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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Is Physical Perfection None of Our Business? » Is Physical Perfection None of Our Business?

Is Physical Perfection None of Our Business?

David - May 21, 2010

There’s a lot of talk this morning about scientists’ creation of artificial cells, synthetic life, man-made DNA. The hyperbole is being swapped like spit in a dark classroom during a stake dance. This is no surprise to me: I was around when the Bay City Rollers were supposed to be the next Beatles.

While some of the fanciful predictions are pleasant enough (eliminating pollution, the creation of biofuels) what concerns me is how some are saying this breakthrough is a blueprint for making organisms that will ensure physically and mentally perfect offspring. No more congenital diseases, no more mental disabilities, no more physical deformities. Now, as wicked cool as that sounds, are there accompanying spiritual repercussions?

For example, let’s take the mentally handicapped. According to Elder McConkie:

What about the mentally deficient?

It is with them as it is with little children. They never arrive at the years of accountability and are considered as though they were little children. If because of some physical deficiency, or for some other reason unknown to us, they never mature in the spiritual and moral sense, then they never become accountable for sins. They need no baptism; they are alive in Christ; and they will receive, inherit, and possess in eternity on the same basis as do all children.

After revealing that little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through the atoning sacrifice of Him who died to save us all, and after specifying that Satan has no power to tempt little children until they begin to become accountable, the Lord applied the same principles to those who are mentally deficient: ‘And, again, I say unto you, that whoso having knowledge, have I not commanded to repent? And he that hath no understanding, it remaineth me to do according as it is written.’ “(D&C 29:49-50) LDS.org – Liahona article – Salvation of Little Children

Does this mean that what would have been an otherwise mentally handicapped child is now fully developed and accountable? Who knows what the Lord’s intention was for the child to be handicapped? And what faith-promoting challenges have been removed from the child’s family and the others whose life it would have touched?

Obviously science is made known to us so we may progess; to heal, to create more productive, healthier lives and maybe even better qualities of life. But, could the artificial creation of physical perfection detrimentally affect our spiritual paths?


  1. The idea that God would puposely endow someone with any sort of imperfection is disgusting. We must worship very different gods.

    Comment by PaulM — May 21, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  2. Paul, if you believe God is all powerful, and the creator of everything, you surely believe that He could stop a child from being born handicapped if He wanted. In the eternal perspective, handicaps and imperfections might not turn out to be the disadvantages we thought they were.

    Comment by LoganM — May 21, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

  3. Perhaps we are worshiping different gods, PaulM. One of my legs is slightly longer than the other and I have a congenitally high cholesterol count. Who doesn’t have some form of physical imperfection? I’m not trying to say the Lord CREATES the imperfections, but He does permit them, to challenge us and help us grow.

    Look at it another way: The mentally handicapped person, according to McConkie, would inherit the same reward as the sinless child; they would be “alive in Christ.” But now with their DNA being altered, they will suffer the same temptations and stumblings as the rest of us, and the odds of them attaining the same level of eternal reward as they had before would greatly drop.

    And while you’re at it, remind yourself that this life is a mere blip in our entire existence. The handicap, whatever it is, is only with us for the endurance of our mortal life. It’s part of the obstacle course. It is ours to help us, not punish or make an example of us. Not to be glib, but if I had the “golden ticket” to attain a higher glory in eternity, but it was thwarted by mortal, artificial means, I don’t think I’d be so joyful.

    Finally, understand that I am only asking the question, just considering potential consequences. Not trying to disgust anyone here…

    Comment by David T. — May 21, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

  4. PaulM, you bring up an interesting set of questions. How much control does God have – if God would purposely cause someone to be born with an imperfection.

    First, what’s an imperfection? Maybe God defines it differently. Maybe physical imperfections have little or nothing to do with the spiritual outcome of that person. Maybe a physical imperfection will actually be an eternal blessing to that person and others. Maybe a physical imperfection protects that person from some of the aspects of this mortal probation.

    We may find it difficult to deal with these imperfections during mortality, but in the eternal sense it’s might be a totally different story.

    Then again maybe Adam & Eve were perfect and all the physical body imperfections since then have been the consequences of man’s sins, the environment, and man’s other problems. (And then I would guess God just has to put up with it the best He can.)

    Comment by Don — May 21, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

  5. I think the press have blown this advancement out of all proportion. It seems that any advancement in technology and the media are crying that god is dead.

    I believe that Elder Oaks spoke about how all advancements are approvred/inspired by the Lord. Can anyone verify that quote?


    Comment by David of Mission-Wear — May 21, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

  6. Exaltation is becoming like out Heavenly Father. Being cleansed of our sins is but one step on that path. But I interpret “the glory of God is intelligence” quite literally, and obtaining the requisite intelligence does not come automatically when we are forgiven of our sins. So while letting the mentally handicapped skip the whole “sinning and repenting” thing might seem like a good thing, it also implies skipping the “gaining intelligence” thing as well, which is distinctly not a good thing.

    I look forward to the resurrection when my son with Down Syndrome will begin to make up some lost time in the intelligence gaining business. It is somewhat comforting to know that he will not have to waste any time in spirit prison suffering for his own sins, but that comes with a price. He will be behind. If I could have prevented it, I would no more have asked him to pay that price just so I could have some spiritual experiences than I would ask him to forgo medical treatment so I could heal him through the Priesthood.

    I’m skeptical that this new process will eliminate Down Syndrome and similar conditions, but eventually, we will figure it out. That is a good thing, and I’m sure we will find our spiritual experiences elsewhere.

    Comment by Last Lemming — May 21, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  7. Amen, Last Lemming.

    I find that the more close to the Spirit I am living, the more I see the hand of God in all things, maybe especially the scientific advancements that so many see as “replacing” God or frustrating his purposes. When people say things like that it just makes me think of the Tower of Babel. I’m sure those guys thought they had the latest amazing scientific discovery too. We’re just all ants building a silly tower.

    Comment by MCQ — May 21, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

  8. Following your basic logic that God is creating specific handicaps (at least by allowing them to happen), then if those handicaps are reversed by gene therapy, that would also be his handiwork.

    You might as well say that we’re messing with the will of God by performing CPR.

    Comment by Owen — May 21, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

  9. I can’t say how much participation Heavenly Father has in our imperfections and handicaps, I truly can’t. Personally, I don’t believe He creates them, but I do believe He allows the natural anomalies that come with mortality. I also agree with what Logan said: “In the eternal perspective, handicaps and imperfections might not turn out to be the disadvantages we thought they were.” We naturally tend to think with mortal perspectives, and that casts shadows on the way we see our challenges.

    I’ll say it one more time: I was just posing a question. I thought it, so I asked it. But I certainly don’t agree that synthetic genetic engineering or man-made DNA– the custom-designing of life– compares to performing CPR.

    Comment by David T. — May 21, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

  10. I would be happy to answer your questions based on my experience as a parent of several children, none of whom are perfect, plus my own life.
    God lets us have physical trials. We take medicine to manage or cure our diseases. My husband took chemo to cure his cancer. We didn’t feel we were circumventing his will by avoiding his death. I didn’t ever feel like God preferred I became a widow to give me spiritual challenges.
    In fact, even though I didn’t become a widow, I have had plenty of other challenges!!! So I have spiritually grown in other ways instead.
    I have had many other challenges related to my children. Sometimes I have wondered why God “let” something happen to my child. The great thing is when you see that he consecrates all challenges for our good. However, when a challenge is avoided life isn’t some sort of walk in the park. There are always ways to live and grow.
    Whether we are given one talent or ten, he expects us to work with what we have.
    If we have a mental challenge, we should do the best with what we have. If we have an abundance of intellect, we should do the best with what we have. We will all have opportunities for growth.

    Comment by jks — May 21, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

  11. Just because God ‘can’ doesn’t mean He does. I don’t believe He does either. I believe there was a plan to get mortal bodies, to have families, and to live, learn, and grow. Not that God would purposefully be throwing curve balls at us to ‘test’ us with. I think mortality and agency are doing quite a good enough job ‘testing us’ as it is. Pres Kimball said that people are not ‘given’ diseases by God. Its just a part of having a mortal body that is susceptible to genetics and biology.

    I don’t believe that healing people of their infirmities is going against God’s plan. Its absolutely ridiculous to think so. If that’s the case, Mormons would be counseled to not go to doctors, take medicine, or have medical procedures of any kind done. Which obviously, we aren’t. Next time you get a broken leg we’ll just let you deal with it instead of setting it. Obviously God meant for you to experience life lame. If we fixed your leg, you’d be missing out on all sorts of wonderful lessons!

    This is all spurned by the rumor that used to be passed around in the 80s that people born with Downs Syndrome were “God’s most valiant” so they didn’t need to be tested, and were just here to test us. (which is a whole other conversation, but doesn’t make one bit of sense with our theology.)

    Comment by Olive — May 23, 2010 @ 4:07 am

  12. I tend to worry that creating “perfection” scientifically will just unleash all kinds of new imperfections we didn’t foresee. You know, like in the zombie movies.

    Comment by Susan M — May 24, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

  13. Zombies…


    Comment by David T. — May 24, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

  14. That’s exactly what will happen, and the prophets have been predicting it for a while. Why do you think we are being asked to store food? It’s not to survive floods and earthquakes, those disasters will take out our storage as well. It’s because in the apocalypse, zombies will be roaming the shopping malls and supermarkets! You see it in every zombie movie from Dawn of the Dead to Zombieland. Shopping areas are not safe in the zombie apocalypse! Get your food storage up to snuff or have your brain eaten by the zombies! That’s what they should be saying in general conference. Then people might start paying attention.

    Comment by MCQ — May 24, 2010 @ 4:54 pm

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