"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
November 17, 2014
The Parables of the Cell
by Ami Chopine

The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples. (D&C 93:35)

I am blessed to live in a strange city in which there are two temples. Both hold a dear place in my personal history.

I remember when President Kimball announced the Jordan River Temple. In our Primary we had a brick in front of the jar where we dropped our nickels, dimes and quarters. Our Primary leaders taught us that even our small contributions were important and might be used to buy the bricks or pay the workers.

President Kimball dedicated the site and performed the groundbreaking with a backhoe shortly before I got baptized. Two years later before the dedication, I saw the rooms full of chairs facing an altar (for more special sacrament meetings or being sealed) and the most beautiful living room in the world.

It was the temple where I did my first baptisms for the dead and some few years later the one where I witnessed my baby sister being sealed to our family.

I was an adult when they announced the Oquirrh Mountain Temple on a hilltop very close to where I live. It became my favorite place to run — up the hill, onto a street where I could see the whole valley, and towards the bricks being placed on top of each other one by one.

Perhaps I still had only contributed a few cents to it, but all of faithful members had also helped and parts my tithing had also paid for the bricks and builders of temples across the whole world.

How did one become a temple builder? What did it feel like to lift heavy things, to sweat, and scrape your knuckles, and make sure everything aligned to perfect angles knowing for what reasons this structure would exist? What was it like to raise a House of the Lord?

Years after the builders have left, there was and is still work to be done for the building. Some time ago, I had the opportunity to help clean the temple. Among one of the duties is to scrub the soap scum that collects at the edges of the baptismal font — the result of the hundreds who enter into it every day to do the work of the dead.

It takes a long time to fill and heat the water, so they don’t empty the font for its normal cleaning. I stood in the warm life giving water, dressed in the white jumper, and scrubbed those edges.

Doing such an ordinary task, without something to focus on, my mind wandered. The temple is always a place kept holy, no matter the task one is about, so meandering thoughts tend to stroll into better places.

I thought of soap and things that needed to kept clean and pure: hearts and minds and sacred spaces. The cleaning agent of the soul is the Savior and of our mind; it is hymns, scriptures, prayer, studying and pondering, the Holy Ghost.

Bubbles floated on the surface of the water, reminding me of cells. (Of course they did, which I suppose makes me kind of weird, but predictably so, yes?) Interesting how the soap molecules that clean things are so related to the phospholipid bricks that cell membranes are built from.

That incredible living film keeps the contents of the cell undefiled by molecules that would wreck the delicate balance of chemical reactions needed to keep the cell alive. At the same time, it lets in the nutrients that are essential to those reactions. 

There are proteins imbedded in the cell membrane that do a number of things: act as identifiers, as switches that let the cell interact with its environment, or help large molecules enter or exit. There are many tasks that the cell membrane has to do to help keep the cell alive, and there are many components that are absolutely necessary. If just a single part is missing, the cell can no longer live.

Unlike the traditional pictures of a self-contained watery world with a few cell organelles floating in it, the cell is more like a huge city packed with a teeming population of different molecules involved in different interactions to create, break down, and transform each other. The polar nature of the water molecules is a primary moving force for all of those happenings.

The nucleus, which contains the controlling substance of the cell, is an inner sanctum surrounded by its own specialized cell membrane. It is within this quieter, though busy, space where everything else gets primary commands they need to sustain the life of the cell.

The cell is a microcosm of things working together for a greater purpose. Each chemical reaction in the cell, taken by itself, is just a chemical reaction. All those individual reactions, taken together, create a greater thing.

As well, each cell within us has no idea it is part of a human being. It only knows what is going on in its very immediate vicinity and reacts only to that. It is just a single-celled organism trying to survive and reproduce based on the rules of the DNA it lives by and the environment it lives in.

It is only in the greater scheme of things that all these cells become more than what they appear to be at their scale of existence. At our scale, cells make up the body that houses our spirit.

For us, it is in our prayers and sincere gospel study, and especially in our temple worship that we catch glimpses of the greater plan that we inhabit. Self-aware as we are, we can still only see our immediate vicinity in time and space. Through the Holy Ghost, we can know what task is the best one for us to be doing at any moment in time to do the greatest good for the human family we are a part of.

The temple is always a place to learn about the gospel, no matter how we might be serving. Even the humble residue of that service can teach us.


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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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