Thought for the week

Imagine, if you will, that a time is coming when human life can be extended a long time beyond our three score years and ten. Maybe through cyborg technology, or through cell regeneration treatments, some humans in our generation will live to 150 or 200. Maybe in a century or two, humans will live for a millennium. Maybe one day our consciousnesses will be downloaded and live forever in machines.

What would this do to our religion (other than enlarging the stakes of the Mormon gerontocracy)?


  1. Rapturist says:

    This would do nothing. In 1840 the life expectancy was 45. Now it is 85. It has already almost doubled over the course of the religion.

    The changes in our faith since 1840 have nothing to do with life expectancy, but instead to other changes in world conditions, and the fact that the second coming hasn’t happened yet!

  2. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    skin jobs, ahoy!

  3. aloysiusmiller says:

    Immortality eternal life

  4. aloysiusmiller says:

    Well the not equals sign disappeared.

    immortality is not equal to eternal life.

  5. I just finished reading Peter Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star/Judas Unchained series (fantastic sci-fi), whose characters relife themselves every 20-50 years, depending on their temperament.

    My guess is that if/when we ever figure out how to move a soul around from body to body, then this kind of thing could happen. Until then, we’re stuck with good old fashioned death snuffing out life.

  6. California Condor says:

    Funny you should ask this. In the city where I live (Scottsdale, Arizona), there is actually a company that freezes people shortly after they die. I think it costs about $150,000. The idea is that in the future biotechnology will enable the frozen bodies to be thawed out and restored to life. I’m not making this up. A famous baseball player named Ted Williams is frozen at this facility.

  7. Ted Williams is, ahem, among other things frozen at this facility…

  8. Thing is that our understanding of the human body is still so limited. Our religion claims our bodies are made up of two distinct entities: a spirit (made of matter so fine we cannot see it) and the physical body. Our religion states that a body without a spirit is dead (see James 2). Our scientific knowledge has yet to discover this spiritual entity. If it takes up matter, surely it also weighs something. How much does a spirit body weigh? What shape does it take in the physical world? If it is made of matter, it exists in this world. Does it look like us? Is it DNA’d to be like the physical body, or is its description and characteristics different than the physical body? We keep pointing to our hearts as the location of our “soul,” which I’m guessing we mean our spirit. Does it really reside in the physical location of our heart? Where? What space does it take? If matter, it takes space. Does part of it reside in our minds? If so, where? Is a spiritual body electric? When the physical body dies, does the spiritual body immediately leave? Does it hang around? Jews have a cultural and religious belief that the spirit hangs around the body for three days after death (hence the power of the resurrection of Lazarus after four days).

    The resurrection of Lazarus indicates that it is possible to re-inject life back into a physical body once the spirit leaves. But doesn’t that seem to require the power to command a spirit to return? Can you force a body back to life without that power to command the spirit?

    We of course believe that we will eventually do exactly this, rejuvenate our bodies for an eternity. It won’t be through clunky human technology though. It will be through the power and glory of God.

  9. The spirit could be made of dark matter or something. There’s no telling. But I do think we’ll eventually have the technology to move spirits from body to body. I don’t think it changes anything in our religion. In fact, I think our perfected bodies are going to be made by advanced technology, and the resurrection will be done by technological means as well. God has no need to break the physical laws of the universe. He just knows them a lot better than we do now. I think when we populate our own universes with our own spirit children, it will be through making new big bangs happen. There’s plenty of room there in what we know today of physics for that to happen in our multiverse.

  10. Be careful with life expectancy rates. It depends on how they are calculated. Often if you make it to 30 you’ll make it to 80, the high youth and child mortality rates can lower it significantly.

    It may be too, RJ that with that longer age will come with youth. If cell regeneration techniques are included, or cell replacement and nano tech repair at age 150 we might be 30 again! I’m not sure I would want to live to 200 with a 98 year old body but if you can snap me back to age 25, whoa, I’ll use my time so much better next body. Really.

  11. Steve Evans says:

    Ask Methuselah what he did.

  12. Methuselah’s genes were still near perfect because of his closeness in relation to Adam. The more Genetic flaws that grew up in humans, the longer they lived. ;-)

    As for transferring of souls, by the time they figure that out, they will probably have perfected cloning. One could live eternally. However, if I had the option of transferring my soul, I definitely wouldn’t want this body. I would ask Brad Pitt for a copy of his. .

  13. I meant to say “the more genetic flaws that grew up in humans, they shorter their life span”

  14. So all those patriarchal blessings about being alive for the second coming could mean something very different: You’ll still be around, but you’ll have laser eyes, an adamantium skeleton, and a cyborg prehensile tail.

    Loving BCC’s “Future Week” so far! Keep it up!

  15. Top Ten on Dave tonight is “signs you’re dealing with a bad cryonic preservation company”

  16. I do wonder what it would mean for family history if you could interview five or six generations of your ancestors because they were all still living. Also, perhaps with really extended families living a long time, we might lessen our focus on the nuclear family of mom, dad, and kids. (Although I guess the increases in life expectancy of say the last century certainly haven’t done that.)

    Daniel (#3), I read that pair of books by Hamilton too, and I agree that they were a lot of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed them. I did think the ending was the weak point, though. The end of the first book was much better than the end of the second.

  17. buraianto says:

    Some people believe that some alive today will live to see the time when we, through technology, have the ability to turn back the clock on aging. People who identify as transhumanists have been preaching this for years now. I can’t see anything to prevent it, aside from a global catastrophe that kills us all, or ourselves doing the same. I hope to be alive for a very long time.

    What does that mean for Mormonism? I see it as a fulfillment of prophecy — especially Mormon-specific prophecy. And God will always be there right at the center of our religion, no matter what.

  18. California Condor says:

    FYI, tonight on my way back from Wal-Mart, I drove past ALCOR, where Ted Williams’ frozen body is being stored for the future.

    Funny line from “The Office”:

    “I feel weak today, I felt much stronger yesterday. Like Benjamin Button in reverse.”

  19. California Condor says:

    “five or six generations of your ancestors because they were all still living.”

    This is possible today if each generation was like Jamie Lynn Spears.

  20. Ziff,

    On Hamilton, yeah, I got tired of the chase of the Starflyer. Took waaaaaaay too much time to get that concluded. I think it is on par with Perrin’s attempts to save Faile from the Shaido in Wheel of Time.

  21. I just don’t see the big thing about living a long mortal life. Even if you could restore yourself to a youthful body, why? Isn’t the concept of resurrection and eternal life, wherein you don’t have to worry about disease or Alzheimer’s not a better thing?

  22. buraianto says:

    Rameumptom, a life free from disease, including Alzheimer’s, is the life that transhumanists anticipate.

  23. The High Priests group will be huge, and the room where they meet will smell really bad. Fast & Testimony meeting will have to be extended to nine hours just to give enough time to all the old folks who want to get up and each will take forty minutes to tell us all about what all their children are doing, what their grandchildren are doing, what the great-grandchildren are doing, and how the great-great-grandchildren just got accepted to BYU-Nauvoo, and that they will certainly be gettting married soon, and that the high priest in question is certainly taking great joy in their posterity. Add another five minutes to cover how the surgeon said she was guided by the hand of God during the eighth hip replacement. Great debates will take place on whether tithing should be 10% of gross or net, and the First Presidency will finally have to come out and state for the record that it’s net, since FICA taxes now comprise 92% of wages and you can’t pay 10% when over 90% is taken out before you get the check. Youth will leave the church entirely at the age of 12, because they will be doing yard work service projects for the widows averaging 60 hours per week, and that doesn’t leave time for school or homework. Wards will be forced to have activities six nights a week to handle all the depressed elderly couples who can’t stand the sight of each other after one-hundred-and-forty years of marriage. Divorces will skyrocket. Federal legislation will be passed limiting the number of missions a senior couple is allowed to serve, because the United States population now has a ratio of 4.2 houses for every senior missionary couple, and tracting becomes more obnoxious when the same folks knock on your door for the ninth time that day to see if you’ve finished reading the Book of Mormon, and are you ready to be baptized yet? As a result, the Church will fill the whole earth, because people will learn that resistance is futile. Thus prophecy will be fulfilled, and the work will be done.

  24. I’d be very curious to know how the spirit interfaces with the body. Learning how memory transfers from cellular to spiritual matter is on my top 10 list for questions if I ever get to gaze into the heavens for 5 minutes.

  25. What impact would it have on our religion? If death were taken away from the equation, it would focus our attention more on the aspects of Christ’s work dealing with redemption of sins (as opposed to overcoming physical death). That, and it would mean that some people would end up being bishop like two or three times in their lives. No thanks.

  26. I think it would have the effect of turning our church in to the Tyrell Corporation. Also, we’d have to incorporate the Voight-Kampff machine, sort of like Scientologists and their “e-meter.”

  27. Hunter #25, I don’t think there will be any way of getting rid of death. We can make it harder to die, and hopefully we can make it *very* hard to (assuming we want to), but there will always be ways to die, such as by accidents or murder, or even bigger rocks than we can deflect or get out of the way of. I think resurrection will always be a part of our theology.

  28. Stephanie says:

    I really hope this wouldn’t happen. Part of the circle of life and death is dying and leaving work for the younger generation to do. Besides, with people living longer and longer, is the quality of life really that much greater? If it costs so much to keep a body alive and kicking or requires so much care, is it worth putting that burden on our children and grandchildren? I’m not trying to make this about healthcare, just saying that I kind of like things the way they are with respect to life expectancy. When I was young and naive, I said I wanted to die at 50. Now that I am in my 30s, I am thinking that in my 70s is a good time to go. I want to go like an old friend of mine did last week. She still lived in her own house and went to the hospital because she was complaining about heartburn. The whole time, she said, “It can’t be my heart! I’m healthy as a horse!” until she slipped into unconsciousness and peacefully passed away. What a great way to go.

  29. #28 “When I was young and naive, I said I wanted to die at 50. Now that I am in my 30s, I am thinking that in my 70s is a good time to go.”

    I wonder what you’ll say when you are in your 60’s? If we are healthy and happy I think there is a natural tendency to want to keep pushing that date out. If I’m happy and healthy at 90 I wouldn’t mind pushing past 100 as long as I still have my wits about me and I’m not a burden on my family.

    As for the burden part, I’ve read a lot of native american accounts where the old people realized they were a burden and snuck off in the middle of the night to find a place to curl up until they died from exposure. Those were extreme times where every bite they took was robbing from the young who needed the nourishment to survive. I think I would do the same in such a situation. Now we have the opposite situation in that life can be and is prolonged by technology and diet with barely a drain on the available resources.

  30. Regarding comment #1, life expectancy was not 45 in 1840. Average life expectancy was 45 in 1840. There is a big difference. Too many people are fooled by the “average” into thinking we are so much better than in 1840. The fact is that the infant mortality rate was so great in 1840 (like it is now in third world countries) that it brought the overall average down. That means that if you lived beyond about age 21 in 1840, your life expectancy at that point was closer to 65. The same holds true, for the most part, for today’s third world countries. Let’s not get confused by statistics.

  31. The way I look at it, the longer I stay here, the longer it is before I can go home. Also, I find that the longer I live, the more people I know, and the more people I know, the less time I have for each of them. Better to move on and be elevated beyond the restrictions and limitations of mortality than to stay here, getting thin, like butter scraped over too much bread (to steal shamelessly).

  32. The Mormon Transhumanist Association proposes several answers to these questions.

  33. I know that the comments bubble is over on this discussion and few if any will see this, but I’d still like to propose a variation on the original question:
    Imagine, if you will, that a time is coming when humans have accomplished paradisaical living but JC hasn’t come again. What would this do to our religion?

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