While observing my children I have often wondered which traits they inherited from myself and their mother and what they may have developed on their own before they were born.
We Mormons believe in a pre-existence where everyone lived before we came here to Earth. We bring with us much of our personality that we formed over the eons before this mortal life. Therefore each child is his or her own unique personality independent of what our parents might have given us genetically. Knowing this, there have been many times my wife and I will look at the odd behavior of one of our offspring and start accusing each other.
“He didn’t get that from my side of the family,” I’ll say. To which she’ll respond, “Well he certainly didn’t get it from mine. I don’t come from a bunch of backwards, in-bred hillbillies like you, ya know.”
Because some traits are inherited and others are not, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to separate the two. Certainly the same family units didn’t exist in the pre-mortal world (unless our families up there were just as messed up as the ones down here) so I imagine some decisions had to be made as reports came back from Earth.
Imagine a scene in a great pre-mortal waiting room. An angel in horn-rimmed glasses behind a desk suddenly announces with shock in her voice, “You guys will never guess who just got hooked up down on Earth!”
“Those two?” everyone responds. “Wow! You really do get ignorant when you’re born!”
“Well, somebody’s got to go down there now. She’s pregnant,” says the angel behind the desk.
After a long pause… “I’m not sure about the yahoo she married, but she’s OK,” says one noble spirit child way in the back. “I guess I can endure it with some guarantees: One, I get my looks and intelligence from my mother, and, two, I get a free pass to the Celestial Kingdom no matter how bad that man screws me up.”
“Done. But just so you know, there’s been some in-breeding in the father’s line so you’re probably gonna get flat feet with maybe 11 toes and an ornery disposition,” says the angel in charge. “And he hasn’t been accused of being exceptionally stalwart in following orders.”
“Yeah, wasn’t he supposed to be born in a cave somewhere in Papua New Guinea about three centuries ago?” says another angel.
“Yeah, but the bugger jumped the line. So we relegated him to spending most of his mortal life in Tooele.”
“Toooo-ill-ah? Never heard of it.”
“It’s some little town with nuclear waste and really bad chemicals out in western Utah in the middle of a desert but still gets lake-effect snow; where every restaurant eventually dies and is resurrected as a Mexican one; and where the natives always say ‘I says to him’ instead of ‘I said to him.’”
“Ooh, that can get annoying.”
“Well, it could have been worse. We thought of sending him to Grantsville.”
“Well, as long as he’s punished.”
So, my question to you, dear reader, is how much of our warped personality, poor decision-making, and other miserable traits are we responsible for and how much can we lay at the flat feet of our parents and run off gleefully shouting, “It’s not my fault! My father was supposed to have been born in the Middle Ages!”?
Apparently, just like our physical appearance resembles are parents, so too our personality traits are affected by them. These certainly have an influence on our spiritual development here. However, a person can be good or bad regardless of whether she has green eyes or brown. Likewise, a predisposition to bad grammar, in the long run (unfortunately) does not have any influence on whether we make it back to heaven or not.
So, if my children start exhibiting traits that I don’t have, like intelligence, I don’t have to necessarily attribute them to my wife (she couldn’t be terribly more intelligent if she willingly married me, right?). I can chalk them up to their pre-mortal spirits being abducted from a heavenly back alley somewhere instead.
“Nooooo…! I’m supposed to go to a rich family in the Hamptons!” they screamed.
“Says here you’re supposed to go to the Hamiltons in some arid town in Utah,” says the street thug angel. “Off you go!”
This would well explain the sour looks I get from my daughter on occasion. I think she has an unconscious premonition she should be in a boutique on Rodéo Drive in Beverly Hills instead of arguing with a buffoon of a father over $3 pajamas in a Wal-Mart on the very edge of nowhere.
John Hamilton, creative director for Transcript-Bulletin Publishing, is venturing into the world of punditry and riches beyond imagining.