Prophets: A Key to the Lord’s Pattern

Jesus ChristRecently in LDS circles there has been much discussion about asking questions of our faith, and what constitutes dissidence and apostasy. There are some who have chosen to put their own intellect and thinking above the doctrines of the Church, with disastrous consequences. Excommunication and disfellowshipment of some high profile cases have left some feeling “unsafe” and confused as to what to do next and who and where to turn to. We need not fear or wonder. We have been given guidance and direction from the Lord in the latter days. This post will explain the Lord’s Pattern, how he uses that Pattern to guide His children, and how we can participate in that Pattern to find the answers to our questions and to more fully take advantage of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

As Latter-day Saints we have been given the Plan of Salvation to help us understand what the purpose of life is. One of the commandments we have been given by the Lord, to help us take full advantage of His plan is found in Doctrine & Covenants 109:8, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” Establishing a house of order is especially important in the Latter days. We live in a time where good is called evil, and evil is called good. There is much confusion and chaos as to what the difference is between right and wrong. The Lord’s standards are under constant attack. The adversary creates this chaos and confusion in the hope that we will forget our divine nature and eternal potential to become like our Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father is a God of order. In Doctrine and Covenants 52:14 we read, “And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations.” Heavenly Father uses patterns to teach us, to guide us and to help in his work of bringing to pass our immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39).   Elder Marvin J. Ashton taught about patterns:

A pattern is a guide for copying, a design, a plan, a diagram or model to be followed in making things, a composite of traits or features characteristic of an individual.   The gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s pattern for righteous living and eternal life. It makes possible goal-setting and lofty priorities. Satan and his advocates will constantly try to deceive and entice us into following their patterns. If we are to achieve daily safety, exaltation, and eternal happiness, we need to live by the light and truth of our Savior’s plan. All salvation revolves around our Savior.[1]

What is the Lord’s pattern? The Lord's Pattern for revelation

Since the beginning of mankind the Lord has called prophets to teach people. Amos 3:7 states, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Prophets and apostles teach people the truths of the Gospel directly, in the case of modern living prophets, and thru the scriptures, in the case of past prophets. The Lord has called prophets from Adam, in ancient times, to Thomas S. Monson in the latter-days.   Their words and teachings are the Lord’s will for His people. The prophet Moroni, in The Book of Mormon extends an invitation for us, to know for ourselves, if the things the prophets teach are true. In Moroni 10:4-5 the invitation is extended:

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Obedient Questioning and Exercising Faith Girl praying

Many people wonder if they can ask the Lord their questions. The answer is YES! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized and the Gospel was restored because the Prophet Joseph Smith asked the Lord a question. There are multiple examples from the scriptures and in modern times as well, of people asking the Lord a question and receiving an answer. As Moroni taught, if we ask in faith and with a sincere heart, we can receive the answers to our prayers. However, this is also a caution. We have to ask sincerely and with faith and be willing to accept the answer the Lord gives us, even if it is not what we wanted, or if we don’t understand the answer fully. Recently the Church released the following statement in regard to asking questions:

Our whole Church was founded on the basis of sincere questions asked by a 14-year-old boy. Having questions and seeking answers is normal. Within those earnest questions may lie the seeds of faith. The scriptures are full of examples of how to receive answers to our questions — to find truth and align our will with God’s — and that process includes studying, praying, learning and discussing Church doctrines. Millions of people do this throughout their lives. How and why one asks is as important as the questions we’re asking. What causes concern for Church leaders is when personal motivations drive those conversations beyond discussion, and a person or group begins recruiting others to insist on changes in Church doctrines or structure. When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause or creating literature for members to share in their local congregations, the Church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled.[2]

Furthermore the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 recently released the following statement which included this statement:

“We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them. Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy.”[3]

Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”  Sometimes the answers to our prayers and the things we seek are not apparently clear and might take time, perhaps even years, to be realized. In those cases we have to exercise faith to have patience to wait on the Lord.

In Proverbs 3:5-7, we are counseled, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” We need to wait on the Lord’s timing and be willing to trust His answers, and the teachings of the prophets. There are numerous examples in the scriptures of people continuing to press the Lord for an answer to their questions, or to have the Lord give the answer they want instead of accepting the Lord’s will for them. These instances usually end with disastrous consequences.

For example, the ancient Israelites pressed Samuel the Prophet to ask the Lord for a king. The Lord had Samuel warn the people that a king would take everything they had, even their children, but they persisted and answered the Lord back, “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (See 1 Samuel 8:10-20). Indeed, the very thing which Samuel prophesied came to pass. The Israelites were consumed and destroyed by wicked kings and lost all the Lord had blessed them with.

Joseph Smith was also told no several times when he asked the Lord if Martin Harris could have the translated pages of The Book of Mormon. Eventually the Lord let them have the pages, again, with disastrous consequences. We read, “And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words. Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble” (See Doctrine and Covenants 3:6-8). The result of this loss was that Joseph was not allowed to translate The Book of Mormon, and had the urim and thummim taken away for a period of time, while he repented. With prayer and asking our questions, the lesson that needs to be remembered is this:

Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.[4]

Determining Who and What to Follow  The Lord will do nothing without telling His prophets

Who and what do we follow as Latter-day Saints? The answer should be obvious: the prophet, the commandments, and teachings of the Gospel. Sadly, however, this is not always the case. The scriptures contain many examples of people who say they are preaching the words of God, when in reality they are teaching their own versions of the truth, or some corrupted version of the truth. Nephi the prophet warns us in The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 9:28:

O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

Even recently, there are examples of people forming groups, agitating and protesting the teachings and doctrines of the Lord’s Church. Social media is full of groups who murmur, protest and complain against the Lord’s truth, the teachings of the Church and the prophets and apostles, and who also attack those who are faithful. These groups appeal to emotion and a twisted sense of “fair play” to gain followers, and have their foundations rooted in popular sentiment and social movements. Elder Ashton stated:

It’s no secret that Satan wages open war with the truth and all those who live righteous lives. He deceives with skill and effectiveness even his own followers. He would have us give up, quit, rebel when setbacks come. Sometimes in life when we are committed to and are following proper patterns, we experience heavy bumps and anxious hours.   His [Satan’s] established pattern is to deceive at all costs He would have us forget the essential thing in life is not conquering, but steadfast commitment to righteous patterns[5]

Elder Ashton continues:

There are segments of our population that march, protest, and demand handouts and cures rather than follow God’s given rules of prevention and self-discipline. Following revealed patterns helps us to recognize our weaknesses, deal positively with them, overcome them, and rise to Christlike heights. We must, if we will have happiness, follow the straight and prescribed paths. “I will give you a pattern in all things” is one of the Lord’s greatest gifts and promises. Today it comes from him and his prophets. [6]

The world wants easy GodsUsing the gift of discernment and the power of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, Latter-day Saints need to reject that which does not follow the Lord’s pattern. Elder Ashton reminds us, “Part of [God’s] pattern is to help us use our gift of free agency, but his pattern does not condone sin.”[7]

The way we follow the Lord’s pattern is by following His prophets and apostles. When we are interacting with each other face to face or on social media we need to constantly ask ourselves, is what I am doing reflective of a disciple of Jesus Christ? Does what I am doing support or tear down the doctrines of the Church? If it is not reflective of Christ, and if our actions and words are tearing down instead of building up, we need to stop those things and change. If the groups we are associating with and the things we are participating in are in opposition to the doctrines of the Church, we need to disassociate ourselves with them right away.

Elder Ezra Taft Benson, then President of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, gave a devotional speech at Brigham Young University, titled, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.” These fourteen points can be used to help us recognize the truth, and to follow the Lord’s Pattern and His prophets more fully. They also serve as a guide for us to follow when the answers we seek, or the doctrines we believe in are not easily found and clearly stated Elder Benson’s points:

First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything. Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works. Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet. Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray. Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time. Sixth: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture. Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know. Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning. Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual. Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters. Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich. Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly. Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church. Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.[8]

While all of these points are important, there are a few points which are of particular importance in knowing what to do when questions about who and what to follow arise. The first point is the most important of all. “The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.” The prophet holds all of the keys of the priesthood, and is authorized to exercise those keys.

In Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-5 we are instructed, “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.”  When the prophet speaks, the Lord is speaking to us (see also Doctrine and Covenants 1:38). If we have raised our hand to sustain him as the prophet, we also sustain the things he says and teaches us, as the words of the Lord. “Obedience is the first law of heaven. It is an act of faith. You may sometimes be required to do things you do not completely understand. As you obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom. Strive to be obedient to the Lord, the living prophet.”[9]

Joseph Smith stated as well, “I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.”[10] This also witnesses to the fact that a person can only receive revelation and instruction for a calling or duty over which they have been given stewardship. If someone is claiming to have received revelation for the church, or is pushing for changes and that person is not the prophet, they are in the wrong and should be discounted. Remember the Lord’s Pattern. He will reveal His will to the prophet. Thomas S. Monson

Elder Benson’s fourth point, “The prophet will never lead the Church astray,” reinforces the need to follow the prophet, because that is where the truth will lie. He quoted President Wilford Woodruff, “I say to Israel, The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.”[11] In short, in following the prophet we are following the Lord’s pattern and will not be lead astray. Even if popular sentiment and ideas scream at us to the contrary, following the prophet and apostles will bring us true, long lasting, and eternal happiness.

Elder Benson’s fifth point is crucial to understand. “The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.”   He said, “Sometimes there are those who feel their earthly knowledge on a certain subject is superior to the heavenly knowledge which God gives to His prophet on the same subject. They feel the prophet must have the same earthly credentials or training which they have had before they will accept anything the prophet has to say that might contradict their earthly schooling.”[12]

Sadly, we do see this happening in the LDS Church, and it is painfully evident in the LDS Social Media world. People place more importance in their own education, their own reasoning and conclusions than they do in the words of the Prophet. Or they latch on to the ideas of others who present themselves as authorities on the Church and what the Church should be doing. Pride is what causes us to place our own knowledge and experience above that of the prophet, apostles, and the Lord. The Apostle Paul compares this to becoming a fool (see Romans 1:22). There are also those who will only accept what the prophet says if it is preceded with “Thus saith the Lord.”

Elder Benson’s sixth point corrects this false notion, “The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.” When in doubt, always follow the prophet. Look to the lessons and teachings found in legitimate and credible sources, such as the scriptures, the Ensign, and other Church publications. Always follow the prophet. We are given the gift of prophets and apostles to guide us and teach us. They also warn us and try to help us see the straight and narrow path when we are surrounded by doubts, mists of darkness, and confusion. The adversary is always working to upend our understanding and to convince us that good is evil and evil is good.

The seventh point Elder Benson made touches on this. “The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.”[13]  Elder Jeffry R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also taught this principle in his April 2014 General Conference talk. He said in regard to how some people receive the words of the prophets, “Sadly enough, my young friends, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds”[14] Because the Lord wants us to return to him, he demands more of us. He will never be an easy god. The prophets will, and do, tell us things that are not popular with the world and sadly even in some corners of the Church.

Elder Benson’s eighth point teaches, “The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.”[15] This is where is it vitally important for Latter-day Saints to be prepared, and to be familiar with the teachings of the God, the scriptures, and the words of the prophets. When we are familiar with these things we can easily spot deception and the fake truth that Satan offers us.

Elder Benson’s twelfth point reminds us that the prophet will not be popular with the world or the worldly, and reminds us that “popularity is never a test of truth.” We should not back away from accusations of bigotry, closed-mindedness, or the threat that we will be on “the wrong side of history” for following the Lord and His prophets. History has shown that those who follow the Lord and the prophets are blessed and strengthened to weather the trials of life (see Mosiah 24). We are also given the promise via our baptismal covenants that in taking upon us the name of Christ, and standing as a witness for Him, we will always have His Spirit to be with us (see Moroni 4 & 5). The gift and companionship of the Holy Ghost is powerful tool and necessary ally to have as we stand for truth and righteousness. When we are obedient, the Holy Ghost will never leave us.

Elder Benson’s final point is a warning, “The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the first presidency—follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer. We should fear God and love God more than we fear man and the ideas of the world. The Lord will support us in our righteousness, but Satan will not support us in our wickedness. “And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell” (see Alma 30:60). In the end, those that choose to follow the Lord’s pattern and His prophets will be on the right side of history and will be blessed eternally. Remember Elder Ashton’s council, the Lord will help us use our agency wisely, but he will not condone sin.

Resolving our Doubts Following the Lord’s Pattern.  

Everyone will go through periods of doubt or hardship in their life. The key is how we will react to those times and trials. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we ‘give’ are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us.”[16] We know that we are promised help when and if we are in need of it. Instead of turning to the internet, Facebook groups, blogs and other social media for our answers, we need to follow the Lord’s pattern and turn to the words of the prophets, the doctrines of the restored gospel, and the scriptures for our solutions. Doctrine and Covenants 52:16 says, “He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.”  Answers which are contrite, meek and which edify us are from our Heavenly Father. The Lord also gives a warning in this same section, verses 18-19, “And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me. Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens.”

Again, the Lord’s pattern is the key to finding the right answers to our questions and solutions. Are the answers we’ve found in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are they contrite; not contentious? Are they meek; not proud? Do they edify instead of tear down? If we still struggle, hope is not lost. We are given the way to find comfort and rest from our struggles through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Christ suffered for our pains, afflictions, and infirmities. Alma teaches, “he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (see Alma 7:11-12).

Christ has already done the hard part, and suffered so that He can succor you personally. Are you ready to take Him up on that offer? Do it today! We are also taught by the prophet Moroni, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27). Weaknesses are not only physical weaknesses. They can be pride, anger, impatience, procrastination, low-self esteem, and anything else that separates us from God. If we turn to the Lord with these weaknesses in humility, He will help us overcome them such that they become strengths.

Overcoming our doubts, fears, and weaknesses is not always a quick endeavor. It is a step-by-step process that takes time, practice, and patience.   However, if we choose to walk with the Lord, He will support us in our efforts to improve and to come unto Him. We are given additional encouragement and promises in Moroni 10:32, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”

As we overcome our weakness, which is denying ourselves of ungodliness, and love our Heavenly Father, we have been given the promise that we will have grace, which is the power from the Atonement to cleanse, heal, redeem, overcome, strengthen, and empower us. [17] We need not fear to change ourselves, because the Lord will protect and uplift us as we do. He will also give us the patience we need as we seek out the answers to our questions and find resolutions to our problems. Elder Maxwell taught, “Patience is not only a companion of faith but is also a friend to free agency.”[18]

Conclusion  

There is much confusion in the world today. Satan strives to divide us and to confuse us. He wants to take the questions we have and change them into doubts that will lead us away from the path of our Heavenly Father. The Lord, however, has given us many tools we can use and a clear pattern to follow so that we can follow Him. Following the prophets and being obedient to their teachings in all things is part of the Lord’s Pattern. In following this Pattern, we have the opportunity to turn away from the world and turn toward the Lord and all the blessings He has to offer us. We will be strengthened and uplifted as we choose to address our questions following the Lord’s pattern. Jesus Christ has already atoned for our sins and infirmities. Because of this, He can offer us the gift of grace to help us find peace, understanding of the Lord’s will, and answers to the questions we have.

As the Primary song says, “Follow the prophet, don’t go astray. Follow the prophet, he knows the way.” We will always be on the path of righteousness if we choose to follow the prophet and be obedient to the Lord’s will.

[1] Marvin J. Ashton, “A Pattern in All Things”, October 1990, General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1990/10/a-pattern-in-all-things?lang=eng.

[2] LDS Church Spokesperson, Jessica Moody, “LDS Church Responds to Member Concerns Over Questions” June 20, 2014, Deseret News, bit.ly/1iO5biU.

[3] First Presidency Press Release, June 28, 2014. https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/june-first-presidency-statement?lang=eng

[4] Bible Dictionary, p. 752, “Prayer”, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/prayer?lang=eng&letter=p.

[5] Marvin J. Ashton, Ibid.

[6] Marvin J. Ashton, Ibid.

[7] Marvin J. Ashton, Ibid.

[8] Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet”, Brigham Young University Devotional, February 26, 1980, http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=88.

[9] Preach My Gospel, Chapter 6, “Christlike Attributes”, p. 122, https://www.lds.org/manual/preach-my-gospel-a-guide-to-missionary-service/how-do-i-develop-christlike-attributes?lang=eng.

[10] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2011), p. 315–26, https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-27?lang=eng.

[11] President Wilford Woodruff, The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, selected by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212-213, as quoted by Ezra Taft Benson.

[12] Ezra Taft Benson“Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet”, Brigham Young University Devotional, February 26, 1980, http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=88.

[13] Ezra Taft Benson, Ibid.

[14] Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Cost—and Blessings—of Discipleship”, April 2014, General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/the-cost-and-blessings-of-discipleship?lang=eng#10-10985_000_12holland.

[15] Ezra Taft Benson, Ibid.

[16] Neal A. Maxwell, “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father”, October 1995, General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/10/swallowed-up-in-the-will-of-the-father?lang=eng.

[17] Sheri L. Dew, “Sweet Above All That is Sweet”; May 1, 2014, BYU Women’s Conference.

[18] Neal A, Maxwell, “Patience”, October 1980, Ensign, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1980/10/patience?lang=eng. Joyce Anderson

Joyce is a mother, wife, sister, school teacher, Bulgarian speaker, conservative, lover of good music, social media junky and sometimes a whole lot of trouble. She and the family reside in a remote mountain community where great discoveries have been made. When not changing the world, she enjoys the occasional bowl of chips and salsa. She can be found at: http://pinterest.com/TheAtomicMom

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Joyce Anderson

Joyce is a mother, wife, sister, school teacher, Bulgarian speaker, conservative, lover of good music, social media junky, a two time Culinary Arts Grand Champion, and sometimes a whole lot of trouble. She and the family reside in a remote mountain community where great discoveries have been made. When not changing the world, she enjoys the occasional bowl of chips and salsa. She can be found at: http://pinterest.com/TheAtomicMom

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