The Awful Monster Strikes Again
4 October 2007 (updated 12 March 2011)
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Today I attended the funeral of a friend’s father: a kind and hard-working man, now dead from heart problems at age 57. Family members expressed their feelings in words and music. I was particularly moved when the grandchildren sang “Families Can Be Together Forever”, while they cried freely. One of the grandchildren, the son of my friend, is a close friend to my own son. Because my son could not be there, he asked that my wife and I give his friend a hug. After the funeral, we did that. I also mentioned to my son’s friend that they would “see each other soon”, intending him to understand that my son looked forward to seeing him. He responded, “I believe that.” I think he meant that he believed he would see his grandfather again soon. Well, I believe that, too.
I’ve felt renewed, today, in determination to combat an awful monster. It’s a monster that ravaged my own father at age 48. It devours over 100,000 of us each day, and has probably clawed its way into your life. This monster, like a dragon-tyrant, has defeated great warriors and discouraged most of us into appeasing it with sacrifices, but has yet to face fully our greatest warrior:
“O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit. And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave. And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel. O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.” (The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 9: 10-13)
Who will conquer that awful monster, death and hell? Who is the greatest of our warriors? As expressed in the Book of Mormon, reflecting the Bible, that warrior is Christ. However, lest we think Christ is exclusive to Jesus, we are reminded by the apostle Paul, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (The Bible, 2 Corinthians 13: 5) Indeed, as taught by Jesus, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do” (John 14: 12).
Together in Christ, with faith in a better world and compassion for all, we may become the greatest warrior to combat the awful monster. We live in an epoch of unprecedented knowledge and power. The means for dramatically longer and healthier lives are within our reach. What shall we do? I can almost hear the words of the warrior Moroni . . .
“Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you? Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your brethren . . . And now, my beloved brethren—for ye ought to be beloved; yea, and ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance; yea, for known unto God were all their cries, and all their sufferings . . . Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain. . . . Have ye forgotten the commandments of the Lord your God? Yea, have ye forgotten the captivity of our fathers? Have ye forgotten the many times we have been delivered out of the hands of our enemies? Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us? Yea, will ye sit in idleness while ye are surrounded with thousands of those, yea, and tens of thousands, who do also sit in idleness, while there are thousands round about in the borders of the land who are falling by the sword, yea, wounded and bleeding? Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay.” (The Book of Mormon, Alma 60: 7, 10, 11, 20-23)
What can we do? Here are some excellent ideas from philosopher Nick Bostrom:
Spread the word. If you have a website or a blog, please consider linking to this page. Share your thoughts with friends and colleagues. Write letters to editors to comment on newspaper coverage of prolongevity. Challenge snide and shortsighted remarks about aging when appropriate. Make some noise.
Organize. If you are active in some organization (e.g. a political party, a religious community, a professional society), consider if there is any way that you could build support within that organization for extended healthy lifespan and the research needed to achieve it.
Give. Consider donating to the Methuselah Mouse Prize. This is a prize for extending the remaining lifespan of middle-aged mice. Science prizes have a strong track record of stimulating achievement. A clear success in mouse would pave the way for a larger program to translate the methods for human use.
Take responsibility. If you are a major philanthropist, you have the opportunity to make a big difference. Likewise, if you are e.g. a journalist, an opinion leader, a government official, a scientific authority, or on the board of a major research foundation, you have special opportunities to exert influence, and, consequently, a special responsibility to show some initiative.
Think creatively. Use your own your own brain to think about what would be the best way for you to contribute.
I invite you to join with the Mormon Transhumanist Association in the fight against aging. Let’s vanquish the beast!