Ancient Prophets

Something to think about as you lie awake in bed tonight:

Twenty years from now, David A. Bednar’s only going to be 82. Dieter F. Uchtdorf will only be 94. L. Tom Perry will be 112.

By 2034 standards, it’s possible that those men will no longer be considered that old.

I know almost nothing about medicine, and only a bit about tech, but as those two industries converge, we’re seeing a bio-medical revolution that’s only going to get bigger. Body-hacking will continue to grow in popularity. Quantified-self tools will lead to better data and medical insights. The boom in molecular biology, genomics, and genetics will accelerate.

The expert doctors at Wikipedia say there’s no theoretical limit to the human lifespan, and companies like Google are investing in research to let us realize that lack of deadline (pardon the morbid pun).

There will be all kinds of weird societal upheavals if human life spans increase either incrementally or exponentially. But what does it mean for our general authorities? It means there’s a real possibility that one of the next couple prophets will win the science jackpot and lead the church for a LONG time. It’s impossible to say who this will be, obviously.

But, as an example, if you think President Uchtdorf is handsome now, just wait until he’s upgraded his piercing blue eyes to a set of Laser-focal 5000s(™). Or maybe he’ll go for the 5000cx(™), which come with built-in teleprompter features.

“I used to fly airplanes.”  …  “What’s an airplane?”


  1. Sure, we’re better able to preserve the human body. That’s the easy part. The hard part is preserving a working brain. As the average lifespan of these men continues to get longer, that should be more and more of a concern.

  2. “Body-hacking will continue to grow in popularity.”

    And an increasing number of disenfranchised members will result.

  3. When the techno-millenium-singularity-falcon occurs whoever happens to be sitting the in prophet’s chair is going to be in for a long ride…

  4. It is like the world’s worst version of musical chairs.

  5. Maybe in 20 years, we can look back and say that we lay in bed this Friday night, November 7, 2014. In fact, we could say it tomorrow. But we can’t say it today.

  6. I work in this field, and I think you are greatly overestimating the advances that will be made in the near future. Especially with stagnant biomedical funding, and smart people fleeing the field. Google’s new venture is viewed with significant skepticism in the aging community.

  7. @woodboy – So is it just an OLD wives’ tale? . . . I’ll show myself out.

  8. If you don’t like what the future holds you could always move to the northwest and die with dignity.

  9. Ha, thanks Mark B. Fixed.

  10. Every new Google venture is viewed with skepticism by the relevant community, woodboy. They call them “moonshots.”

  11. Yes, unfortunately for Google though biology is not a simple matter of engineering.

  12. Dangit if someone doesn’t appreciate my HILARIOUS comment soon I’m going to die.

  13. It’s fantastic, Scott.

  14. Will 120 year old Steve Evans still be a Mod at BCC? I shudder to think of the level of cranky bannings.

  15. I do worry about this. Even if we institute an emeritus program within the 12 the fact is that generational shifts in leadership will slow down. The fact is barring some major accidents or shifts we are probably now looking at the next heads of our church for the next 20 years and probably the next 40 once the next one or two apostles are called. We will never have an energetic, physically young leadership like those that founded the church. And while “age is in your head” the fact is that physical and mental capabilities for 40 year olds are remarkably different from 80 year olds.

    The other thing this brings to mind is that biomedical and bioethics issues are probably one of the biggest, most interesting challenges facing the church in the future for which we have NO preparation and NEVER talk about (except on the very, very, very fringes) of Mormonism. We are within years of being able to reliably select the sex of our children and probably a decade or so before the ability to select on other traits begins to pick up. The last real issue like this we have ever addressed is birth control and that was decided through passive aggression by the membership. Do we even have any bioethicists in the 70? Or anyone with any type of grounding in thinking through these types of issues? One thing is certain is that my kids 40s will definitely look quite different than mine bitechnologically.

  16. I took Bioethics–an upperclass biology course–at BYU several years ago and the opinions held by the vast majority of my classmates on various bioethical issues frankly scared me. Too many of their views were influenced by black and white thinking, justice with not a bit of mercy, and hatred of anything they didn’t understand. The course itself was fantastic.

    I’m not sure I want the leaders of the church speaking up about bioethical concerns. I guess I’m afraid they’ll take the same approach on issues as most of my classmates did.

  17. How can no one have speculated about ages reconverging with those reported in early Genesis being a sign of ye olde End Times? Will not the continents be recombined as before the days of Peleg?!? “Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my Kolob to me, to me…”

  18. melodynew says:

    This is hilarious! Thanks for the laughs. And a moment of terror.

    I work on a cardiovascular medicine unit of a Level I trauma center/academic hospital. Real life tells the tale: regardless of advances in medical science, technology, or bioengineering, people’s habits have a striking impact on longevity. We can replace body parts ’til the cows come home and regenerative medicine is a real and beautiful thing. But, the meat-and-potatoes crowd won’t last forever. I’m banking on the vegetarian, fitness conscious dudes and dudettes, with family histories free from the Big 3: diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Who are they? Where are they? Those are the ones to watch.

  19. Well, maybe now some of those predictions about being alive at the Second Coming will turn out true…

  20. God is a obviously a conservative in that we are led by older folks more invested in the status quo than younger folks can ever be. This means progress is tempered by age and sometimes even wisdom of experience. But add another 20 years to that generation gap, and you’ll just have irrelevance squared. It’s damn near impossible to watch an episode of any 1980s TV show. 1940s movies are rife with sexism and many of them have plots that we find silly, too. If we had access to Queen Victoria to lead the country, she wouldn’t be able to create followership without narrowing this generation gap.

    In the NT when Jesus says he came to divide people, not unite them, he always describes a generation gap: father against son, mother against daughter, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. Imagine how much worse that is if you add a few generations. Who among us does not have a racist grandparent? And yet we can’t tolerate that kind of talk because it’s just so horrible. To them it sounds normal. We are warned not to be too tolerant by BKP, and this is partly what he means, but you can’t move backwards into prejudice.

  21. So will mandatory emeritus status be bumped up to 125 years old? And a ‘young’ mission president and first lady will be a spry century old? As I age, I like the sound of that.

  22. Thanks I needed that:)

  23. So let’s say that we get another 50 years added to our lifespans. What do we do with it?

    Those who are adept at creating a bit of heaven on earth will continue doing exactly that. Some of us are more apt at creating living hells for ourselves and others.

    How many have careers that they enjoy enough to work for a full century? How will six or seven generations handle each other at a family reunion? How does a kid cope with nearly 100 living ancestors? And we are worried about GA’s living longer?

  24. Those are all good questions, Segullah. And I’m assuming living 3/5ths of one’s life in retirement isn’t an economic option for most of us.

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