Is there more than one way to be a Mormon? What qualifies as “authentic Mormonism”? Has it always been this way? Is it possible to reconcile religious belief with a natural, scientific view of the universe?

Many people see secular and religious views as incompatible. They seem to believe it necessary to suspend disbelief and accept superstition in order to be religious, or that religion is an obstacle to productive engagement with the world. Even many of us who still profess some level of religiosity will admit that religion sometimes makes productive engagement more difficult and is sometimes less effective than it could be. For those who believe in prophecies of the eventual redemption of humanity, is it possible to work toward a vision of the future that is understood only vaguely, if at all? What is the effect of faith that is not active? Might active faith in Mormon (and other religious) visions of the future be essential to realizing them?

Today we’ll be talking with Carl Youngblood about his life as a Mormon and a transhumanist, what that word even means, and how his struggle to apply his faith meaningfully in our rapidly changing world has led him to co-found the Mormon Transhumanist Association, where he currently serves as a member of the board of Directors. Carl looks forward to sharing his ideas and answering your questions about his life and faith.

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  1. Bill Ramsey October 5, 2020 at 6:49 am - Reply

    What the heck is progressive? Give me a little credit for being alive give anyone a bit of credit for using their own God given talent I e brain the l d s faith has always had its challenges. And it’s survived because of its core hold on conservatism. Liberalism or far left progressive thought is great in theory but when harnessed it brings on society’s like Portland and California in general. Borrowing against the future to satisfy the excess and debotchery of the here and now . It is glaring that at the church’s founding and way into the 1960s it was flat broke or way in debt . Is it possible that the church is going spiritually bankrupt? Are we burrowing against the past ? As we travel into a future where the church spends 10-40 million on temples built of stone and clay while our human bodies who Christ clearly stated are the temples of his Holy Spirit are ravaged by the air we breathe and the food we eat and the drugs we depend upon . Mainly the anti depressive type when it comes to Mormons . We strive for truth , we become the truth we espouse . Our collective experiences really are the strength of our religion . And we who believe we are eternal beings have given up common consent for commands and dictates from a corporation of the president. I feel strongly that when we write a check to that corporate entity we are choosing mammon over mana . Brigham clearly stated that the church would grow and become the force that it is in the most unwanted place on the North American continent rather than traveling over the Sierra mountains to the Napa valley he did not trust the members then just as the q 15 don’t trust the general body of the church today . Trust requires faith in leadership it requires results . Free speech is paramount in this progression . Pure conservatism is allowing the next generation to enjoy the freedoms that dialogue between differing opinions and differing views gets us to come together. Unity through freedom of expression was very much a topic in the school of the prophets. And if the church is to survive, it must come to grips with its past and put money and time not into buildings but into its members . Joseph did not teach us how to live life more abundantly. Neither did Brigham they both were caught up in in a one crop farm and that kind of farming will eventually lead to a dust bowl . I think that the prophecy s of wilford woodruff are more descriptive of the spiritual famine we are in today . Thanks to both of you . John I must take my hat off to you . I can feel your pain . I think that community and acceptance are paramount to ones well being. You have risked your well being for both . I believe you will be rewarded for your delivering of the rope to the tug of war that has become modern Mormonism . Keep it up . I am just a betting man who bets on the favorite and roots for the underdog out of sheer discust for the attitude of the current champion . In other words I’m trying my best to stay in the church. This interview gives me hope

  2. J October 5, 2020 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    This was so beautiful! John you are amazing! Thank you for not letting Carl off the hook. I think Carl had a couple good points. However, ultimately, Carl’s appears to be a tortured soul believing and saying anything necessary to make the pain (cognitive dissonance) stop.
    It’s also an interesting coincidence that Caril is trying to fit Mormonism into his hobbies/career. I have a feeling if he had a talent for “xyz” he’d be talking about how Mormonism is a lot like that instead.
    Carl sounds intelligent. I can’t wait to hear his thoughtful take on things when he finally deals with the actual difficulties, and not his imagined difficulties.
    Carl, face the issues head on. You can do it!

    • Carl Youngblood November 17, 2020 at 10:25 am - Reply

      J, I’ve been trying to face the issues all my life. Reach out to me any time and I’d be happy to chat more. I’m pretty findable online.

  3. CK October 6, 2020 at 1:59 am - Reply

    You encourage challenging responses. Here is one. You mention that the beings may appreciate imitation of values over worship. What if those values are not the virtuous ones. What if they value achievement and aggression. We do this when breeding animals and even recruiting humans for sports. Then the way of the competitive and non compassionate world is the approved and encouraged .Would love to discuss it more. The dialogue is liberating.

    • Carl Youngblood November 17, 2020 at 10:28 am - Reply

      CK, I agree that we are under no obligation to admire a community with the type of values you describe. That said, I think it is reasonable to expect more advanced civilizations to be more benevolent than ours of necessity. Like Carl Sagan, I believe that as technology advances, a civilization becomes more and more capable of destroying itself, and that only the most benevolent can survive this.

  4. cl_rand October 11, 2020 at 10:40 am - Reply

    I’m about 3 hours in and what I’ve heard from Carl so far might be summarized as follows. ‘If we take a bunch of different elements from Mormonism, put them in a bag and shake it up, add a few new elements, throw out some old elements, turn our heads slightly sideways and squint we can imagine an entirely different Mormonism was what the “prophets” were leading us to all along.’ I view that as just another Mormon merry-go-round or intellectual tail chasing. Here’s hoping the last two hours are a bit less trite?

  5. cl_rand October 12, 2020 at 8:57 am - Reply

    I can’t say that the last two hours totally redeem the first three but, for me, they were much more interesting. I agree with something John said. If attending Sunday school meant I got to Interact with intellects like Carl perhaps I’d still be a member. Unfortunately, as many have stated before, today’s church is like an endless primary class, not very stimulating or inspiring.

    I left the church long before Hinckley was interviewed by Larry King but it mystified me that he denied what I had always taken as a core teaching of Mormon theology, i.e., as man is God once was . . . etc.. That concept of eternal progression is one of the truly unique things Mormonism could lay claim to if the leaders were slightly more, shall we say, visionary. I wish Carl’s vision of what Mormonism might be could be actualized someday, but, I don’t see how that happens under the current structure for selecting leadership and I don’t see that structure being dismantled anytime during what’s left of my time in this realm. At any rate, thanks for the last two hours John and Carl and please accept my apology for the trite summary I turned in concerning the first three.

  6. Jay Montgomery October 17, 2020 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    What if there was no relevance of teaching or statements of Church leaders but, rather, that “voice” speaking “low out of the dust” was in control of factors which the Brethren have made no notice of?

    I have observed a strange mathematical anomaly which has enveloped the Twelve using them to share a message having all the elements of an “unseen hand.”

  7. BJ October 19, 2020 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    The dialogue at the 2 hour mark was great. “Redefining Mormonism” is a frustrating idea. I agree that redefining one’s beliefs does challenge and reform the basic narrative. John’s claim that Carl is creating a “new thing” is correct from the perspective that it is different that 90% of Mormons think. However, the larger point is that Carl’s journey and approach IS Mormonism to him as he learned it, heard it and developed it.

    The insistence on defining “Mormonism” as the 90% is annoying, whether true or not, because I also continue to insist that Mormonism is supposed to be truth as a bigger picture movement rooted in seeking. If it became smaller and dumber over time, that was predictable and regrettable. But also doesn’t change what seem to be the good roots. The perspective Carolyn Pearson gives with “Pioneers” is compelling to me. Carl seems to be taking the good from the bad and that should be fine without redefining him as unorthodox compared to the 90%. He already knows that.

    Ignoring the 90% insistence on orthodoxy may be the best path for many and the Church proper in the long run. If the Church changes on some of these issues, will IT also no longer reflect “Mormonism”? For people that stay, shrinking the 90% or waiting for it doesn’t make them closet non-Mormons. We just disagree on the broader definition.

    John, I think you are on to the biggest next question with this idea. Hope to hear more. I think Carl’s point at 3:10 would be a great discussion, i.e. how could the Church realistically transition given the current 90% and leadership? Carl makes a great point that just standing up and acknowledging a bunch of stuff they may not even know or have figured out simply won’t happen. The “truce” around 3;16-3:17 is interesting – allowing both the hurtful fraud and valuable flawed to coexist. I like the concept – but wow. How to get there.

    • John Dehlin October 19, 2020 at 12:59 pm - Reply

      What a great comment/analysis, BJ. Thank you! Let’s grab lunch someday soon! I’m in Holladay, UT.

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