Monday, March 9, 2009

Cover vs. Atonement

So, last night, I attended a fireside that was given by John Bytheway (JB). He is the MAN! Of course, normally when you think about John Bytheway, you think he's gonna give some talk about dating or missionary or the Book of Mormon. Last night, the he did not speak on dating, but he did speak on the other two.

So, the premise of his talk was about many critics' views of the LDS church being "not Christian". In particular, he spoke on the "Gap-Jesus" idea. Let me explain. In the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23 says, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." So, because of this scripture, many think that Latter-day Saints believe that we save ourselves through works, and then Jesus just kind of fills in the gaps.

This statement is NOT what we believe, and it is false. Although, I think that at points in time, some of us FEEL that way. We feel that we HAVE to be perfect in order to merit the grace and mercy of the Savior. I'm what people call a "perfectionist". I'm very hard on myself and try to do everything in my power to live the gospel, and I often get frustrated because I'm not perfect and continuallly fall short. However, through different trials and experiences, I humbled again and again to realize that I can NEVER save myself or anyone else, for that matter. The only person with the power to save us is the SAVIOR.

The thing I liked most about last night was JB's emphasis on the word atonement. According to his talk, the word atonement was originally translated from the Hebrew word that means "to cover". Now, here's where I thought it was really cool.

In the garden of Eden, Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, and Adam likewise partook of the fruit. By doing so, both were to be cast out of the Garden of Eden. Enter "Old Scratch" a.k.a. Satan. Satan, knowing what has just occured, tells Adam and Eve to hide and "cover" themselves becuase God will see their nakedness and won't like it. So, Adam and Eve freak out and grab a bunch of fig leaves and make coverings for themselves.

Enter God. God asks Adam what has happened (even though He already knows, but He creates a learning opportunity for Adam). Adam explains what happened and then God talks about coats of skins to "cover" Adam and Eve. Garment are the coats of skins that were made to "cover" Adam and Eve. But, you might ask yourself, "Where did these coats come from if there was no death until after the Fall of Adam?" Well, JB suggested that there was an animal sacrifice made (probably a lamb) to obtain the coats of skin for Adam and Eve... symbolic of the "covering" of our sins by the Savior a.k.a "The Lamb of God".

What does this teach us? Well, I notice that Satan told Adam and Eve to "cover" themselves. Well, we know that this, like all of Satans other suggestions, is a lie. We cannot cover ourselves from the blood and sins of this world. No matter what we do, we cannot hide or "cover" our sins from God. The only possible "covering" we could hope to obtain is through the Savior. God has provided the world with His only-begotten son, to "cover" or atone for our sins if we will just repent. Everytime we put on our garments, it's a reminder that the Savior has "covered" for us, so to speak.

I thought this idea was pretty darn cool. Hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Remember Lot's Wife

The other day I wanted to hear/read an uplifting message. So, as I sometimes do, I went to, and typed in "Speeches" into the search menu. This search will bring you to an archive of BYU devotionals, forums, etc. Having done so, one talk caught my eye in particular: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk entitled, "Remember Lot's Wife" (Here's the link for it if you're interested... and believe me... you should be Anyway, this talk had a great impact on me. I was able to relate to several of the things he shared.

We all are familiar with the story of Lot's wife. In short, the Lord commanded Lot and his family to leave Sodom and Gomorrah because it was about to be destroyed. As they were leaving, Lot's wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. Likewise, in our day, the Savior has asked us to put off the things of the world (Babylon), follow him, and not look back (Luke 9:62). In particular, I love what Elder Holland said about Lot's wife:

"... what did Lot’s wife do that was so wrong? I have thought about that and offer this as a partial answer. Apparently what was wrong with Lot’s wife was that she wasn’t just LOOKING back; in her heart she wanted to GO back. It would appear that even before they were past the city limits, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had offered her. As Elder Maxwell once said, such people know they should have their primary residence in Zion, but they still hope to keep a summer cottage in Babylon."

I've thought about how much I am like that. I love the Lord and want to follow Him; however, there are times when I am tempted to keep my own summer cottage in Babylon. Why is it so hard to lay aside every sin and follow the Lord, not looking back? It's hard, but it'd doable. I was listening to a talk by Elder D. Todd Chirstopherson this morning, and he said that it (losing the desire for sin) is a life long process. But, we can't just coast along; we have to try our best.

Elder Holland goes on:

"It is possible that Lot’s wife looked back with resentment toward the Lord for what He was asking her to leave behind. We certainly know that Laman and Lemuel were resentful when Lehi and his family were commanded to leave Jerusalem. So it isn’t just that she looked back; she looked back LONGINGLY. In short, her attachment to the past outweighed her confidence in the future. That, apparently, was at least part of her sin."

Elder Holland's quote reminded me of an experience I had two days ago, during church. I had a great day at church. In particular, I really enjoyed our Elders Quorum lesson. Keith (one of the guys in our quorum) made a comment that really struck my brother, Ben, and me. It went something like, "You know, I think that the times when I am unhappy or when I feel the most pain are either because I'm too focused on the things I've done in the past or because of anxitey about the future. Rarely do I feel this way because of what is happening right now" I've found this to be true of myself.

Elder Holland:

"I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives."

I really loved how he puts it into words. Wallowing in regrets of the past are not what the Lord desires for us. God cares so much more about where we are going that where we've been.

Elder Holland explains:

"There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others. That is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ. To be tied to earlier mistakes—our own or other people’s—is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist."

To paraphrase, not forgiving ourselves or others is un-Christian.

Elder Holland furthers this with a great analogy to playing in the sand:

"Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is it charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ. If something is buried in the past, leave it buried. Don’t keep going back with your little sand pail and beach shovel to dig it up, wave it around, and then throw it at someone, saying, "Hey! Do you remember this?" Splat!

Well, guess what? That is probably going to result in some ugly morsel being dug up out of your landfill with the reply, "Yeah, I remember it. Do you remember this?" Splat.

And soon enough everyone comes out of that exchange dirty and muddy and unhappy and hurt, when what God, our Father in Heaven, pleads for is cleanliness and kindness and happiness and healing.

Such dwelling on past lives, including past mistakes, is just not right! It is not the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Now, I'm not writing this to tell you guys that I'm wallowing in regret of the past. I just really like what Elder Holland said. I have a testimony that the things he spoke of are true. The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about moving forward. Christianity means forgiving and moving on, putting off the things of man, picking up our own cross, and following the Savior. I know that when I follow these teachings, I am truly happy. It works! And it can work for everyone of us if we will follow Him.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I'm really excited to be getting into improv comedy. If you've ever seen the show "Who's Line Is It Anyway?", that's what I'm talking about. But, wait a minute. I'm pretty sure that some of you haven't. So, in improv comedy, usually there is a host and two teams, that improvise scenes or games based on the suggestions of an audience. For example, one of my favorite games is "Pieces of Paper". So, in Pieces of Paper, the host asks for suggestions from the audience as a scene and maybe a character each player should be. In addition, the audience writes down somewhere between 6-9 lines on pieces of paper. As the scene progresses, the players have to incorporate these lines into the scene. It makes it pretty funny, and the audience enjoys being part of the scene.

Anyway, my sister, Biz, and my brother, Jon a.k.a. Paco, began doing improv workshops three or four years ago. As a result, both became involved with the comedy group, Comedy Sportz (Biz is a regular player and Paco does "Mr. Voice"). If you haven't seen Comedy Sportz, you really should. They are hilarious, and I always have a good experience (i.e. laugh until it hurts). Here's their website in case you wanna check it out:

Anyway, so Biz is pretty darn good at imrov, and she (and a few other people) decided to get a group together up in Davis County. So, they created (or maybe re-created) the group The Impovables, which performs at Rodger's Memorial Theater in Bountiful/Centerville.

Anyway, I think I'm a marginal actor at best, but Biz and Paco have been encouraging me to come and do improv with them. So, over the last two months or so, I've been learning some of the improv games, and I've even performed in improv two or three times. It's very difficult, but tons of fun. I know that I'm getting better, but right now I'd rate performance as somewhere in between really crappy and terrible. Not really sure. But, anyway, it's a ton of fun learning how to do all this stuff.

I won't tell you the details (i.e. Time, Place, etc) yet because, I wanna wait until my skillz are just a little better. But if you must know it's Friday nights at 10:30 at Rodger's Memorial Theater. I usually do it every other week, so just let me know if you're interested in coming. Tickets are $5 but I usually get a couple of comp tickets.

Joining the Work Force

So, after finally graduating college, I finally sold my soul to... I mean... joined the work force. Actually, I am very glad to be working right now. With today's economy, I'm lucky to have a great job. I work as Staff 1 Auditor for the Salt Lake City office of Ernst & Young, LLP (EY). Some of you may already know about EY, but for those of you that haven't, here goes.

What is EY?

So, in the world (not just the US, mind you), there are 4 internationally-recognized, public accounting firms: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche, KPMG, and EY. These four firms have been dubbed, "The Big 4". Each firm has an office in just about every major city in the world and has a great reputation for integrity and ethics in the accounting practice. So, working for one of these companies (here, I'll just say it)... is a big deal. Working for any of these firms looks great on a resume, and the experiences you getting really learning accounting are incredible.

Each of these firms focuses most of its work on either Auditing or Tax. In addition to these two practices, each firm has elements of consulting, IT auditing, transaction service, etc. But, I work in EY's audit practice.

What is Auditing?

When most of you hear the word "audit", the hair on your neck stands up, and all you can think of is the IRS coming to hunt you down for tax avoidance. Rightfully so. I thought the same thing myself. But, that is not what auditing is in my case.

Think about your policemen. They're kind of annoying when you are breaking the law: speeding, vandalism, etc. Nobody likes policemen when they, themselves, are doing something bad. However, everyone appreciates policement because they protect us from harm. They hunt down the bad guys so to speak. Well, I am a financial policeman, or as one of my colleagues put it, I am a "defender of the capital markets".
Auditing is a necessary evil in the world we live in. If everyone did everything right and made no mistakes (fraud or error), my job wouldn't be that necessary, I'll admit it. But, because we don't live in a perfect world, my job is very necessary.

So, auditors are needed for three reasons:

1. Public Companies

Any company that is listed on a stock exchange (the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq, etc), needs to have auditors to report on the company's financial statements. Unfortunately, companies can't just come out and say, "Yeah, we did really well this year. We have 50 million of assets on our books, no debt, and we made eleventy-billion dollars." Why? Well... Enron... Worldcom... you can't just trust the company. Therefore, auditors from a public accounting firm come in and look those financial statements (and all the underlying documentation) and decide if those financial statements are legit or not. So, as investors are trying to decide which companies to invest in, knowing that each company's books are beeing audited by a reputable firm helps provide some comfort that the investment would be a good idea. Therefore, the investors choose to buy or sell shares in the company. Hope that helped.

2. Private Companies

Just as public companies need auditors to look at their books, private companies (not on a stock exchange) do as well. In some cases, private companies are also owned by shareholders, and need an audit for the same purpose as a public company. However, other instances are for banks. Banks lend money to private companies, and want to know that the money borrowed will be repaid. So, if a company's books have been audited, it gives the banks comfort that they will collect the loan and interest.

3. Count ballots at the Oscars or the Miss America pageant.

My Clients

I'm lucky to work on a wide variety of clients.

Public Companies

I work on one public company, which is a construction company. It is a rather large and complex client. It is headquartered in Salt Lake City, with subsidiaries in San Diego, Houston, Detroit, etc. I spend about half of the year on this client.

Private Companies

The rest of my time I spend working smaller, private companies in the insruarnce, venture capital, and pharmaceutical industries.

CPA Exam

The CPA exam has been one of the biggest items on my plate as of late. For those of you that don't know what it is, let me explain. Well, all lawyers need to take a difficult test called the BAR exam to be licensed as a lawyer. Well the CPA exam is to accountants as the BAR exam is to lawyers. Make sense?

The exam has four sections: Audit, Business and Economic Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). So, Each of these exams has about 90 multiple choice questions and 2 long essay questions (with the exception of BEC, which has only 90 multiple choice questions and no essays. Also, the REG exam has only 72 questions).

Each section of the exam is difficult, and you have to know your stuff. Basically, they test you on and ask you to remember EVERYTHING you ever learned in college (some of the material I never learned in college). I went through BYU's accounting program (#1 in the country), and through studying for and taking the CPA exam, I learned just how great of a program it is. The exam was mostly a review. In fact, I believe that most of the tests were easier than anything I was ever tested on at BYU.

So in preparation for each section of the exam, I studied, on average, about 75 hours per exam. I studied more for certain sections depending on the difficulty (Audit (60 hours), BEC (60 hours), REG (90 hours), and FAR (100 hours). I was fortunate to use the Becker CPA Review course, which was incredible. It is a GREAT review for the exam, and I would recommend it to anyone. The prepare you really well for the exam.

I have officially passed each section of the exam. For the Audit, BEC, FAR, and REG sections, I got a 93, 82, 89, and 85, respectively (75 is a passing score). Now that I've passed each section, my firm (Ernst & Young, LLP) has agreed to give me a $5,000 bonus. Not a bad prize if you asked me. Also, I will have a certification that will bless me and my family for the rest of my life.