54: The Atonement in Mormon Thought and Experience

October 4, 2011
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54: The Atonement in Mormon Thought and Experience

The central claim of Christianity is that all human beings are “fallen,” held captive by sin, or are in some other way in a dire circumstance that can only be overcome through God’s aid, which comes through faith in the infinite love and sacrifice of God’s own son, Jesus Christ. According to the Christian tradition, this is the central truth of the human condition, and it is only through what has been labeled the Atonement of Jesus Christ that there is a way out. Throughout history, many Christians have celebrated their feelings of being rescued from the grasp of sin, selfishness,…

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53: Mormonism and Capital Punishment

September 27, 2011
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53: Mormonism and Capital Punishment

The recent execution of Troy Davis brought to the front once more the issue of capital punishment, especially arguments about the very real possibility of executing the wrong person, the unreliability of eye witness accounts, law enforcement pressures for conviction, and the possible brokenness of many of the safeguards that are in place to assure that miscarriages of justice at this ultimate level do not happen. This podcast uses this moment of reflection to discuss Mormon attitudes about the death penalty, and especially what social and theological aspects of Mormonism play into these attitudes. It discusses things such as agency and…

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52: Rebirth of the Student Review

September 20, 2011
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52: Rebirth of the Student Review

From 1986 to 1997, the Student Review enjoyed a wonderful run as BYU’s independent student newspaper, which at its peak published weekly and reached a circulation of 10,000. During its years, SR featured a cross section of news reporting, essays, and wonderful humor and satire, with some of its stories resulting in changes to campus policy, as well as impacting life in the wider community and state. As a result of some of its coverage of difficult issues, the publication occasionally rankled school administrators, sometimes even triggering official efforts to shut it down. A team of current BYU students has…

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51: The Dynamics of Guilt and Shame

September 14, 2011
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51: The Dynamics of Guilt and Shame

Many people–and Latter-day Saints are no exception– struggle with feelings of “not being enough,” worthlessness, or that they are unlovable by others, God, and themselves. Those who feel this way are caught up in the throes of toxic shame–a distortion and perversion of natural and healthy feelings of “guilt” over wrong choices or healthy types of shame that help moderate the ways we act in public and in interactions with others. The gospel teaches us of our infinite worth and of our Heavenly Parents’ unconditional love for each of us no matter what mistakes we make. So why do we…

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50: The Call to Be Peacemakers

September 6, 2011
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50: The Call to Be Peacemakers

The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks provide an important moment for all of us to reflect on life’s most precious things and what we hold in our hearts about family, friends, neighbors, our wider communities, strangers, and those with whom we disagree about what’s most important for the world and how to bring it about. This sacred occasion also provides a good incentive for thinking about what it means to be called by Christ as peacemakers. In this podcast, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Charles Randall Paul, Liz Shropshire, and James Faulconer reflect upon today’s world…

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49: Mormonism’s Messages about Motherhood

August 30, 2011
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This panel discussion examines the wonderful gifts of Mormonism’s strong emphases and teachings about the divine role of motherhood as well as the external and internal pressures that come with these messages and how they sometimes work against the more basic gospel goal of helping women fully flourish and grow in godlike qualities. In this far-ranging and insight-packed conversation, panelists Chelsea Fife, Chelsea Strayer, and Jennifer Finlayson-Fife all maintain the utmost gratitude for their own role as mothers and for church emphases on motherhood’s many joys while also examining ways we as Latter-day Saints might change some of our messaging…

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48: Mormonism and Evolution

August 23, 2011
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48: Mormonism and Evolution

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the controversies over the study and teaching of evolution at Brigham Young University that resulted in the resignations or firing of three of Brigham Young University’s prominent faculty members and a significant blow to the university career of another. This Mormon Matters episode tells key elements in the story of those 1911 events, but it primarily uses them as a launching pad for a tour of the history of LDS views and approaches to evolution from then to now, as well as more specific reflections on the various tensions between Mormon scriptural…

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47: When Worldviews Go Haywire: Breivik, Jeffs, and the Religion/Mental Health Matrix

August 16, 2011
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47: When Worldviews Go Haywire: Breivik, Jeffs, and the Religion/Mental Health Matrix

The recent tragedy in Oslo and the Warren Jeffs trial provide two recent examples that remind us of the way various personality traits and/or mental issues coupled with isolation and the refusal to allow one’s own ideas to be challenged can lead to horrific acts of violence and depravity that the perpetrators claim to view as righteous. In this podcast, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Joanna Brooks and Natasha Helfer Parker examine various angles into how distorted worldviews like these take hold, the influence of nature and nurture (including religious factors), as well as some of the things…

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46: In Memoriam—Sister Chieko Okazaki and Elder Marion D. Hanks

August 10, 2011
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The first week of August 2011 saw the passing of two giants in the Mormon universe: Sister Chieko Okazaki, a former counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and beloved author and speaker, and Elder Marion D. Hanks, a long-time general authority who many looked up to as one of Mormonism’s greatest champions for love, equality, and Christian service. This episode is a celebration and appreciation of their lives through conversation with intimate friends. Mormon Matters host, Dan Wotherspoon, first interviews Sister Aileen Clyde, who served from 1990 to 1997 as a fellow counselor with Sister Okazaki in the Relief…

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45: The Mormon Practice of Bearing Testimony

August 2, 2011
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Testimony image

In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Brent Beal, Brian Johnston, and Jana Riess explore various aspects of one of Mormonism’s most regular (and sometimes it seems regulated) rituals: the monthly opportunity for church members to bear testimony. The discussion ranges from the nature of the expectation that those bearing testimony, including children, will focus on particular truth claims, to the peculiar way Mormonism encourages members to extrapolate from experiences of feeling “the spirit” within a gospel context to conclude that all other LDS claims are therefore true (and even that this is the “one and only”…

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44: A Vital Legacy of Independent Mormon Thought: Dialogue and Sunstone

July 27, 2011
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Sunstone cartoon

The Sunstone Symposium that begins next week (3 – 6 August) provides an excellent springboard into a discussion of the history and focuses of two of the longest-running and most important entities in independent Mormon thought: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and Sunstone (magazine and host of multiple conferences each year). In today’s Internet world with ever-increasing numbers of Mormon-themed websites, blogs, and podcasts, it is sometimes easy to forget that many of the most frequent topics under discussion in today’s forums have been debated and discussed in uncorrelated publications and gatherings for more than four decades, and that…

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43: Healthy Approaches to Teaching Modesty

July 20, 2011
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43: Healthy Approaches to Teaching Modesty

In today’s LDS youth programs, especially those for young women, modesty has become even more of an emphasis than in years and decades past. Of course modesty is important, but are some of the ways modesty is being taught today more harmful than helpful for youth who are undergoing important transitions in their lives? Is modesty being taught too often as an end in itself rather than as a fruit that flows from a life and self-image rooted in healthy spiritual, emotional, and physical confidence? Furthermore, is modesty being taught too early, becoming an emphasis far ahead of when it…

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42: Pros and Cons of Keeping Mormonism “Weird”

July 13, 2011
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42: Pros and Cons of Keeping Mormonism “Weird”

Recent decades have seen a decrease in emphases of and public and internal discussions of many of Mormonism’s most distinctive doctrines and practices–especially some that are often thought of as “weird.” Has this trend of downplaying Mormon differences from mainline Christian views, as well as many of Mormonism’s interesting and unique blend of views about human progression, the nature of God and humans, God’s power and goals for the world, the idea of a Heavenly Mother, and so forth, been a net positive or negative for the tradition? Clearly Mormonism is more publicly accepted today (with obvious exceptions), but would…

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40–41: Ritual within Mormonism

July 5, 2011
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40–41: Ritual within Mormonism

In this two-part discussion, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Julia Hunter, Chelsea Strayer, and Chelsea Fife explore insights from myth and ritual studies and the ways these ideas help illuminate aspects of Mormon devotional and cultural experience. Can having a better understanding of ritual structure, how ritual functions in social life, and ritual’s intent to lead us out of everyday rhythms and ways of relating to each other and into new head and heart spaces in which we learn and feel things of significance in different ways help us gain deeper appreciation for Mormonism’s many rituals? In Episode…

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39: Intellectuals and the Mormon Tradition

June 28, 2011
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39: Intellectuals and the Mormon Tradition

In early June, the Deseret News published a list compiled by Leonard J. Arrington in 1969 of the “most eminent intellectuals in Mormon history.” As you can imagine, the feature generated a lot of discussion both on the newspaper’s website, as well as in many corners of the Mormon bloggernacle. Who among those listed still belong in the Top Ten? Who should be on there now? Why aren’t any women listed, and which women should have made that list then or if a new list were compiled today? <br /> In this Mormon Matters episode, host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists…

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38: Illegal Immigration and Religion

June 21, 2011
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38: Illegal Immigration and Religion

On 10 June 2011, the LDS Church released an official statement on immigration that calls for Latter-day Saints and others to honor families and treat each other, foremost, as children of God while at the same time calling for the federal government to provide strong border security and discouraging its own members from entering any country illegally. It also expresses strong concern for the nearly twelve million people who are already in the United States illegally, urging lawmakers and citizens to strive to keep families together and work toward these people being able to “square themselves with the law and…

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37: Why Are Mormons Seen as “Dangerous” by Some Evangelical Christians?

June 14, 2011
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37: Why Are Mormons Seen as “Dangerous” by Some Evangelical Christians?

A recent article at the Patheos website by evangelical Christian writer and publisher Warren Cole Smith made a big splash both on that website and in Mormon circles because of Smith’s argument that a Mitt Romney presidency would be “dangerous” for many souls who could lose their salvation if they were led astray by Mormonism’s false teachings about God and Christ. Smith hangs his case for a president’s religious beliefs being a strong enough influence for something like this to happen on several claims that many, including other evangelicals writing at Patheos, find dubious. Yet, according to Smith (and the…

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35–36: Moving Beyond the “Negro Doctrine”

June 7, 2011
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35–36: Moving Beyond the “Negro Doctrine”

This month marks the thirty-third anniversary of the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to “all worthy males” in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since that day, little has been said by Church leaders on any topic related to the ban, including the reasons for the ban, the doctrinal justifications for the ban, and the process by which the ban came into existence in the first place. Even without such clarifications, the Church has nevertheless successfully grown in Africa and in U.S. inner cities with large African-American communities. Mormon Matters is very pleased this week to for the…

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34: Self-Identifying as “Mormon”

May 31, 2011
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34: Self-Identifying as “Mormon”

Mormonism has always been a home to members with many different religious temperaments, levels of belief, attitudes toward authority, and commitment to and comfort within the community. Still, even with this diversity, Mormonism has often felt to many members (and certainly to most outsiders) as monolithic—if the diversity is there, it hasn’t always been easy to find those “like you.” Indeed, much of this sense and appearance of unity came as a result of the efforts of the institutional church to deliberately set and convey fairly rigid boundaries about what constituted orthodoxy and orthopraxis, and who was and was not…

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33: The LDS Church and Its Single Young Adults, Part 2

May 25, 2011
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33: The LDS Church and Its Single Young Adults, Part 2

Episode 31 provided a solid first framing of many of the issues faced by Mormon young single adults—of which group, some 80 percent are becoming inactive at least for a period of time, and many are deciding to leave the church altogether. This episode follows up on that discussion, but focuses on hearing the voices of those in this age group themselves, hearing in their own words about their spiritual journeys, their experiences in singles wards, the messages that are being taught from the pulpit, in classes, and through interactions with church leaders, and the ways these messages are being…

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32: Heavenly Mother in Today’s Mormonism

May 17, 2011
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32: Heavenly Mother in Today’s Mormonism

The most recent issue of BYU Studies features the article, “ ‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven,” co-written by David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido. (Here is a link to the article and also a blog post on it by Joanna Brooks.) The article presents an overview of research that attempted to find every printed or recorded mention of Mother in Heaven or Heavenly Parents by LDS leaders. It is a great piece of scholarship and much needed. In this podcast discussion, host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Martin Pulido (article co-author), Tresa Edmunds, and…

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31: The LDS Church and Its Single Young Adults

May 10, 2011
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31: The LDS Church and Its Single Young Adults

Official statistics are hard to come by, but it has become clear over the past several years that Mormonism is seeing many of its 18- to 30-year-olds reduce their participation in the church or leave the faith altogether. Two recent actions confirm this trend and reveal the church’s initial responses in trying to stem the tide. First, in an effort to better track singles and help them feel connected to a local unit by providing new opportunities for callings and meeting other singles without “ward hopping,” the church has disbanded Utah student wards and reorganized them into singles wards in…

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30: Mormon Women and Equality

May 3, 2011
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30: Mormon Women and Equality

Michael Otterson, head of the LDS Church’s Public Affairs department, recently wrote a short piece for the Washington Post‘s “On Faith” blog titled, “What Mormon Equality Looks Like.” In his post, he cites three anonymous LDS women who assert their equality with men in terms of access to pulpits to teach and pray, their chances to preside over Church organizations, their equality “in the eyes of God, as equal halves of a divine pair and equal partners in his work, which includes the raising of families,” as well as equality in their rights to “direct access to God through prayer…

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29: David Brooks, The Book of Mormon Musical, and Rigorous Religion

April 27, 2011
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29: David Brooks, The Book of Mormon Musical, and Rigorous Religion

New York Times columnist David Brooks very much enjoyed the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon,” but, as he articulates in his 21 April 2011 column “Creed or Chaos,” he believes the play’s authors end up celebrating a “vague, uplifting, nondoctrinal” type of religion that can’t last and doesn’t motivate people to perform “heroic acts of service,” such as serving missions to third-world nations. As a result, he uses the musical as a springboard for celebrating the virtues of thriving religions, which he says have “communal theologies, doctrines and codes of conduct rooted in claims of absolute truth.” In this…

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28: Racism in Honor Code Enforcement for BYU Athletes?

April 19, 2011
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28: Racism in Honor Code Enforcement for BYU Athletes?

On 13 April 2011, Deadspin.com published a fast-trending article, “The Truth about Race, Religion, and the Honor Code at BYU,” that highlights possible racial factors at play in the way BYU enforces its Honor Code among its athletes. The story states: “Since 1993, at least 70 athletes have been suspended, dismissed, put on probation, or forced to withdraw from their teams or the school after running afoul of the honor code. Fifty-four of them, or nearly 80 percent, are minorities. Forty-one, or almost 60 percent, are black men.” In this episode, one of the article’s co-authors, Darron Smith, joins Mormon…

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27: Mormons and Their Leaders

April 12, 2011
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27: Mormons and Their Leaders

This episode, which was recorded a couple of days after the close of the April 2011 General Conference, explores the interplay between Latter-day Saints and those who are called to lead them as prophets, seers, and revelators. Why do some church members want to elevate leaders’ words delivered at conference almost to the level of scripture? Why is there so much adoration of leaders even as they regularly acknowledge their own humanity and fallibility, and even speak of the adulation they receive as one of their biggest challenges? To whom do church leaders aim their words, and why? How much…

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25-26: Theologies of Nature – Mormon Resources for Thinking about Natural Disasters

April 1, 2011
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25-26: Theologies of Nature – Mormon Resources for Thinking about Natural Disasters

This two-part episode uses the recent Japanese earthquakes and tsunamis as a springboard for a robust discussion of nature, and especially natural disasters. Often we hear claims that the upheaval and suffering caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tornados, famine, and the like are “God’s will,” that God is sending a message through these events. And certainly there is certainly scriptural precedent for that view, and even modern prophetic utterance. But are there other, more nuanced and perhaps more ennobling ways to frame natural disasters within a theistic worldview? And if there are ways of seeing these upheavals that can…

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24: Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Glenn Beck and the 2012 Election

March 23, 2011
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24: Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Glenn Beck and the 2012 Election

This episode features a panel discussion of the potential candidacies of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman as they consider a run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Have American attitudes towards Mormonism shifted significantly since Romney’s first campaign was often sidetracked by the “Mormon Question”? Has the Church’s involvement with Prop 8 helped or hurt the Mormon image for Republican voters? Does Glenn Beck being a high-profile Mormon have any effect on the potential electability of LDS candidates? Please enjoy host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Joanna Brooks, Jenny Nettesheim, and Jennifer Liddell as they discuss these and other issues related to Mormonism…

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23: The King James Version and Changes to Race-Related Book of Mormon Chapter Headings

March 15, 2011
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23: The King James Version and Changes to Race-Related Book of Mormon Chapter Headings

In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Kristine Haglund, Dallas Robbins, and Philip Barlow discuss two topics: The LDS Church’s recent reaffirmation of the King James Version as is its official Bible translation and The changes it has made to chapter headings in the online version of the Book of Mormon (changes that will be carried forward in future printings) that de-emphasize the idea of darker skin as a curse from God. What is the significance of this renewed commitment to the KJV instead of switching to newer, more scholarly Bible versions based on older manuscripts, translated…

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22: The Suspension of BYU Basketball Player of Brandon Davies and the BYU Honor Code

March 8, 2011
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22: The Suspension of BYU Basketball Player of Brandon Davies and the BYU Honor Code

A spirited and in-depth discussion of the suspension of BYU basketball player Brandon Davies for an Honor Code violation. After reviewing the basic issues at play in the Davies incident, the panel turns its attention to the Honor Code itself. Do the values the Honor Code promotes and the way the code is administered at the university lead to a culture of honesty, integrity, and genuine spiritual growth? What are the costs and benefits of standards that seem to equate external appearance, specific behaviors, and unquestioning allegiance to institutions with spiritual health? Are there better methods for instilling Christian values…

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21: Sex and Immigration

March 5, 2011
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In this re-launching of Mormon Matters podcast, Dan Wotherspoon leads a panel consisting of Joanna Brooks, Heather Olson-Beal and John Dehlin, to discuss: Sex Nicole Hardy’s NY Times piece entitled: Single, Female, Mormon, Alone The SL Tribune’s response, entitled: Sex and the Single Mormon LDS mother re-releases short video on her Prop 8 opposition and becomes leading trending topic on Reddit The father of the 5 Browns, Keith Brown, admits to sexually abusing 3 of his daughters. Immigration Activist delivers petition urging Mexico to curb LDS missionary visas LDS on illegal immigration: Don’t split families Doctrinal divide confronts Mormons on immigration…

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