Monday, June 7, 2010

Elder Oaks and Science, Revelation

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke recently at Harvard about the basic principles of the LDS faith, in a way that I found very interesting.

Here are some excerpts, first about Jesus Christ and His role in both resurrection and eternal life:
Because of His resurrection all who have ever lived will be raised from the dead.  He is the Savior whose atoning sacrifice opens the door for us to be forgiven of our personal sins so that we can be cleansed to return to the presence of God our Eternal Father. 
And about the process of finding truth:
We seek after knowledge, but we do so in a special way because we believe there are two dimensions of knowledge, material and spiritual.  We seek knowledge in the material dimension by scientific inquiry and in the spiritual dimension by revelation.
Here's his quite interesting description of revelation, one of the "distinctive elements of our faith"
Personal revelation—sometimes called “inspiration”—comes in many forms.  Most often it is by words or thoughts communicated to the mind, by sudden enlightenment, or by positive or negative feelings about proposed courses of action.  Usually it comes in response to earnest and prayerful seeking.  “Ask, and it shall be given you;” Jesus taught, “seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7).  It comes when we keep the commandments of God and thus qualify for the companionship and communication of the Holy Spirit. 
I found it interesting to note this clear description of revelation as providing feelings or inspirations, quite different from the process of obtaining truth through scientific inquiry.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Historicity matters

I don't think this particular article has much to do with Transhumanism, but I came across this article:
"The Book of Mormon, Historicity, and Faith," by Robert L. Millet, that I feel makes a lot of sense.

A similar article by Elder Oaks is here.

For me, the idea that Jesus actually lived and was resurrected, and that Book of Mormon events actually happened, are important to my faith.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Differences are not just semantics

In a previous post about the differences, I don't want to dismiss the importance of actual challenges beyond semantics.  To summarize, here are key doctrines of Mormonism that seem to contradict assertions of transhumanism:

1)  Eternal Life requires spiritual obedience to commandments and God's grace and forgiveness, not advanced scientific discovery:  Doctrine and Covenants 14:7:  "And, if you akeep my commandments and bendure to the end you shall have ceternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God. (Also  D&C 6:13)

2) Resurrection is a result of, and patterned after Jesus Christ's resurrection, not man's scientific work, as I have already discussed in my doctrinal and logical response.

3) Final, Eternal Judgement based on benevolence or love for others, but also on proper performance of certain ordinances given by those with proper priesthood authority.

If, as transhumanism seems to suggest, the final, eternal judgment doesn't matter or won't require  dramatic, powerful intervention after we die, then why do we need obedience to certain commandments or ordinances, such as baptism, temple marriage, etc., that really have very little to do with increased benevolence?  Sure, baptism is a covenant to essentially be benevolent ("mourn with those that mourn"), but becoming benevolent posthumans certainly wouldn't require full immersion and certain proper words spoken by someone who has proper priesthood authority.  (See 3 Nephi 11:24-38).

The transhumanist emphasis on man's work seems to me a proud proposition that suggests we don't need God and that His commandments are not necessary or relevant.   If we can resurrect ourselves--or, incredibly, even grant ourselves forgiveness, eternal life and future creative ability--through scientific progress, who needs God or His commandments or ordinances?
Since pride is the "universal sin" and "The great stumbling block to zion"  that scriptures and modern prophets have repeatedly warned against, I'm more concerned that we have a tendency to become too proud, than that we might have a tendency to reduce our interest in scientific discovery.  Plenty of worldly pressures will encourage scientific progress to continue, regardless of religion.

However, few forces exist other than scriptural and prophetic warnings to restrain the unbridled pride that can lead to our downfall.  So, in my religious practice and belief, I'd rather emphasize our dependence on God, rather than our ability to do everything, including resurrection and eternal life, by ourselves.

Of course, that doesn't at all dismiss our need to work diligently to protect and preserve the earth, find cures for diseases, help the poor, etc.