“The Tendency to Faith,” Ensign, Apr. 1974, 21
Geneticists believe that the variations produced by chromosomal division and recombination is a matter of chance. However, they speculate about the possibility, sometime in the future, of controlling the genetic makeup of the individual, in the hope of preventing inherited diseases. But can the genetic code, with its unlimited variability, be intelligently programmed by understanding an application of divine law so that chance is not the determining factor? And is it possible that variation is being intelligently controlled to relate to our premortal development so that the physical body would develop not only to look like the spirit but to have the physical and character attributes that correspond to an eternal personality?
Such attributes as faith, obedience, discernment, and being heirs to the priesthood could thereby have their proper physical and spiritual setting.
President Stephen L Richards commented on this subject:
“It seems to me … that there runs in some blood strains a higher susceptibility to the refining and saving influence of testimony than in other strains. I don’t know that I understand it, but I have thought that the significance of the ‘blood of Israel’ is that there is in that great blood strain, following the blessings and promises of God, a susceptibility to the influence of the Holy Spirit that does not run in other strains. Science has made some rather remarkable discoveries upon the inherited traits and qualities that go with blood strains. … I believe that it [testimony] is inheritable, and the tendency to faith may descend from father to son. It seems to me that Paul had that in mind when writing to Timothy. He said in substance: ‘I do perceive in thee the faith that was in thy grandmother Lois’ [See 2 Tim. 1:5], thus recognizing that this tendency to faith, this susceptibility to testimony, courses along in the very blood strains of the race.” (Conference Report, October 1925, pp. 118–19.)
My wife’s patriarchal blessing includes these words that indicate the close relationship between the living and their forebears—“… but what you are and what you may become is not entirely of your own doing, but the righteous men and women who make up your ancestral line. …”
The quotations cited indicate, therefore, the close relationship between premortality and our mortal spiritual and physical characteristics. We have developed eternal attributes, and our physical body, through genes, as carriers of heredity, serves to complement the characteristics and attributes of the spirit. Those of us who have been honored with the priesthood (D&C 86) are direct legal heirs through the lineage of our fathers. It must be stressed that as legal heirs we must be worthy and receive that priesthood in mortality by the laying on of hands by those possessing that sacred authority. The Lord declares that our life and the priesthood have remained, and must remain, through our lineage until the restoration of all things spoken of by the mouths of the holy prophets since the world began. We thus inherit the right to the priesthood and in turn have the privilege of passing that right on to our children.
Dr. James O. Mason
commissioner of Church Health Services
(address to eighth annual genealogical research seminar, BYU, Aug. 2, 1973)