Jeff Durbin nails it….the power of Jesus vs. religion’s false message.
Walking around the Mormon temple, I am saddened to see the couples walking in, usually hand in hand, to perform the required ceremonies that will gain for them a better place in what is called by Mormons the highest, or Celestial, heaven. They are sincerely going about these rituals believing this is the right thing to do.
How can we possibly criticize Mormons for their focus on good works? At Concerned Christians we often hear this phrase; “We would do well by following the LDS example of being a good neighbor.” And we can’t take issue with this.
However, there is a critical difference.
When I posed this question to a former Mormon, “What makes Mormonism critically different than Christianity?” This was his reply:
Mormons worship good works. And as a Mormon the purpose of my life was all about me. My eventual Godhood was the goal and the glorification of myself and my family. As a Christian, my life is centered on Christ because His righteousness credited to me is what allows me into heaven.
In light of this former Mormon’s reply, I’d like to use friends of mine who are Christian as another example. These friends decided to go to Nicaragua to help with rebuilding an orphanage after a Hurricane. They were not told to go nor did they feel it was an obligation. They went because they “feel God called us” to do this. They didn’t announce it publicly or even tell many people what they were doing. This is in sharp contrast to how Mormons tell others on a regular basis about their “good deeds.”
In an LDS newspaper, many pictures of southern California fires were featured. The theme of a number of the articles is how the LDS helped the evacuees and how the missionaries served at the evacuation centers.
“I don’t know if we stand out from the rest of the volunteers,” said a Mormon missionary, “But a lot of people appreciate that we’re here.”
The missionary’s partner said they called investigators and explained the Church’s belief in the importance of service and offered to help them if they had any needs (Eager to Help, article on page 11 of Church News, October 27, 2007).
As the former Mormon said, “LDS worship good works and they do a good job of it.” The LDS couples I watched going into the temple were seeking self and family exaltation as part of the LDS plan of salvation.
So here we find the rub, this critical difference. A Mormon strives toward the things man has set up as the “work” one must do to achieve an exalted place in the highest of three heavens. By direct contrast, the biblical way reveals that good “works” are a result of the salvation we already have, not a “to do” list of requirements to get to heaven. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Jesus showed us His attitude about good works when He illustrated with a parable about two men who went up to the temple to pray. One was quite proud of all the good things he’d done in his life. The other, aware of the thoughts in his heart, pleaded with God for mercy. Jesus also condemned harshly the religious leaders of the day who carried out the required traditions of the elders, good deeds and laws, and in so doing flaunted publicly how religious they were. By contrast, He commended those who were known sinners, but whose hearts were broken because of their sin and longed for a changed life.
So if we can’t hold a candle in comparison to the good deeds of our Mormon neighbors, remember Jesus doesn’t look on a man the way we do. He looks at the heart.
Jesus commended Mary who had left tasks unfinished and sat down at His feet to listen to Him. And in so doing chose, Jesus said, “What is better.”
The difference then, is that Jesus doesn’t condemn us for not finishing our “to do” lists. We are our own slave drivers in this. In fact, Jesus commended Mary for dropping undone tasks to sit at His feet.
Our Lord has shown us the “better” way. And “Only one thing is needed,” Jesus said. Listen. Listen to Him, and find rest.
Mary let go of the pressure to do the right thing in the eyes of others and ignored her sister’s scowling disapproval. She chose the “one thing” and the “only” thing that Jesus said was needed. Mary chose Jesus.
From the Latter-day Saint perspective, the manner in which Jesus died is not important. Colleen Ralson, director of the Nauvoo, Ill. Christian Visitor Center reports, “Several Mormons, without variation as if by rote, have stated, ‘We do not like to dwell on the cross; we would rather focus on the resurrection.’ Or, ‘We do not worship the cross.’ In the past,” Colleen continues, “I have heard and read Mormons refer to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus sweat blood, not the cross where he shed his blood, as the place where the atonement was accomplished.”
While walking through the military grave site at Point Loma in California, Jim and I discovered three different symbols on tombstones: The Jewish star of David, the cross, and the Mormon headstone, the angel Moroni with his trumpet.
Most folks have noticed that Mormon wards (regular meeting house and chapel) and temples do not display a cross either inside or out. Mormons themselves do not wear crosses as jewelry.
SO WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CROSS?
In the Old Testament we read, “…Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deuteronomy 21:23).
In the New Testament, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree'” (Galatians 3:13).
“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross,” (Colossians 2:15). “…making peace through His blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20).
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
“But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23).
THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS
Jesus did all that was ever necessary for the salvation of mankind on the cross. His was the final “work.” The sacrifice that opened the way to heaven for us all. Hebrews 1:3 says “…After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” He sat down because the work of redemption is complete. Jesus said as He bowed His head and gave up His spirit, “It is finished.” (John 19:28-30)
It is written, Jesus’ death would be by crucifixion. The tree, or cross is significant because it shows that His death, the kind of death He would die was fulfilled as prophesied. Luke 24:25-27 tells how Jesus met two of his followers on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Genesis 22:6-9 tells how “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.” (italics mine) Isaac is here a type (prefiguration) of Christ. Isaiah 53 tells of this kind of death, “He was pierced for our transgressions…though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering…after suffering…will justify many…For He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressor.”
Psalm 22 speaks clearly of death by crucifixion: “They have pierced my hands and my feet.” And goes on to tell how the people, “stare and gloat over me…they divide my garments.”
When God’s Word is fulfilled exactly as He said, it demonstrates the power of God. Jesus “disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” The cross of Christ holds special significance in the heart of every believer for it is the symbol of the victory Christ bought for us, defeating Satan. Unable to do this ourselves, Jesus chose to die a criminal’s death on a rugged, splintery beam, and gain our pardon for sin that we could never atone for by anything other than casting ourselves before His throne of mercy. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The message of the cross cannot be compromised—it is foolishness to do so. Once again, reach out with hearts filled with Christ’s love for those who have believed Satan’s lie: Did Jesus really say He would die on a cross? He did! We have His testimony when he said: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. He said this to show the kind of death He was going to die.” (John 12:32-33)
At Calvary’s cross “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Romans 3:22).
Yes, it matters greatly the kind of death our Lord suffered. Only one who has experienced being set free from the bondage of sin by Christ’s death on the cross can fully appreciate this most important of all symbols of our faith. And because of the cross we live confidently in the knowledge that the work is done, the price paid, eternal life with Jesus is ours.
Has this ever happened to you? In reading your Bible something clicks as it never has before. Today, one of those “aha” moments resonated in me as a truth for all ages, for all time, and for all people—an ancient story revealing the essence of the new (Testament) and greatest story ever told. This account is in Genesis when God tested Abraham. Most parents know this narrative well because we can’t imagine the horror of being asked by God, no less, to sacrifice our child. But here we see that Abraham neither argued nor complained to God. He simply “got up and saddled his donkey…and set out for the place God had told him to go” (Genesis 22:3).
Abraham’s faith amazes me. But he had been through this faith testing before—when God promised the childless Sarah and Abraham a son. They waited (though Sarah doubted) for twenty-five years for this child of promise to be conceived. And when the ninety-year old Sarah (Abraham was one hundred at the time) bore this child, their faith in God’s ability to do anything zoomed to the level of unshakeable. This we can all understand.
But when God asked him to offer his child as a sacrifice, Abraham reasoned that, though God had asked him to do the unthinkable, He would be able to raise this promised son, Isaac, from the dead (see Hebrews 11:19). Would our faith be that strong? Probably not.
Now the aspect of this true story that so amazes me, is that about two thousand years later, it was on this same mount in the region of Moriah that God sacrificed His only son, Jesus. God “announced the gospel in advance to Abraham” (Galatians 3:8) in this foreshadowing event when He said “All nations will be blessed through you [or through his seed]” (Genesis 12:3).
When Isaac asked Abraham, “Father…where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:6-8). Much later in the New Testament account, John, the forerunner of Jesus, called Him, “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Because of Abraham’s unshakeable faith in God, he obeyed even this extraordinary command. Therefore, we who willingly accept by faith the sacrifice of the precious Lamb provided by God, are children of Abraham. “He is our father in the sight of God” (Romans 4:17).
The truth for all ages, all time and all people, is that this simple message of the gospel—revealed to the patriarchs of ancient times—is the same today.
God Himself provided the Lamb. This Lamb, Jesus, laid down His life in our place. Our acceptance of God’s great provision for us, who stand without an acceptable sacrifice of our own, can now say with Abraham, the father of our faith, not only “The Lord will provide,” but the Lord did provide.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I remember the following occasion as a birthday gift from many years ago. This article was previously published on Doing Life Together.
Bats! Skinned bats’ wings poked out of hand-woven grass baskets. Their tiny fox-like heads and beady eyes stared at me although they were dead and prepared for cooking. Bats are an island delicacy and would, no doubt, be part of the fare.
I sat awaiting my meeting with King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga in a covered area next to the Royal kitchen. My gracious Tongan hostess had cinched a Tongan ta’ovala tightly over my dress so I’d be appropriately dressed for the King. However, the finely woven Pandamus leaf mat, which extended from my midsection to knees, made it hard to breathe. I sat straight as a board, sweat beading on my forehead.
The king’s chef busily prepared a sumptuous feast for his majesty and distinguished guests, which, I presumed, included the beady eyed fox-bats. And for that I’m glad I wasn’t invited. He could see me through a window and spoke to me, admiring my traditional dress. “You look beautiful, like a Tongan woman.” Amazing! I felt anything but beautiful, damp with sweat and hair done without benefit of hair dryer or curling iron!
We came to the Tongan islands representing South Seas Christian Ministries (SSCM), in August, 1998, leading a team of 12 young adults and five leaders for an outreach. The king lived 300 miles away on the main island of Tongatapu.
After settling into our hosts’ home we discovered a big celebration would occur during the next three days. The king himself would be on our island. We would see him in person, this monarch we’d only seen in pictures and all of us were excited.
Sunday our SSCM team attended the Wesleyan Methodist Church where his majesty and the princess attended. This island royalty sat across from us in beautifully carved chairs set apart from the congregation. We were escorted up front where a choir would generally sit, as honored guests. We couldn’t help staring. But no one could tell where the king cast his gaze since he wore very dark glasses.
After the service I mentioned to the pastor, Mosesi, my desire to give my book, No Regrets (which was later republished as Out of Mormonism), to the king. Mosesi contacted the king’s secretary and the next day I was introduced to her.
After looking the book over and reading my personal note inscribed on the inside front cover, she suggested I give it to the king personally. “Although his majesty is quite busy with heads of state from all the Asian Pacific Parliament,” she told me, “I’ll try to set up an audience for you.” If the secretary could arrange it, the meeting would be on Thursday right before he left the island. It was an answer to my prayer, this rare audience with the king. I’m no dignitary, in fact I’m considered a “commoner” in Tonga.
On Wednesday, I planned to visit a village across the harbor with a SSCM team member, Joyce. Strangely, we couldn’t hire a “water taxi” even though we tried several fishing boats. Hot and thirsty, we walked to a sandwich shop, disappointed we’d been unable to reach our destination. We sat instead, enjoying a rare iced soft drink in the Bounty Bar.
Just as a waitress served our sandwich the proprietor announced; “Is there a Judy Robertson here? There’s an urgent phone call.”
On the phone I recognized the high pitched voice of Leisl, the leader of our SSCM team, “Judy, the king’s messenger has been looking all over Vava’u for you. You have an appointment with the king at 2:00 pm. Today!”
“Today? Oh my gosh! Thanks for finding me, Leisl.” Butterflies looped in my stomach. “Joyce, I’ve got an hour to get ready. The king wants to meet with me today instead of tomorrow!”
The ten minute walk to my Tongan hostess’s home gave me time to collect my thoughts. Lord, this king is only an earthly king but You are the King of Kings. I pray to be Your ambassador. I don’t have a clue what to say.
I told my hostess when she came into the house, “Tina, I have a meeting with the king at 2:00!”
Her eyes misted and she began singing, “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good He’s so good to me.” She hugged me and said, “You can wear my ta’ovala.”
The trickle of water from the shower barely rinsed the soap off me and my hair. Then my hair dryer refused to work. I slicked back my hair the best I could…it’s not my hair or my looks that’s important, it’s what I say to the king.
Tina brought in her prized ta’ovala and tied it tightly around my waist. She topped off my attire with another prized possession; a belt made of her sister’s hair.
Mosesi drove me to the king’s palace, let me out and pointed to the outdoor receiving area. I walked slowly over the grassy hill and sat on what appeared to be a chair for guests. It was graced with beautiful Tongan tapa cloth. Its natural background emphasized the dark brown designs hand painted on it. Suddenly a Tongan woman appeared motioning for me to move to the grass mat on the ground. “Only for the princess,” she motioned to the chair I sat on. Embarrassed, I sat on the mat with legs folded tailor-fashion, humbled, below the princess’ chair in the proper place for the “commoners.”
Soon, a uniformed guard escorted me to the front of the palace where the king, dressed in official royal garb, sat on the verandah facing the emerald blue Vava’u harbor. King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV stood and greeted me. I felt honored and at the same time mumbled a silent prayer; Lord, what do I say to this earthly king? Please give me words.
I handed him my book with my greetings scrawled inside. He said, “I am so glad to meet the author of this kind of book,” he said. “I am excited to read about this subject.”
Talking about the book put me at ease and we went on to other subjects of interest to the king, his travels, improvement to his islands, food and his exercise regime.
I felt strange talking small talk with this man who was used to visiting with all sorts of dignitaries. Why does he feel so comfortable chatting with me? I felt quite relaxed, too, visiting with this king even though we came from such opposite positions in life.
“Your majesty, my husband and I visited eleven of your beautiful islands. We’ve come for twelve years with teams from America to offer Bible camps for the children and assistance for the pastors and lay people. Is there any other way we can help in your islands?” King Taufa’ahau shook his head, no.
Our visit lasted one hour. His majesty, who just turned 80 the month before, was gracious to me and wished me well as our visit ended. In that brief hour I became a friend of the king of Tonga. Walking away from the palace down the dirt road, I realized the king didn’t want anything from me, he only wanted my presence.
As exciting as it was to be in the presence of this earthly king, even more exciting is that I have met the King of Kings. He too, doesn’t want anything from me, He only wants my presence. And not for only an hour here on earth….but for eternity.
And He calls me His friend, too. Imagine!
Posted: 02 Oct 2015 08:53 AM PDT
Several years ago, my daughter had a Mormon friend who invited her to go to church with her. We said she couldn’t go, but it wasn’t easy explaining why, except that we didn’t believe they taught what the Bible taught. We needed a resource that would help us explain to her why we wouldn’t allow it.
Fortunately, there is such a resource. It helped us tremendously and it can help you, too. Understanding My Mormon Friends’ Faith and Mine by Judy Robertson is a quick lesson in what Mormons (Latter-day Saints) believe versus what the Bible teaches. This short, 24-page book is written for kids, but it is expected that parents will read it with them and explain their own views on the covered topics.
The back cover lists seven areas that are covered in the book, illustrating the differences between the Mormon faith and Christianity.
Inside, the book gives a clear explanation of Mormon teachings and shows what the Bible says on these topics. It is easy to use and understand.
Though Understanding My Mormon Friends’ Faith and Mine is written for children, it is also a good quick reference for teens and adults.
To learn more about Mormonism or how you can witness to your Mormon friends, go to www.concernedchristians.org.
This book is a clear, concise resource that helps your children understand that not all faiths are equal. It does matter what you believe. I found it very helpful in my family and I think you will, too.
HOW CAN WE KNOW THE WAY?
A while back, we helped our son, Kirk, move across country. Since we’d all be in separate vehicles—Jim in our white pickup truck full of household goods, Kirk in the yellow Ryder moving van, and me driving his car—we bought three maps and Kirk marked them identically in red.
Even though my map showing the way to Kirk’s apartment lay right beside me on the seat, I didn’t take the time to check it. I depended on following the white pickup truck and yellow Ryder in front of me.
Gripping the steering wheel with sweaty palms, I tried desperately to keep my eyes on the two of them. But I wasn’t used to switching lanes so quickly in heavy traffic. Suddenly the yellow Ryder took the off-ramp. I followed it. Kirk must be having engine problems, I reasoned. Jim would be close behind I felt sure.
As the yellow Ryder pulled into a station I pulled up alongside. I stared up into the tall cab in disbelief. It wasn’t Kirk at all. Strangers leered back at me. My stomach knotted as I sat frozen. Kirk hadn’t turned off the freeway. I had followed the wrong yellow Ryder. Now I sat alone, panicked and without a clue as to where I was. “Oh, Lord, help me,” I prayed. “They don’t know I took the wrong turn and I’m lost.”
There on the seat beside me lay the neatly folded map each of us was to follow in case we got separated. I had been determined not to get separated because I was the least prepared to reach our destination. But I hadn’t studied the map.
How can we be sure we’re going the right way to eternal life? There are many roads we could take. Will they all lead us to the desired destination?
As a young woman I had listened to sermons and had gone to Sunday school throughout my life. I knew what Jesus was like from what others said, but I never unfolded the map of God’s Word myself. If I had, I would have known I made a wrong turn when I began following the Jesus of Mormonism.
Finding the “right way” to eternal life also takes some map reading skills. For instance, we can check the signs to see if they fall in line with the whole map of God’s Word.
God promised He would send the Messiah to save us and made it clear how we’d know it was Him.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).
Other signs indicated where it would happen, and what He would be called. (See Micah 5:2; Isaiah 9:6-7.)
Hundreds of years later, like neon arrows blinking on a freeway,
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:9-12).
The Messiah came exactly the way God had said He would.
Mormon authorities have twisted the sign of the virgin birth, saying Jesus was conceived by a flesh-and-bone god. “And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of the Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says.” So states the late apostle and authority of the Mormon Church, Bruce McConkie, in his compendium, Mormon Doctrine page 742. (Also see Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 and 1 Nephi 11.)
The angel of the Lord told the virgin Mary: The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you. Therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).
The signs God has given us have always occurred exactly as He said.
Millions of people have followed a twisted sign, from newer maps—the Book of Mormon plus Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. These maps lead sincere people off the road of eternal life with Christ.
Just as I followed the yellow Ryder off the freeway because it looked like the one my son was driving, I also followed the Mormon religion which looked like the religion I had grown up knowing. It wasn’t until I opened God’s Word to check out an aspect of Mormonism that didn’t seem right, that God led me back onto the highway of His love, grace and mercy.
The One I follow now is Jesus Christ, born of a virgin in a manger in Bethlehem. He died in my place to cancel my sin, was buried, resurrected and is preparing a place for me and for you in His home on high. I no longer follow a god who is flesh and bone and a Jesus who was a spirit-brother of Lucifer in a place called pre-existence.
As I got back on the freeway toward the destination marked clearly on my map, I soon came upon a white truck with my husband in it, patiently waiting for his lost wife. Jesus, too is patiently waiting for our dear Mormon friends who have followed the wrong Jesus onto ways that lead to a dead end.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life (1 Timothy 1:16).
God’s original road map, the Bible, will lead us straight to Him. We must beware of detours. (See Galatians 1:6-9; Colossians 2:8.)
Let’s be signposts, steering those who have been led astray by twisted signs back to the real Jesus, who said, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).
Have you ever wanted to just be friends with an LDS missionary? It can be enlightening for both parties. Why? Because they don’t expect you to approach them. That’s their job. You can jump a hurdle if you do. The hurdle of rejection of the proselytizer.
A few weeks ago as I was leaving the Concerned Christians office, an LDS pair parked their car across the street from the office and were standing under the sign we have out front that says: “Loving help out of Mormonism.” It’s a fairly common thing. For some reason missionaries like to have their pictures taken standing beside our sign. It seems to be a “rite of passage,” as though they are conquering something. I don’t know what. And they always laugh.
As this photo-op time began, I was walking out the front door. They looked a little scared. I approached them with a big smile and said, “Can I join you?” The look on one of the missionaries face was as though he was looking at the devil himself. I took this as an opportunity to show that I wasn’t at all like a devil and one doomed for outer darkness, as they had been taught I am. I greeted them with a warm smile. They seemed so young and naïve. I truly felt sorry for them for they were deceived as I once was.
We chatted a bit and I invited them into the office. They declined. I said, “You know I really admire your faithfulness.” And they are faithful to their mission, doing everything they are told.
I’m sure they felt as though they scored a point of some sort for being in the presence of an apostate of the worst kind. But I think they were deeply surprised that I didn’t seem like an apostate who was “of the devil” as they’d been taught.
I hope they saw the sincere look in my eyes that so desired to share Jesus with them. This wasn’t the time, but maybe some ground was plowed for the next person who plants a seed of truth in them.
The next time you see a Mormon missionary, resist preaching. Wait until they are interested in what you have to say. Until then, show them the love of Jesus by simply accepting them for who they are, a lost soul who is trying his best to earn his way to the Celestial kingdom.
Let us be Jesus to those who are lost.
Have you ever approached a Mormon missionary with love? If you’d like to share a positive experience I invite you to let me hear from you.
And if you haven’t, I challenge you to give it your best, with love.
This was written by my good friend, Linda. A great post I think.
It lives on the edges of my mind, permeating everything I do. Without it, I’m sad, downcast, listless, feeling like my life doesn’t matter. But then hope walks in and changes everything.
Even David of the Bible recognized the power of hope. “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:5 nlt).
You may not think you believe in all that God stuff. But if you have hope, you have God, because He is the Author of hope.
I’ve learned that when I’m feeling down, I need to return to God. I may not think I’m so far from Him, but sometimes I’m like a child who runs off to play and keeps returning to his mom for reassurance before running off again. I just need to remind myself that…
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