Elder David A. Bednar and Susan K. Bednar
Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
January 7, 2003
Brothers and sisters, good afternoon. Elder Bednar and I welcome you to another new semester at Brigham Young University-Idaho. It is a blessing for us to spend this hour of worship with you, whether you are here in the Hart Auditorium or in any of the overflow locations across the campus.
Today Sister Bednar and I desire the companionship and assistance of the Holy Ghost--perhaps more than ever before--as we address with you a most important gospel topic, moral purity. We pray that the Holy Ghost will help to communicate both the intent and the importance of our message.
President Ezra Taft Benson forcefully declared that "The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality" (President Ezra Taft Benson, "Cleansing the Inner Vessel," Ensign, May 1986, p. 4). Our message today is both eternally essential and extremely sensitive, and we and you will need help from heaven if we are to understand one another and be "edified and rejoice together" (D&C 50:22). We are praying for you, and we hope you are praying for us.
We believe you will notice two distinctive aspects of our presentation this afternoon. First, Elder Bednar and I are at the pulpit together and will alternate turns speaking. We believe discussing moral purity with you requires a particular type of team approach that we have not previously employed in a devotional setting. We seek your help and understanding as we use this approach.
Second, because of the importance of this topic we will rely heavily upon the teachings and statements of prophets of God. To the extent possible, we will use video segments of general conference addresses by the Brethren as they have taught principles of moral purity. It is important for us to hear their voices, to see their faces, and to sense and feel their sincerity and the urgency as they preach powerful principles of purity.
We have organized our message around two central questions. Question 1: Why is moral purity so important? And question 2: What are the blessings associated with moral purity? We invite both your attention and your concentration, and we pray that you will listen to understand with both your mind and your heart.
Question 1: Why is moral purity so important?
The Proclamation on the Family clearly and concisely describes the central role of marriage, of procreation, and of the family to our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness:
We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
All human beings--male and female--are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
The first commandment that God gave Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His Children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God's eternal plan. ("The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Ensign, November 1995, p. 102.)
Our Heavenly Father was described by the Prophet Joseph Smith as "God the First, the Creator" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 190). As the sons and daughters of God, we have the potential to become like Him. The Father has entrusted us with a portion of His creative power and provided specific guidelines for the proper use of that sacred ability within the bonds of marriage to create life and establish an eternal family. How we feel about and use that sacred power in this life, in large measure, will determine whether additional creative power will be ours in the life to come. Our Eternal Father's divine plan of happiness enables us to experience the responsibilities and the blessings of marriage, to feel the joys and the sorrows of parenthood and family life, and to progress in mortality toward what we can ultimately become in eternity.
President Boyd K. Packer has taught plainly about the importance of procreation in the Father's plan:
There was provided in our bodies--and this is sacred--a power of creation, a light, so to speak, that has the power to kindle other lights. This gift was to be used only within the sacred bonds of marriage. Through the exercise of this power of creation, a mortal body may be conceived, a spirit enter into it, and a new soul born into this life.
This power is good. It can create and sustain family life, and it is in family life that we find the fountains of happiness. It is given to virtually every individual who is born into mortality. It is a sacred and significant power, and I repeat, my young friends, that this power is good. . . .
The power of creation--or may we say procreation--is not just an incidental part of the plan: it is essential to it. Without it the plan could not proceed. The misuse of it may disrupt the plan.
Much of the happiness that may come to you in this life will depend on how you use this sacred power of creation. . .
Again I want to tell you young people that this power within you is good. It is a gift from God our Father. In the righteous exercise of it as in nothing else, we may come close to him.
We can have, in a small way, much that our Father in heaven has as he governs us, his children. No greater school or testing place can be imagined.
Is it any wonder, then, that in the Church marriage is so sacred and so important? Can you understand why your marriage, which releases these powers of creation for your use, should be the most carefully planned, the most solemnly considered step in your life? Ought we to consider it unusual that the Lord directed that temples be constructed for the purpose of performing marriage ceremonies? (Boyd K. Packer, "Why Stay Morally Clean," Ensign, July 1972, p. 111.)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks also has emphasized the importance of the sacred power of procreation:
The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given his children. Its use was mandated in the first commandment, but another important commandment was given to forbid its misuse. The emphasis we place on the law of chastity is explained by our understanding of the purpose of our procreative powers in the accomplishment of God's plan.
The expression of our procreative powers is pleasing to God, but he has commanded that this be confined within the relationship of marriage. President Spencer W. Kimball taught that "in the context of lawful marriage, the intimacy of sexual relations is right and divinely approved. There is nothing unholy or degrading about sexuality in itself, for by that means men and women join in a process of creation and in an expression of love" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , p. 311).
Outside the bonds of marriage, all uses of the procreative power are to one degree or another a sinful degrading and perversion of the most divine attribute of men and women. (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "The Great Plan of Happiness," Ensign, November 1993, p. 74.)
Brothers and sisters, the sacred intimacy described by these apostles and prophets of God is central to the Father's plan. It is not merely an appetite to be satisfied; it is not a form of recreation or a type of entertainment to be selfishly pursued; it is not a curiosity to be explored; it is not a conquest to be achieved; and it is not simply an act to be performed. Rather, intimacy in mortality should be a grand expression of the love and deep commitment an individual has for his or her spouse, an outward expression of the inner desire to become one, and the ultimate expression of our divine nature and potential. It is a foreshadowing of and a preparation for eternity and what we will be there. We can begin to become in mortality what we will be in eternity.
As Elder Oaks has summarized:
Some who do not know the plan of salvation behave like promiscuous animals, but Latter-day Saints--especially those who are under sacred covenants--have no such latitude. We are solemnly responsible to God for the destruction or misuse of the creative powers he has placed within us. (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "The Great Plan of Happiness," Ensign, November 1993, p. 74.)
The doctrines Lucifer works most diligently to distort and attack are the ones that really matter the most to us individually, to our families, and to the world. The great plan of happiness enables each of us to obtain a physical body and makes possible a forever family. Where is the adversary presently focusing his most direct and diabolical attacks? Upon our beliefs about and uses of the physical body and upon the family. Satan does not have a body, and he cannot have a family. He desires that all of us would become miserable like unto himself. And the adversary relentlessly works to distort the foundational doctrines he hates the most (see Psalms 11:1-2, JST).
Moral purity is so important because the power to create mortal life is an essential element in the divine plan of happiness. The means by which mortal life is created are divinely appointed, and children are entitled to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Our appropriate use of procreative power in this life is a preparation for even greater creative power in the world to come.
Because moral purity is so important, the Lord's servants frequently and consistently raise a voice of warning to those who are tempted to misuse or tamper with these sacred creative powers. The following counsel was given by Elder Boyd K. Packer in 1972:
You grow up in a society where before you is the constant invitation to tamper with these sacred powers.
I want to counsel you and I want you to remember these words.
Do not let anyone at all touch or handle your body, not anyone! Those who tell you otherwise proselyte you to share their guilt. We teach you to maintain your innocence.
Turn away from any who would persuade you to experiment with these life-giving powers.
That such indulgence is widely accepted in society today is not enough! For both parties to willingly consent to such indulgence is not enough!
To imagine that it is a normal expression of affection is not enough to make it right.
The only righteous use of this sacred power is within the covenant of marriage.
Never misuse these sacred powers. (Boyd K. Packer, "Why Stay Morally Clean," Ensign, July 1972, p. 111.)
Now please notice the consistency of the counsel provided by Elder Richard G. Scott twenty-six years later in 1998:
Make sure that as you are seeking an eternal companion that you do nothing which will offend the Spirit. Satan tempts a weaker individual to rationalize that when two are in love and agree that sexual intimacies can be performed, that such things are acceptable. They positively are not. The boundaries of appropriate behavior are defined by God.
Strongly tied to the sacred, private parts of the body are powerful emotions intended to be used within the covenant of marriage between a man and woman in ways that are appropriate and acceptable to them both. They are an important part of the love and trust that bond a husband and wife together and prepare them for the responsibilities of a family. They bring the blessing of children. These emotions are not to be stimulated or used for personal gratification outside of the covenant of marriage. Do not touch the private, sacred parts of another person's body to stimulate those emotions. Do not allow anyone to do that with you, with or without clothing. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. These things are wrong. Do not do them. Such practices would undermine your ability to be inspired by the Holy Ghost in the vitally important decisions you must make for your future. They lead to binding addictions and grievous transgressions. (Richard G. Scott, "The Power of Righteousness," Ensign, November 1998, p. 68.)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell has warned about the seductive strategies Satan employs to entice men and women to violate the seventh commandment: "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14):
In an age rightly concerned with truth in advertising, how intellectually insulting are certain deceptive labels: Ecstasy should read misery; Rave is really a mournful mutter emanating from sensuality gone amok. For instance, some participants foolishly think a little lewd dancing is harmless. These individuals do "not sin ignorantly" (3 Nephi 6:18). By imitating and by underestimating the enemy, they end up compromising themselves, while confusing and disappointing their friends!
Ever wonder why the sensual scene so often features flashing but fading lights? Or why all the reinforcing glitz? Or why all the loudness masquerading as music? Because, fearful of the dawn, evil cannot stand the steady scrutiny of bright truth, nor can it endure the quiet reflections of soul-searching!
Thus the drumbeat of desensitization deadens the tastebuds of the soul by responding illegitimately to the legitimate need for belonging and for love, as predators and victims sadly become "past feeling" (1 Nephi 17:45; Ephesians 4:19; Moroni 9:20). (Neal A. Maxwell, "The Seventh Commandment: A Shield," Ensign, November 2001, p. 78.)
These prophetic warnings are now and always have been direct, specific, and emphatic precisely because moral purity is so eternally important.
Question 2: What are the blessings associated with moral purity?
Prophets and apostles have spoken definitively about the blessings associated with moral purity. President Ezra Taft Benson has taught:
Do not be misled by Satan's lies. There is no lasting happiness in immorality. There is no joy to be found in breaking the law of chastity. Just the opposite is true. There may be momentary pleasure. For a time it may seem like everything is wonderful. But quickly the relationship will sour. Guilt and shame set in. We become fearful that our sins will be discovered. We must sneak and hide, lie and cheat. Love begins to die. Bitterness, jealousy, anger, and even hate begin to grow. All of these are the natural results of sin and transgression.
On the other hand, when we obey the law of chastity and keep ourselves morally clean, we will experience the blessings of increased love and peace, greater trust and respect for our marital partners, deeper commitment to each other, and, therefore, a deep and significant sense of joy and happiness. (President Ezra Taft Benson, "The Law of Chastity," BYU 1987-88 Devotional and Fireside Speeches , p. 51.)
Please notice the specific blessings promised by President Benson: love and peace, trust and respect for our marital partners, commitment to each other, and true joy and happiness. Certainly, moral purity and worthiness are the gateway to appropriate feelings of spiritual worth, confidence, and lasting joy.
Important and timeless counsel about moral purity was given by a father to his son right here in Rexburg, Idaho. From 1917 until 1931, George S. Romney served as the president of Ricks Academy. His son Marion, a student at the academy, excelled in athletics. Later in his life Marion G. Romney served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and as a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. In a 1979 general conference address, President Marion G. Romney recalled this important lesson about the law of chastity he learned from his father as he departed Rexburg to serve as a missionary in Australia. Please note President Romney's teachings about the law of chastity and his description of the supernal blessings associated with that law:
And now, the third specific commandment to which I direct your attention is, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (D&C 42:24).
You will recall, of course, Alma's teaching his son Corianton that unchastity is the most serious offense there is in the sight of God, save murder only (see Alma 39:3-5). You will remember, too, these words from Paul's epistle to the Corinthians:
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
"If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
. . . I remember how my father impressed the seriousness of unchastity upon my mind. He and I were standing in the railroad station in Rexburg, Idaho, in the early morning of November 12, 1920. We heard the train whistle and knew that in three minutes I would be on my way to Australia to fill a mission. In that short interval my father said to me, among other things, "My son, you are going a long way from home. But your mother and I, your brother and sisters, will be with you constantly in our thoughts and prayers, we shall rejoice with you in your successes, and we shall sorrow with you in your disappointments. When you are released and return, we shall be glad to greet you and welcome you back into the family circle. But remember this, my son, we would rather come to this station and take your body off the train in a casket than to have you come home unclean, having lost your virtue."
I pondered that statement at the time. I did not then have the full understanding of it that my father had, but I have never forgotten it.
I can think of no blessings to be more fervently desired than those promised to the pure and the virtuous. Jesus spoke of specific rewards for different virtues but reserved the greatest, so it seems to me, for the pure in heart, "for they," said he, "shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). And not only shall they see the Lord, but they shall feel at home in his presence.
Here is his promise--the Savior's promise: "Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God" (D&C 121:45). (Marion G. Romney, "Trust in the Lord," Ensign, May 1979, p. 40.)
Elder M. Russell Ballard also has described the blessings related to moral purity. Note the similarity between the blessings promised by Elder Ballard and those just described by President Romney:
Recently I talked with several groups of young men and women in Utah and Idaho. They told me that some of our youth feel that they can be immoral during their teen years and then repent when they decide to go on a mission or be married in the temple. Some young men talk about a mission as a time when they will be forgiven from their past sins. They have the notion that a few transgressions now are no big deal because they can repent quickly, go on a mission, and then live happily ever after.
Young men, please believe me when I tell you that this scenario is a gross deception by Satan; it is a fairy tale. Sin will always, always, result in suffering. It may come sooner, or it may come later, but it will come. The scriptures state that you will "stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God" (Jacob 6:9) and that you will experience "a lively sense of . . . guilt, and pain, and anguish" (Mosiah 2:38).
A related misconception is that repentance is easy. President Kimball said that "one has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins. . . . If a person hasn't suffered, he hasn't repented" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, pp. 88, 99). You need only talk to a person who has truly repented of serious sin to understand that the momentary pleasure of an immoral act is simply not worth the pain that always follows.
The youth told me that some are tempted to be immoral because they want to be accepted by their peers. For the young men, it may mean acceptance based on some sort of macho image. For the young women, it may be the need to feel they are accepted by having a boyfriend. Acceptance by your peers must not come at the expense of your virtue and self-esteem. King Benjamin indicates that those guilty of sin will "shrink from the presence of the Lord" (Mosiah 2:38). In a very real way, those who have been immoral shrink from the presence of others: their friends, their parents, other members of their family, and Church leaders.
Now, let us consider the grand blessings the Lord has promised those who are obedient to the commandment to be morally clean. You never need to repent of a sin you have not committed. That seems obvious, but I want to emphasize it. Repentance is a great blessing, but you should never make yourself sick just so you can try out the remedy. You are infinitely better to maintain your spiritual health by staying morally clean. If you feel confident in the presence of your parents, peers, and priesthood leaders, you can sense how you will feel when you have the confidence and acceptance of the Savior. (M. Russell Ballard, "Purity Precedes Power," Ensign, November 1990, p. 35.)
As indicated by President Benson, President Romney, and Elder Ballard, moral purity invites the greatest blessings men and women can experience in mortality--appropriate spiritual confidence in the presence of family, friends, church associates, and, ultimately, the Savior. As we better understand the importance of and blessings associated with moral purity, each of us will have a greater resolve to live clean lives and to let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly (D&C 121:45).
Prophetic Counsel to Married Students
Now, a word of prophetic counsel and caution in particular to married couples:
If you are married, avoid flirtations of any kind. Sometimes we hear of a married man going to lunch with his secretary or other women in the office. Men and women who are married sometimes flirt and tease with members of the opposite sex. So-called harmless meetings are arranged, or inordinate amounts of time are spent together. In all of these cases, people rationalize by saying that these are natural expressions of friendship. But what may appear to be harmless teasing or simply having a little fun with someone of the opposite sex can easily lead to more serious involvement and eventual infidelity.
A good question to ask ourselves is this: Would my spouse be pleased if he or she knew I was doing this? Would a wife be pleased to know that her husband lunches alone with his secretary? Would a husband be pleased if he saw his wife flirting and being coy with another man? My beloved brothers and sisters, this is what Paul meant when he said: "Abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22). (President Ezra Taft Benson, "The Law of Chastity," BYU 1987-88 Devotional and Fireside Speeches , p. 52.)
Marital status in and of itself does not exempt or automatically protect a man or a woman from temptations related to the law of chastity. Furthermore, there are also bounds for the appropriate expression of love between a husband and a wife. Dignity, purity, and mutual acceptability ought to characterize our most intimate relationships. The more we stray from the simple in our expression of affection, the closer we approach the perverted. Loyalty to your spouse, consideration, and, most importantly, the whisperings of the Holy Ghost will help you to know what is right and to recognize the path that will lead you away from temptation.
The Principle of Repentance
It is likely that some who are listening to this message today have need to repent of moral transgression. The Savior is often referred to as the Great Physician, and this title has major symbolic and literal significance. Brothers and sisters, all of us have experienced the pain associated with a physical injury or wound. When we are in pain, we typically seek relief and are grateful for the medication and treatments that help to alleviate our suffering. Now, please consider sin as a spiritual wound that causes guilt or, as described by Alma to his son Corianton, "remorse of conscience" (Alma 42:18). Guilt is to our spirit what pain is to our body--a warning of danger and a protection from additional damage. From the Atonement of the Savior flows the soothing salve that can heal our spiritual wounds and remove guilt. However, this salve can only be applied through the principles of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and consistent obedience. The results of sincere repentance are peace of conscience, comfort, and spiritual healing and renewal.
It is important to remember that the extent and intensity of our repentance must match the nature and severity of our sins--especially for Latter-day Saints who are under sacred covenant. Serious spiritual wounds take both time and assistance to heal completely and fully. Please hear and heed the counsel of Elder Richard G. Scott:
For a moment I speak to anyone that has succumbed to serious temptation. Please stop now. You can do it with the help from an understanding parent, bishop, or stake president. Serious transgression such as immorality requires the help of one who holds keys of authority, such as a bishop or stake president, to quietly work out the repentance process to make sure that it is complete and appropriately done. Do not make the mistake to believe that because you have confessed a serious transgression that you have repented of it. That is an essential step, but it is not all that is required. Nor assume that because someone did not ask you all the important details of a transgression, that you need not mention them. You personally must make sure that the bishop or stake president understands those details so that he can help you properly through the process of repentance for full forgiveness. The Savior promised:
"Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
"By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins--behold, he will confess them and forsake them" (D&C 58:42-43). (Richard G. Scott, "The Power of Righteousness," Ensign, November 1998, p. 68.)
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has also provided important direction and counsel:
I have declared here the solemn word of revelation that the spirit and the body constitute the soul of man, and that through the Atonement of Christ the body shall rise from the grave to unite with the spirit in an eternal existence. That body is therefore something to be kept pure and holy. Do not be afraid of soiling its hands in honest labor. Do not be afraid of scars that may come in defending the truth or fighting for the right, but beware scars that spiritually disfigure, that come to you in activities you should not have undertaken, that befall you in places where you should not have gone. Beware the wounds of any battle in which you have been fighting on the wrong side.
If some few of you are carrying such wounds--and I know that you are--to you is extended the peace and renewal of repentance available through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. In such serious matters the path of repentance is not easily begun nor painlessly traveled. But the Savior of the world will walk that essential journey with you. He will strengthen you when you waver. He will be your light when it seems most dark. He will take your hand and be your hope when hope seems all you have left. His compassion and mercy, with all their cleansing and healing power, are freely given to all who truly wish complete forgiveness and will take the steps that lead to it.
I bear witness of the great plan of life, of the powers of godliness, of mercy and forgiveness and the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ--all of which have profound meaning in matters of moral cleanliness. I testify that we are to glorify God in our body and in our spirit. I thank heaven for legions of the young who are doing just that and helping others do the same. I thank heaven for homes where this is taught. That lives of personal purity may be reverenced by all, I pray in the name of purity Himself, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen. (Jeffrey R. Holland, "Personal Purity," Ensign, November 1998, p. 75.)
Don't Sell Yourselves Short
Just a short time ago President Gordon B. Hinckley was on our campus to attend the dedication of the Hinckley Building. Those who heard and saw and felt President Hinckley's expression of love for the youth of the Church will never forget it. And in his remarks he spoke specifically about worthiness and purity and integrity:
First, I want to tell you that I love you. I love you kids, you wonderful young people of this Church. I love you. . . . I thank you for your strength; for your willingness to do the right thing; for your desire to serve the Lord; for your capacity to help build the kingdom; for the fact that you get on your knees and say your prayers, as I know you do; for the fact that you pray to the Lord to help you, to guide you in the things you do, as I know you do.
God bless you for what you are and who you are.
Now, don't ever do a cheap or a tawdry or a mean or evil thing, my dear young friends. You don't have to engage in these things. The world is on a slippery slide; it's going downhill, and it is going fast. And you are as a beacon on a hill--young people of rectitude and virtue and decency and goodness. Remain that way. Do not destroy your effectiveness. Do not become involved in any kind of behavior which would destroy you, injure you, hurt you, debilitate you in any way whatever. You don't have to do those things. You can stand above them. You must stand above them! The world will look to you as the years pass, of that I have no doubt whatever.
. . . Educate your minds and your spirits, and never lose sight of the fact that you are a child of God with a divine destiny and capability of doing great and good and wonderful things. Don't sell yourselves short. Don't cheapen yourselves. You know who you are. Each of you knows that you are a child of God and that your Heavenly Father expects something great and noble and good of you.
. . . God bless this great institution. May heaven smile upon it and all who come here and use it. May its name be spread for good across the earth as good men and women, educated here and going forth to serve, stand with honesty and integrity before the world as men and women of faith and accomplishment and goodness and integrity, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. (Dedication of the Gordon B. Hinckley Building, Brigham Young University-Idaho, October 22, 2002.)
Our dear young brothers and sisters, oh how we love you! Together we testify of the truthfulness of the teachings we have reviewed this afternoon from apostles and prophets. The love the Brethren have for us is manifested in the directness and clarity of their teachings. We pray that all of us can now better understand the importance of the sacred powers of procreation in the Father's eternal plan. We know and witness that these doctrines and principles are true and that moral purity is eternally important. It is, as President Packer taught, the "very key" ("Why Stay Morally Clean," Ensign, July 1972, p. 111) to happiness here and hereafter. May each of us increase in moral purity, we earnestly pray, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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