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Mormon Transhumanism

May 26, 2019     Time: 16:16
Mormon Transhumanism


What do many Mormons do when they conclude Mormonism is false?

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, I have a couple of stories for you of Mormons who have left the faith, left their church, because of things that they’ve discovered about Mormonism and what they are trying to do to handle that. I find this very interesting. I want to mention, first of all, a good resource. You contributed to a book called The New Mormon Challenge. What was your article in that book?

DR. CRAIG: My article was on Mormonism and contemporary cosmology where I tried to show that the Mormon belief in an infinite regress of deities – one begotten after another – is incompatible with contemporary cosmology, and looked at the efforts of some Mormon scientists to make sense of this. I encountered that same sort of mental acrobatics that you alluded to of trying to make some sort of reconciliation between what modern cosmology tells us and Mormon belief in the eternality of the universe in the past.

KEVIN HARRIS: This Mormon writes[1],

One summer night, during my time as a Mormon missionary, my companion and I walked by an open apartment window where we overheard a group of male college students were making fun of — you guessed it — Mormons. We stopped and listened for a while, and then, like any good missionaries, we knocked on the door.

The students were wide-eyed and speechless when they answered. They invited us in, trying to stifle laughs, and said that they had recently watched an episode of South Park that was all about Mormons. They asked us how much of the episode was true — specifically, they were wondering whether Joseph Smith really looked into a hat to translate the Book of Mormon.

This was the first time I had ever heard of such a thing. I told them that it wasn’t true, and that you couldn’t believe everything you saw on a cartoon like South Park. Instead, I explained, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from a set of gold plates under the direction of God.

The students listened politely and denied our request to engage in further discussions. We left feeling good, thinking that we had helped set the record straight in some small way.

It turns out, however, that we had not set the record straight at all; we had simply repeated what we were taught in Sunday School. I later learned from official Church sources that, in fact, Joseph Smith did use a hat to translate the Book of Mormon. It is pretty embarrassing to realize that I had first learned this fact of Mormonism from a bunch of college students who had watched a cartoon on Comedy Central.

He goes on to chronicle experiences like this and tries to come up with some solutions. But let me read you this.[2] This other Mormon young man, he went on a missionary journey, he went to BYU-Idaho, a devout Mormon, and he said while he was at BYU-Idaho he discovered the essays published by the LDS Church at, and that Joseph Smith had translated the Book of Mormon by looking at a stone in a hat. I thought this has got to be false. I need to pull up some primary sources so I can show that this is wrong, he says.

Once I started searching I came across [more essays on]. It talked openly about the translation process of the Book of Mormon. It shocked me. My issue with it was that the narrative it laid out was completely different from the one I’d grown up learning about. . . . However, the more I searched the more confused I became.

. . . In fact he preferred to use a “seer stone” [according to church doctrines] he found as a boy while digging a well [they still have the rock, Bill] . . . A rock that was one of multiple that he found and used to discover buried treasure for others for a fee.

Now, this rocked his world. I could continue here. He left the Mormon faith. It's interesting in these descriptions here – he just left, but this first guy that we talked about here, he still wants to hang on to what he considers the good things of Mormonism: the family, the values, the community. One can hardly blame him for that.

DR. CRAIG: Right. The socialization that takes place within the LDS Church must be extremely powerful for those who are raised in it. It would be hard to extricate yourself from it even though Mormonism is perhaps the most bizarre sect that has ever arisen on American soil. It really is strange if you look into its beliefs as these fellows indicated. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

KEVIN HARRIS: He[3] goes on to tell various stories that people have but I think we can get to his final three points. He offers three alternatives that Mormons can utilize whenever they have their faith rocked like he did. “1. We can ignore anything that makes us uncomfortable.” He says,

This option is unsustainable in the internet age, where evidence about Mormon history is easier than ever to find. The ease of access is not going away, and those who ignore history will discover that not all their family members and friends will get in line — especially since, again, many uncomfortable facts are now easily accessible on websites such as

Which is the official church website.

DR. CRAIG: What's remarkable here is that they're not reading material that's critical of the Mormon religion, but they're reading the LDS’ own sources of its history and doctrine.


2. We can look at the evidence and feel smug about what we’ve found.

Some of us have felt judgmental and mean-spirited toward those who don’t know certain facts about Mormon history — facts we ourselves may have only recently discovered.

But feeling smug and withdrawing into our knowledge only widens the divide between friends and family. In a world with endless knowledge, there is simply no room to feel smug about anything. There is only room to feel humility about all the things we have yet to learn, especially about each other.

DR. CRAIG: I wasn't sure what he meant by this alternative, but my interpretation is that he's speaking of a person who comes to learn certain troubling facts about Mormon doctrine and history and so feels an attitude of condescension toward other faithful Mormons who don't know these troubling facts. Is that the way you read it?

KEVIN HARRIS: Yes, it is. And that we don't need to be divisive.

DR. CRAIG: Right. It's not clear the extent to which he thinks this person now feeling smug about his greater knowledge of the problems in Mormonism leaves the Mormon faith or not, or does he stay in the Mormon faith but just with an attitude of condescension toward these other ignorant people who continue to believe these things. But, as you say, his concern (and this is so typically Mormon) is that we don't want to cause division between family and friends over what we've come to learn.

KEVIN HARRIS: His third option: “We can look at the evidence and commit to a balanced pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness.”

DR. CRAIG: This is obviously his preferred response.


Richard Bushman, a Mormon patriarch and historian, stated the situation bluntly when he said, “I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true. It can’t be sustained. The Church has to absorb all this new information, or it will be on very shaky grounds. That’s what it is trying to do and it will be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially. But I think it has to change.”

DR. CRAIG: That is just such a remarkable statement from this Mormon elder. That he would say the dominant narrative is just not true – it's unsustainable and we've got to change. This was the same feeling that impelled the publication of the book you mentioned, The New Mormon Challenge. There is within Mormonism today – one movement, at least – toward orthodox Christianity. Quite a number of Mormon theologians feel very attracted to the concept of a transcendent God who is a spiritual being beyond the universe, not some sort of humanoid deity living on a planet in the universe but a transcendent creator and designer of the universe such as is worshiped in orthodox Judaism and Christianity. There's a real hope that the Mormon Church might morph into another Christian denomination that would come to actually embrace orthodox Christian doctrine and repudiate the errors of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. That would be greatly to be hoped.

KEVIN HARRIS: Wouldn’t that be great? I've heard that, too, and I've heard that there is a growing consensus of people who think that that might happen.

DR. CRAIG: From what I've been told, C. S. Lewis is tremendously beloved among Mormon theologians and intellectuals, and they really resonate with Lewis and so find his Christianity extremely attractive. It would be wonderful if that would be the direction that they would take in response to Bushman's advice here.

KEVIN HARRIS: He ends this essay – again, I'm trying to interpret what he thinks – he said, in a nutshell, truth could make us miserable at first. You discover all these things that you thought were true that are not, but you can somehow medicate that or assuage that by truth, beauty, and goodness. I'm not totally sure that we can do that. If something so rocks your worldview and the church that you grew up in, it's kind of hard to soothe that with just embracing truth, beauty, . . .

DR. CRAIG: I think what you're trying to say is that you fear that his final solution will be you recognize the falsity of the Mormon doctrine in history (that, in fact, this is not true, you pursued truth), but then out of a desire to cultivate goodness and beauty you continue to be a practicing Mormon anyway and to love your family and your friends and go through the motions. If that's the solution, I tend to agree with you. That's just hypocrisy if you don't really believe it. It seems to me that Bushman is right here – that Mormonism has got to change or you should cease to be a Mormon.

KEVIN HARRIS: As we wrap up today, we're talking about how some Mormons who have had a crisis of faith are embracing what they call Mormon Transhumanism, but I want you to hear this from a young lady and why she left the Mormon Church but she's still embracing Mormon Transhumanism.[4] She went on a missionary trip to Switzerland for the Mormons. When she got back, she said,

The crisis came during her senior year of college when she felt the spirit pushing her to marry someone she sensed was a bad fit. He was abusive, and she knew that if she married him, it wouldn’t end well. “I had to make a decision between what I knew was best for me and what I thought God expected of me,” she said. [She thought that God wanted her to marry this abusive guy who was not a good fit.] The disconnect pained her, but she told God no.

“I remember praying, telling God, ‘It’s my eternity, not yours,’” she said. The decision drove a wedge between her and God — and between her and other Mormons, who she felt didn’t understand her doubts. So she quietly wrestled with God alone for years.

Bill, where was she getting this notion?

DR. CRAIG: I wondered that, too. Where in the world did she sense that the Spirit of God was telling her to marry this abusive man? That is very strange.

KEVIN HARRIS: Something about her Mormonism caused her to do this.

DR. CRAIG: Mormons are famous for the subjective feelings of the burning in the bosom that God inspires and following those subjective leadings. She apparently had some sort of a subjective leading to marry this man whom she knew would not be a good husband.

KEVIN HARRIS: By the way, she met a guy who was a perfect match for her! She says that she now has joined a Mormon Transhumanism group. Here it is in a nutshell:

Scratch the surface, and you’ll find that Mormon transhumanists believe the coming leaps in science and technology will help us realize the Mormon promise of achieving perfect, immortal bodies and becoming Gods.

They are going to do it with prosthetics and technology to live forever because they can't do it with Mormonism because it's false! But they want to stay in the community and the values. It has grown to nearly 1,000 members, the Mormon Transhumanist Association or MTA. Mainly, what they get together and talk about it sounds like science fiction.

DR. CRAIG: Yes. Well, thank God that this is a tiny minority. It is almost like a cult within a cult, isn't it? Mormonism is itself a bizarre sect, and now you have something even more bizarre growing out of Mormonism, namely this Mormon Transhumanism, which is really directly in line with Mormon beliefs about human deification and that we will become gods that will be sovereign over other planets under our rulership. So the Mormon belief that “as we now are, God once was; and as God now is, we shall become” is affirmed by this Mormon Transhumanism. I can only hope that the kind of reform that I think Bushman was calling for (whom we quoted a moment ago) will be the sort of reform that will take place within the LDS church and that it will move more toward orthodox Christian faith than toward this sci-fi alternative Mormon Transhumanism.[5]