This is my first post so I should intro­duce myself. I met my wife to be, in the last year of high school and mar­ried her when we were both 19. My wife came from an LDS fam­i­ly with her father serv­ing as Bish­op at the time. I was bap­tized into the church about 6 months after our mar­riage and start­ed our life jour­ney togeth­er as active mem­bers of the church. I am now almost 59 and have served in most call­ings par­tic­u­lar­ly in Young Mens, Elders Quo­rum Pres­i­dent, High Priests Group Leader, var­i­ous Bish­oprics, sev­er­al occa­sions as a High Coun­cilor, and most recent­ly as a Bish­op. You could say I am well round­ed in the LDS Church.

My life was going along with the nor­mal ups and downs up until in search­ing for answers to LDS Church his­to­ry ques­tions raised by 2 of my chil­dren and their spous­es, I came across the Church Essays in the Gospel Top­ics sec­tion of LDS​.org.

Here is my recent let­ter to my cur­rent Bish­op and Stake Pres­i­dent that will show you the dif­fi­cul­ty that I am expe­ri­enc­ing.

Dear Bish­op and Stake Pres­i­dent,

I write to you both as my ward and quo­rum lead­ers. I speak for both myself, and my wife, how­ev­er the fol­low­ing let­ter is entire­ly my thoughts and per­son­al strug­gles over the last 18 months.

My wife and I are the par­ents of 5 won­der­ful and unique chil­dren and 8 joy­ful grand­chil­dren (so far). All of our chil­dren were born in the covenant and entered the Tem­ple with their spous­es, with 4 chil­dren (2 sons and 2 daugh­ters) serv­ing mis­sions.

About 18 months ago, my eldest son and eldest daughter’s hus­band were strug­gling with their tes­ti­monies of the church. Need­less to say, their strug­gles were affect­ing their eter­nal com­pan­ions. Their strug­gles were based around fun­da­men­tal beliefs that we have, such as Joseph Smith and the Restora­tion, Book of Mor­mon and oth­er revealed scrip­ture, Race and the Priest­hood. Prayer­ful­ly I coun­seled with them and shared my love and tes­ti­mo­ny with them. In my endeav­or to seek fur­ther knowl­edge I began my jour­ney to search for answers to their dif­fi­cul­ties.

As I began my research, I some­how came across the “Church Essays” found on lds​.org in the Gospel Top­ics sec­tion. As I read some of them I start­ed to get an uneasy feel­ing. Here was infor­ma­tion that up until now I would have expect­ed to find on anti-Mor­mon sites. As I read through them rather than get­ting answers to ques­tions, I was get­ting more ques­tions that need­ed answer­ing. It was like pulling a loose thread and real­iz­ing that my “Gospel fab­ric” was start­ing to unrav­el.

As I read through the var­i­ous top­ics in the “Essays” I real­ized that there was more infor­ma­tion need­ed than what was offered. The church was pro­vid­ing this infor­ma­tion to assist those mem­bers strug­gling with his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion as well as being an attempt to become “more trans­par­ent”, how­ev­er this infor­ma­tion was only super­fi­cial and even vague in areas. Unfor­tu­nate­ly rather than find­ing answers to those ques­tions, I was begin­ning to sense a feel­ing of sad­ness and lone­li­ness and a break­ing down of my own “tes­ti­mo­ny”.

I need­ed more help, but where do I go? If I go to non-church sites then there is a bias, which would not be help­ful. I have tried where pos­si­ble to research LDS based sites espe­cial­ly those that refer to var­i­ous per­son­al diaries of lead­ers and promi­nent peo­ple of ear­ly Church his­to­ry, which are in fact quot­ed as reli­able sources by our lead­ers today. A valu­able site for me has been Mor­mon His­to­ry Asso­ci­a­tion, which is a great source of infor­ma­tion on the church’s his­to­ry. You can find it at:


Just over 12 months ago my wife and I along with our youngest daugh­ter (25) relo­cat­ed to our new Ward. In my first inter­view with Bish­op, I expressed my con­cerns with regards to the “Essays” only to find out that he was aware of them and that oth­ers in his ward also had chal­lenges. He sug­gest­ed I read “Rough Stone Rolling”, an LDS based biog­ra­phy of Joseph Smith. I have yet to obtain a copy, how­ev­er I have read var­i­ous quotes and it’s inter­est­ing to note that even Bush­man uses cer­tain ref­er­ences that if researched by the read­er will pro­vide fur­ther infor­ma­tion that, in my opin­ion, is dam­ag­ing to the church.

Dur­ing this peri­od, my wife had been very sup­port­ive and lov­ing to me and of course to our chil­dren. She had been faith­ful in attend­ing to her call­ing as RS teacher and try­ing to be strong in her tes­ti­mo­ny, how­ev­er she has now also start­ed to strug­gle with aspects of church his­to­ry, so much so, that when we unex­pect­ed­ly, were extend­ed a call to serve as Mul­ti Stake Pub­lic Affairs Direc­tors for our region, we real­ized that as Direc­tors, we would have to defend the Church, both pub­licly and in the var­i­ous com­mit­tees that we would need to attend. This was too much for us and with sad­ness offered our apolo­gies to the Area Sev­en­ty and declined the call. In regards to my wife’s RS call­ing she also has informed the RS Pres­i­dent of her deci­sion to no longer per­form her role as teacher.

The last months have been dif­fi­cult for us both to sit in Church meet­ings and lis­ten to tes­ti­monies about the “truth­ful­ness of the Church” or that “Joseph Smith and oth­ers were true prophets”. These have come about because of the unre­solved ques­tions raised by the “Essay” top­ics.

We love the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we under­stand it. What we have dif­fi­cul­ty in, is how to rec­on­cile the his­tor­i­cal facts and the teach­ings of the ear­ly prophets and our cur­rent beliefs today. I know we have known about such things as polygamy, race and the Priest­hood etc. before, but we nev­er knew them in detail, and the essays, in try­ing to be more “trans­par­ent” have only skimmed over the dif­fi­cult ques­tions. The more I have now researched, the more dis­turb­ing the infor­ma­tion has become.

Just last month I came across Elder M Rus­sell Bal­lard address (see lds​.org – There is Absolute­ly Noth­ing Wrong with Ask­ing Ques­tions) Sep­tem­ber 13, 2015. Here are some extracts:

To the Saints in the Utah South Area

Let me make sure that you are hear­ing my epis­tle and that you under­stand this impor­tant point. There is absolute­ly noth­ing wrong with ask­ing ques­tions or inves­ti­gat­ing our his­to­ry, doc­trine, and prac­tices. The Restora­tion began when Joseph Smith sought answers to his sin­cere ques­tions.

We have heard sto­ries where some­one ask­ing hon­est ques­tions about our his­to­ry, doc­trine, or prac­tice were treat­ed as though they were faith­less. This is not the Lord’s way. As Peter said, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man [or woman] that asketh you a rea­son of the hope that is in you.”

We need to do bet­ter in respond­ing to hon­est ques­tions. Although we may not be able to answer every ques­tion about the cos­mos or about our his­to­ry, prac­tices, or doc­trine, we can pro­vide many answers to those who are sin­cere.”

Elder Bal­lard con­tin­ues by relat­ing a sto­ry of a young elder who served with then Mis­sion Pres­i­dent Bal­lard in Cana­da:

One of our out­stand­ing mis­sion­ar­ies that served with us in the Cana­da Toron­to Mis­sion years ago, came to my office in Salt Lake City. Dur­ing our vis­it, he told me that he was los­ing his faith and his tes­ti­mo­ny and that he had many ques­tions. I asked him to write down his ques­tions and promised to find answers to them, cer­tain­ly as many as I could. As he was about to leave, he had his hand on the door­knob of my office, I said, “Elder, how long has it been since you have stud­ied the scrip­tures, specif­i­cal­ly how long has it been since you have read from the Book of Mor­mon? He low­ered his head and said he had not been doing that. I gave him an assign­ment to begin read­ing the Book of Mor­mon for an hour each day while I worked to pre­pare answers to his ques­tions. He agreed to do so.

Two weeks lat­er, he came back to my office, and as he entered in and sat down he said, “Pres­i­dent, I don’t need answers to those ques­tions any­more. I did what you asked—I know the Book of Mor­mon is true and I know Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.” I was very hap­py to hear that, but said, “Elder, I spent a long time answer­ing your ques­tions so you will have to sit down and hear the answers!” What a joy! The Spir­it and light of the gospel had returned to him. I com­mend­ed him and gave him a big hug before he left.”

He fur­ther stat­ed the fol­low­ing:

When I have a ques­tion that I can­not answer, I turn to those who can help me. The Church is blessed with trained schol­ars and those who have devot­ed a life­time of study, who have come to know our his­to­ry and the scrip­tures. These thought­ful men and women pro­vide con­text and back­ground so we can bet­ter under­stand our sacred past and our cur­rent prac­tices.”

I can hear you say­ing “yes, the answer to our strug­gles is to read the scrip­tures dai­ly, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Book of Mor­mon” as rec­om­mend­ed by Elder Bal­lard. But isn’t it inter­est­ing that he says:

When I have a ques­tion that I can­not answer, I turn to those who can help me … trained schol­ars …”

So does he need more than the scrip­tures? What about Apos­tolic rev­e­la­tion? If even he needs to turn to schol­ars etc. then that would also apply to me. I have thought about the young elder read­ing the Book of Mor­mon. We all do that to get in a “com­fort­able and warm feel­ing” zone. One that we are famil­iar with, one that we have turned to for most of our lives. But is that feel­ing of com­fort and warmth only a “famil­iar feel­ing”? The young man said he was OK, but it’s also inter­est­ing that Elder Bal­lard con­tin­ued with answer­ing his ques­tions. Those ques­tions or answers are not stat­ed. They would have been help­ful for me.

The fol­low­ing are some of the dif­fi­cul­ties that have affect­ed me in read­ing the Essays.


Rev­e­la­tion on plur­al mar­riage D&C 132 (12th July 1843) – known to Joseph since 1831 fol­low­ing his read­ing about Abra­ham in the scrip­tures.

Although the seal­ing keys were not restored till April 3 1836 (Kirt­land Tem­ple) – Joseph secret­ly mar­ries Fan­ny Alger (a maid in his house) with­out restored seal­ing keys and before the rev­e­la­tion on plur­al mar­riage?

Louisa Bea­man becomes the first of many plur­al wives sealed to Joseph in Nau­voo April 1841. Joseph also marries/seals him­self to mar­ried women, even some whose hus­bands are on mis­sions. No expla­na­tion is giv­en.

The most damn­ing exam­ple of Joseph’s and Brigham Young’s prac­tice of “Celes­tial Mar­riage” was with Zina D Hunt­ing­ton Jacobs Smith Young. She was propo­si­tioned by Joseph to be his plur­al wife and even after she mar­ried Hen­ry Jacobs, Joseph con­tin­ued to pur­sue Zina and even­tu­al­ly sealed her to him­self. Fol­low­ing Joseph’s death, Brigham decid­ed he was a bet­ter man for her than her legal hus­band Hen­ry and had her sealed to him­self for time with­out a divorce from Hen­ry and went on to hav­ing chil­dren with her. Is this Gods “plan of hap­pi­ness”?

The Church Essay states the fol­low­ing:

When God com­mands a dif­fi­cult task, He some­times sends addi­tion­al mes­sen­gers to encour­age His peo­ple to obey. Con­sis­tent with this pat­tern, Joseph told asso­ciates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and com­mand­ed him to pro­ceed with plur­al mar­riage when he hes­i­tat­ed to move for­ward. Dur­ing the third and final appear­ance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threat­en­ing Joseph with destruc­tion unless he went for­ward and obeyed the com­mand­ment ful­ly.”

Joseph would use this state­ment of the destroy­ing angel to coerce some of the women to accept his mar­riage pro­pos­al. He would also state that he had received by rev­e­la­tion that the spe­cif­ic woman was to be sealed to him.

The essay fur­ther states the fol­low­ing in try­ing to answer the cas­es of polyandry:

He may have believed that seal­ings to mar­ried women would com­ply with the Lord’s com­mand with­out requir­ing him to have nor­mal mar­riage rela­tion­ships.”

This is not con­sis­tent with one of the rea­sons for the prac­tice of polygamy which was to “raise up seed unto the Lord”. If Joseph didn’t have “nor­mal mar­riage rela­tion­ships” then what seed would have been raised?

Anoth­er excerpt:

The rev­e­la­tion on plur­al mar­riage, record­ed in Doc­trine and Covenants 132, emerged part­ly from Joseph Smith’s study of the Old Tes­ta­ment in 1831. Lat­ter-day Saints under­stood that they were liv­ing in the lat­ter days, in what the rev­e­la­tions called the “dis­pen­sa­tion of the full­ness of times.”5 Ancient principles—such as prophets, priest­hood, and temples—would be restored to the earth. Plur­al mar­riage, prac­ticed by ancient patri­archs like Abra­ham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, was one of those ancient prin­ci­ples.”

This has been a very per­plex­ing state­ment. Log­ic says that if Joseph had to restore all as at first, includ­ing plur­al mar­riage, why isn’t it a nec­es­sary prin­ci­ple today? (The Woodruff Man­i­festo is anoth­er top­ic of dis­cus­sion). Think­ing about this some more, if Joseph restored Christ’s church, then who in Christ’s time prac­ticed polygamy and if not why not? And if the doc­trine of polygamy is to raise seed unto God then why did Adam only have Eve and not oth­er wives, or even Noah after the flood?

And again:

Emma approved, at least for a time, of four of Joseph Smith’s plur­al mar­riages in Nau­voo, and she accept­ed all four of those wives into her house­hold. She may have approved of oth­er mar­riages as well. But Emma like­ly did not know about all of Joseph’s seal­ings. She vac­il­lat­ed in her view of plur­al mar­riage, at some points sup­port­ing it and at oth­er times denounc­ing it.”

This doesn’t sound like Emma was thrilled about polygamy and what about Joseph being hon­est with his wife?

Here’s an inter­est­ing quote:

The rev­e­la­tion on mar­riage required that a wife give her con­sent before her hus­band could enter into plur­al mar­riage. Nev­er­the­less, toward the end of the rev­e­la­tion, the Lord said that if the first wife “receive not this law”—the com­mand to prac­tice plur­al marriage—the hus­band would be “exempt from the law of Sarah,” pre­sum­ably the require­ment that the hus­band gain the con­sent of the first wife before mar­ry­ing addi­tion­al women. After Emma opposed plur­al mar­riage, Joseph was placed in an ago­niz­ing dilem­ma, forced to choose between the will of God and the will of his beloved Emma. He may have thought Emma’s rejec­tion of plur­al mar­riage exempt­ed him from the law of Sarah. Her deci­sion to “receive not this law” per­mit­ted him to mar­ry addi­tion­al wives with­out her con­sent.”

Well a con­ve­nient out for Joseph. He could mar­ry any­one with­out Emma’s per­mis­sion because he was only fol­low­ing God’s com­mand.

Let’s look at Helen Mar Kim­ball, Heber C Kimball’s 14 year old daugh­ter (see BYU Reli­gious Edu­ca­tion):


Joseph … came next morn­ing & with my par­ents I heard him teach & explain the prin­ci­ple of Celes­tial marriage—after which he said to me, ‘If you will take this step, it will ensure your eter­nal sal­va­tion and exal­ta­tion & that of your father’s house­hold & all of your kin­dred. This promise was so great that I will­ing­ly gave myself to pur­chase so glo­ri­ous a reward.” Nei­ther a star­ry-eyed nor love-struck pro­pos­al, Joseph Smith’s to Helen resem­bles oth­ers record­ed by the Prophet’s wives; each report­ed that he couched his pro­pos­al in the lan­guage of rev­e­la­tion, obe­di­ence to God’s law, and the promise of eter­nal rewards.”

I can’t help but feel for Helen, a 14 year old girl who had so much pres­sure put on her by the Prophet and her father. Can you imag­ine if you had a 14 year old daugh­ter? Would you feel com­fort­able in sub­mit­ting to the pro­pos­al?

Pres Gor­don B Hinck­ley in an inter­view with Lar­ry King said this of the prac­tice of polygamy:

I con­demn it, yes, as a prac­tice, because I think it is not doc­tri­nal.”

The church essay states this about the doc­trine of plur­al mar­riage:

Church mem­bers no longer prac­tice plur­al mar­riage.54 Con­sis­tent with Joseph Smith’s teach­ings, the Church per­mits a man whose wife has died to be sealed to anoth­er woman when he remar­ries.”

So it is indeed still a doc­trine of the church. Per­haps Pres Hinck­ley was con­fused?

Here is a quote from “Offi­cial Dec­la­ra­tion 1” (D&C) — Scrip­ture: (is this an exam­ple of the accept­ed prin­ci­ple of “lying for the Lord”?)

I, there­fore, as Pres­i­dent of The Church of Jesus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints, do here­by, in the most solemn man­ner, declare that these charges are false. We are not teach­ing polygamy or plur­al mar­riage, nor per­mit­ting any per­son to enter into its prac­tice, and I deny that either forty or any oth­er num­ber of plur­al mar­riages have dur­ing that peri­od been sol­em­nized in our Tem­ples or in any oth­er place in the Ter­ri­to­ry.

Here is an “out” for Pres Woodruff as giv­en by the author of the essay:

The Man­i­festo declared Pres­i­dent Woodruff’s inten­tion to sub­mit to the laws of the Unit­ed States. It said noth­ing about the laws of oth­er nations. Ever since the open­ing of colonies in Mex­i­co and Cana­da, Church lead­ers had per­formed plur­al mar­riages in those coun­tries, and after Octo­ber 1890, plur­al mar­riages con­tin­ued to be qui­et­ly per­formed there.34 As a rule, these mar­riages were not pro­mot­ed by Church lead­ers and were dif­fi­cult to get approved. Either one or both of the spous­es who entered into these unions typ­i­cal­ly had to agree to remain in Cana­da or Mex­i­co. Under excep­tion­al cir­cum­stances, a small­er num­ber of new plur­al mar­riages were per­formed in the Unit­ed States between 1890 and 1904, though whether the mar­riages were autho­rized to have been per­formed with­in the states is unclear.”

I just want to under­stand what are excep­tion­al cir­cum­stances? If Joseph had to fol­low God’s com­mand to mar­ry oth­er women, what excep­tion­al cir­cum­stance were there for mem­bers to break God’s com­mand fol­low­ing the Man­i­festo?

From the essay:

The exclu­sion of B. H. Roberts opened Mor­mon mar­i­tal prac­tices to renewed scruti­ny. Church Pres­i­dent Loren­zo Snow issued a state­ment clar­i­fy­ing that new plur­al mar­riages had ceased in the Church and that the Man­i­festo extend­ed to all parts of the world, coun­sel he repeat­ed in pri­vate. Even so, a small num­ber of new plur­al mar­riages con­tin­ued to be per­formed, prob­a­bly with­out Pres­i­dent Snow’s knowl­edge or approval. After Joseph F. Smith became Church Pres­i­dent in 1901, a small num­ber of new plur­al mar­riages were also per­formed dur­ing the ear­ly years of his admin­is­tra­tion.”

Here again after a Prophet of God pub­licly stat­ing that plur­al mar­riage had ceased and by God’s com­mand, yet more mar­riages were per­formed. Again what spe­cial cir­cum­stance allows a faith­ful mem­ber and indeed the Lord’s anoint­ed Apostle/Prophet to break not only the Law of the land but also God’s com­mand?


Anoth­er dif­fi­cult fact is the use of the “seer stone” in trans­lat­ing the gold plates.

The essay states the fol­low­ing:

The oth­er instru­ment, which Joseph Smith dis­cov­ered in the ground years before he retrieved the gold plates, was a small oval stone, or “seer stone.” As a young man dur­ing the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like oth­ers in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried trea­sure. As Joseph grew to under­stand his prophet­ic call­ing, he learned that he could use this stone for the high­er pur­pose of trans­lat­ing scrip­ture”.

The Urim and Thum­mim was only used to trans­late the first 116 pages (the lost ones). After Joseph regained the plates he then only used the “seer stone”. This seer stone was the one found on Willard Chase prop­er­ty while dig­ging in a well. There is no men­tion any­where that it was giv­en to Joseph by God to help him trans­late, or even any men­tion that God “touched” the stones (see Bro of Jared). So this stone and oth­er stones cer­tain­ly were not “gifts” from God.

It’s also inter­est­ing that now we have numer­ous state­ments on Joseph putting the stone in a hat. Pri­or to this the process of trans­lat­ing with the seer stone was men­tioned obscure­ly in a Friend arti­cle of 1979 and some years ago by Elder Nel­son.

I would like to hear anyone’s thoughts on the Octo­ber 2015 Ensign arti­cle enti­tled “Joseph the Seer”. Here is the link:


I have fur­ther dif­fi­cul­ty in under­stand­ing the fact that the church has had this “seer stone” since Brigham Young and only now dis­closed that fact. And since Joseph, no oth­er Prophet has used it, or felt the need to use it? I would think today would be a per­fect time to receive fur­ther rev­e­la­tion to answer all the unknown facts as touched upon in the essays.


The Essay is detailed, how­ev­er no one can find where the “doc­trine” of ban­ning blacks from the Priest­hood came from, only that Brigham Young pub­licly announced in 1852 that:

men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priest­hood, though there­after blacks con­tin­ued to join the Church through bap­tism and receiv­ing the gift of the Holy Ghost. Fol­low­ing the death of Brigham Young, sub­se­quent Church pres­i­dents restrict­ed blacks from receiv­ing the tem­ple endow­ment or being mar­ried in the tem­ple. Over time, Church lead­ers and mem­bers advanced many the­o­ries to explain the priest­hood and tem­ple restric­tions. None of these expla­na­tions is accept­ed today as the offi­cial doc­trine of the Church”.

So it wasn’t a doc­trine and no rev­e­la­tion was giv­en by God to his Prophet, yet we had to wait till Pres­i­dent Spencer Kim­ball received rev­e­la­tion from God to allow blacks the priv­i­lege. The theme run­ning through the Essay is that it was the cul­ture of the time, mean­ing that soci­ety had a par­tic­u­lar view of the Negro and there­fore the Church was of the same opin­ion. How does one con­sid­er that, when we com­pare the prac­tice of Polygamy. It cer­tain­ly wasn’t an accept­ed view of soci­ety, yet the church mem­bers were so obe­di­ent to that prac­tice even though it not being accept­ed by soci­ety.

I have just scratched the sur­face in regards to the church essays and the his­to­ry of the church.

Reuben Clark is quot­ed as hav­ing said “If we have truth, it can­not be harmed by inves­ti­ga­tion. If we have not truth, it ought to be harmed”. I would think that the “truth” found in the essays has harmed me. I cer­tain­ly have come to the con­clu­sion that I have been taught “the philoso­phies of men – min­gled with scrip­ture”.

Need­less to say I sim­ply announce to you both, that Anne and I will no longer be reg­u­lar atten­ders to future church meet­ings. We have shared our dif­fi­cul­ties (briefly) with our 2 “active” chil­dren and their spous­es. Although heart­break­ing for them and us, we could no longer pre­tend that all is well in Zion. We have for now decid­ed to not seek for­mal removal of our mem­ber­ship, as that would show to them a final­i­ty in our “eter­nal fam­i­ly unit”, as the church doc­trines teach­es, and at this stage we do not wish that heartache upon them.

Final­ly, if there is one thing that I would ask of you both, it is that you would read the church essays in full, con­cen­trat­ing on Plur­al Mar­riage, Race and the Priest­hood, Book of Abra­ham, and when you have read and pon­dered them, ask your­selves in all hon­esty, if they do not cause some doubt to come into your minds. I am still per­plexed at the fact that the church has pub­lished them think­ing that they would be help­ful to mem­bers. And it both­ers me great­ly that any­one, espe­cial­ly the Brethren, would say “don’t doubt”.


John Krok

They both respond­ed to my let­ter, with the Bish­op offer­ing to meet with my wife and me, to see what he could do. The Stake Pres­i­dent replied by stat­ing that he had read in detail my let­ter, but didn’t know the answers and hoped that I would find them as I faith­ful­ly fol­lowed the Spirit’s direc­tion.

What I real­ly want­ed from both brethren was their thoughts / opin­ions on what is found in the Church Essays, but it seems that they would pre­fer to stay clear of them.

What also sad­dens me, is that when I have raised ques­tions with oth­er mem­bers of the LDS Church regard­ing the Church Essays, none of them have a knowl­edge about them and cer­tain­ly don’t want to know more.

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