Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ancient Technologies: Resurrection and Immortality

Some of the most cutting-edge goals of modern science are actually extremely old technologies.  For example, the ability to live forever and the ability to bring back people from the dead is almost 2,000 years old.

Perhaps God will choose to use modern science and technology, like DNA sequencing or other tools, as one of the means to assist in resurrection, but He certainly does not need to, and has not used them in the past.  

In this post, below, I've compiled a few references about Jesus Christ's resurrection, which is the center point of Christianity, including the Mormons, or the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints.  None of these references suggest or hint at them being a parable or analogy as an inspiration for later science.   Numerous early Christians were tortured, beaten, then continued preaching this same message--that Jesus came, died, and was resurrected.  Those are hardly actions of people defending something that was nothing more than a symbolic myth or parable.

Of course, these references are in the realm of faith, not science, so they are not provable using the scientific method--although we do have plenty of circumstantial and anecdotal evidence.   But, I struggle to see how you can believe in the resurrection of Christ 2000 years ago and also subscribe to the transhumanist idea that we will eventually use technology improvements to accomplish the same thing.

Matt. 28:6 (See also Luke 24:6),  Mark 16:9

  • 5And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
     6He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
     7And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
     8And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
     9¶And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
     10Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.He is not here: for he is risen," 
  • 36  And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
     37But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
     38And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why dothoughts arise in your hearts?
     39Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
     40And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands andhis feet.
     41And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
     42And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
     43And he took it, and did eat before them.
  •  John 20:20, 27-28
  •  20And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
  • 27Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
     28And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
  • Acts 1:3   
  • 3To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
  • 3 Nephi 11:13-16
13And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
14Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
15And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
16And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
17Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.
Many other people were also resurrected:

Matthew 27:52

52And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
 53And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

 3 Nephi 23:9

9Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so?
 10And his disciples answered him and said: Yea, Lord, Samuel did prophesy according to thy words, and they were all fulfilled.
 11And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not writtenthis thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?
 12And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written.
 13And it came to pass that Jesus commanded that it should bewritten; therefore it was written according as he commanded.

Finally, He promised three of the Nephite apostles they would never die:

7Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.
8And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.
The ancient resurrection is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity and the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If the resurrection happened, how does God still need us to gradually use scientific means to eventually enable us to accomplish the same thing he's already done "many" times nearly 2,000 years ago?


  1. Hi Vblogger. Here are my thoughts:

  2. Why should God want us to use scientific means to:

    Give sight to the blind
    Give hearing to the deaf
    Treat epilepsy
    Seek to cure cancer
    Correct poor eyesight
    Treat diabetes
    Transmit information quickly over long distances

    Surely he has already done these things many times in the distant past.

  3. Pursuit of technology-based physical immortality/resurrection is an act of the faithful servant in the same "git-er done" sense of faith demonstrated by Nephi and Brother-of-Jared.

    I agree that we should learn how to perform the ancient priesthood ordinance of resurrection. There's no reason to wait for Jesus to show up again to teach people how to perform the resurrection ordinance. Several of the scriptures that you listed explain how quite a few people did the resurrection thing shortly after Jesus did it.

    But there's also no reason not to seek and/or find alternative means to that same end. There's any number of treatments available to treat and cure blindness (or any number of other ailments). Those should not be avoided simply because the treatment regimen doesn't typically include consecrated oil and laying-on-of-hands.

    My hypothesis is that technology may, in fact, be able to accomplish virtual physical immortality, and possibly even astonishingly soon. However, my hypothesis continues that a physical immortality that is dependent on its physical technology (prosthesises, transplants, pharmaceutics, etc.) is ultimately unsustainable. Certainly the "ancient" immortality did not require the physical technology available/sought today, however the physical technology sought today may, in fact, lead to the spiritual understanding needed to accomplish the kind of sustainable non-technology-based physical+spiritual immortality enjoyed by John, The 3 Book of Mormon Apostles, Elijah, Enoch and his whole city, etc.

    And it's just as likely that the same spiritual knowledge needed to accomplish a perpetually sustainable "ancient" physical+spiritual immortality will lead directly to the spiritual technology needed to accomplish a full-blown eternal resurrection... or a quicker "twinkling".

  4. Vblogger, you have no evidence that the events described did not use the same technology that will eventually be used when they are reproduced by humans. In fact, if God is bound to follow law, as Mormon prophets have repeatedly affirmed, then they most certainly are the same technologies. See 3 Ne. 28:25. Moroni inquired of the Lord whether it was necessary for the 3 Nephites to undergo a physical change in order for them not to taste of death. The Lord affirmed that it was necessary, again adding weight to the teaching that God is bound by law, and that anything he accomplishes must be done technologically.

  5. I think we should be cautious in staking out religious litmus tests, especially when they put bounds on the potential for human progress, as history provides numerous examples in which scientific advancement forced acceptance of ideas once considered heretical. Religion has continued relevant by recognizing scriptural metaphor. Based on scriptural authority, for instance, it was once considered heretical to believe in a non-geocentric universe. Rather recently, certain prominent Church authorities would declare that you couldn't consider yourself a faithful Mormon if you believe that humans were created through evolution--a "deadly heresy," in the words of Elder McConkie. But with the growing body of evidence and the growing number of Church members in support of the theory of evolution, such dogmatism has become outdated. (Elder McConkie's _Mormon Doctrine_ is no longer in print.) Yet, I would guess that most Mormons who accept that humans were created through evolutionary processes still find valuable meaning in scriptural accounts of creation.

    Rather than insisting on limits of interpretation, why not be open to the possibility of deeper, broader meaning?

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  7. Also, echoing what Carl said... your assertion that God did not use "technology" to bring about past resurrections suggests that your definition of technology is much more limited than what I think most members of the MTA have in mind; or else that you believe that God is not subject to natural law, which is antithetical to what Joseph Smith taught. I think of technology as the practical application of knowledge. If God is subject to natural law, then his ability to exert power of the elements based on his mastery of natural principles (spiritual or physical, which according to Joseph Smith are both material) is, by definition, technology. Our journey to become like God is a journey to acquire his technology.

  8. Oops, on second reading I noticed that you do refer to "extremely old technologies" of resurrection in your opening paragraph. Still, the claim that "modern technologies" would necessarily be different from these "old technologies" does seem to reflect a more limited, primitive conception of technology than I think members of the MTA envision when describing the possibilities of resurrection.

  9. You wrote:

    "But, I struggle to see how you can believe in the resurrection of Christ 2000 years ago and also subscribe to the transhumanist idea that we will eventually use technology improvements to accomplish the same thing...Did the resurrection happen or not? If you don't believe it did, you're not a "Christian" or a "Mormon." That's a fundamental doctrine of Christianity. If it did, how does it make sense that God still needs us to gradually use scientific means to eventually enable us to accomplish the same thing he's already done "many" times nearly 2,000 years ago?"

    I believe that this statement indicates a few doctrinal errors. Specifically

    1: it misunderstands the correct balance between works and faith,


    2. we don't know HOW God accomplished the resurrection, so it is wrong to point to scriptures talking about how it happened and say that this proves that it didn't happen technologically

    I have faith that death is part of God’s plan, and that God will eventually grant me immortality as a gift of grace, in fact, He will give this gift to all, and all will be saved (in this sense) but the Sons of Perdition (see D&C 76:43). If I am worthy, and do “all that I can do” to live a life of goodness, then I will also be granted eternal life, and given the power to become like God through the grace of Christ’s infinite atonement.

    Similarly, I have faith that Christ accomplished the resurrection (however he did it) and that he gave the gift of immortality (however he did it), and I have faith that he will eventually give these gifts to me. But NONE of that indicates that I shouldn't explore technological methods of doing the same thing.

    One is faith, the other is works, and faith must be balanced with works. In fact, I would go so far as to claim that we are commanded to do "all that we can do" through works to achieve the things that we desire to eventually receive by faith.

    Thus, I don't see any reason that you can't have faith in what Christ did 2000 years ago, while still subscribing to "the transhumanist idea that we will eventually use technology improvements to accomplish the same thing."

  10. God has the Power and the technology capable of making a perfect, immortalized body that has the potential to enjoy an Eternal Life. Through Christ, all men shall gain this immortality, but this doesn't mean we have a passive role to play in all this. Through the Priesthood we will gain the power to fuse ones spirit identity into these glorified bodies. Joseph Smith taught us that all spiritual matter is physical in some way. Brigham Young taught us that there is a spiritual side to everything, that everything exists spiritually as well and that it is not subject to limitations imposed by space and time. If there is indeed a physical process behind making a perfect body and joining spiritual matter to it, then it can be understood and applied using the scientific method. Science is about understanding the physical world through observation and experimentation. As God's children we are expected to learn these things eventually. Science tells us how these things can be done, but we also need to understand why this needs to be done, what's the eternal perspective behind all this. This is God's plan for our happiness, and there are many aspects that need to be understood that kind of go beyond mere science. There's a human desire and will behind it that only God can help us identify and it's God that helps us point those desires in the right direction that leads to eternal happiness.

  11. Thank you, all for commenting! These are some excellent points that have improved my understanding of your perspective.

    I actually share many of these same perspectives you point out. My comment response grew into the length of a new post, which I'll share soon.