T.O.T.A.L.G.C.T Sunday

OK, Dr. Sunday School survived the poisonous darts and the gaping chasm, but now the ball will crush him!


  1. Please let the news be something that will affect the Church outside of Utah. If “H”istorical means they’re building another shopping mall, I’m taking my ball and going home.

  2. J. Michael says:

    If there is still to be an (H)istoric announcement, I would expect it to relate to the international areas. All five new General Authorities sustained yesterday to the First Quorum are from outside the U.S., and were already serving in area presidencies as area seventies. By my quick count, there was also a net gain of 14 area seventies (46 called, 32 released), the vast majority from outside the U.S. Of course, a realignment or policy change involving area presidencies could be done without formal announcement – just an observation.

  3. I think you’re out of luck. I think the Tabernacle was the announcement.

  4. I’m still curious if there will be an announcement regarding genealogy or Temple Ready. If people are even more freed up to do genealogy and temple work from home computers – well, that would be a pretty big deal.

  5. Aaron B says:

    The paint on the Tabernacle is drying. They may announce that today as well. Brace yourselves. Historic!

    Aaron B

  6. History has already been made. See my fulfilled prediction on the other thread here (first prediction in comment # 73).

  7. Cry

  8. danithew,

    I doubt there is a genealogy announcement today.

    However the church is getting close (how close I don’t know) to releasing a new version of Family Search with some great features that include significant improvements (it appears to be a complete re-write and a merge of all the church databases including IGI, ancestral file, and the church records). They’ve already announced to the genealogy world that they’re doing this project.

    I am in a stake doing a “test” of their system. They’re calling it a beta test, but I certainly wouldn’t beta quality at this point.

    It’s got some cool feature sand makes it easy to find ordinances that need to be performed (based on info submitted to the church), makes it easy to merge duplicate family member entries, provides a simple way to print off a sheet with a bar code scanner to take to the temple to print off temple cards (this makes TempleReady and all the associated processes of taking disks to the stake family history center and to the temple obsolte). It also makes collaborating with relatives on your family history easier because you can see who is making changes to your line.

    Anyway, I think there will be an announcement about it being ready soon, but It’s not ready for primetime. They say that they’ll be rolling it out one Temple district at a time.

  9. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    Wow, that was a great start to the day.

  10. Yes, a very moving and memorable talk by Elder Faust.

  11. As an employment defense lawyer, I appreciated Elder Oaks’ sly endorsement of at-will employment regimes.

  12. I liked Oaks’ talk too. A family member of mine really needed to hear this right now. Anyone think the talk was unbalanced or offensive?

    Aaron B

  13. Aaron – That’s a fine line to walk and I think he did a good job, but there were some things I think he should have been more careful about. For example, he clearly endorses divorce in certain situations, but he stated categorically that “Bishops do not counsel members to get a divorce.” I think that if you review the entire talk in context it’s best not to interpret that statement as an absolute, but still… I suspect he did not allow for such ambiguities in his judicial opinions.

    As for the merits, I think it was good to hear acknowledgement that there are some situations where staying in marriage can be worse than divorce–it’s obviously true. Just as obviously, he had to come out strongly discouraging members from considering divorce unless they absolutely have to. I think he did a pretty good job of striking that balance. His anti-divorce counsel could have been much more absolutist and judgmental.

  14. Scheherazade says:


    I think Elder Oaks talk struck a number of important chords—i.e. “there are many good church members who have been divorced” . . . “if you wish to marry well, inquire well” . . .and so forth.

    Whether or not it would be right for your family member, however, is another question. In particular I worry about Elder Oaks’ counsel that “a couple in serious marital difficulty should see their bishop.” While I don’t disagree that a couple having real problems should probably talk to their bishop at some point, I think such conversations are very likely be insufficient (and possibly even harmful). Not only were bishops just told never to encourage or support divorce, they are not trained in marriage counseling and may not know the situation or even the couple very well.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    I didn’t hear all of it. But what I heard gave me some pause. He seemed to encourage women to stay in abusive or intolerable marriages. Yes, there were some qualifications, but women in such situations need more than nuanced qualification; they need to know that if their husbands are abusive to them, they need to get out and are fully justified in the eyes of the Lord in doing so. It’s not enough that Jesus is a third-party in their marriage, whatever that is supposed to mean.

    I couldn’t help but think about what it must have been like being a divorced person and listening to that talk.

    If a husband and wife have the capacity to actually kneel in prayer together, then of ocurse they still have the capacity to rebuild their marriage. But in many situations things are too far gone for that, and that advice simply ain’t gonna fly.

    I love Elder Oaks, and of course he had to try to discourage divorce as a simplistic solution to marriage difficulties as a general matter. But I wish he could have conveyed better that there are indeed situations where divorce is the best solution. If a husband is abusive, the wife has every right in the world to get the hell out, and she shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it.

    I bet a lot of divorced Mormons are feeling pretty bad about themselves right now.

    (On a humorous note, when he said that people more readily regain their happiness after the death of a spouse rather than after a divorce, my wife cracked that now Mormons were going to start killing their spouses instead of divorcing them.)

  16. Aaron, I am currently seperated from my spouse and Elder Oaks’ talk was a hard one for me to hear and one I will be revisiting with a lot of prayer and consideration. At first I felt like my own struggle was being completely invalidated, like the pain I am going through is something I just need to “deal with” and get over, or at least soldier through. As I kept listening, my heart softened and I feel that there will be many things my spouse and I will talk about because of this talk. But… his words don’t fix my situation and I still have to figure out how to live, how to forgive, how to “deal with” my current situation — that’s the hard part. So, yeah, I was put out a little bit by Elder Oaks talk, and I still need to process through it a lot and prayerfully review what he has said, but it was a hard talk for me to hear.

  17. I’m not concerned that Elder Oaks’ talk might make some divorced members feel bad. Some divorced members shouldn’t have gotten divorced.

    I think Elder Oaks did make it clear that there are situations in which divorce is necessary and not a sinful decision on the part of a mistreated spouse.

  18. Kevin and others – I thought I heard at least a handful of times where he stated something to the effect that sometimes one spouse does things that make it impossible to save the marriage. I think it’s pretty clear that we misunderstand his intent if we read/hear him to be saying women in abusive relationships should stay. That said, I completely agree he should have taken more care to address the nuances here.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, I know that he left divorce open as a possibility in extremis. And those caveats may be enough for most people not to misunderstand his message. My problem has to do with the psychology of an abused spouse. She needs more than lawyerly nuance; she needs clear permission. Towards the end of the talk, he seemed to me to be saying that it is better to stay in an intolerable marriage than to get out, and I frankly disagree with that as a general principle.

    And I agree with the comment that bishops are often ill prepared to be doing couples counseling, and to make a blanket statement that a bishop should never counsel divorce to my mind was simply irresponsible. Elder Oaks should know better than to say that; as he himself has often said, there are general principles and then there are particular factual situations, and of course there will sometimes be situations where a couple should divorce and it would be irresponsible of a bishop not to counsel that.

  20. Scheherazade says:


    Thank you for your insightful comment.

    I was in a violently abusive marriage for many years. I stayed much longer than I should have because of the strong directives I got from my family and local church leaders to stay despite the devastating physical and emotional trauma that they knew I was experiencing on a regular basis.

    I think that there are elements in Elder Oaks’ talk that might seem to encourage this kind of continuing response. Praising a woman who stays in an unhappy marriage for many years for the sake of the children involved is potentially detrimental. Most women who are being abused don’t show up to church with black eyes or broken arms and they might be hesitant to admit what’s going on at home for a variety of reasons (for example, shame and embarrassment that people will find out she doesn’t have the happy marriage people think she has can be a real deterrent. Also, if one is still living with the abuser, telling a church leader can put the victim in further danger since the abuser may be angry that someone now knows and take that anger out. And further, one’s husband may very well be in a leadership position himself). All of this to say that having a presumption against divorce for “unhappiness” can function to disguise a situation.

    Perhaps one of the most worrisome things about Elder Oaks talk is that it came right after Faust’s talk on forgiveness. The juxtaposition of these two talks might have had the effect of making some women think they just need to forgive their abusive husbands more often or more purely. I truly hope not!! You can sincerely forgive an abuser again and again–over and over—with patience and love–but that doesn’t mean things will ever change at home or that the marriage should continue.

  21. I do see your point, Kevin, and I agree. I think it’s likely that people can/will misinterpret his counsel, but rather than only lament this fact, I think we should also state clearly that we don’t believe that this was his intent.

  22. I might’ve sounded more harsh than I meant to in my #17.

    I do hope that people whose divorces were justified aren’t made to feel bad about themselves by Elder Oaks’ talk. I’m not in that situation, so I can’t say how it would make someone in that situation feel, though I do think he made it clear that some decisions to divorce are justified.

  23. Not only were bishops just told never to encourage or support divorce, they are not trained in marriage counseling and may not know the situation or even the couple very well

    But talking to the bishop is a place to start. I believe bishops are encouraged to send people to counselors as necessary.

    I think if we go back and look at his talk, we will see that there were categories of audiences. The first group was those who are truly victims. Other groups followed. I sensed that the counsel he gave corresponded to the group to which he was talking.

  24. He clearly said that anything that qualifies as “abuse” is a valid reason for divorce. It’s a pretty strained reading of the talk that claims otherwise.

    Persistent betrayal of marriage covenants was also given as a reason. Then he condemned the law of the Philippines that doesn’t allow women to get a divorce. Anyone else catch that?

    But he did come down pretty hard on those who not in really abusive relationships, yet merely hate each other’s guts.

    Guess what Kevin,

    EVERYONE who gets a divorce, aside from those who were casual about the union to begin with, considers the marriage “intolerable.” She doesn’t love me anymore? Sounds pretty “intolerable” to me. I don’t consider that assessment to be a valid reason for divorce in and of itself.

    Neither do I think that a lot of the nitpicky and mean-spirited little things estranged spouses do to each other “abusive.” When you see people who are REALLY being abused, you realize that to give a marriage the coveted “abusive” label to some of these people is quite frankly, insulting to those who are really in intolerable marriages.

    Just because you aren’t happy doesn’t mean you get a free pass to divorce in the Church, even though the divorcee, no doubt feels so entitled.

    By the way, I’m going to be really irritated if people who didn’t even bother to read my entire comment start griping about how I’m trying to keep truly abused women in bad relationships.

  25. Seth said:
    “I’m trying to keep truly abused women in bad relationships.”

    You said it, Seth. Shame on you.

    Aaron B


  26. I should also note that it takes two to be married.

    If your spouse is bound and determined to call the thing off, there isn’t, at the end of the day, much you can do to stop it.

  27. I am going to have to wait and see his talk in writing to see if he does indeed spell out abuse as something that indeed warrants divorce. I have a sneaking suspicion it may be altered to make that clearer.

  28. Tomato, tomahto, let’s call the whole thing off.

  29. While I can see the point about the psychology of the abused spouse, Oaks went to some length to target the audience of the talk. And as a member of the target audience, I was incredibly touched.

    My wife and I had a very rocky stretch when we were both miserable in our lives. It was not abusive, although we were starting to punish each other emotionally. We considered getting a divorce.

    We went to a stake conference where a visiting GA gave a similar talk. He said, if you are getting divorced, one of you or both of you are committing sin. Both of us looked inward and saw the truth of that. Today’s talk completely confirmed that idea, which got us on the road to saving our marriage, which brings us great happiness now, largely because we have done the things Elder Oaks suggested.

    A few other points: a bishop will generally recommend counseling, which many members would not seek out without the bishop’s suggestion.

    Also, the combined topics of forgiveness and avoiding divorce cannot be seen as a bad thing when the abuse issue is taken out, which Oaks made a valiant effort to do.

  30. I have mixed feelings about Oaks’ talk. When he said that he’d be speaking about divorce, I really got my hopes up. I was hoping for something a little more progressive and compassionate than what I heard, it turns out.

    I think he said some great things. But I too felt that he seemingly encouraged people (specifically, women) to “endure” unhealthy marriages. The “if two of us [between the two spouses and the Lord] can hang in there, then we can make it” comment rubbed me the wrong way.

  31. My recollection is that the handbook states something like bishops are not to counsel members to divorce, and that the decision to divorce should come from the member. I think that is sound advice, just as it is sound advice not to counsel someone to marry, because that decision should also come from the member.

    I would also note that I saw nothing in Elder Oaks’ remarks or the handbook discouraging a bishop from counseling or supporting a separation for the protection of the spouse or family members–even if reformation and eventual conciliation may be possible at some point. Combined with Elder Holland’s remarks yesterday, correctly observing that emotional abuse can be as harmful as physical abuse, I think a spouse caught up in an emotionally, sexually, physically, or spiritually abusive situation should not feel obliged to remain in the situation.

  32. He said, if you are getting divorced, one of you or both of you are committing sin.

    FWIW, I think this too is a dangerous generalization.

  33. someone says:

    It was heavily qualified when he said it, but I left that out for the sake of space…and because of the impact it had on me at the time.

  34. I don’t think it is Steve.

  35. Kevin Barney says:

    I had a good internet connection through KBYU TV and didn’t want to lose it, so I’ve just left it on for the two hours between sessions. I’ve been getting a kick out of the very Mormon programming they’ve been running.

  36. J. Michael says:

    Re #31 – you’re memory is correct. The relevant paragraph in the current HOI (P. 26) reads: “No priesthood officer is to counsel a person whom to marry. Nor should he counsel a person to divorce his or her spouse. Those decisions must originate and remain with the individual”.

  37. J. Michael says:

    That’s YOUR memory, rather. Sheesh. And I was an English major.

  38. John Williams says:

    @Kevin Barney

    Re: #35

    That Wymount Family Housing commercial was just too much.

  39. Aaron B says:

    I have just been informed, by a credible source, that BCC’s own Steve Evans will be called to head the Strengthening Church Members Committee during this session, and the calling will be elevated to a rank co-equal in authority with that of the Twelve.

    That’s the “historic” announcement, folks. Brace yourselves.

    Aaron B

  40. Kevin (in #15): I thought the same thing your wife did in response to the “happier after death” comment in Oaks talk but truthfully I’m not sure it’s funny.

  41. Aaron B says:

    I love how the Wymount couple doesn’t actually kiss, but instead just draws in close and does a faceplant. Thank goodness for that, since I can only imagine all the carnal and devilish debauchery that would’ve ensued had thousands of members, nation-wide, been exposed to a real pre-marital smooch.

    Aaron B

  42. What is almost never mentioned and simply assumed, is that physical abuse only occurs from a husband to his wife. Having lived in a marriage where the opposite was true, and watching church leaders almost laugh at the prospect, it is interesting to note that once again, a talk on the merits or pitfalls of divorce does not include this other side of the equation. Meanwhile, if you defend yourself and your wife falls down, you will go to jail.

    Everything pretty much, is based on our own experience but I do have to say that I think the worst place to go when you are having marital problems is to a Bishop’s office. Why? Not why you might think. Because 99.9% of the people who go there are not looking to change themselves, they are looking for an ally. Unfortunately if you happen to be male, that male Bishop is going to be obliged to become an ally of your wife.

    Thank goodness for Elder Holland’s talk! Yes most men (me included) are relationship deficient and generally scumbags. But the women of the church needed to be called to repentance as well for their part in the destruction of marriage and marital bliss.

    I don’t think anyone has the obligation to stay in a marriage that is abusive. That word must be defined individually. And as to the quote from the HOI, not only should Bishops not tell someone who to marry, or whether or not to divorce, they should make NO decisions for any of us. We can certainly gather inspired counsel, but when we put anyone between us and our HF through fasting and prayer, we are asking for disaster.

    That’s why no one’s answers above or any of the interpretations of the talk to me are wrong because this thing called agency allows us the opportunity to make decisions based on prayer, individually. I applaud people who have endured and stayed and I equally applaud people who have endured and left.

    In the end, the example of the Amish and the moving talk given by President Faust, give rise to the hope that the atonement can provide the healing necessary, when we forgive. As most of us know, that is a process; again an individual process.

    Back to the show (I’m Tivo’ing, so won’t miss anything).

  43. John Williams says:

    @Aaron B

    The Wymount couple was married. And it was more of a nose-rub than a faceplant.

  44. Aaron,

    The very name of the establishment is a dirty little twisted sexual innuendo.

  45. J. Michael says:

    Pemble, on the same page 26 of the HOI, in a general discussion of the priesthood leader’s role as counselor this paragraph appears: “The stake president or bishop should avoid making decisions for those he counsels. Instead, he helps them make their own decisions with the Lord’s guidance”. Looks like the author(s) agree with you.

  46. I don’t think it is Steve.

    Why? Stating that the only marriages that end in divorce are those in which one or both spouses are sinning is a sweeping generalization. I believe that it is an outgrowth of the popular LDS notion that “almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Marriage and Divorce”).

    There are some people who just aren’t compatible, and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with personal worthiness. When you live in a culture that encourages short courtships and quick marriages, some of these incompatibilities won’t be discovered until after marriage.

    I just think it’s irresponsible and unrealistic to teach that the only marriages that end in divorce are those where one or both partners are sinning.

  47. Kevin Barney says:

    Re: the Wymount commercial, I loved how the husband thought is was convenient that the Creamery was right around the corner. Nothing like close-at-hand ice cream to bring the Mormon masses running.

  48. John Williams says:

    @Kevin Barney

    The proximity of the Creamery was a selling point for the young newlyweds because it allowed the wife to pick up a needed food item without sacrificing too much “together” time with her husband.

  49. Having been in the situation addressed by Elder Oaks it was interesting to consider his comments. I took no offense to anything there, and very much appreciated his comments. As for bishops not counciling divorce, I believe that to be a good policy. They didn’t suggest the marriage, nor should they suggest the dissolution of if. They do, however, suggest counciling. Any good bishop will quickly recognize the extent of his qualifications. Where there is sin involved, he can help. Often this is in conjunction with counciling. Its a good policy to instruct bishops not to make a recommendation with consequences so grave.

    Outside of that, I thought the comments about forgiveness were quite appropriate to preceed the talk on divorce. Divorce happens, there’s often bitterness. Regardless of the circumstances of the divorce, healing needs to happen. Speaking from experience, I know my former spouse had much resentment for me. Though there was no abuse or infidelity, there was a lot of male-pattern stupidity. Hopefully that talk on forgiveness will help all parties involved in such situations move on.

  50. Kevin Barney says:

    I have no problem at all with the notion that bishops shouldn’t counsel divorce in the sense that they should stay out of the decision and leave it to the couple themselves, as has been clarified by reference to the handbook. As I heard the comment live, I took it to mean that bishops should always counsel against divorce, which is what I had a problem with. So now I know that probably isn’t what Elder Oaks meant; but how many listeners (mis)understood it the same way I originally did?

  51. Aaron B says:

    … I’m waiting anxiously for confirmation of the military rank of today’s youth in the pre-existence …

    Aaron B

  52. Kevin Barney says:

    Prophets and apostles walk the earth.

    That gave me a mental image of them as dinosaurs roaming the earth a la Jurassic Park.

  53. Good point Kevin, there probably are some that read into that a bit more. There will always be some looking for reason to be offended, and they will find it. I would hope those involved in the situations would consider all the talks given, then go speak with their bishop and ask their thoughts. Hopefully they’ll guide them to skilled, faithful professionals who can give the couple the appropriate tools to make the decision themself.

    For those not directly involved, the talks make for good practice for trying to figure out how to help those around us who confront those issues, as mentioned most of us either are ourselves, or have acquaintances, who are familiar with divorce.

  54. Brother Dahlquist is wearing a button-down collar. Apparently didn’t get the memo.

  55. Listening to the talk on singing hymns… I’m remembering when I was in Priest quorum and we were taught if temptations arose we were to sing a hymn… as though given a queue, one of the guys started singing “There is Beauty All Around”… Bishop suggested we pick a different hymn.

  56. Kevin #52, I had the EXACT SAME mental image.

  57. Now Elder Uchtdorf knows what a collar is supposed to look like.

  58. John Williams says:

    I prefer the button-down look. It’s Ivy-league.

  59. Aaron B says:

    Everybody keep offering fashion critiques, and then maybe DKL will grace us with his scathing presence.

    Aaron B

  60. John Williams says:

    DKL or DKNY?

  61. Kevin Barney says:

    I don’t know who is speaking now (the one reciting Greek terminology for repentance), but he obviously has been reading BCC.

  62. Uh Kev, that’s Elder Nelson of the 12.

  63. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks; I can’t tell with nothing but the audio feed.

    That makes sense; Elder Nelson has always had an interest in languages.

  64. Ladies and Gentleman, President Gordon B. Hinckley.

    Drumroll please…

  65. StillConfused says:

    I love how old men walk!!!

  66. Kevin Barney says:

    OK, here’s the money shot–will there indeed be something historic in the next 15 minutes? The suspense is killing me.

  67. StillConfused says:

    Oh… an no April Fools Joke? What’s up with that?

  68. He’s sly. Pulling out the old “please drive safely” line before whacking us over the head with the big news…

    I think.

  69. Um.


  70. I would have expected any major changes to be announced last night either after sustainings or priesthood.

  71. Kev, you idiot! Nothing historic, except that the closing address was historically brief!

  72. Stupid Kevin Barney and his erudition!

  73. You think the closing prayer will be as brief, or will it make up for the time?

  74. Kevin Barney says:

    I can’t see anything; are the GAs up on the stand doing that “fished in” sign with their hands waiving backwards next to their cheeks?

    Who knew they had such a good sense of humor? Happy April Fool’s Day from the brethren!

    (I guess the historic thing was the rededication of the tabernacle after the seismic renovations. If so, our GAs really need to get out of the Utah cocoon more often.)

  75. They’re going to have Dick Cheney announce it at the commencement address.

  76. Eric Russell says:

    It could be historic if it turns out to be President Hinckley’s last conference. But we’ll have to wait to find out if that’s the case.

  77. The think the addition of the Pickle Principle into our rhetoric is Historic.

  78. Conference happened. The past is history. So Conference was HISTORIC.

  79. Aaron B says:

    After GC ended, the BYU channel tried to tempt me on the Sabbath into making media purchases from the BYU Bookstore. BYU is failing to uphold Gospel standards. I will not expose my family to such worldliness on the Lord’s day. Ergo, I can no longer watch Conference on the Sabbath.

    Aaron B

  80. “It could be historic if it turns out to be President Hinckley’s last conference.”

    An interesting suggestion, Eric, but here’s a question. Can you remember what happened at Spencer W. Kimball’s last conference? Or Ezra Taft Benson’s? I think that the conferences people tend to remember — the ones that become historic — are really the ones at which major changes or major sermons happen. Other events that happen between conferences may be historic in themselves, but I’m not sure they generally make the previous conference more historic.

  81. “It could be historic if it turns out to be President Hinckley’s last conference.”

    Or one of the apostles.

  82. Wow. We’re operating with a severely distorted sense of history here, Sherpa. How many apostles have died in the last 175 years?

  83. My wife and I are calling it the Pickle Parable.

  84. “How many apostles have died in the last 175 years?”

    All but 12?

  85. Elder Bednar should have done the Pickle talk today, and we could have all had fun for months speculation of whether that was an April Fools fun talk.

  86. @Clair (84) –

    Technically, all but 15.

  87. I remember Elder McConkie’s last conference well.

  88. MCQ, right — his final talk has become famous. Was there an equally memorable moment in this conference? They seem pretty rare.

  89. To me, the most memorable moment in this conference that didn’t involve pickles was in the Priesthood Session. The Prophet’s recollection of the dream of JFSmith was very very good. Faust’s talk on forgiveness was very topical and very memorable as well. He touched on a topic that I have been thinking about a lot lately, i.e. how does forgiveness relate to the atonement?

  90. JNS:

    To answer your question directly, there will be many many conferences before we have a talk that is “equally memorable” with McConkie’s.

  91. I should also have mentioned Elder Perry’s talk. Powerful, powerful stuff.

  92. History buff,

    I was talking a little tongue in cheek because the posts above me seemed a little morbid. I’m sorry you didn’t catch that.

  93. I predict that Elder Holland’s talk will become famous and much quoted. Elder Oaks’s talk will be examined by stake presidencies everywhere as a possible topic for “fifth Sunday School” classes, but its subject might be too difficult to approach without opening wounds. I personally plan on making millions by designing t-shirts with the motto “I Want To Be A Pickled Person.” Also, I will remember Elder Uchdorf’s imagery (point of safe return/point of no return) forever. Great talk. He’s the one GA I quit housework for so I can actually see him giving his talk. :)

  94. Yeah, the one clear principle that has come out of recent conferences:

    Chicks dig Uchtdorf.

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