi 28:5

  9. Jesus did say that his followers would do greater works than him. What could that be? What Lincoln has very strong points. One can argue that it is too presumptious. But is that really a rock solid counter argument – it is not. It is just saying that my understand of my Faith is different than yours and I don’t like this extra/presumptions conclusions you are making. Just wait 20, 30 years, when things change – when we have significantly reduced death, when we have sentitent artificial intelligence. Does Lincoln points become stronger? Yes, I think they will and then we will watch others come to similiar conclusions.

    • Everyone is entitled to their own understanding, and I’ve not disputed Lincoln’s or anyone else’s perfect right to do so.

      One is not, however, entitled to their own facts about what texts say or what LDS leaders teach, or their own brand of logic.

      As I cited in my paper, Venor Vinge in 1993 predicted the Singularity within thirty years. He expected it by 2030 at the outside. I would say we are no closer to sentient AI now than we were then. We’re not even to good whole-language translation from (say) English to French: and we understand the workings of both French and English completely, unlike cognition.

      So, “Just wait 20, 30 years,” isn’t a very compelling argument, to me. It is essentially unarguable and unfalsifiable. One risks fulfilling the old joke about nuclear fusion as a commercial power source: “Sentient AI is the hope of the future, and always will be.”

      My thanks to all who read and commented.

  10. As a 68-year-old (recently) retired physician with board certifications and substantial experience in internal medicine, hematology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, and palliative medicine, the idea that the technocrats will ever succeed in overturning the natural order of things horrifies me. I cannot imagine a world worse than one in which human beings, with all their fallibility and foolishness, can create and indefinitely prolong life. Can you imagine the phenomenal cost of care for a few billion Methuselahs? We are already bankrupting ourselves trying to escape through advancing technology what is and natural and inevitable as death. Perhaps the worst of all human attributes is the inability of people to cope with loss, by the pain of grief and fear of the unknown. All of the excesses of medicine are driven by that, and all it takes is a few trips through the medical intensive care unit to witness thousands of dollars per day devoted to prolonging the lives of elderly people with incurable chronic diseases. Sometimes I wish I could tattoo Ecclesiastes 4:1-4 on the forehead of every drug and medical equipment salesman in the world. God won’t have to do anything to wipe out humanity. Technology will do that for Him – thankfully. The cherubims and the flaming sword (Genesis 3:24) are a blessing, not a curse.

    • Agreed. Thankfully the MTA isn’t really like that. All the fields of science you listed have technology involved in them, technology likely created by the Father of our race. At the MTA, we’re interested in this technology. We understand all too well that the technology and science that God uses is part of a Natural order and we are interested in how that works. We admittedly speculate at times (just like folks do on this website otherwise it would be church sanctioned) but we keep it mostly relative to the understanding we currently have. There are many scientists in our ranks. Sounds like you would fit in well!

  11. To search for the limits of knowledge, science and technology is a human trait. That is what we mortals do, and the Lord encourages us to so do (D&C 88:79). The term “transhumanism” implies expanding on this natural quest to make ourselves immortal. This is probably technically feasible, otherwise the Lord would not have set guardians to prevent us from doing so. Is it a righteous quest to strive to do something the Lord specifically blocks us from doing? If we did achieve immortality outside of the Gospel of Jesus Christ it would mean never-ending Star Wars throughout the Universe. The quest for transhumanism appears not to be a good idea and would definitely be contrary to Mormonism. It would be like trying to build an ultramodern tower to get to Heaven.

  12. I’m a member of the MTA and like Jerry Grover I do not ascribe to every idea put forth among it’s members. (I think the idea of the Singularity would be a step back, not forward) We are in fact a mostly philosophical organization and in general we can be pretty good at acknowledging we don’t have all the answers. Unfortunately for Greg Smith, the way he characterizes the MTA, using one article from one person, is indeed a mischaracterization. For one, Greg lacks expertise in his knowledge of the MTA, and many of his conclusions are subjective based on this flaw. In some cases, he just outright mislabels the obvious (by any definition, the Liahona was technology lol). He’s not wrong in my humble opinion on some criticism, and his opinion is interesting, but I suggest if you want to learn more about the MTA, you expose yourself to more MTA members and articles rather than go on the word of one critic and decide for yourself.
    Lincoln can certainly be guilty of speculating deeper than most, but he’s neither angry nor narrowminded, perfectly willing to update his positions based on new information.

    • Many of the complaints I have seen or heard seem to be from people who have not read what I have written very closely. This is a good example:

      “Unfortunately for Greg Smith, the way he characterizes the MTA, using one article from one person, is indeed a mischaracterization”

      I completely agree that it would be wrong to characterize the MTA or all its members based on one paper. That’s why I said in the paper:

      So, I make no claim that the analysis here applies to all Transhumanists, all Mormon Transhumanists, or even all that Cannon has written and said elsewhere. This review serves as a preliminary study, by a newcomer to these ideas, of a single introductory paper intended to help beginners get up to speed. [p. 164]]

      It is amazing to me how many people have ignored this. I don’t know how I can make it more clear.

      As for this:

      “he just outright mislabels the obvious (by any definition, the Liahona was technology lol).”

      You must be working with a very limited definition of the word “technology.” The OED lists various definitions that don’t fit the Liahona:
      * ‘branch of knowledge dealing with the transformation of raw materials into finished products in industry and manufacturing” [Lehi doesn’t know what the Liahona is made of, or how to make it]
      * “The product of such application [of knowledge for practical purposes]; technological knowledge or know-how; a technological process, method, or technique. Also: machinery, equipment, etc., developed from the practical application of scientific and technical knowledge” [The Liahona is an object, it is not a tehcnique or process]
      And several obsolte meanings that don’t either, including:
      * A discourse or treatise on an art or arts
      * The terminology of a particular art or subject; technical language or nomenclature
      * The systematic treatment of grammar
      For Cannon’s syllogism to be successful, he needs to discuss _human_ designed tech. The Liahona is not that–the Book of Mormon text says it explicitly isn’t human design, or even capable of being human design. Thus, one can (as I note) call this technology–but it is not technology in a sense that helps Cannon’s syllogism, unless we all have Liahonas laying around that we aren’t using. This is why I said:

      Lehi did not design the device, nor did technocrats help forge it. Instead, it appeared fully-formed outside Lehi’s tent. (Alma even insists that its construction was beyond any human ability; see Alma 37:39.) Despite being a material object (and thus “technology” by some definitions) it did not work according to any physical principles or scientific laws known to Lehi or us — instead “it did work for them according to their faith in God”. [p. 171]

      It’s another decent example of the fallacy of equivocation.

      You can call the Liahona “technology,” but it isn’t an example of technology that helps Cannon’s syllogism.

      So quoting it is misleading and erroneous, no matter how much one LOL’s. 🙂

      Thanks to all who’ve read and commented.

      • Interesting Greg. I started writing a reply but I’d have to backtrack a lot on MTA concepts just to get you up to par to have a conversation. I know that sounds a little arrogant, although it’s not intended as such. You noted your lack of knowledge – that’s fair.
        Your critique of Lincoln is noted. Your lack of knowledge of some MTA concepts to me makes your argument uncompelling.
        In your defense, I don’t buy all of Lincoln’s ideas either, but the MTA has in my opinion elevated my understanding of the Gospel, especially how it’s opened my eyes to translating religious ideology into scientific and vice versa (most of the time it’s just a language thing.)
        It’s a philosophical group much like this one on this website. You post opinions here all the time about how you interpret the Gospel. The MTA does the same, they just do it differently, usually combining religion and science in some way.
        There are plenty of Mormons who still suffer from a Protestant “hangover” holding on to supernatural concepts that they not only cannot explain but frankly don’t want to. They feel like God has to remain an inexplicable mystery and calling things like the Priesthood technology is blasphemy.
        That kind of thinking doesn’t really exist in the MTA. Take it with a grain of salt, sure, but if you open your mind a little you might expand it some as a result. One thing you will not find there is an echo chamber.
        Thanks for the write up!

        • “Merely having an open mind,” wrote GK Chesterton, “is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.

          It’s a bit presumptuous, I think, to decide that one’s interlocutor has not considered things with an open mind simply because they disagree.

          To an open mind, the failure of a syllogism compels the conclusion that the syllogism does not demonstrate what it claims.

          “Keep an open mind,” as the old saw goes, “but not so open your brain falls out.”

  13. I would not assume that all members subscribe to all the premises of Mormon transhumanism as espoused by Mr. Cannon. I have been to some of the meetings mostly because as a scientist pretty much any and all discussions of congruence between science and religion are of interest to me. As was pointed out, when I attended a few meetings a year or two ago, there is a wide diversity of belief within the group, and there is nothing really dogmatic or expected of persons attending the meetings, they seem to pretty open ended and seem to me more just a friendly discussion group, not really “a movement.”

  14. Pingback: Link: “What is Mormon Transhumanism? And is it Mormon?” – David's random ramblings

  15. I think an article like this has been needed for a long time as the transhumanist movement has been growing and virtually unchecked.

    I would suggest however, that there is a much more subtle form of transhumanism that has been around for a long time in the church.

    One case in point which an industry in which the good Doctor is intimately involved in, is found in the common practice of praying for the healing of the sick through a transhumanistic lens.

    Unlike the simple prayer of faith for a miraculous healing as dictated in scripture, it is not uncommon for mainstream Latter day Saints to often focus their attention on praying that doctors and other modern medical providers and technologists will be inspired in how they treat our sick and afflicted as they use medical technology and synthetic drugs made through the use of technology.

    Is that a step backwards or forwards in our exercise of faith according revealed religion?

    The glorification of technology is a slippery slope. Joseph Smith once said that inventions were a good thing. Indeed technology can be used for good or evil.

    In reading this article I am reminded how much technology has helped me to better understand the pure gospel of Jesus Christ and the evolution of modern Mormonism.

    About 30 years ago I was introduced to some scripture word searching technology that enables the student of the gospel to quickly compare similar keywords and related gospel topics that show up in the various canons that Mormonism accepts as scripture.

    Was this technology inspired or is it of the devil?

    Further, there are computer programs available that enable a quick search of all related keywords and associated topics found in the various historical records relating to the history of the church.

    Computers and computer programs with algorithms invented by the human mind have been a real blessing to those who want to study the gospel and church history on a much deeper level yet they have also been used by the growing community of those critical of the LDS restoration.

    The controversial CES letter could never have been crafted without it.

    Nevertheless this technology has blessed the lives of countless people who have chosen to parse the scriptures and the history of the church in much greater detail for consistency and greater understanding of each topic.

    Some thirty years after my discovery of these technologies and countless hours studying the trajectory of Mormonism from it’s foundation movement to the present day, I must conclude that transhumanism is much more compatible with Modern Mormonism than Modern Mormonism is with the original teachings of the LDS restoration and/or the teachings of biblical Christianity which it was in the process of restoring.

    • Watcher:
      Anyone can find, if they desire, what will convince them that, as you put it, “the trajectory of Mormonism” has been away from some imagined original understanding of many things. Our scriptures make it clear that we should be praying that God’s will be done. And if faith is present, if the prayer is for the ill or those in dire need, then even if the end is mortal death, then that death will be for the ill person sweet unto them, and hopefully also for those genuinely concerned about the person.

      When I travel, I am very much inclined to pray for both a safe and also productive journey. In a real sense our mortal probation is a journey. I have also prayed that medical experts will be able to use their skills to the very best, and/or that they will be guided to make the most prudent choices, and that they will use the very best technology for what is a righteous purpose. I also pray in this manner about my own academic work, as well as that of others.

      If it is desirable to pray over one’s flocks and fields, and for one’s family, friends and associates, why not for those involved in the healing arts. I don’t see doing this as a turning away from some original teachings that were intended by God to restrain ardent concerns being expressed to God for divine assistance.

      When I taught at Brigham Young University, I tried to keep in mind that my students had parents and others concerned about them who were praying that I would speak the truth to them in ways that would assist them in becoming genuine Saints. Were those who were paying for the education of students somehow wrong for also praying for them?

    • I am thinking that response is too cryptic, Lincoln, given the many points raised. Please explain how it is a mischaracterization.

    • I have read Lincoln Cannon’s apology for transhumanism, and the way I see it is that he should read what Greg Smith wrote, and respond to his arguments and evidence.

  16. Transhumanism seems to think that all technology is good. But technology can be used for good or for evil. The internet helps family history – and has pornography. The airplane flies the general authority – and the drug dealer. Science discovers medical cures – and creates atomic bombs. Poison kills rats – and people. TV shows General Conference – and crude comedy. Phones provide convenient communication – and inconvenient telemarketers. Thus technology can be a tool in the Gospel – and in the adversary.

  17. This article has helped put words into how I have been feeling about MT. The very clear impressions I have received that MT stands at odds with Christ’s role as a supernatural Redeemer, are beginning to make more sense. I hope that many others will benefit from this. Thank you, Brother Smith!

  18. It sounds like Adam is trying to put forth his own hand to partake of the Tree of Life, without the need of faith, repentance, baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. If he could do this he would “live forever in his sins.” That is precisely why the Lord placed Cherubim to guard the way to the Tree of Life.

    It sounds like transhumanism is an antithesis to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with Mormonism.

  19. I am delighted that Greg Smith, given his remarkable gifts, has chosen to address crucial issues raised by a Mormon Transhumanist movement currently operating on the fringes of the LDS intellectual community. He offers sound assistance for those even a tad bit tempted to enter what seems like a path that is likely to yield only a mere illusion of a wisdom about human and divine things, and thereby lead eventually away from the necessity of being purged, or liberated from the rubbish in this world, and thereby becoming, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, genuinely sanctified genuine Saints.

  20. Although I do not consider myself at risk of falling for the precepts of transhumanism, I am quite well aware of my own human logical fallibility, and i would hope for a teacher like Dr. Smith to point out my errors whenever and wherever they might surface. Thanks very much for this erudite and useful essay. It’s a keeper.

  21. Greg, a good discussion of the differences between the Restored Gospel and Transhumanism. I agree that we must be cautious before we make claims about how the Gospel is related to various views about human nature. I also think it would be helpful to keep in mind the important critique of technology that has been developed over the last century, which explains the dangers of a technical thinking that overwhelms our moral judgment.

    • Ted, I agree with you that there is a substantial moral danger to technical thinking — in fact, this was a primary point of my recent opening remarks as president of the Mormon Transhumanist Association at this year’s conference:

      This is actually one of the reasons we founded the Mormon Transhumanist Association, rather than just a Utah transhumanist group. We believe Mormonism contributes critical checks on the moral risks of a purely technological approach to the world.

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