One of the dreaded rites of premedical passage is the organic chemistry lab class. Therein, a group of hapless twenty-somethings meets for three hours a week, in their blue jeans and protective goggles, to learn how to isolate, combine, and change chemicals.

It was my worst grade in college.

There was something fascinating, though, about the class’ concept. In organic chemistry, life’s building blocks are reduced to stick-figure drawings: a dot or letter for the nucleus of each atom and a line for the bonds between them. Much of the organic chemistry experience is drawing this kind of picture. As chemicals undergo different combinations and transformations, the dots and lines shift accordingly. Each student quickly learns that an arrow represents the movement of a chemical bond–as atom A dissociates from atom B and latches onto atom C, the arrow indicated the switch.

What strikes me about this process–whether represented on paper or enacted with beakers, acids, and bunson burners–is that there is no going around the steps necessary to make compound A into compound B. The process which affects the change might require ten steps: heating compound A, separating the remaining solid, whetting it with water, washing it with acid, cooling it down, combining it with X, stirring, waiting, removing the powder, and then drying it with a special separating compound. There is no going around the necessary steps because each step brings about the actions represented by one of those arrows–each macroscopic thing we do moves a bond from here to there and the end result is the actual transformation from A into B. It is not that A has simply become like B–it actually is B, the chemical structure has changed.

I wonder if ordinances function in a similar fashion. I wonder if they affect, in some ineffable way, beyond our mortal comprehension, a change in our most basic spiritual matter so that they are necessary in some literal and eternal way, not just as a symbol of our dedication and not just as a means for exploring the meaning of spiritual things–though both of those purposes are important, but in some physical/spiritual fashion which eventually allows the Great Alchemist to transform men into gods

Published in: on December 13, 2007 at 5:22 am  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hmmmmm. Interesting thoughts.

    Personally I doubt that the ordinances themselves make a fundamental change in us. I think one of the things that separates us from the chemicals is our will. I think we choose to change, and that these ordinances are outward symbols of the inward commitment. I don’t think there is anything magical going on, even if we do not understand all the details.

  2. Perhaps it is not ordinances, but rather priesthood, that serves as the necessary catalyst for a change in our souls. And considering that any priesthood flows from Christ, the Great High Priest, that seems about right to me.

  3. I have given this post some thought. I don’t know how the whole process of becoming a new creature in Christ works, but this is something to ponder. I do think that we are an important part of the equation as without love of Christ and faith in Christ as well as our obedience as we are able and repentance when we sin, the ordinances would not be enough in the end even with the proper Priesthood authority.

    I hope that you have a chance to enjoy the holidays. I may not comment in the future. It is always hard to know what to say. A lot of what you say resonates with me with my own experiences especially your previous post about the atonement. However, I am trying not to be so public when I comment on people’s blogs. I want to listen more. I think I am going to blog more at a site where I am at a forum though and hopefully that will be a positive experience. I hope you have Peace and Joy this Christmas Season!!!

  4. In a world that will inevitably corrupt our being it is important to make a conscious effort to change one’s self for the better on a consistent basis. As we try to slow the world down to its essentials we begin to understand our purpose here. While knowing the church’s general philosophies, and in the initial stages of studying the philosophy of Alchemy, I do not see any contradictions, while many seem to think Alchemy is sorcery or bad. The prophet, Joseph, taught to read of all the best books. The literature I am reading is very intuitive to human nature. Gold is a very conducive material and to metaphorically transform your self into such a pure element as gold, I believe that you can only increase your over all good influence here on Earth.

  5. I love the image of “the Great Alchemist” who “transforms men into gods.”

    Plus, I bet he’s got one cool lab. My chemistry teachers always had a innate need to blow things up and pass it along as ‘seeking knowledge through science.’ Supernova anyone?

  6. hahaha, well ya I guess that works

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