Devotional: The laboratory of life

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A chemistry professor related life’s challenges to science in his address titled “Lessons from Life’s Laboratory” Tuesday at the campus Devotional.

Greg Burton, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, used explosions and beakers to teach students lessons he has learned in his life.

“As a scientist I make observations that help me determine whether or not our hypothesis is correct,” he said. “Science also shows us things don’t always happen as we expect.”

[media-credit name=”Sarah Strobel” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Greg Burton, chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry department, speaks at Tuesday's devotional in the Marriott Center.
To demonstrate this principle and captivate his audience he showed a video clip of an experiment he previously recorded. He laid an ice cube on a pile of gray powder and it exploded violently.

“You may have been surprised by what you saw,” he said. “There are similarities in how and what we as scientists learn in the laboratory, and in how and what we as brothers and sisters learn in life.”

The talk was divided into three lessons he had learned from specific experiences in his life.

Lesson one he called the lesson of the green table.

After he finished playing with his Rin-tin-tin toys each day his parents would have him kneel down next to the green table and they taught him to pray.

“This was one of the great training experiences of my life,” Burton said. “The green table eventually disappeared but my prayers and faith did not go away.”

The second lesson was learned in Germany just after World War II. He called it the lesson of the Berlin wall.

While he was in Germany he stayed with a well-educated member of the Church. As they discussed the division of the city his friend strongly believed the wall would never come down.

“He turned to me and stated ‘No, it can’t come down,'” he said. “But eight weeks later I saw the wall come down as I watched it from my living room. The lesson is that events can and do occur differently than expected. The Lord works on his own time table and in his own way.”

His third lesson did not come from one experience in his life but from the consistency of his relationship with his Father in Heaven.

“The third lesson is that the healing power of Christ is real and it can touch our life,” he said. “I learned that he can even heal the malady of my soul.”

He closed his talk just as he began it with a science experiment.

He created a vivid parallel to our lives by mixing two clear solutions and then observing what happened.

“The mixture started out clear, then it turned dark much like our lives,” he said. “Then at last the brown color gave way to a silver lining. Much like the passing of the dark periods of our lives.”

This demonstration illustrated the focus of his talk.

He concluded by bearing testimony of the spiritual knowledge he gained from his unique life experiences.

“The experiences of my life logically teach me of a loving Heavenly Father,” he said. “But much more important is the spiritual knowledge I have of a living Father in Heaven and his son Jesus Christ.”

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