My wife recently asked me to scan in some old photos of our family. As I looked over them, it made me once again realize how fleeting childhood is. My kids are currently all over the childhood age spectrum. They are all adorable to me just as they are right now, but viewing these photos and seeing how very young they were and how cute and cuddly they used to be in their earlier childhood stages, caused me to feel an acute nostalgia. I longed for another chance at holding each one of them again in my arms, as babes and infants, or playing with them as toddlers, or watching them develop again as boys and girls. It pained me that I wasn’t able to do that and also that my memory of those years wasn’t absolutely perfect, so as to re-live those precious experiences merely by accessing my memory.
My own childhood was very happy, but again, my memory of it is only of instances, not of continuous days, hours and minutes. I cannot relive it by memory. The most I can do is enjoy the childhood my kids are currently going through and to take advantage and cherish every moment I can.
Although my childhood was what I consider a happy one, it wasn’t perfectly so, of course. None of us live perfectly happy lives, in perfect conditions. And very many of us go through childhoods that are very far from happy, miserable even. This is quite the shame, as childhood is so different than adulthood. Childhood comes once and then is gone forever, whereas adulthood comes and stays with you throughout the eternities.
To have experienced a rotten childhood is such a bummer. A child is the most alive creature on the planet and deserves to be around adults who are also alive and vibrant. Often, though, life turns adults sour and adults take out that sourness on everyone around them, including the children. This is unfortunate because once the sparkle of childhood, which can be seen in each child’s eyes and in their smile, is gone, it is gone forever.
At least, that is the conventional view. My understanding is a bit different.
Memory of Mortality
When I was eighteen years old, I was once praying to God about something and in the midst of the prayer the Holy Ghost responded. I cannot recall what I was praying about, but I do recall the communication. It made quite the impression on me because it was the first time I had received anything from the Spirit while praying. Here I was talking to God and then I get interrupted by a message. Anyway, the Spirit told me that, by divine design, our memory during mortality was not perfect. She told me that the ability to forget was a gift of God given to us during our mortal existence, so that the purposes of God would not be thwarted. Apparently, a perfect mortal memory, meaning a perfect memory of mortality, or of our mortal existence, would create tremendous guilt in mankind and we, having a perfect remembrance during mortality of all the bad things we’d done, would, essentially, end our lives. Guilt, apparently, if it cannot be removed from one’s brain or mind or heart, is an unquenchable fire that destroys humanity. Mankind self-destructs if faced with non-stop, perfectly rememberd guilt. The atonement has power to remove that guilt, but much of mankind does not apply the atonement, or does not know of it, therefore, if mankind had a perfect memory here on earth Satan would conquer all and frustrate the plans of God. The Spirit explained to me, then, that God had given us the ability to forget with the passage of time and the inability to recall things perfectly, to extend the lives of man upon the earth, giving them the opportunity to learn of the gospel and accept the atonement.
Again, I don’t recall exactly what I was praying about, but I think I was praying about memory, which is why I got this answer. At any rate, I remember I was satisfied by this answer, and I was content to not have a perfect memory during mortality.
Memory of Pre-Mortality
We are all taught that there was a veil of forgetfulness placed upon us before we were born here on Earth. This is why we cannot remember our pre-mortal existence. This veil of forgetfulness allows us to exercise faith in the Lord because it takes away our memories of Him. If we all had perfect memories of our pre-mortal existence, there would be no test or trial. Mortality would be as easy to pass as if we were still living in God’s presence, for with a perfect memory of our life there, sin would hold no temptation to us here. So, God temporarily took away our memory of our life there, so that we wouldn’t be influenced in our decisions here. This veil of forgetfulness appears to have been placed upon our spirits, or spiritual bodies. In other words, the veil of forgetfulness is not an aspect of our physical, mortal bodies. On the other hand, I learned from the Spirit that God made our physical, mortal bodies in such a way as to limit our mortal memories. In other words, the faulty or imperfect memory we have here during mortality is a result of the physicality connected to our spirits, the physical clothing acting as a dampener of the spiritual senses, limiting what we can see and perceive (and remember) through the spiritual senses.
The Restoration of All Memories
In the resurrection, we get our memories back. We’ll remember both our pre-mortal existence perfectly and also our mortal experiences perfectly. The immortal bodies we receive will have the intentional limitation that was placed there taken out, so as to be able to recall every instance of our lives, back to the very starting day when we first came into existence. The blood of Christ will have been applied to everyone who inherits the kingdom of God (any of the three glories), so there will be no more guilt upon us and it will be expedient to see the sum of our lives finally.
Again, this happens in the resurrection, not in upon death. Upon death, we all will enter into the spirit world, some of us going to paradise, others to spirit prison. Without the physical body, the limitation that the body imposed upon our spirits concerning the dampening of the senses, including the memory, will be lifted, so that all will be able to sense fully, with perfect remembrance of every instance of their mortal lives. Those with unrepentant guilt will have that guilt ignited into a fire that will consume them until they accept the gospel and repent, while those who have already repented will have peace of mind. Unlike mortality, the guilt felt by the unrepentant sinners in the spirit world will not cause them to take their lives, for they cannot die, being immortal spirits, but it will merely give them the misery associated with the suffering of the damned, with gnashing of teeth, etc., until they repent and obtain the relief brought by the blood of Christ and forgiveness of sin.
The spirits in prison or in paradise, although possessing a perfect memory of their mortal existence, will still not remember their pre-mortal existence, as the veil of forgetfulness was placed upon their spirit bodies and will not be lifted until the resurrection. Because of this, missionary work still needs to be done among the spirits in prison, for, if they could remember their pre-mortal existence, they would also be able to remember the plan of salvation and all that we learned then, and would have no need of missionaries preaching to them. Their memories would be a sufficient preacher. However, while residing in the spirit world, prior to the resurrection, nobody will recall their pre-mortal existence.
Childhood being such a special time of life, one of the blessings that God has in store for each of His children is the restoration of the memory of their mortal childhood. Now, that can be both good and bad. Good if you had a happy childhood, bad if you were abused or otherwise had a miserable childhood. However, He’s got that covered, too.
In the heavens, we also had a childhood. Unlike our earthly parents, our heavenly Parents did everything right. They provided the best environment, full of love and opportunities to learn and grow. Whereas our mortal childhood is fleeting, our heavenly childhood lasted a veritable eternity. We were perfectly happy in every sense of the word. We enjoyed our siblings, our environment, the animals and other creations of God, the beauty seen everywhere, our own spirit bodies and those of others, and most especially, we enjoyed our Parents. They were perfect in every way. Every expression they had, ever word they spoke, every action they took, was perfectly calculated to make their children happy. We were ectatic in their presence. They understood how special childhood is and did not let time slip away from them. They enjoyed our childhood as much as we did.
Take the happiest child in the world, or the adults who claim to have had the happiest children of all and compare them with the childhood we all had in the heavens and we’d all see that there is no comparison. The heavenly childhood lasted virtually an eternity. In comparison, here it is less than an instant. There we had all our needs taken care of, with perfect bodies, with unlimited opportunities and an infinite number of new things to confront our senses. It was a continuous marvel of new wonders 24-hours a day, non-stop. Imagine a kid in such a situation! He or she would be giddy with excitement. Such was our heavenly childhood. Here, as children we have the same inclinations of wonder at all the new things, but rarely do we get to indulge ourselves in wonder and excitement. Mostly, children are taught here to conform to the rules, not to explore their world. Children often don’t have their needs taken care of. Many are in loveless or abusive environments. And many have imperfect bodies, being lame, blind, mutilated, etc. Still, the spirit inside is a child and thus, is holy and heavenly, having come from a place of wonder.
Additionally, children here on earth have their adulthood forced upon them. They get to a certain age and their bodies forcibly change them into an adult. There is nothing they can do about it. In yonder heavens, though, we had untramelled agency. Want to stay a child? Okay, stay a child for as long as you want. Want to become an adult? (and the adult of our species is called a god, with reproductive capabilities), well, okay, you can go through the process of becoming an adult by being born into a physical, mortal body and then following the plan of salvation. This is why our heavenly childhood was of a seemingly endless duration. Every child placed into such a heavenly situation would voluntarily choose to stay in that state for an exceedingly long time, a veritable eternity. Only when we had had our fill of being children, having reached the point of learning and playing that the next new wonders were with adulthood, only then did we have the desire to become an adult, and only then did we leave behind our heavenly childhood and enter mortality to begin the process. Due to the quantity of new wonders in heaven, our heavenly childhood must have been mindboggingly long and exciting. Any way you look at it, the heavenly childhood was superior to what we experience here.
When our memories come back
In the resurrection, we all will remember our heavenly childhood and will be able to re-live it, through our perfect memory, over and over again. That memory will bring us so much joy and will wipe away or overpower any sorrow we might have felt about our mortal childhood. Everyone, then, is going to get the memories of the perfect childhood. With the perfect Parents. And the perfect environment. The Lord, in His mercy and foreknowledge, in this way can mend our broken mortal childhood memories and give us something infinitely better.