Braintree Founder Opposes Latter-day Saint Mormonism — in Arena of Faithful Latter-day Saint Mormonism
At 24 years old, Bryan Johnson was chronically depressed. “I wanted my soul to be extinguished,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want an afterlife; I didn’t want this life.” He got emotional speaking of Lincoln Cannon, his next-door neighbor who helped him out of such a tremendous low. He then said that Mormons feel “safe” because they believe that if they “obey God’s commandments … you can create these worlds.”
“It’s a good deal for you,” Johnson said.
Then Johnson, the founder of Braintree, which was acquired by PayPal, told the audience April 7 at the 2018 Mormon Transhumanist Association conference, where he was a special guest speaker, that he did not want to “attack” the beliefs of the majority there.
Yet, he wanted to explain how he got out of a Mormon worldview, on which he also commented.
After giving the keynote addresses, Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye and Elizabeth Parrish were placed opposite each other in a Q&A, moderated by Cannon, the founder of the MTA. They engaged in the debate.
Talking to a 24-year-old version of himself, Johnson, who also founded Kernel and OS Fund and whose Braintree purchased Venmo, said “you have a lot of doubts about the Mormon church — you don’t think it’s true.”
“But you don’t dare tell anybody,” Johnson said. “It’s going to effect your family’s relationships, so you keep it a secret. And I want you to know that as you grow older, you are not in the minority; you are in the majority … you will find that most people have deep reservations.”
“Also,” Johnson added, “the worst thing in the world that could happen … is someone demonstrates to you that the Mormon church is not true,” Johnson continues to tell his younger self. “Because if the Mormon church is not true, what is there? It’s terrifying.”
The 24-year-old will see an “army of ninjas” in challenges to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, Johnson said.
But those warriors make all the difference, Johnson then remarked.
“You realize that these ninjas area really, really important,” he said, “and they help you understand the world.”
Johnson then shifted to criticism of Mormons, saying that their reaction to nuclear annihilation and a Zombie apocalypse was “meh.”
Mormons view life as a “single-player sport.”
“While you play a single-person sport, I am playing a multi-billion dollar sport,” Johnson said. “I have to play with a few billion people on earth.”
“What do I worry about? Everything,” he added, then listing a number of his concerns.
Johnson went on to say that improvement of the brain should be the number one priority for humanity.
“Amen, brother!” shouted a member of the audience, where they, Johnson and 13 other speakers delineated in a Provo, Utah hotel.
Johnson also added as he continued that “we move as fast as we change our beliefs.”
“Oftentimes, we can’t even talk about different types of belief systems,” Johnson said, then remarking that people regard it as “too scary.”
“The human race has missed the boat on ambition,” Johnson added. “When I was a Mormon, (answers) would be handed to me. … It’s actually … our responsibility to expand (our beliefs).”
“I love you deeply, Bryan,” Johnson said to his younger self to close his speech.
Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye & Elizabeth Parrish
Inouye, a Chinese history professor in New Zealand, has authored the book “China and the True Jesus”, to be published by Oxford University Press. Parrish, as the CEO of BioViva, said she got biologically younger after gene therapies.
Chris Bradford, the MTA board president, asked them “Where do you kind of draw the line on what we would say is healthy generally? At least as a transhumanist, (we’d) go beyond normal health.”
“What are we looking for in a human?” Parrish replied. “You are biologically aging from the point of conception to the point of death. … We are going to become better and better at predicting what is going to happen down the road.”
“In Mormon scripture, we have the image of God weeping, so being a God in Mormonism is not always hunky-dory; and in Mormonism, God is embodied,” Cannon said. “Is God experiencing embodiment for the same purpose that you feel you might be?”
“Latter-day Saints believe that God’s power … can overcome challenges. And life is not a competition; things happen to you,” Inouye said. “You think about God as kind of all-powerful and (in) capability, kind of impervious to problems … One thing I’ve noted is that the vulnerability is very, very powerful. It changes the way you talk to people; it changes the way you think about life.”
“I 100 percent agree,” Parrish said. “I do not think we are on the path to become gods and goddesses; we are at best to upgrading the human … it should be a process that we take quite seriously and I do not think there is room for egos here. … I experience (humility) on a daily basis, very strongly and sometimes not. I try to take it as an important part of my life.”
“Melissa, what is God?” Cannon asked to laughs.
Parrish then said that she meditates.
“For me, meditation is moving through fear and coming through to the other side,” she said. “When my son was diagnosed, through meditation, I just sat and watched my son die over and over.”
“We just believe that God creates people and planets and bodies and things like that,” Inouye said while looking at Parrish. “I was this Mormon missionary in Taiwan … When I was about to leave, I looked across the whole congregation and I knew everyone. Like, I knew them all, and loved them all … it was like a superpower … I know that feeling was this capacity to be God. … Love is a huge form of work.”
Inouye and Parrish connected how women are often seen doing, with rapid chatter while leaning over in their seats, looking directly at each other, after applause for their panel.
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