Authenticity at Church

Let’s talk about authenticity!  

In our current society it appears that concept of “be authentic” has become an excuse to “act how you feel.”  It’s almost like, if we are happy, feeling blessed, positive or optimistic then we must be fake or hypocritical. We might even worry about feeling happy or grateful because we don’t want to appear prideful or make others feel worse about themselves and their circumstances.  Ironically, on the flip side of this we typically only see the positive and “happy faces” on social media, confusing us even more about what is real — even within ourselves.  

This isn’t super new, however.   Back in 2017, Elder Quentin L. Cook observed this same phenomenon: 

In today’s world, there is an increased emphasis on pride, self-aggrandizement, and so-called “authenticity,” which sometimes leads to a lack of true humility. Some suggest the moral values for happiness today include “be real, be strong, be productive—and most important, don’t rely on other people … because your fate is … in your own hands.”…

Some misuse authenticity as a celebration of the natural man and qualities that are the opposite of humility, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and civility. We can celebrate our individual uniqueness as children of God without using authenticity as an excuse for un-Christlike behavior.

So, what does it really mean to be authentic?      Is it yelling at the clerk at the store because you’re just having a rotten day and she took too long to ring your groceries?  Is it going to church moping so people know you struggle? Is authenticity really just acting out on whatever you’re feeling at the moment?  

Brene Brown defines authenticity this way:

Letting Go of who we Think we’re Supposed to Be


So does this mean we are to push away our sadness to be happy because we’re supposed to?  

Does embracing who we are mean we can lash out if we have an anger management problem? 

I don’t think so.  But before we get to digging into authenticity more fully, I want to touch on a couple of other thoughts. 

Hypocrisy & Duplicity

I think we worry about acting happy when we’re sad because maybe we are being hypocrites.  Likewise, there is the fear that when feeling tired we can’t go out in public and treat the cashier with the same grumpiness with which we treated our family.  I know I struggle with this immensely!  

At one point in my life I’d had some unpleasant interactions with a person in my ward.  There had been betrayal and I was feeling hypocritical going to church and smiling when I knew she was hurting — when I was hurting.  One day I was revealing these emotions to a  friend and she said, “Julia, when you go into church with a smile and joy, that is the real you.” 

Being brave, strong and resilient is not hypocrisy. 

Duplicity is also something we grapple with.  For example, acting one way at home and the opposite way outside the home. Years ago, when my oldest was about seven years old, I was in the middle of giving him a heated lecture when the phone rang.  Of course, when I answered, my voice became social sweet.  After finishing the conversation my son asked, “Why do you sound mad at home, but on the phone you sound nice?”  Caught!  

But, was this appropriate on my part?  What else could I have done? Answered the phone in a grumpy tone?  Maybe it would have been better to ignore the phone and finish the conversation with my son, calling back when the mood was better.  Or maybe there is a time for what the Nagoski sisters call, “strategic inauthenticity.” 

In their book, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily and Amelia Nagoski state that sometimes we build trust through strategic inauthenticity.  They write, “Part of being trustworthy is being that ‘well-behaved woman’ [in a public setting]…Authenticity comes on the phone that evening when you tell you best friend how well you behaved (pp. 143-144).” 

In other words:  saying you’re okay when you’re not, is okay; maybe even healthy.  

Authenticity in our Church Meetings

Which brings me to authenticity in our Church meetings.  I know there is a lot of talk about becoming more vulnerable at church.  We want people to be “real” in Sunday School and Relief Society instead of only hearing the “Sunday School answers,” the ideal applications, and the faith-building stories.  But again, going back to my first question, does “real” mean we can’t be joyful and share the good in our lives?  Is it fake and less authentic when we only share the good stuff?  

I’m beginning to see that maybe our Sunday classes are more a time for “strategic inauthenticity” rather than a place for us to bare all to all. Why?  Because we all need faith, hope and charity. After all, Brene Brown also reminds us that people need to earn the right to hear our vulnerable stories, they aren’t meant for everyone.  For awhile now I’ve actually thought how nice it is to have that one day a week when I am forced (and expected) to put on my Sunday best, smile as I pass others in the hallway, and discuss the ideals of the gospel.  The rest of the week can be for exhaustion and stress if it wants to be, but that one blessed day is a reprieve. 

I believe Elder Deiter F. Uchtdorf says it best: 

…the authentic disciple of Jesus Christ...did something that can be extremely hard to do: she trusted God even in the face of ridicule and hardship. Somehow she maintained her faith and hope, despite the scorn and cynicism around her. She lived joyfully not because her circumstances were joyful but because she was joyful.

Being joyful is not inauthentic.  

Being joyful is not hypocritical. 

Being joyful in moments of sadness is not duplicity. 

We all need to share in the joy of others.  If my joy affects the joy of another, that makes me sad, but it should not dictate the joy that I am allowed and able to feel on my good days.  If being authentic means honoring the natural man, then maybe I don’t want to be authentic. In psychology — the real self, the true self, the authentic self is made up of the good parts of me.  Those are the parts that belong in me because of Jesus Christ.  Those are the parts of me He wants me to use in helping others to use their own. Therein lies my identity and my divinity. 

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“Let love be without dissimulation (sincere).  Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” 

 Romans 12:9


Transitions and Milestones

This is a BIG week for our family!  

Brooklynn celebrated 20 years of living!  We got to talk with her on her birthday and it was such a special treat to sing to her miles away.  She’s happily serving the people of Lancaster, California and shining a light wherever she goes.  

David will be 10 on Friday!  We’ve been reminiscing that he was Donovan’s age when we first moved here.  He has been counting down the days because he does not love being 9.  I guess 10 is a bit of a rite of passage at our house, that time when you are no longer a “little kid” (though 10 is still so little from this Mama’s perspective). 

Also happening Friday, Addie will graduate from high school!  She will be leaving in just a few short weeks to head to college and I am really trying to prepare myself for that.  She is an amazing young woman and will do great things, but man we are going to miss her! (Only boys from here on out!)

With all of this in mind, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s recent Facebook post resonated wholeheartedly with me.  He said: 

 Seeing my grandchildren progress is a great thrill for a grandfather. My extended family is currently in the midst of some wonderful experiences—including the recent temple marriage of my grandson and his lovely bride and my granddaughter receiving her temple endowment and subsequent departure on her mission next month.

Sometimes we fear the future and worry about how change will affect us. I encourage you to embrace these new phases and stages in life as part of God’s plan. We should celebrate and enjoy these moments. Please don’t worry too much about them.
As a proud grandfather, I look forward to the future of my children and grandchildren with hope and faith. New doors will constantly open for each of us—and we should be prepared to walk through them. Change and progression are part of God’s plan for us.

As much as I love to celebrate with my children as they experience these new milestones, I am never fully prepared for how they will tug at my heartstrings. It’s too easy to look back at previous years with eyes of love and longing, wishing I could go back to those days. No, those days were not perfect, but it amazes me how the pain and struggle dim with time.

Sometimes the future is scary because I don’t know what it’s going to look like. But, I love Elder Holland's optimistic words because they help me see this phase of life with a different perspective. There is still so much to look forward to as my children grow up, leave home, and venture off onto their own adventures. I want to just sit back and love the journey as it unfolds in front of me.

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“There are two gifts we should give our children; one is roots, and the other is wings.”
- - Anonymous - -



There is so much controversy in the world today!  The topics of a pandemic, public education, economic downfall, racism, religious freedom, refugees and immigration, and global unrest permeate every conversation with varying viewpoints on every side.  Oftentimes it’s difficult to discern the truth amidst all the cacophony of voices!  In social media realms there is little curiosity and much judgment, little understanding and much criticism.  In short, I am seeing a lack of compassion. 

What is Compassion? 

Compassion is “suffering with another...a sensation of sorrow excited but he distress or misfortunes of another....Compassion is a mixed passion compounded of love and sorrow.”  A lot has been said in the world about empathy and I’ve asked myself what is the difference between compassion and empathy.  “While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.”  (I would add the desire to understand in this definition as well.) 

I was particularly moved by the compassion in Alma during our Come, Follow Me studies the past two weeks.  Alma and Amulek are doing the hard work of teaching the Zoramites — an apostate sect of Nephites (Alma 30:8). They were a hardened group of people who worshipped their own righteousness more than God (Alma 31:15-18).  They mocked, belittled, and shunned anything that was taught by others.  

What is our typical reaction when we come across such individuals?  Maybe we turn away, unsure of how to respond.  Maybe we ridicule and go to our own place of self-righteous judgment.  Maybe we criticize and argue with them, trying to convince them of the error of their ways.  (I'll admit, I've been guilty of all such responses.) Very seldom do we see such behavior treated with compassion.  And yet that is exactly what Alma shows us. 

“Now it came to pass that after the end of Korihor, Alma having received tidings that the Zoramites were perverting they ays of the Lord...his heart again began to sicken because of the iniquity of the people.  For it was the cause of great sorrow to Alma to know of iniquity among his people; therefore his heart was exceedingly sorrowful because of the separation of the Zoramites from the Nephites (Alma 31:1-2).”  Notice that the words used is “sorrowful” — not judgmental, not critical, not angry — sorrowful.  His heart was grieved because of the loss and hardness of his brethren. This shows Alma’s deep compassion. 

Later in the chapter we read Alma’s prayer: 
“O, Lord God, how long wilt thou suffer that such wickedness and infidelity shall be among this people?  O Lord, wilt thou give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities.  For I am infirm, and such wickedness among this people doth pain my soul.  O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ (31:35-36).” 

Again see the heartache.  Why is Alma so grieved about this people, the Zoramites?  Why does he care?  Why does it matter to him?  These people were once his brothers and sisters in the gospel.  He has great care and love for them.  Thus, his sorrow is founded in his relationship with them and with God.  His desire is to bring them back to the knowledge and understanding of the loving God they once knew.  His heart as filled with pain because of his compassion toward them. 

One last verse: 
“Now Alma, being grieved for the iniquity of his people, yea for the wars, and the bloodshed s, and the contentions which were among them; and having been to declare the word...among all the people in every city; and seeing that the hearts of the people began to wax hard, and that they began to be offended because of the strictness of the word, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful (Alma 35:15).” 

Again these words:  sorrowful, grieved.  I personally do not hear feelings of judgement in these words.  What in Alma is a great compassion and desire for the welfare of his brethren — despite their wickedness.  We all can learn from this great example of Alma and show compassion toward our brethren, toward all humankind.  

When Christ was on the earth, teaching  and preaching unto the people (as was Alma), “when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd (Matt. 9:36).”  When we foster such compassion in our hearts we will not longer desire to be right or to condemn; rather, we will be driven to love and serve our neighbors, listen to understand, and to express kindness in a world that is urging us to do the opposite.  We can foster such compassion by starting our day with God in mind, pausing before speaking, and pulling from our own experiences while practicing our ability to relate to one another.  

This earth life is hard enough as it is without the constant turmoil and contention brewing.  We owe it to ourselves and our children to create an environment, a culture if you will, of compassion. There is no better time than today to start the trend! 

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In a very real way, the Master speaks to us: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.’ Let us listen for His knock.  Let us open the door of our hearts, that He—the living example of true compassion—may enter...”
- Thomas S. Monson, April 2001 - 


Do the Hard Work

Self-awareness and change is hard work.

Marriage is hard work.

Motherhood is hard work.

Life is hard work.

I think at some point we forget this truth.  Somewhere in our cultural dialogue, we have forgotten what it means to do the hard work, to struggle, and to finish what we began.  

My dad is the one who taught me about hard work. You set your eye on the goal and then get to work.    You finish the job.  Being an avid reader, I remember many times, “Get your nose out of that book and look up.”  He always wanted me to be aware of the beauty around me, to be aware of what was right in front of me.  My dad is struggling with cancer.  He has done the hard work, he continues to do the hard work of enduring to the end. 

That’s the personal note on this subject.  Now let’s talk about what it means to do the hard work. 

In the scripture we are taught to “work out your own salvation (Phil. 2:12).”  Amulek reiterates this instruction when teaching the humble Zoramites, “...and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God... (Alma 34:37).”  Many might use this verse to imply that the work of receiving salvation is all on our shoulders. Yes, there is work in keeping the commandments, but more important is the work of building a relationship with God and trusting in His grace for the empowerment, enlightenment and strength needed to do the work He requires.  

I like how Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke about our work with God.  He said: 

Our Heavenly Father has described His vast plan for His children by saying, ‘Behold, this is my work and my glory —to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’ Consider the significance of the Lord’s use of the word work.  What He is doing so lovingly and redemptively is, nevertheless, work —even for Him!  We, likewise, speak of ‘working out our salvation,’ of the ‘law of the harvest,’ and of the ‘sweat of the brow.’  There are not idle phrases.  Instead, they underscore the importance of work.  In fact...work is always a spiritual necessity even if, for some, work is not an economic necessity. 

The Lord has a work.  We as mothers, wives, and daughters of God have a work.  It is a spiritual necessity to do that work. However, hard work does not need to have negative connotation.  Notice in Elder Maxwell’s quote he said that the Lord is doing the work lovingly and redemptively.  We can do our work in that same manner, showing ourselves the compassion we need in order to do the work being asked of us with that same love.  

M. Catherine Thomas gives us some insight into how we can do such work:

I encourage you to design your own spiritual practice for training your mind, things you want to rain yourself to do every day in order to raise your spiritual energy level, in addition, of course, to your prayer and scripture.  What you repeatedly practice I’ll become your inclination....Setting out to create new mental habits is something like a spacecraft trying to escape the force of gravity—at first it takes quite a bit of effort, and then you break free, and it almost runs itself (The God Seed, pp 208-209).

How many of you set out to be mothers with joy, anticipation, a little nervousness but mostly excitement?  How many of you, at some point in your mothering, realized that it was a lot harder than you had originally anticipated?  Motherhood burn out is a real thing!  It takes work to keep redemptive love as a focus, not only toward your children and spouse, but also toward ourselves!  And yet, the work of a mother is the same work God has —to bring our children to Christ.  What better mission is there than that!?  Making it a priority to create a spiritual practice for ourselves is vital in fulfilling this great mission.  

Yes, these roles we play in life can be exhausting, but with the Lord and His mission as our focus we have the capacity to find joy in motherhood, joy in self-discovery, joy in marriage and joy in life!  Then we can move forward with a steadfastness in Christ and do the hard work required of us!  Our children deserve mothers who will do that hard work.  

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Put your shoulder to the wheel; push along,
Do your duty with a heart full of song. 
We all have work; let no one shirk.
Put your shoulder to the wheel. 


Light Your Candle, Light Your World

We recently passed our family's birthday season -- 4 birthdays in three weeks and the birthday of our home (5 years in Rexburg!).  Oh, and throw Father's Day into that mix and we have a month-long party!  With each celebration came some candles and an opportunity to celebrate the life of each beautiful person. 

Elder L. Tom Perry once spoke of his childhood birthdays, how they were lavished with attention and given free reign on their special day.  He said, "This attention was a way of showing us that we were wanted and needed and had the complete love and support of our family."  As Elder Perry aged, he starting to look at birthdays differently.  "I understand better each day the blessings of knowing that I am a child of God.  What tremendous power and potential the Lord has blessed each of his children with (BYU Speeches, Aug. 3, 1980)."

Do we recognize this "tremendous power and potential" in ourselves?  Do we give ourselves time to believe the truth of this statement?  Are we willing to light our candles, to light up our world?  

There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold.
There is a Spirit who brings fire
Ignites a candle and makes His home. 

Carry your candle, run to the darkness;
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn;
Hold out your candle for all to see it.
Take your candle, and go light your world.*

Have you watched a child recently, really watched him?  Our three-year-old, Donovan, is such a delight!  His smile lights up the room, his energy is contagious, and his joy is full.  He is a bright light.  Children are bright lights because they have not yet been shown that they are not. I don't think it's a coincidence that our children learn the song, "I am a Child of God" at a young age.  They sing it when they believe it.  Why do we stop believing it?   Somehow, sometimes, as we continue on our mortal journey, our lights may begin to dim. 

Alicia Keys has something to say about that.  She writes:

At some point during our conversation...it dawned on me...How I’d dimmed my light so it wouldn’t blind others or make them uncomfortable around me... rather than basking in teh glow of those miracles, I shrank.  As certain moments I even dumbed myself down or chose not to talk about the many blessings I’d received.  I feared that if I shared my experience in its entirety, if I took the lid off my joy, it would push others away or make them feel small. … Some part of my spirit was always signing up for less because that is what I believed I deserved.  For many years, I thought I was just being modest.  I never wanted to come across self-absorbed, or as someone with a big head.  It’s how we women are brought up: Don’t ask for more. Don’t’ take credit.  Don’t outshine others.  But there on the couch, it hit me that my alleged modesty was just a disguise—a mask for a lack of self-worth.”  
— Alicia Keys, More Myself pp. 247-248

Have any of you felt that you needed to dim your light so others wouldn't feel uncomfortable? I have. 

Have you had a hard time celebrating the success of others because it somehow dims your light?  I have.  

Do you sometimes believe you are just being modest, when in reality you are dumbing yourself down? I do.  

I believe this is a common struggle among all human beings! 

I believe we can do better.  

I believe I can do better.  

We each have a light to shine.  The Lord, Jesus Christ taught, "Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick;  and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16)."

I remember an instance when I shared a dream of mine with a group of friends.  There was something I wanted to do in my life and I explained with great detail what that was.  It was interesting to watch the dreaming become infectious.  Suddenly the room was filled with dreams and desires with a whole lot of support and encouragement going around.  It was energizing! What I learned in that moment was that when we share a piece of ourselves others feel the freedom to do the same.  When we shine our light, "it giveth light unto all that are in the house."  

Shining our light is not for our own gratification or so that we can feel good about ourselves.  Shining our light is about igniting the light in others!  So, please!  Do not allow the adversary (and the many voices in the world) to dim your light! It's not worth it.  Your world needs you to shine! 

We are a family whose hearts are blazing, 
So let's raise our candles and light up the sky.
Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus, 
Make us a beacon in darkest times.

Carry your candle, run to the darkness;
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn;
Hold out your candle for all to see it.
Take your candle, and go light your world. *

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"The Lord's invitation to let our light so shine is not just about randomly waving a beam of light and making the world generally brighter.  It is about focusing our light so others may see the way to Christ."                                              Bonnie H. Cordon


Using Stories to Teach Our Children about Racism

A story is different than a list of commands in that it invites the reader in.  Most of us when we read a story identify with a character and are very dramatically changed.  There are all sorts of studies in brain scans and neurological things and imaging where they see that people actually feel emotion in connection with what the characters are feeling.  Stories change us. And they changes us deeply....and according to research they change people more deeply and for longer rather than trying to force yourself to follow a list of commandments.

Learning from Stories

It’s funny because I don’t usually resonate with talks full of stories; but I love using stories to teach my children, especially about “difficult” topics!  On the surface, using stories takes the pressure off whatever I’m trying to teach them.  However, on a deeper level, stories have greater value in teaching our children true principles.  When we read great literature, conversations open up and it’s no longer, “Mom is telling me what to do (as shown in the quote above).”  Likewise, stories are amazing for showing us the consequences of various choices — good and bad. When children can see the results of a character’s choices, they learn to make healthy decisions.  

Stories also give Mom a reference point.  For example, years ago I was reading the Little House on the Prairie series.  We had read the part where Laura didn’t listen to Ma when told to stay away from the stream.  What happened?  Of course, Laura went to the stream and was swept away by the current. Fortunately, all ended well and we have the continued story today!  I can’t remember what David was doing, but I remember distinctly warning him, “Remember what happened to Laura?” Again, the story took away the pressure and the possibility of a potential control battle between parent and child.  

Ultimately, stories are powerful tools for creating the change we desire! 

And so we get to the current war going on inside the borders of our country.  I am as torn up as most people about the pain overwhelming our nation.  The pain is real and super heavy!  As I have read posts on Facebook, watched videos on YouTube and read articles on various sites I see this is a multifaceted struggle that has been building up for too many years.  I may not experience the things that others have in the darkest ways possible, but I still have a strong desire to teach my children, the rising generation, how to be voices of change. 

These thoughts left me wondering:  How can we help our children understand the gravity of the situation? How can we teach our children to stop perpetuating racist thoughts in our culture? The answer came:  We can do so through stories.  I began looking through our reading history and realized I have taught my children about racism, more than I thought.  The stories we've read through the years have given our family a small glimpse into the black race, it’s culture and racism. I believe more can be done, but this is a great place to start!     

For Younger Children

Years ago we opened up the subject by celebrating Black History Month (February) in our home. Throughout the month we would highlight the lives of black heroes such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, and Barak Obama.  We also read the poetry of Langston Hughes and listened to the music of Nat King Cole and others. As our children get a little older we can add in stories of Lorraine Hansberry, Elizabeth Eckford and James Baldwin. Just telling their stories can teach our children more about racial struggle.  

A few books for young children:

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

John Henry by Julius Lester 

Enemies of Slavery by David A. Adler

For You and Your Older Children

One of my long-held beliefs is that learning starts with mothers first!  A well-educated mother can pass the knowledge of racism and cultural differences down to her children.   Here is a great list of books to begin educating yourself on the subject of racism. As you gain greater understanding you’ll be prepared to involve your children in the process.  I promise you will find some amazing lessons and have some great discussion from these stories: 

Roots by Alex Haley
This book changed my life.  This book changed what I read and how I read.  This book is necessary in our world! 

The Seeds of America Trilogy by Laurie Halse Anderson
This is about slavery during the Revolutionary War, an aspect of our first ward that I never even thought of until I read it.  

To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee
Classic!  Poignant!  Important! If you don’t know this one yet, you need to read it now! 

Nation by Terry Pritchett
Though not about black lives, per se, this book is beautiful literature on challenging false traditions of our fathers and repairing broken cultural norms.  I love this book!  

Passing by Nella Larson
Thank you book group!  I never would have read this if not for book groups.  All I can say about this book is that it’s a must! Completely opened my eyes to something I never even knew existed! 

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Oh wow.  Though I did not particularly love this book it opened my eyes to a world I could not even fathom.  These words come through the eyes of Thomas Jefferson’s children born to his slave Sally.  This book is a great one to introduce the subject of “passing” to your children. Such struggle and heartache was found in this book.  

More Myself  by Alicia Keys
This was my most recent book on the list.  This is a book of power, strength, and the courage to make a difference!  Reading this book instilled in me a desire to be more myself and to do more for the community around me.  

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
For me this book was a broken story — a harsh perspective on a harsh time period!  But well worth taking the time to read. 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Another classic must!  If you haven’t read this yet, read it today!  

Day of Tears by Julius Lester
My son actually read this in school and told me to read it.  I’m so glad!  This is centered around the largest slave auction in history! Can I say anything more than that?  

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Prose. Deeply written. All heart. 

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
I can’t say this was my favorite book, but I think I’m going to read this one aloud to my children soon.  

Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
Another one that was worth reading, but not my favorite. Still, this book is yet another story we can introduce to our children as we open up the conversation on racism. 

I will make sure all of my children read this book.  First of all, I love Gary Schmidt and everything he writes!  The crux of this story is the struggle between religion and culture, all centered around an island designated for the black people. I mean, such a gorgeous story.  This is a perfect example of how story can truly touch your heart and change it! 

Cry, the Beloved Country  by Alan Paton
I read this first as a sophomore in high school and remember loving it.  I read it again as an adult and I’m sure I appreciated it even more.  Set in South Africa during a time of great racial injustice, this book teaches so poignantly the lessons of redemption and love.  Our country could definitely use the lessons from this story!  

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
My kids and I just read this one right before George Floyd’s tragic death.  We had a beautiful discussion on poverty in general and how we have such a privilege to bless the lives of others in our current situation.  After reading this I encouraged each child choose a different way to contribute to a cause of their choice.  

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington
After reading this book I remember thinking, “I want to own this book and I want my sons to read it!”  A beautiful story teaching us rather than falling victim to our past we have the power to create a better future.  

This is the fluffiest suggestion on the list. But sometimes that is where people need to start — and that’s okay (actually, it’s necessary to start somewhere!). This is a series set during the Civil War.  Different love stories, one including that of a black woman.  I just like this series.  

This might be one of my daughter’s favorite books.  It’s the only one I really remember her reading in sixth grade.  A young black girl in Africa is being forced to marry and she runs away.  This is a book that can show any young woman to believe in her strength, to fight and to have courage! 

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
“This is a story of racism and segregation in the South during the Depression, but it is also the story of how a family, and kind, wise people can give security and guidance in frightening circumstances (taken from my friend Jillaire’s post on GoodReads).”  Another super important book to introduce to our children right now. 

End Note
A couple of nights ago I stumbled upon this amazing article that speaks to the power of literature in bridging the gaps of the racial divide in our country.  Ironically, the question I searched that led me to this article was, “Are the characters in The Crossover black?” (You’ll get the irony when you read the article.) 

 - - - - - - 

And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people;  but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike, so long as the Lord sees fit that we may live and inherit the land...”
Mosiah 29:32


“Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole”

There are only four accounts in scripture where Jesus Christ uses this phrase, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.”  We know the stories well. 

The first is Enos from the Book of Mormon.  After praying all day and night, Enos is told that he has been forgiven of his sins.  He asks the Lord, “how is it done?”  This is the response: 
“And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen....wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.”  Enos continues, “Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them (Enos 1:5-9).”  

The second is the woman with the issue of blood who reaches for the Savior’s garment and is cleansed.  Of course, the disciples were baffled that Christ could feel the touch when being thronged by many others, nevertheless, He did feel and He healed.  When discovered, the woman “came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he’s aid unto her, ‘Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague (Mark 5:27-34).”  

The third is Bartimeaus, a blind man.  After discovering the cause of a great commotion nearby, Bartimeaus calls out, “Jesus, thou Son fo David, have early on me.”  Those around him try to silence him, but he is determined to be heard and calls out more loudly, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.”  Jesus hears and calls the man to him. “And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?  The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.  And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way (Mark 10:46-52).”  

The last is the story of the ten lepers, only one of whom is made whole. “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face a t his feet, giving him thanks....And Jesus answering said, We’re there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine?  There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.  And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole (Luke 17:15-19).”  

Reading each story side by side, we can see a pattern.  First each person comes to Jesus, they reach for him and seek Him.  . Coming to Jesus requires action, it requires faith.  To come to Jesus our desire to involve Him in our lives is crucial and important.  We must do some reaching.  Enos sought the Lord in prayer, the woman with the issue of blood reached for His garment, the blind man called out to Him, and the leper turned back and gave thanks.  

Once they come to Jesus they are then healed.  In the account of Bartimeaus he is healed “immediately.”  The Lord desires to heal us, to make us whole and will always do so. 

The last step of the pattern comes after the healing.  Each person is changed.  Not only are they healed physically, their very natures are changed.  Enos begins to pray for others and seek their welfare, the woman is given peace, the blind man “followed Jesus in the way,” and though we don’t see explicitly what happens with the leper, we can only imagine his desire to serve God has been strengthened.  

The Patter:  Come to Jesus, Be Healed, Serve more Fervently

We see this same pattern in King Benjamin’s people:

And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth.  And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood fo Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God...

And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they ere filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ...

[and the Spirit] has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually (Mosiah 4:2-3; 5:2).”

Can you see the pattern?  They came to Jesus by calling up Him and his Atonement to cleanse them.  They were then healed and received a remission of their sins.  Afterwards, because of their faith and the sanctification of the Spirit, their very natures were changed, they had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”  

Using this same pattern, we too can be made whole!  We can take any infirmity, any weakness, any sin and apply the Atoning blood of Christ in our own lives.  

Elder Kyle S. Mackey recently wrote, “[The analogy of cancer] helps us understand that spiritually we must be not only cleansed from sin but also cured from sinfulness.  The war that pits our will to do good against our nature to do bad can be tiring.  If faithful, we will be victorious not simply because we have imposed our will upon our nature, but because we have yielded our will to Gods and He has changed our nature (Ensign April 2020).”  

So maybe the idea of being made whole or having our nature changed isn’t about having a personality shift (something I think many of us fear when giving up our will to God’s), maybe it’s simply changing our hearts and desires.  Who we want to become eventually leads to who we truly are.  As Elder Richard G. Scott once said, “We become who we want to be by consistently being who we want to become (CR Oct. 2010).” 

I have come to the belief that Heavenly Father doesn’t want us to become more like Jesus Christ; rather, He would have us apply the atoning blood of the Savior to become more of our true selves. He wants to make us whole - - being cured from personal diseases that plague us, being saved and preserved from the affects of evil, and ultimately being spiritually reborn.  

Elder Mackey continues, “...it is beyond our power and capacity to change our nature.  For this mighty change, we are wholly reliant on Almighty god.  It is He who graciously purifies our hearts  and changes our nature ‘after all we can do.’  His invitation is constant and sure: ‘Repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal [you] (3 Nephi 18:32).” 

So let us follow this pattern: come unto Christ through repentance and trust that He will heal us.  Then, believe the promise that our very natures can be changed and we can become more wholly our best selves, just who we were created to be!  


Come Follow Me: Jacob’s Anxiety

I love Jacob.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed that my affinity toward Jacob has grown.  There is beautiful emotion and empathy, passion and pleading, and heartwarming humility in his teachings.  This time around, I has also been drawn to his use of the word “anxiety” several times.

Before Nephi dies, Jacob teaches the people:

“...I speak unto you again; for I am desirous for the welfare of your souls.  Yea, mine anxiety is great for you; and ye yourselves know that it ever has been (2 Nephi 6:3).”

Then once he assumes the leader role after Nephi’s death, Jacob reiterates his feelings:

“Now, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, according to the responsibility which I am under to God, to magnify mine office with sober ness, and that I might rid my garments of your sins, I come up into the temple this day that I might declare unto you the word of God. And ye yourselves know that I have hitherto been diligent in the office of my calling; but I this day am weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of your souls than I have hitherto been (Jacob 2:2-3).”

Again, just before he teaches the great Allegory of the Olive Tree, Jacob declares:

“Behold, my beloved brethren, I will unfold this mystery unto you; if I do not, by any means, get shaken from my firmness in the Spirit and stumble because of my over anxiety for you (Jacob 4:18).”

We have created such a negative connotation to this word: Anxiety.  What is it?  And is it as “bad” as we have made it out to be?  In these words from Jacob, I can feel his anxiety, but I also see that it comes from his great love and caring for the people that he serves.  Only in the last verse quoted do we see that he is anxious about himself; but again, only that his own anxiety won’t overpower the spirit and love he feels for his people.  I find this endearing and a bit heart-wrenching.

Let’s pause to look at Jacob’s life.  He was born in the wilderness.  He knows nothing other than hard work, pain, suffering, sorrows.  He watched his family disintegrate with contention and false beliefs.  In Lehi’s final blessing to his son we read, “And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my firstborn in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness.  And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren (2 Nephi 2:1).”

Of this beginning and living in the wilderness, Deidre Green explains:

The wilderness is a luminal space —a space of change and uncertainty, but also a space of transformation.  And it’s a space of vulnerability and I think that really influences Jacob’s perspective on the world, and also his affinity to God...It seems that God and Christ, as he understands him, are really kind of the stabilizing forces for him in his life. 

We see this in Lehi’s continued words, “Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain (2 Nephi 2:2).”  Jacob has learned from an early age what it means to rely on and trust in God because of his childhood in the wilderness.  Likewise, as we are born into and travel in our own wilderness called mortality, we learn to have this same trust and love for a Father in Heaven who is guiding us and protecting us.

It is because of Jacob’s experiences that he is able to empathize with a larger group of people.  This brings us back to his anxiety.  With his own heart enlarged by his life’s journey, Jacob feels deeply for the people whom he serves.  I can understand this!  I recently wrote a blog post entitled, “Caring too Much is Going to Kill Me.”  Not only is there my own natural anxiety spurred on by my own weaknesses, there is also the pressure of truly caring for the sisters I serve and desiring their happiness.  Oftentimes I worry that my over anxiety is getting in the way of leading them by the Spirit.  Thus, I can relate to Jacob more than ever before!

We also learn from Jacob’s anxiety that it’s okay to live with some ambiguity.  I feel some of his anxiety is spurred on by the idea that he doesn’t know what is going to happen to the Nephites once he dies.  He also pleads with the Nephites to continue reaching out to their brethren, the Lamanites. He knows and understands that a relationship with God is first and foremost, and sometimes familial relationships only add to the complexity of understanding God’s ways and His children.  Growing up in a time of uncertainty and constant change allowed Jacob the ability to see these dichotomies of life.

Ultimately, we see Jacob’s undying love and testimony of a living Savior.  As taught by his father, Jacob experiences firsthand a knowledge of his Redeemer.  “And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh...Wherefore, redemption comets in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth (2 Nephi 2:4, 6).”  Then, when it is his turn to lead, Jacob counsels his people, “...be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrecting, according to the power of the resurrection which is in Christ...(Jacob 4:11).”

What I gain from this message is that our anxiety does not need to keep us from the love of God.  Despite his anxious spirt and sorrowful yearnings of his heart, Jacob is able to persevere and powerfully testify of Christ.  Likewise, because of his anxious heart, Jacob has the capacity to gather his people in love and righteousness, to empathize and to teach in love and understanding.  With this thought, however, we must remember one thing:  Jacob’s anxiety was for the welfare of his people more so than for himself.  We, too, can turn our hearts toward others and allow our anxiety to bring us closer to them and to Christ for nothing shall separate us from His love.

 - - - - - - 

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of god, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  
Romans 8:38-39


Come Follow Me: The Doctrine of Christ

I'm back!  February was a crazy month.  So, yes, I completed most of the reading but could never get to writing anything down.  So, here are my thoughts on this week's study: 2 Nephi 31-33...

Here we find the Doctrine of Christ.  Most of us can quote the Article of Faith:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are first, faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by emersion for the remission of sins; fourth, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

And many of us have probably been taught these principles and ordinances in a step by step fashion.  I've even drawn the steps myself, one following the other as we make our way to heaven.  Therefore, I find it very interesting that in laying out the Doctrine of Christ, Nephi doesn't go through the "steps," nor are they even in the same order.

Nephi first talks about baptism. He talks about Jesus being baptized and then declares, "And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water...O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water (2 Ne. 31:5)!"  Interestingly, when Jesus visits the Nephites after his crucifixion, the first thing He teaches them is about baptism.  Something about that ordinance is crucial to following our Savior.

When asked, "Why did Jesus have to get baptized if He was perfect?"  our typical answer is, "To show us the example."  Yes, in verse 9 over chapter 31, we see just that, "...it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them (italics added)."  When I read these verses this time, however, I was struck by another phrase.  Verse 7 states, "...But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father... (italics added)."  And this is what I think is crucial about baptism coming first when teaching about the doctrine of Christ.  Baptism is our first ordinance in which we declare to God that we will follow Him.  This decision is a humbling experience as we bury ourselves and come up again as new creatures.  We renew this covenant, offering our humble hearts to God, every Sunday when we partake of the sacrament.  Humility is necessary in following our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As part of that sacramental renewal, we then have the opportunity to repent.  Repentance is not required of young children before the age of eight.  Repentance, in my viewpoint, is not required of those who do not know the law.  Repentance is a blessing we partake in after we have made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ.  I guess you can read 2 Nephi 31:11-13 and come to the conclusion that repentance is required before baptism, but again, I don't see these principles and ordinances as steps, I see them interlocking as we choose to follow our Savior. 

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the the name of Christ, by baptism...then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel (2 Ne. 31:13)." 

With the Holy Ghost we can then speak with the tongue of angels.  What does that look like?  What does it feel like and sound like?  I find this a fascinating phrase.  In chapter 32, Nephi clarifies, "Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, tehy speak the words of Christ.  Wherefore, I said unto you, feas upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do (v.3)."  In other words, having been baptized, with a humble and repentant heart we can receive personal revelation!

And then comes faith!  Faith was already present when we made the initial choice to be baptized (see 2 Ne. 31:19), but that faith only continues to grow and build and strengthen as we continue along the path. 

"And then ye are in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life;  yea, ye have entered in by the gate;  ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive....Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold...ye shall have eternal life (31:18, 20)."

We are taught that faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ is first, and I don't think I dispute that.  But we need to remember that once we act in faith, it is not a one-time action.  Faith is a growing, learning, active, and living principle.  It is only through continuing on the path that our faith becomes stronger and our understanding of Jesus Christ and His love for us can grow. 

Nephi's final words testify of this.  He declares, "I have charity for my people and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat (2 Nephi 33:7)." How does He have such faith?  "...for thus has the Lord commanded me, and I must obey (v.15)."  Nephi made the decision to follow Jesus Christ, he chose to obey, he chose to stay on the path.  Of these first four principles and ordinances, only baptism happens once; and yet, even then, the covenant is renewed with the sacrament.  Nephi did not follow a step by step plan to heaven, Nephi chose every day to hold to the Doctrine of Jesus Christ!

 - - - - - 

"And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ.  And if ye shall believe in Christ, ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good."  
2 Nephi 33:10 


A Testimony of Jesus Christ

What is a testimony?

"A testimony is an open declaration or confession of one's faith."

"A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost."

My testimony has taken an interesting journey, as I suspect most testimonies do.  I would say I received a testimony at a relatively young age and have had many powerful experiences with the Holy Ghost testifying to me of sacred truths.

Several years ago, however, a series of experiences put a little dent in my faith.  Though I can say I never really doubted the existence of God, I did begin to wonder about His role in my life.  Confusion, questions, pride, and fear took a front row seat in my mind.  Still hoping and praying for some clear answers, I started to catch glimpses of light and strength.  However, as quickly as they'd come, they would leave again.

I recently had a friend ask me some difficult questions. "What does your relationship with Christ really mean?  If [recent life events] have been so hard, how has that brought you closer to Jesus Christ?"  Basically, I felt she was asking me, "What is keeping you so sure?"

These were some great questions and I feel the last few years these are the exact questions I have been forced to ask myself.  These are questions I wonder if we all need to ask ourselves at some point in time. In fact, Elder John Carmack once stated, "I shudder when I hear anyone declare, 'I will never deny my testimony of the gospel.'"  To do so would put us in a position like Peter when he declared his devotion to Christ only to deny him three times.  President Henry B. Eyring gave a talk once entitled, A Living Testimony.  I love the word living because it implies, first of all, that it is something that needs nourishment.  For another thing, it also signifies that it will ebb and flows, has its ups and downs.  We do not receive a testimony and then expect it to stay exactly the same. Hopefully, it is constantly growing, but I would assume that sometimes it doesn't feel that way.

When my friend asked me those questions that day I had one answer to give, "I can't say [these experiences] have brought me closer to Christ themselves, but I can say that through these experiences I have learned with more conviction the why of what I do -- it is because I love my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I do these things for Him."

Along my faith journey I have wrestled with a lot of questions.  I have studied, read, prayed, pondered, written and cried in my desires to know where God is in my life.  And for me, staying on the path was extremely helpful.  I have realized that the one thing truly keeping me in the Church are the covenants I have made with my God.  The one thing I would miss the most is communion with Him in the temple.  For me, there is great strength and comfort in those covenants because I know His promises are sure -- no matter what chaos might be going on in my life.

Also, along this journey, it became easy to discredit emotion a little bit.  Those who know me know that my threshold for tears is very low!  Because of this I have had to learn and relearn which tears come because of the Spirit and which come for other reasons (namely: exhaustion, hormones, nerves, etc.).  I have had to really home in on personal revelation and discerning of spirits.  I have had to learn which voices to hear and which to ignore.

Wendy Ulrich (remember, my favorite!) wrote an article on belief and cognitive dissonance.  Toward the end she wrote, "While cognitive dissonance theory says we behave primarily to justify our beliefs, faith teaches us that both commitment and uncertainty are valuable tools that can be sued to clarify our beliefs and increase our trust in God (italics added)."    Isn't that beautiful?  (Read it again!)   J and I have come to believe that the law of opposition is not about having alternate choices to make, but rather the opportunity mortality provides for us to truly wrestle as we come to a pure, loving and deep relationship with God -- our Father in Heaven, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.  To build, receive and nourish a testimony requires such a process.

During a recent training meeting President Nelson told the general leaders, in essence, "If you are not having opposition every day, you aren't working hard enough."  The struggle is real.  But it can be joyful, and I think that is what faith leads to in the end -- hope and joy.   What I have come to in the last few months is that I want to be more like Paul and be not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  A testimony of my Savior is in my heart.  I may not be able to fully explain it in a logical way, but it is real to me.  I have received a witness and I cannot deny it.

 - - - - - 

"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him:  That he lives!"  
Doctrine & Covenants 76:22


What I've Learned in the Last Decade

Inspired by something my cousin wrote, I thought I'd look back and see what I have learned in the last ten years.  In 2010 I had five children ages 10-3.  It was my favorite stage of motherhood!  I had no diapers to change and no teenagers to manage.  We were still homeschooling at the time and I was in my element.  I was happy.

not quite 10 years later, hard to get a family shot with John gone

Fast forward ten years and I'm back to changing diapers and have multiple teenagers in the house.  I'm still happy.  But I'm different, too.  Many experiences in the last ten years have shaped me to be something (or someone) I never quite expected.  We talk about our children "adulting," but the older I've gotten the less I know what that means.  I guess I expected that when I turned 40 I'd feel like I'd arrived to real adulthood.  In all honesty,  I only see much more life to live and more lessons to learn up ahead.  I'm not sure I'm ready for it because that's the first thing I've learned:

Lesson #1:  Learning can be painful. 
Some of our most valuable lessons are learned through pain, heartache, and struggle.  I guess that's my least favorite part of being an adult, is recognizing that when you take a risk it could lead to pain rather than being some thrilling adventure.  In this I've learned (am still learning) not to be afraid of that pain.  Mortality is meant to be a struggle otherwise we wouldn't have the law of opposition or a desire to reach up and out for guidance and comfort.

Lesson #2: Don't forget to do what you love. 
Childhood is such a beautiful time.  It's a time to explore different things, learn new talents, and discover what you love.  Somewhere between childhood and adulthood it becomes less important or valued to keep expanding on the things you discovered in those early years.  For example, I was just reading in my journal that during girls camp I missed two things:  my parents and the piano.  I'd forgotten I loved the piano as much as I did when I was young.  I'm starting to play more again and loving it.  Don't forget what you love to do and don't forget to make time to do it!

Lesson #3: Kids really do grow up fast!  
One thing I really, really love is motherhood!  Despite that great love, I heard all the time,  "Just enjoy them while they're young, it goes so fast."  I remember those kind words and thinking, "I do enjoy them.  What are you talking about?"  Now I get it.  Once the kids hit about age 15, time speeds up so much that you can hardly catch a breath.  And the closer you have them together, the sooner they all leave.  I didn't think about that so much with my first five being born within a 7 year span.  They will be gone so fast.  And yet it's also super fun to watch them grow up and become their own people.

 - - - - - 

"You learn something out of everything, and you come to realize more than ever that we're all here for a certain space of time, and, and then it's going to be over, and you better make this count."
 - Nancy Reagan - 
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