117–118: Truth in Revelation and Scripture

August 8, 2012
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117–118: Truth in Revelation and Scripture

What does it mean to still claim that scripture is “true” or “inspired” when we fully recognize that much of it is fictional (parable, allegory, poetic, mythic, clearly “shaped” to achieve certain effects) or when some scriptural claims clash with other scriptural claims or with historical and scientific facts? Once revelation or scripture has begun to shed for us some of their “authoritative” status and become more obviously a product of human hearts and minds or a divine/human admixture, why does or should it remain compelling? What are other ways to read and gain from prophetic utterance or scripture that…

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114–116: Brazilian Mormonism

August 1, 2012
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114–116: Brazilian Mormonism

This three-part episode features a wonderful discussion about some of the peculiarities about the LDS Mormon experience inBrazil, as well as the many ways that LDS experience seems universal. In doing so, it introduces Antonio Trevisan and Marcello Jun de Oliveira, two Brazilians who are leading the ABEM–Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons (Brazilian Mormon Studies Association)—a fledgling group modeled somewhat after Sunstone as a similar effort to explore Brazilian Mormonism through historical inquiry, scholarship, and other mediums, including an annual conference. It also features a terrific young scholar moderator, Rolf Straubhaar, who served his mission to Brazil and has returned…

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113: Mormonism and Environmentalism

July 25, 2012
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113: Mormonism and Environmentalism

How “green” is Mormonism? What is holding the tradition and culture back from becoming more environmentally sensitive—or even overtly activist? What theological and practical resources are there in Mormon thought and practice for fostering an ethic of greater care for the earth and its systems, including all the other forms of life with which we share the planet? How can Latter-day Saints who are environmentally active be effective in moving Mormon culture toward greener awareness and action? Prompted by the release of the new Sunstone magazine issue with a terrific collection of articles and essays under the heading of “Earth…

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112: Imagining New Ways to Think and Teach about Mormon Pioneers

July 18, 2012
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112: Imagining New Ways to Think and Teach about Mormon Pioneers

On the verge of another Pioneer Day (July 24th), this one marking the 165th anniversary of the first Mormon pioneer wagon train reaching the Salt Lake Valley, Mormon Matters takes this opportunity to examine the current state of discourse and cultural practices (in the U.S. and abroad) surrounding those who sacrificed so much to cross plains, mountains, and seas in the quest to find a place where they could establish Zion. In this episode, panelists Joanna Brooks, Gina Colvin, and Joseph and Shalisse Johnstun join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in discussing the ways they draw strength and a sense of…

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111: Healthy Approaches to Supporting GLBT Latter-day Saints and Family Members

July 11, 2012
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111: Healthy Approaches to Supporting GLBT Latter-day Saints and Family Members

This podcast episode is timed to coincide with recent activism among many faithful straight, gay, and allied Latter-day Saints who marched and will march in recent and upcoming PRIDE parades and who are becoming increasingly visible in raising awareness of the hurts and suffering among the GLBT population and the importance for Mormons–leaders as well as all of us in our own wards and stakes–to engage in even more earnest efforts to educate about GLBT issues and to support families and communities in ways that will allow every person to know of God’s (and our) love for them and to…

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110: Abuse and the Forgiveness Dilemma

July 4, 2012
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110: Abuse and the Forgiveness Dilemma

The April 2012 General Conference featured a terrific talk by President Uchtdorf, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” that reinforces the importance of being forgiving and non-judgmental. He “bottom lines” his message with the following statement: “This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it! It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.” Earlier in the talk, he…

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107–109: LDS Salvation Theology and Practices

June 28, 2012
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107–109: LDS Salvation Theology and Practices

“Am I saved?” “Is this idea or that practice ‘pertinent to my salvation’?” Many Mormons and other Christians focus quite a lot of energy on concerns about possible rewards or punishments in the afterlife. And many, as seems natural for humans living in an unpredictable and confusing world, long for and (even very consciously) seek assurances here and now that their life is acceptable to God, their “salvation” is secure. Concepts such as having one’s “calling and election (a New Testament phrase and idea) made sure” reveal this longing and concern. Christians seek to know they are “saved” in many…

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105–106: Mormon “Doctrine” and Other Fuzzy Things

June 20, 2012
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105–106: Mormon “Doctrine” and Other Fuzzy Things

Are there statements about God, humans, the universe, and any other thing that a Latter-day Saint “must” believe to be considered a “Mormon”? And, if so, how literally does one have to take these so-called “doctrines”? Are they close-to-perfect encapsulations of eternal truths that are consistently taught in scripture and that have hardly changed or evolved throughout time, with modern LDS pronouncements simply further clarifications? Or are doctrines far “fuzzier,” more fluid statements suggesting where Mormons are encouraged to focus now but always with the anticipation that, as the Ninth Article of Faith states, there are “many great and important…

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104: Growing Up Mormon—and Fearless

June 13, 2012
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104: Growing Up Mormon—and Fearless

The three guests in this Mormon Matters episode grew up in faithful, committed Mormon homes. In important ways, however, these panelists’ homes were different than what many listeners of the Open Stories family of podcasts experienced growing up in the way that these homes welcomed any and all questions about the faith and encouraged reading and exploration and working through difficult issues. Each home was highly orthoprax—there was no question of commitment to LDS standards, attending church, accepting and serving faithfully in callings—but what a family member had to believe was wide open. For them, Mormonism featured a wide array…

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102–103: Pragmatism, William James, and Mormon Sensibilities

June 7, 2012
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102–103: Pragmatism, William James, and Mormon Sensibilities

Pragmatism is the name of a philosophical approach for judging between competing truth claims. It essentially says that if you are presented with two ideas and there is no clear way to determine which is superior to the other, you should consider the difference it would make to you if you decided to accept one or the other as the true one. For instance, one of philosophy’s long-standing discussions is about whether or not human beings have free will or if they are fully determined. Since there are good arguments and evidences on both sides, the pragmatic method suggests we…

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100–101: Mormon Missions

May 30, 2012
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100–101: Mormon Missions

This two-part episode focuses on the unique experience of Mormon missions–their wonderful, powerful, light aspects, as well as those elements that can lead things to go wrong and be potentially unhealthy. Panelists Derrick Clements, T.K., and Rory Swensen join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in sharing about their mission experiences (two of them quite recently completed, the other two more than twenty years ago), how they interpreted what they were going through then versus now with post-mission lenses that are influenced to some degree by their faith journeys since the time of their service. Knowing what they know now, or…

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98–99: “Middle Way” Mormonism and Women

May 23, 2012
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98–99: “Middle Way” Mormonism and Women

Mormon Matters episodes 85–86 featured a panel consisting of four men discussing “Middle Way Mormonism,” a term that has been gaining traction as a way to describe a path that some Latter-day Saints are taking in which they attempt to negotiate the tensions that arise when they find themselves believing ideas or valuing certain things differently than what they perceive is a typical LDS position yet still working to remain within and fully engaged with Mormon community life. We now turn to a similar discussion of the “Middle Way” journey, but with women’s voices. What are the common experiences women…

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96–97: Mormonism and Its History—Past, Present, and Future

May 10, 2012
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96–97: Mormonism and Its History—Past, Present, and Future

Every religion has many dilemmas when it comes to its history. How does a group incorporate the idea of a God or Universal force or will that acts in the development of that group and/or the unfolding of world events when such things are not acceptable claims in academic disciplines? How does a tradition balance the doing of history for the purposes of community and faith building through the creation and maintenance of a shared story with other ideals, such as telling the truth about missteps and all the humanness and frailties that are also present in each event? Should…

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94–95: Suicide

May 1, 2012
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94–95: Suicide

Suicide affects all of us, and involves so many devastating emotions. Grief (as one of the panelists refers to it, a very “complicated” form of grief), guilt (“What did I do wrong?” “I should have seen signs and intervened”), and, often, an element of concern for the deceased’s soul state (“Can they ever be forgiven?” “Were they accountable when they did this?”). In this two-part episode, panelists Natasha Helfer Parker, Charn Burton, and Nicholas Maughn join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in an thorough discussion of  suicide—offering education about its primary causes (what to look for if the person has…

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92–93: Can Mormon Theology Affirm Homosexual Relationships Now and in the Eternities?

April 26, 2012
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92–93: Can Mormon Theology Affirm Homosexual Relationships Now and in the Eternities?

Like many other religious traditions today, Mormonism is wrestling with questions raised by homosexuality. And while both LDS rhetoric and many members’ affirmation of homosexuals as beloved children of God to embrace as fellow citizens in the household of faith are moving forward in many ways, these developments have been fed primarily by the inroads being made through political and pastoral discourse. Very little attention has yet been paid to theological questions raised by these relationships. Can Mormon theology accommodate homosexual relationships into its larger views of the cosmos, God, and divine sociality? In a groundbreaking article in the Winter…

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91: Cleanflix and What Its Story Reveals about Mormon Culture

April 17, 2012
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91: Cleanflix and What Its Story Reveals about Mormon Culture

The documentary film Cleanflix tells the story of the dramatic rise and fall of businesses (based primarily in Utah) that rented and sold versions of Hollywood movies in which they had edited out bad language, nudity, sex scenes, gore, graphic violence, and anything else that they considered not a match for community standards. In telling the story from its origins to the court case that declared the practices as in violation of copyright agreements to the continuing saga of stores that refused to shut down even after the businesses were declared illegal, the film highlights deeply embedded attitudes in Mormon…

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89–90: Latter-day Saint “Mid-Singles” Experience

April 10, 2012
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89–90: Latter-day Saint “Mid-Singles” Experience

The LDS Church recently restructured its “singles” wards, effectively shutting them off to unmarried people who are 31 years old or above. In many ways, this move formalized even more than previously the “limbo” of sorts that unmarried but still quite young Mormons find themselves in with relation to their church. Do they best fit or will they be most edified in “family” wards or huge “mid-singles” wards that weekly draw as large a crowd as a typical stake conference? Are they to be seen and celebrated as the highly accomplished, dynamic, active creators of meaningful lives that most of…

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87–88: Pacific Island Mormon Identities

April 5, 2012
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87–88: Pacific Island Mormon Identities

This two-part episode features a fascinating, dynamic, and soaring discussion that takes us into the experiences, cultures, and elements of the worldviews of Latter-day Saints from Pacific Island nations. We learn pieces of the history of two of these nations as it relates to the LDS Church taking hold there, what elements resonate with those who are from the “islands of the sea” (D&C 1:1; 2 Nephi 29:11), and the ways that Mormonism integrates into the daily lives of, especially, Maori and Tongan Saints–including places where Polynesian culture does not allow white Mormon practices and ways of seeing to penetrate,…

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85–86: “Middle Way” Mormonism

April 1, 2012
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85–86: “Middle Way” Mormonism

For many Mormons, their faith and relationship to the LDS Church has forever changed from what they were growing up. And this is how it should be. We’re all called to growth and to assuming responsibility for our own life choices, including the most compelling vision of what existence is all about, how we want to live, with whom do we want to associate, what it is that brings us (or promises us, we sense if we keep going) the greatest joy. In the faith and spirituality arena, religions all contain visions of what it means to be a fully…

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Matters of the Heart 2: On “Masturbatory Rage”: A Theatrical Call to Repentance

March 23, 2012
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Matters of the Heart 2: On “Masturbatory Rage”: A Theatrical Call to Repentance

ON “MASTURBATORY RAGE”: A THEATRICAL CALL TO REPENTANCE  By Allan Davis In this episode of Matters of the Heart, Allan Davis shares a short meditation about a call to repentance related to his transitioning relationship to Mormonism that he received last fall while attending the theatrical performance of a play called Church. A great listen for all who are undergoing the process of re-evaluating their own religious identity and stance related to their childhood faith and religious community. And everyone must, of course, listen to find out what the author means by “masturbatory rage”!

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83-84: Creating Spaces for Non-Traditional Latter-day Saints

March 20, 2012
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83-84: Creating Spaces for Non-Traditional Latter-day Saints

This episode explores both the difficulties of creating more comfortable spaces for unorthodox Mormons in wards, stakes, and families, as well as the benefits. What are some of the tensions that arise in LDS communities when engaging those who hold less-literal beliefs or embody idiosyncratic approaches to spirituality, religion, and community norms? What are some positive ways the community or family can welcome and honor those persons? How might these Latter-day Saints assist in their own positive and joyful integration? What are the benefits of having persons from many points on the spectrum be fully integrated in a community? In…

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81-82: Mormonism and Transhumanism

March 13, 2012
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81-82: Mormonism and Transhumanism

Technological advancements in recent decades have drastically altered human experience, with computing power and many other technologies growing at exponential rates. Our lives will continue to change, and most likely in ways that are presently incomprehensible. “Transhumanism” is a relatively new movement that is carefully considering this immanent future, paying particular concern to how humanity will be changed—for already, and certainly in a more thoroughgoing way than ever before, it is poised to be a primary actor in its own evolution. How can we increase the likelihood that this future will better than the present, that we as transforming, evolving…

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79-80: How Can We Truly Confront Racism within Mormon Thought and Culture?

March 9, 2012
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79-80: How Can We Truly Confront Racism within Mormon Thought and Culture?

A recent Washington Post article that discussed the origins and history of Mormonism’s racialized teachings and policies has caused quite a stir, launching important conversations. The article’s most controversial element was the inclusion of comments from BYU religion professor Randy Bott in which he denied that the former LDS ban on black persons holding the priesthood or participating in temple ordinances was racist, as God’s actions were for their benefit. They weren’t ready. Through these restrictions, God was acting as a loving parent, keeping them from having to live at a higher level than they were capable of doing. Church…

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77-78: Recognizing “the Spirit”

March 7, 2012
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77-78: Recognizing “the Spirit”

Most of us were raised with the idea that even amidst all of life’s confusion, if we live in a certain way and follow clear steps to put ourselves in the right frame of mind and heart, we have the right and ability to know for certain God’s will and wisdom for us through communication via the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit. For many of us, however, as we grow older and encounter various findings in science and psychology about biological and sociological biases, or as we experience disappointments and other types of complexities, our confidence in this simple formula for recognizing…

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Matters of Perspective 1: “Godwrestling–Physicality, Conflict, and Redemption in Mormon Doctrine”

March 2, 2012
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Matters of Perspective 1: “Godwrestling–Physicality, Conflict, and Redemption in Mormon Doctrine”

“GODWRESTLING–PHYSICALITY, CONFLICT, AND REDEMPTION IN MORMON DOCTRINE” By Rick Jepson In this inaugural episode of “Matters of Perspective,” Rick Jepson reads his November 2005 Sunstone article, “Godwrestling: Physicality, Conflict, and Redemption in Mormon Doctrine,” which explores through many different angles the transformative power of struggle, both physical and spiritual. It contains one of the most complete discussions in all of Mormon writing of the Genesis story of Jacob’s wrestle with the angel, and links Jacob’s transformation from this intense battle with physical ordeals in the lives of other prophets, especially Joseph Smith, as well as Jesus’s struggle to complete the…

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Matters of the Heart 1: The Elder Daughter

March 1, 2012
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Matters of the Heart 1: The Elder Daughter

THE ELDER DAUGHTER by Kelly Quinn In this inaugural episode of Matters of the Heart, Kelly Quinn shares her essay, “The Elder Daughter,” which she wrote after listening to Mormon Matters Episode 51 (“The Dynamics of Guilt and Shame”) that contained a different angle on the Parable of the Prodigal Son than is typically given voice to in LDS discourse. As many biblical scholars suggest, this parable might better be referred to as the Parable of the Two Lost Sons. In this essay, Quinn discusses her own embodiment of many of the same qualities of that parable’s elder brother and…

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75–76: Communicating About the Temple

February 22, 2012
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75–76: Communicating About the Temple

Mormon temple practices have come under renewed scrutiny recently as it has come to public attention that Mitt Romney’s father-in-law, a known non-religious person, had recently had temple ordinances performed on his behalf, and, in an even more emotionally charged case, that the names of the parents of well-known concentration camp survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal had been submitted for having baptism and other temple ordinances performed for them vicariously. (After recording this episode, we have learned that famous concentration camp victim, Anne Frank, has also just had temple work performed on her behalf in the LDS temple in…

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74: Writing Mormon Lives

February 14, 2012
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74: Writing Mormon Lives

Phyllis Barber and Joanna Brooks are two of Mormonism’s bravest voices, writers of memoirs in which they offer us privileged glimpses of their inner lives, their comings of age in all the kinds of awkwardness that entails, including learning how to inhabit their bodies and sexuality in healthy ways, tensions between the path indicated by LDS narratives and the various other possibilities suggested by other stories that surround them, struggles with theological ideas and legacies that are especially difficult for women, their searches for place in and peace with the tradition and people into which they were born and “cultured.”…

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73: “And the Survey Says…!”: Reflections on Mormon Disaffection, Marlin Jensen’s Remarks, Recent Articles on Mormonism’s Challenge in Better Facing Its History

February 8, 2012
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73: “And the Survey Says…!”: Reflections on Mormon Disaffection, Marlin Jensen’s Remarks, Recent Articles on Mormonism’s Challenge in Better Facing Its History

This episode is an attempt to aid in processing the current moment in which various Mormon-watching communities are beginning to digest the preliminary results that have recently been released from the Open Stories Foundation survey about why Mormons leave the church, which comes on the heels of remarks made in December at Utah State University by LDS Church Historian Elder Marlin Jensen and reported on in numerous recent news stories in which he reflects on the current disaffection crisis and the Church’s plans to help address it. What does the survey suggest? How might the LDS Church move ahead more…

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72: Effecting Change in the Church

January 31, 2012
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72: Effecting Change in the Church

This episode features panelists who all are deeply involved with theLDSChurch, yet from their position of involvement in, and love and affection for, the church and those they worship and serve with, each of them acts as an agent for change. As one of the panelists, Carol Lynn Pearson, suggests in the podcast, don’t we all want to be a blessing to those we love? But while the idea of bringing about “change” being a way of “blessing” others flows easily from Carol Lynn and the other panelists, these two don’t equate this way for many Latter-day Saints who, like…

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71: Make Love AND War!: Maintaining Positive Relationships During Faith Transitions—A Spiritual Framing

January 26, 2012
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71: Make Love AND War!: Maintaining Positive Relationships During Faith Transitions—A Spiritual Framing

This is an expanded version of the talk Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon gave at the Houston Region Mormon Stories Support Community conference held 20-21 January 2012. Using the biblical accounts of Jacob and the angel, and Jacob and Esau, as key texts, and organized around the central image of a “wrestling match” being simultaneously a fight but also an embrace, along with the idea of the close ties between making love and making war, the talk is geared toward providing ways of thinking about faith crises in positive ways–as integral parts of the larger human developmental journey–and then allowing…

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