I was really good at Chemistry in high school. I understand all the theory, stoichiometry, the concepts. I found it fun. When I went to the University of Alberta, and took freshman inorganic chemistry, I thought it would be a breeze. But then there were those chemistry labs. I remember my first lab, when we had to synthesize a teaspoon of a white powder, acetylsalicylic acid - aspirin. After three and a half hours, I stumbled out of the chemistry lab greatly humbled, and having created a brown, dirty syrup that was nothing like a white powder.*
I think life is like that - literally. I think that in the pre-mortal world, we were all acing the tests, and we all knew the theory. We knew that life was a test, but I think we were naively optimistic about what the mortal experience would really be like. But then we get down here on Earth and figure out that it's a lot harder than we thought.
In Sunday School class this week, Brent Garfield taught about Job and how his story related to pre-mortal optimism. He shared his thoughts about the "dare" at the beginning, where Satan comes before God and says in effect 'yes, he's faithful, but look at all his blessings. Take those away, and he'll curse you to your face!'. Then after Job is stripped of his blessings and remains faithful, Satan says again, 'yes, but he still has his health - take that away, and he'll curse you and lose faith'. Brent said that he thought that Job was indeed a real person - several people including Ezekiel, Jesus and the Lord in section 121 have indicated that Job was a real person. However, Brent said that he views this dialogue as more allegorical, and that it applies to all of us, and that such a conversation happened in the pre-mortal world when Satan presented his plan. Indeed, Satan said to all of us that when things got hard, we'd curse God and wish to die.
In the end, we're all going to fail. But what matters most is that we know there is a Savior who overcame all, and that by faith in him, our faults and failings don't matter. We don't have to be perfect in this life. We just have to try, and have faith in the abundant grace of Jesus Christ. Life is hard. Sometimes we're going to end up with brown goo instead of white powder. It really hurts when we fail at being a parent. But we don't have to be perfect. Thank heaven for repentance and forgiveness.
The lesson is that in the end, if we don't believe in the Savior, nothing else matters. That's the lesson of mortality. Brother Garfield compared the story of Job with the story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve once enjoyed happiness, and a special relationship with God, but lost it. They were seeking that relationship with God again. That's what Job was seeking.
Some people say that Job never complained. It is true that he never complained about losing his family, his possessions, his health. But he did complain about feeling that the heavens were closed. So when you end up with a brown, dirty goo, the only way to get through it is to rely on the Savior. And endure.
*I acknowledge Dr. Greg Smith of southern Alberta for sharing this analogy of Chemistry class, which also applies in every way, including attending the University of Alberta and having the same lab experience. From FAIRMormon podcast, Episode 1.