The Mormon Faith & Black Folks
Q. Didn’t one of the Mormon Church Presidents once say that black folks were ‘inferior’?A. Yes. Unfortunately that is true. Mormons, even Mormon leaders, are not exempt from the popular beliefs of their day. Joseph Fielding Smith, when he was an Apostle in the 1930s, wrote a book called The Way to Perfection, and in that book he wrote the following: “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures. Millions of souls have come into this world with black skin and have been denied the privilege of Priesthood and the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel. These are the descendants of Cain. Moreover, they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning. In justice it should be said that there have been among the seed of Cain many who have been honorable and who have lived according to the best light they had in this second estate. Let us pray that the Lord may bless them with some blessings of exaltation, if not the fullness, for their integrity here. In the spirit of sympathy, mercy and faith, we will hope that blessings may eventually be given to our Negro brethren, for they are out brethren-children of God-notwithstanding their black covering emblematic of eternal darkness.” (The Way to Perfection, pp.101-102) The Anti-Mormons, for obvious reasons, love to quote this as ‘what Mormons think of black people’. Of course, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith was not speaking for the Church when he wrote that. It wasn’t even published by the Church; not even the church-owned publishing company. Joseph Fielding Smith more or less published that on his own; like he would his later work Man: His Origin and Destiny. Joseph Fielding Smith was born in the 1870s. He grew up and was educated in a day when the vast great majority of white people believed and were taught that blacks were an ‘inferior’ race, and that civilization-with all it’s arts and sciences-came from white Europeans. The Book of Moses and The Book of Abraham deny this, and say it was the Cainites and Hamites who invented civilization. While it was a contradiction to believe that blacks were the descendants of the Ancient Egyptians (who founded civilization) but blacks were ‘inferior’ to whites, most white Americans nevertheless accepted these contradictory facts. So did Joseph Fielding Smith; the grandnephew of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Also, Joseph Fielding Smith became an adherent of the writings of George McCready Price; a white racist Seventh-day Adventist writer and the ‘father’ of ‘Creation Science’. To understand why Joseph Fielding Smith considered blacks to be “inferior” one must understand that he was an avid reader of the works of George McCready Price. *George McCready Price and Scientific Creationism The name of this remarkable man is George McCready Price.” (Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, pp.127,132) Although outwardly impressive at the time, the works of George McCready Price today seem amateurish at best. To an untrained eye they might seem impressive, but to a trained professional scientist they are childish. Seventh-day Adventist historian Francis D. Nicol writes: “He had to pick up all his information by his own effort. He thus lacked technicalities that would have made his work stronger. Of course, not all his ideas have stood the test of time.” (Crusader for Creation, p.82) What Nicol means is that science-trained Creationists have abandoned or greatly modified many or most of Price’s theories. He was a ‘self-trained’ geologist. He had no professional training in any science. Nevertheless, the works of Price became very popular among those who saw evolution was the Devil’s doctrine. Most of these people were simple folks, and could not distinguish the facts of evolution from the theories of Darwinism. What they really were against was Darwinism; which said that all life came from the random acts of mutation and natural selection. If life came randomly, then what need was there of God? Yet, today, more and more research evolutionists are questioning the theories of Darwin; many rejecting the principles that life came about randomly. Many now believe that some intelligence was behind it; either an intelligent Universe, or God. Not all Bible-believers and ‘Fundamentalist’ Christians were against evolution. Many were in fact Theistic Evolutionists, or saw evolution as God’s way to create and bring life. These people rejected Darwinism-which is a Philosophy of Men-but not the scientific facts of evolution. George McCready Price was not only a Seventh-day Adventist and a ‘self-taught’ geologist, and the ‘father’ of Creation Science; he was also an avid white racist! In 1924, in his book The Phantom of Organic Evolution, Price wrote that racial mixing violated God’s divine intentions and led to rapid degeneration after the Tower of Babel. This degeneration produced not only Negroes and Mongolians (Asians), but apes as well; which Price called “degenerate or hybridized men” (The Phantom of Organic Evolution, p.210) He authored this little rhyme about black Africans: “The poor little fellow who went to the South, God lost in the forest drank; His skin grew black, as the fierce sun beat And scorched his hair with its tropic heat, And his mind became a blank.” (The Creationists, p.85) In other words, God had created white-skinned Caucasian Adam and Eve in His image; Adam from clay and Eve from a rib. However, before the Flood of Noah men and animals began to have sexual intercourse with each other and produce monstrous species. To destroy these monstrous offspring, God sent the flood and killed all life except Noah, his three sons, their wives, Noah’s wife, and the animals which remained pure from the cross-breeding. After the flood this cross-breeding (hybridization) continued again, and this time men became degenerate. They devolved; which is the opposite of evolution. They became closer to the animals. Price wrote that this was the explanation of the non-Caucasian races such as the Negroes and Mongolians (Chinese, Japanese, Malaysians, etc.). Price did not invent this, but was basing his conclusions upon the writings of Ellen G. White; especially where she wrote that the flood came about because different species of animals were producing “hybridized” offspring, and that this continued after the flood and was the reason why there were so many different species of animals and “certain races of men” (Spiritual Gifts 3:75) In 1963 Ellen G. White wrote: “But if there was on sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime of amalgamation of man and beast which defaced the image of God, and caused confusion everywhere.” (Spiritual Gifts 3:64) A few SDA apologists have tried to say the EGW meant amalgamation between races of men and between species of beasts, but not amalgamation of man and beast. But the SDA evangelist Uriah Smith, a contemporary of White and her good friend, wrote in a book that the amalgamation of man and beast (ape) produced the Hottentots of Africa and probably the ‘Digger Indians’ of North America just to name a few. Ellen G. White knew of this book, quoted it, and even sold copies of it at SDA conferences. Researcher Dirk Anderson writes: “There is a statement Mrs. White made in 1864 that the results of amalgamation between man and beast could be seen in ‘certain races of men’. For over 80 years Adventists-including the White’s friend Uriah Smith-defended this statement on the basis that she was talking about the sexual union of man with beast. Finally, in 1947, biologist Frank Marsh convinced SDA leaders of what scientists had known for decades, that it is biologically impossible for the union of man and beast to produce offspring. The church accepted Marsh’s new explanation and began claiming that Mrs. White was talking about interbreeding between humans rather than between man and animal. However, the textual evidence itself and every testimony we have from every witness that knew Mrs. White, including Uriah Smith, James White, W.C. White (her son), and D.D. Robinson (her secretary), all confirm that Mrs. White was talking about interbreeding of man with animal.” (7 Top Excuses About Ellen White, p.7 online) In 1870 the three volumes of White’s work Spiritual Gifts was enlarged and republished as The Spirit of Prophecy. This book contained the ‘man and beast’ statements. In 1890, The Spirit of Prophecy was enlarged with other EGW writings and republished as Patriarchs and Prophets. The ‘man and beast’ statements were not included. According to Price, based upon the works of Ellen G. White and commentaries by Uriah Smith, at the top of the human apex were Caucasians; who were in the original image of Adam and Eve, the original Image of God. Then there were Negroes and Mongolians who were lower than Caucasians and closer to the animals. Then there were the Hottentots and Digger Indians who were closer to the animal still; since they were the offspring of men and apes. Then the apes who were lower and closer to the animals still. Historian Ronald L. Numbers writes: “In The Phantom of Organic Evolution, he [Price] observed that racial mixing in violation of God’s intentions had led to rapid degeneration after Babel, producing not only Negroes and Mongolians but perhaps apes as well, which he though might be ‘degenerate or hybridized men.’” (The Creationists, p.85) The works of George McCready Price was extremely popular with Fundamentalist Christians and others who believed that evolution was ‘a doctrine of the Devil’ and Satan’s lie. One avid supporter and reader of the works of Price was Joseph Fielding Smith (the grandnephew of the Prophet Joseph Smith); who at that time was working in the LDS Church Historian’s Office. He knew of the controversies around North America between ‘Evolution’ and the ‘Word of God’. He read articles. He read books. When the anti-Evolution crusaders demanded that one must either reject evolution or the Bible, Joseph Fielding Smith believed it. He apparently couldn’t as many people could not~ distinguish ‘evolution’ from ‘Darwinism’. Evolution is a scientific theory, but Darwinism is a philosophy of man which misuses the theory to promote a godless cosmos. *Darwinism Vs. Evolution Of course, the ‘choice’ between evolution and the Bible (or believing in God) is a false dichotomy (a false choice between two things). Evolution was not opposed to the Bible. Darwinism was. Darwinism was a philosophy and a theory not based upon evolution, but based upon theories regarding it. In other words, the physical sciences showed certain facts. These facts said the following: *The lower the strata the less complicated the animal. *Things don’t change or appear out of thin air. All things are born from another thing. *Species adapt to their environment. Certain species on certain islands are different because they adopt to the differences of the environment on that particular island. With these facts, the Darwinists made some astonishing conclusions: *Life came not by God, but by chance. *Evolution works via mutation and natural selection. *Creatures change very slowly over millions of years. These two conclusions or theories are the pillars of Darwinism. Such pillars have not faired well in recent years. But the point is this: Darwinism is not Evolution! Darwinism=a philosophy of men Evolution=a science Evolution says that simple living things evolve into more complicated living things. Many people in the 1920s thought it absurd to believe that man evolved from ‘monkeys’. Yet, scientists know today that the DNA (genes) of a Chimpanzee and a human being are 98% identical. Anti-evolutionists would ask, “Do you believe your grandfather was an ape?” They thought that believing that men’s bodies come from lower forms of life and the belief that we are the children of God was incompatible. That’s how Joseph Fielding Smith also saw it. Fundamentalist Christians in the United States saw evolution (i.e. Darwinism) as the great Satan. They reasoned thusly: 1. If evolution is true, then Adam and Eve cannot have existed. 2. If Adam and Eve didn’t exist, then Genesis is a false history. 3. If Genesis is a false history, then the Bible itself is false. 4. If Adam did not exist then there was no Fall (of Adam). 5. If there was no Fall of Adam, then no need of a Savior to redeem mankind from the Fall. This ‘line of reasoning’ contains many false assumptions. Yet, millions of Fundamentalist Christians accepted it, and saw ‘evolution’ as the enemy. Joseph Fielding Smith accepted this line of reasoning as well. Joseph Fielding Smith believed that man either is the literal offspring of God, or he evolved from lower life forms: one of the other. Of course, our bodies come from a germ (from the male) and an egg (from the female). Does that mean we are not the children of God? Of course not. Many or most of the Creationist arguments were built upon fall assumptions, confusing Darwinism with evolution itself, and in demanding a literalist interpretation of the creation story in Genesis. Not all Fundamentalist Christians accepted the above ‘reasoning’. They argued that both evolution and divine creation were both possible. God certainly could have created man via the means of evolution. Adam and Eve need not have been the first human beings on earth, but the first of a new type of human being. Joseph Fielding Smith reasoned that if evolution were true, there was death before the Fall of Adam; yet the Bible said there was no death before the Fall. A contradiction. Yet, this is a contradiction only if one assumes that the Fall occurred in the physical earth, and not the spiritual earth. In The Book of Moses, a translation/revelation of the Prophet Joseph Smith, two creations are mentioned; first a spiritual creation, and then a physical creation. Also, by ‘no death’ before the Fall one must also assume this refers to physical death, and not spiritual death. One must also assume this applies to all life, and not Adam and Eve only. Even those who accept Creationism must admit that Adam and Eve ate fruit, and the cells of this fruit in the Garden of Eden had to die in order to nourish the bodies of Adam and Eve. After George McCready Price came Lewis Marsh, Ph.D. Marsh was a trained biologist, and in the 1940s he convinced SDA church leaders that it was biologically impossible for men and beasts to produce offspring. The SDA church finally agreed, and began to rewrite books, and to eliminate embarrassing quotes. Yet, Marsh was still a Traditionalist Seventh-day Adventist, and believed that inbreeding between different races of men, and closely related species of animals, was against the Law of God and the reason the LORD had sent the flood. In 1953, SDA church leaders asked Marsh to write articles for The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. *Joseph Fielding Smith and the Smith-McConkie School Joseph Fielding Smith, the eldest son of President Joseph F. Smith (6th President of the Church) believed that evolution and Darwinism was precisely the same thing. He believed it was from the Devil, and that it had to be fought or many sincere people would loose faith in the Bible (and thus also The Book of Mormon) and lose their opportunity for salvation and exaltation. His intent was good. He believed that “Negroes” were the descendants of Cain; which was a doctrine of the Church based upon The Book of Moses. Yet, he also believed that “Negroes” were “an inferior race”. This was the popular belief of his day. That was the popular ‘philosophy of men’ of his day. But no such statement can be found in the Standard Works of the Church. Statements can be found which say that Hamites were “blessed with wisdom”. Statements can be found which say that the Cainites built the first cities, were the first to work in metal, and were the first to use musical instruments. Yet, Joseph Fielding Smith never quotes these. He simply amalgamated the doctrines of the Church (based upon Revelations) with the philosophies and theories of men (George McCready Price and the American and European scientists of the late 19th and early 20th century). In 15th century Europe some men began to believe that other races (non-Caucasians) were not the descendants of Adam and Eve, but were in fact “Pre-Adamites”. It was reasoned that a Caucasian Adam and Eve could not produce all the various races of mankind. Those who disbelieved in the Pre-Adamite Theory conjectured that non-Caucasian races were the descendants of Adam of Eve, but they had ‘degenerated’ over time because of sin. Joseph Fielding Smith accepted that the variation in races was because of ‘degeneration’. Yet other Church apostles and leaders rejected this, and believed that while we were all the descendants of Adam and Eve, the explanation of racial variations can be found in Genesis where it says that the ‘sons of God’ married the ‘daughters of men’ (literally in Hebrew: “The daughters of Adam”). The sons of God were pre-Adamites, and the daughters of men were Adamites. Thus, all mankind are the descendants of Adamites and Pre-Adamites; which would explain why there are so many different races of men, but that we are all still related to each other. During the 1930s Joseph Fielding Smith got into controversies with B.H. Roberts and other Church leaders who accepted the notion of Pre-Adamites. James E. Talmage believed in evolution and pre-Adamites. Talmage was a geologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Joseph Fielding Smith had no training in the physical sciences. JFS tried to persuade Talmage of his ‘error’ by citing the works of George McCready Price. James Talmage that that time an Apostle) replied: In 1954 Joseph Fielding Smith, with a Mormon creationist named Melvin Cook, wrote Man: His Origin and Destiny. Cook became famous for his inventions of new kinds of explosives, but he had very little training in biology. Although not published by the Church, many ordinary Mormons took the work to be ‘What the Church has to say about evolution’. Of course, it was nothing of the kind. Joseph Fielding Smith was offering his own sincere opinions; although he wrote so dogmatically that most reading the book would think it was Church doctrine if they didn’t know better. Some Mormon scientists and professors would speak of evolution only to have one of their students pull out Man and say, ‘This is what the Church has to say about evolution’. Many quoted it in Sunday School. Several generations of Mormons grew up thinking that book was absolute ‘Church doctrine’. On February 11, 1957, Mormon university professor William Lee Stakes wrote to President David O. McKay and asked him about the book. President McKay wrote back: _________________________________________________________________ “Dear Brother Stokes, Your letter of February 11, 1957, has been received. (Republished in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 12:90-92) Although President David O. McKay, as Prophet of the Church, had clarified that the work was not an official Church statement, many Mormons continued to believe it was. They continued to quote from it in Sunday School, and to teach their children that evolution and Mormonism were diametrically opposed. Some of these students and children grew up to become educators in the Church, and to take positions of decision and responsibility. A number of them continued to believe as did Joseph Fielding Smith; that evolution was the ‘Devil’s Lie’, and it had to be opposed everywhere; especially in the Church and in Church schools. A few of them became almost fanatics in these beliefs; believing that Mormons who accepted evolution as the ‘means by which’ humanity’s physical form came to this world were in fact ‘false teachers’ and ‘outside the pale of salvation’. In 1958 Bruce R. McConkie, then a Seventy and the son-in-law of Joseph Fielding Smith, wrote Mormon Doctrine. This book is perhaps the most popular book in the Church except for the Scriptures. It has sold hundreds of thousands of copies over the decades. Many or most active Mormons believe it is ‘official’ Church doctrine-because it was written by an Apostle. But this is not true. The book was almost not published. It was highly criticized by a review committee of two Apostles. It was reworked several times, and republished (not by the Church, but by an independent Mormon publishing company) only after McConkie wrote a disclaimer in the front which said that the book was his ‘responsibility’ only. Most Mormons who quote the work seem not to notice the disclaimer. Like his father-in-law, Elder McConkie wrote very dogmatically. He never used the terms ‘in my opinion’, or ‘in my estimation’. Most people who read the work assume it is official Church doctrine; unless they read the disclaimer, or otherwise know better. But most don’t know better. Mormon Doctrine __________________________________________________________________ February 3, 1959 David O. McKay, President Dear Brother: The Church has issued no official statement on the subject of the theory of evolution. Neither ‘Man, His Origin and Destiny’ by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, nor ‘Mormon Doctrine” by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, is an official publication of the Church. Evolution is a theory. You say that biologists would agree on the general lines of what happened, although there may be less agreement about just how it happened. While scientific people themselves differ in their interpretations and views of the theory, any conflicts which may seem to exist between the theory and the truths of revealed religion can well be dealt with by suspending judgment as long as may be necessary to arrive at facts and at a complete understanding of the truth. __________________________________________________________________ (Letter of President David O. McKay, Feb. 3, 1959, LDS Church Archives) Those Mormons who speak today-no matter how high their Priesthood office-that one cannot believe in the Gospel and in evolution speak either out of ignorance, or out of a refusal to accept the facts of science and the fact that various Presidents of the Church (as they were Prophets to the Church) and Apostles of the Church did indeed believe that the two can be believed in and reconciled. George McCready Price was a white racist. During the time Joseph Fielding Smith was educated most white scientists and professors believed and taught that white men invented civilization, and that Negroes were naturally inferior. He read them, and seemed to accept what they said. It is a sad commentary, and sadly ironic, that Joseph Fielding Smith, who believed he had to fight evolution as an evil ‘Philosophy of Man’, was in fact mingling other philosophies of men (like that of George McCready Price) with divine Revelation. He mingled racism (a false philosophy of man) with the Curse of Cain doctrine (a doctrine of the Church based upon The Book of Abraham). This was the mingling of the philosophies of men with Scripture. Joseph Fielding Smith rejected the teachings of his own father, President Joseph F. Smith, when he said (as Prophet to the Church): “Man was born of a woman; Christ, the Savior, was born of a woman and Adam, our earthly parent, was also born of a woman into this world, the same as Jesus and you and I.” (Deseret News, Dec. 17, 1913) Joseph Fielding Smith rejected the teachings of BrighamYoung on this issue. He believed men like George McCready Price, but probably did not realize that Price was not relying upon science, but upon the ‘visions’ of Ellen G. White: who also wrote (unbeknownst to JFS) that the polygamy of the Mormons was evil and devilish. Ellen G. White wrote:"Polygamy was practiced at an early date. It was one of the sins that brought the wrath of God upon the antediluvian world. Yet, after the flood it again became wide-spread. It was Satan's studied effort to pervert the marriage institution, to weaken its obligations, and lessin its sacredness; for in no surer way could he deface the image of God in man, and open the door to misery and vice." (Patriarchs and Prophets, p.338)George M. Price was what is known as a "Traditionalist" among Seventh-day Adventists. They are Adventists who believe the Ellen G. White just wasn't an "inspired Christian woman" but a "Prophetess" whose writings are as inspired as the Bible! Ellen G. White wrote that polygamy, plus men having sex with animals, and different species of animals having sex with different species, produced "monsters" and that is why the Lord destroyed mankind (and animals) with the Great Flood; which topped Mount Everest! George M. Price also believed in Ellen G. White's vision that the earth was created in 6 literal 24 hour days, and that the earth was no more than 6,000 literal years old. Joseph Fielding Smith, who mistaken believed the Price was a world-renounced geologist, didn't know any of this! He was simply a young man untrained in any of the physical sciences, who trusted Price's arguments; believing that Price was basing his arguments upon facts and not wild theories that even most "Creation Scientists" have now disproven.
Joseph Fielding Smith, as a young man, and a young Apostle, had taken the philosophies of uninspired men and mingled them with Scripture. Orson Pratt had done the same things many years before. Mormon apostles are just men, and are apt to make mistakes like other men. The LDS Church has never claimed infallibility for its Apostles. Infallibility rests in the Standard Works alone.Joseph Fielding Smith was not speaking for the Church when he wrote in the 1930s, in The Way of Perfection, that Cain became the father of “an inferior race”. He was not speaking for the Church when, in 1954, he wrote Man: His Origin and Destiny (which is anti-evolutionist but contains no racist statements). However, many years later, he was, as the 10th President of the Church in the 1960s, speaking for the Church when he said or wrote the following: “The Latter-day Saints, commonly called ‘Mormons’, have no animosity toward the Negro. Neither have they described him as belonging to an ‘INFERIOR’ race.” (Deseret News June 14, 1962, p.3) After reading this the editor of LOOK magazine (a major American magazine at that time) did some research and discovered that Joseph Fielding Smith had indeed referred to the ‘children of Cain’ (Negroes) as “an inferior race” in his book The Way to Perfection; which had been written 29 years before. He asked President Smith about this in 1963, and President Joseph Fielding Smith replied: “The Mormon Church does not believe, nor does it teach, that the Negro is an inferior being. Mentally, and physically, the Negro is capable of great achievement, as great or in some cases greater than the potentiality of the white race. The term ‘inferior’ is indeed unfortunate.” (LOOK magazine, Oct. 22, 1963, p.79) By calling his 29 year old comments in The Way to Perfection “unfortunate” was Joseph Fielding Smith’s way of apologizing. Notice that he wrote that the “Mormons have no animosity toward the Negro” and “Neither had they described him as belonging to an ‘INFERIOR’ race.” Notice he said “they” and not “we”. He was saying that he had once described them as such, but not the ‘Mormons’. In this he was quite correct. He was not speaking for the Mormons nor the Mormon Church when he wrote The Way to Perfection. Twenty-nine years later he had come to the conclusion that his former personal belief in Negro inferiority were wrong. Joseph Fielding Smith repented of his earlier comments in The Way of Perfection. He repented by changing his once racist belief, and in calling his prior comment “unfortunate”. This was his way of apologizing. We know the LORD has forgiven him. As the President of the Church he said and wrote nothing racist. Just the opposite. The LORD has a way of working on souls over time. He has forgiven him. There are statements by Brigham Young or Heber C. Kimball or George Reynolds and Joseph Fielding Smith which are admittedly “racist” and insulting to blacks. That cannot be denied. But one must remember three things: 1) These men were reflecting the prevailing white American attitude towards blacks at the time. They were the children of their time, and reflected the beliefs and attitudes of their time. 2) All of these men also said very positive things about “Negroes”. Brigham Young declared that God would “curse” the white race for their abuse of the Negro unless the whites repented. We’ve read what Joseph Fielding Smith had to say about them while he was President of the Church in the 1960s. 3) The personal views and opinions of Church Leaders are not considered to be official Church Doctrine, and Latter-day Saints need not agree with it. Joseph Fielding Smith once wrote: “My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear....You cannot accept the books written by authorities of the Church as standards of doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the Standard Works. Every man who writes is responsible, no the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something that is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member is duty bound to reject it.” (Doctrines of Salvation 3:203-4) The belief that blacks are “inferior” cannot be found in the revelations! It cannot be found in the standard works (indeed, the Book of Moses says that Cainites founded civilization). The belief that some spirits were “less valiant” in the War in Heaven in the Pre-Existence cannot be found in the revelations. It cannot be found in the Standard Works (indeed, Doctrine and Covenants section 93 verse ??? teaches the opposite). The belief that black Africans (“Negroes”) are the descendants of Cain can be found in the revelations; in the Standard Works. It is found in The Book of Moses and in The Book of Abraham. Racism is a Philosophy of Man that some Apostles of the Church mingled with Scripture, but it cannot be found in any of the works of Scripture accepted by Latter-day Saints as coming from God.
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