Although most self-identified Transhumanists today are secular, our origins actually extend beyond the secular to religious Humanism. New Testament writers and centuries of early Orthodox and Catholic authorities syncretized Christianity with Neoplatonism, the popular science of their day, and many advocated identifying with Christ and becoming God. Thirteenth-century Scholastic theologians continued the synthesis of Christianity with popular science, which was at the time the newly rediscovered ideas of Aristotle.
Each spring and fall, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the largest Mormon denomination) holds a worldwide conference. For ten hours over two days, top leaders of the Church speak in-person to over 20,000 members gathered in a conference center in Salt Lake City, and via Internet and television broadcast to a much larger audience (probably in the millions) gathered in homes and church buildings around the world. The most recent conference was held yesterday and today.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the largest Mormon denomination, has had 16 presidents since and including Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of Mormonism. My favorite sermon delivered by Joseph Smith happens to have been the last sermon he delivered to Mormons gathered for a general conference of the Church. And I thought it would be interesting to go back, identify, and read the last sermons delivered to a general conference of the Church by its other presidents over the last two centuries.
If, like I am, you're a Mormon that considers our religion and evolution to be complementary, you have an opportunity. Organizers at the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum at Brigham Young University are considering an exhibit on the theme of “Faith and Science.” And they are collecting feedback on exhibit ideas via a survey that you can take before 1 September 2017.
Sometimes, perhaps more often than not, we forget origins. We forget where we came from and how we got here. We forget lessons learned along the way. And often, perhaps more often than not, we progress more slowly than we might otherwise because we don't look back to learn. We imagine ourselves more creative, more unique, more exceptional than is likely warranted.
I love how heaven is presented in the Mormon authoritative tradition. Well, at least I love my interpretation of how it's presented. I suppose we're all that way to some extent or another. There are some interpretations of heaven, Mormon and otherwise, that sadden, frighten, anger, bore, or entertain me. Maybe it would be interesting to write about them sometime. But for now, I'm going to tell you what I love about the Mormon version of heaven, as I understand it and as it inspires me.
At the 2017 Conference of the Mormon Transhumanist Association, I presented a brief history of the association. Below is an outline of the events I mentioned, beginning with the founding of the association on 3 March 2006 and ending in 2016, when we changed the leadership of the association. And at the end is a recording of the presentation. Of necessity, this history doesn't include everything the association and its members have done or experienced over the years. But it does call out what I consider to be particularly noteworthy events, in most cases reflecting my assessment of their relative magnitude of effect over time.
In 2007 and 2008, I gave a few presentations in the virtual world of Second Life. Yeah, Generation Z, virtual worlds have been around a long time. The third presentation was on "Mormonism: A Religion of the Future" at the Conference on the Future of Religions and Religions of the Future, held 4 June 2008 on the island of Extropia. After the conference, my friend Giulio Prisco provided a good write-up. But I've not previously published my transcript from that conference. So why not publish it 10 years later? Enjoy.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the largest Mormon denomination, has no official position on human evolution. This should be repeated and emphasized, in part because the LDS Church has not done much to ensure this non-position is communicated to its members. Consequently, for many years, extending well before the beginning of my own life, many members have claimed that the Church opposes human evolution. They are incorrect, as demonstrated by the following statements from modern and historic Church authorities:
"If You Could Hie to Kolob" has, as far back as I can remember, always been among my favorite Mormon hymns. When I was a child, it spoke to the nascent Transhumanist in me. And as an adult, I seem to have an unquenchable thirst for the vision it articulates, echoing the heart of Mormonism. But it's also kind of missing something. Implicitly, it may be there, for those who are well acquainted with the gist and thrust of Mormonism. So I thought I'd try my hand at making it more explicit. Below you'll find the five original verses of the song, authored by William Phelps, followed by four new verses, authored by me. In case you don't know the tune, you might like listening to this rendition by Nick Sales. Enjoy.
Implicitly, I’ve been a Transhumanist since childhood. My Mormon parents taught me, from before my earliest memories, that we are all children of God with potential to be God. And not just any kind of god. Not the kind that would raise itself above others in hubris. But rather the kind of God that would raise each other together. We all, they taught me, have potential to be like Jesus. We all have potential to be Christ, a unified community of compassionate creators. Faith in God, then, signified trust in human potential as much as trust in grace that affords such potential.