"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
May 19, 2014
To Infinity (There is No Beyond)
by Ami Chopine

This started out as a digression on the nature of infinity in my previous column. After eight paragraphs, I realized that I couldn’t just keep it in there with the excuse that I digressed.

When I was about six or seven, I was afraid of the Nothing. Monsters weren’t real, but the nothingness sure was. 

And while I had the idea of an infinite expanse in my head, my imagined infinity was really about the size of the dome of the sky, as I understood it then. 

At that age, I never even imagined infinite energies and densities.

At my current age and great learnedness, infinity is still an abstract concept. I have this symbol in my head but I can’t comprehend how it is. I can’t even hold the number one million in my head and there are people whose salaries are way bigger than that.

I really doubt a PhD will endow me with this ability. It simply isn’t possible for our finite little brains to encompass. We perceive the symbolic numbers on the page but not the actual amount. 

But perceiving symbols is a first step to understanding.

Numbers on a page are somewhat abstract. What is more useful is something we really know, that we experience with our senses. We use scales we are familiar with. 

When I look at a map where an inch equals a mile, I remember running that mile — in shoes but also barefoot.

As I my feet hit the ground each time, I controlled my stride to hit mid-foot, where my ankles could take some of the impact from my knees — something harder to do with shoes. I breathed and pumped my legs in rhythm. I pushed to keep going when I wanted to stop.

Sometimes I pushed too much and wore myself out for the rest of the day. Sweat ran down my face. What temperature it was when I ran became important. I breathed hard enough and often enough that my tendency to "bronchitis" during the allergy season disappeared because my lungs had become more resilient.

I know what every step of a mile feels like in fog, rain, and sun; from below freezing to 90 degrees; the dark of morning and the noon time sun, at the beginning of it and at the end.

That inch or centimeter millimeter has taken on real meaning to me.

In the same time it takes to run five miles, we can drive fifty miles and fly five hundred. And up in the sky, we see the curve of the earth.

Our generation in our day and age has a unique view that gives us personally a better handle on how big our earth is.

Zooming out, if the earth were the size of a pea, the sun would be about the size of a beach ball. The earth and the sun would be about 244 feet (74.4 meters or 2.5 basketball courts) apart, and the solar system out to the dwarf planet Pluto would have a radius of about 1.8 miles or 2.9 kilometers.

The solar system is much smaller compared to the galaxy than the earth is compared to the solar system. And we know there are billions of galaxies in the universe.

Now, imagine the universe is the size of a grain of sand.

And that incomprehensibly huge universe, merely the size of a grain of sand, is on the shores of a great ocean on a planet existing in its own huge universe. And so on.

I mean, what if our whole universe is a sub-atomic particle in another universe?

Infinity — eternity — has no scale.

By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them. (D&C 20:17)

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:17)

But this seems impossible to us humans, so much so that in most of the world, sanctification as has been revealed to Latter-day prophets is considered heresy.

Why is it so much easier to conceive of nothing than infinity?

In this mortal state we’re in, we’ve been put so very close to it. We have a beginning, before which we remember nothing. We have an end, after which we know nothing (save for revelation). 

In a recent conference talk, Bishop Gary E Stevenson compared our lifetime to four intense minutes on a small sled speeding down an icy slide with our head just inches from doom.

I kept thinking — it's smaller than that and more treacherous. It's the blink of an eye. It's the flash that reveals the true nature of our souls and catapults us forward into eternity.

In a thousand, million, billion years we won't care about our bank accounts, our clothes, our careers or the letters we pasted on after our names to look cool. What, in our lives now, will we look back on and care about?

Our families. Our neighbors.

And what will we know, in that future?

We will know that there is little difference between our mentally deficient and our geniuses, and more important is our capacity to love and serve.  

That there are no enemies in the war that really matters, only fellow strugglers. The real war we are waging is the one to save as many of us as we can.

The minute we think good riddance, or taunt someone because their opinion differs from ours will cause us deep pain.

We will mourn every action we purposefully took to hurt others. We'll weep for everything we did to push others out of the way so we could succeed in our career or gain the admiration of men. Our hearts will ache for every time we inspired someone to edge a little farther away from the Kingdom of God.

Our actions have infinite and eternal consequences.

Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement — save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more. (2 Nephi 9:7)

Every choice we make reveals who we are. We mess up, but if we feel bad about it, and repent, then that reveals who we are too. It is who we are patterning ourselves after that is important.

In a thousand, million, billion years the only thing that will make a difference in that flash is our alignment with the Savior.


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About Ami Chopine

Ami Chopine started out her mortal existence as a single cell. That cell divided into a collection of cells that cooperated enough to do such things as eat, crawl, walk and eventually read a lot and do grownuppy things.

When she was seven years old, hanging upside down on the monkey bars, she decided she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up. Even though she studied molecular biology at the University of Utah, that didn't quite come to pass. She became a writer instead. Still, her passion for science and honest inquiry has remained and married itself to her love of the Gospel. 

Ami is married to Vladimir and together they have four amazing children -- three in college and one in elementary school, where Ami is president of the Family School Organization. Vladimir is the better cook, but Ami is the better baker. She also knits, gardens, stares at clouds, and sings. She can only do three of these at the same time.

Besides two published computer graphics books and several magazine tutorials, she writes science fiction and has a couple of short stories published. You can find her blog at www.amichopine.com.

Ami was surprised to not be given a calling as some kind of teacher the last time she was called into the bishop's office. She currently serves as the Young Women Secretary -- somewhat challenging for the girl whose grandmother used to call the absentminded professor.

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