What do you think of people in your own life that are unwilling to listen to criticism?

One of the oddest things about modern culture is the tendency to criticize others for the act of criticism.

Imagine a man sitting on the end of a tree branch. He looks around at others, telling them that they shouldn’t cut off their branches. Meanwhile, this man is sawing his own branch off. That is the image I have in mind when people criticize others for criticizing others, or judge others for judging others, or tell people not to believe in telling others what not to believe. It is very odd and confusing. It’s like watching people drive a car with their otherwise-working eyes… closed. Otherwise very intelligent people engage in this sort of self-refuting behavior. It seems to be an issue of spiritual blindness. “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:18) It’s not just a Mormon thing, but a really weird human problem. We don’t like being criticized, so we criticize people for criticizing. We saw off the very branch we are sitting on.

Selective Listening Fueled by Hyper-Sensitivity

Beyond the issue of self-refutation, I think when Mormons accuse us of not standing for what we believe, or of not teaching what we positively believe, they are usually being selective listeners. It is though I could preach for ten minutes on what I positively believe, but if I mention one critical thing of Mormonism, it suddenly becomes subject to the criticism of “you don’t even tell us what you believe!”

Not That, But This

Beyond the issue of selective listening, I think it is also an issue of not really being in tune with the Bible. The Bible sometimes communicates the gospel in the context of contrast and polemics. The Genesis creation story is an implicit polemic *against* pagan ideas about creation. Isaiah 40-45 is a courtroom analogy, of bringing in the witnesses for all the false gods into a courtroom and battling it out. Yahweh wants the worshipers of the other gods to give their best defenses, to reason it out, to put up their dukes. Yahweh then shows in the courtroom analogy that he is superior to all the other false gods. He can do things they can’t. He can declare the past and the future. He alone pre-exists all other gods. He alone stretched out the heavens. No other gods (like him) were formed before or after him. He gives his glory to no other. None is like him. He alone is the Most High.

In Galatians, Paul vehemently attacks the false doctrines of Judaizers, refuting the idea that our works can help justify us. Justification (forgiveness and being declared righteous even though we are unrighteous) comes by hearing with faith. Faith eventually works through love, but we are not justified by love or works of love, etc. We are made right with God by hearing the gospel of grace with faith. We have the Spirit working through us not by our own works, but by hearing the gospel of grace with faith. We only become true workers of love only if we stop trying to be justified by works of love.

It’s really hard to get away from the Biblical theme of “not that, but rather, this.” The Bible is willing to make stark contrasts between truth and error. But fallen man says to the world, “Don’t you DARE criticize us or our beliefs! Don’t you DARE explain your beliefs by means of contrast!”

Humility Gives a Fair Hearing to Criticism

Think about it: What do you think of people in your own life that are unwilling to listen to criticism? Isn’t part of humility giving a fair hearing to others’ criticism? Do you really believe your religion is exempt from the light of public scrutiny? Imagine having a neighbor who said, “I’ll be your friend, and I’ll listen to what you have to say, but if you ever say one negative or critical thing of my or my religion, our friendship is over.” Wouldn’t you consider such a person conceited, egotistical, and overly self-important… in need of a big dose of humility? Why is this kind of attitude suddenly acceptable when it comes to whether outsiders can criticize modern religion?

Deeper Heart-Issues

I think lurking behind this overly protective attitude are some deeper heart-issues. Mormons, I must ask you:

If the Church wasn’t true, would you even want to know?

If Mormonism isn’t true, would it still be worth believing?

If the Church wasn’t true, what should people do about it?

Do You Have Ears to Hear?

Mormons, are you willing to humble yourself to hear others explain their own beliefs by having them contrasted with your own beliefs? Since we share much of the same religious language, yet use radically different meanings, this kind of teaching-by-contrast is usually unavoidable if one is aiming for maximal clarity. If you love us, you will be curious about what we believe (and vice versa). Please, my Mormon neighbors, understand this: to really understand what we believe, you are probably eventually going to have to hear some expressions of critical contrast. You are going to have to swallow your pride.

Do you have eyes to see, and ears to hear what we have to say? Or will you mentally shut down when you sense that someone is critical toward your own beliefs and allegiances? The stakes are high.

Partial Accommodation, Partial Confrontation

Many of us, especially in individual one-on-one contexts, are trying to accommodate Mormon hyper-sensitivies out of love. We evangelical Christians continue to learn how to partially accommodate it and partially confront it. We have to swallow our pride and be like Jesus, both refusing to idolize the praise of man, yet significantly meeting people where they are at. Among evangelicals there are different opinions on how this should look. We are trying and stumbling. Lord have mercy on us, some of us have a tendency to cower to Mormon hyper-sensitivity, and some of us have a tendency to stomp all over it. Our witness on this earth will always be an imperfect one.

“We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Isn’t Jesus amazing? He perfectly integrated accommodation and confrontation.

Grace and truth in Jesus,


This entry was posted in Friendship, Interaction, and Evangelism, Truth, Honesty, Prayer, and Inquiry and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to What do you think of people in your own life that are unwilling to listen to criticism?

  1. Mike R says:

    Aaron, you’re right this is’nt just a “Mormon thing”. I tend to think that with many Mormons
    they resort to a persecution complex . What’s interesting for me is that I’ve never felt I was
    being persecuted by Mormons , when I talked with Mormon Missionaries I knew their position
    of all other churches constituting the church of the devil , Babylon the great etc etc. but I
    never felt persecuted by them . To those Mormons who like to view others who attempt to
    question their doctrines as “anti’s , it makes for a rough going dialog wise . God can get through
    to them if we will respect them as people and plant the seeds of the gospel in our witnessing.

  2. setfree says:

    Since finishing college, I have often had nightmares of this sort – that I am on my way to the final exam, and I realize that I forgot to go to class all semester. How horrible! to know that I will almost certainly fail, because I am so unprepared.

    I think the same thing happens to us as Mormons. We are, since birth, taught that our church is the only true church, that all others are wrong, and we are handed a set of “facts” that go with this claim: Joseph Smith saw a vision of God standing next to Jesus, he translated some gold plates the angel Moroni led him too, and he restored the true priesthood, etc.

    However, when it comes to the supporting evidence for our religion, things get hard to see. For example, I remember looking up the verses that had been footnote-linked to other verses in my Mormon scriptures, and having NO IDEA how the super-spiritual guys at the very top of the chain were able to see that those went together. And the memory-verses we were taught – how did they know that that’s what those passages were talking about? I couldn’t get it out of it. And I knew why… I just wasn’t “in-tune with the Spirit” like I should be.

  3. setfree says:

    The only hope then, to continue to believe that the church is true (which thing has been a part of you identity since you had one), is to continue to believe that they (the big guys at the top) are right, and you’re too hopeless to understand. Add to this that you are not taught to seriously study the scriptures, but only to study them out of LDS manuals, and that everything you are taught has a really glossy veneer, and you get to the point (at least I did) where everything good must be Mormon, everything bad is not.

    I never believed that anyone else who had a “religion” knew any more about their own than we did about ours – I mean, if they did, they would have already rejected for our religion, right? So then, answering an “unbelievers” questions amounted to making up an answer that sounded good. It seems I had complete liberty to do that, having learned by example all my life.

    Now, bring in an “evangelical” Aaron. This would be a person who can name names, dates, and figures, figuratively speaking. They’ve been to class all semester, and they’re not making it up as they go. Isn’t religion just like Santa? Good to believe but impossible to prove? No? Then I have been seriously late in realizing that I should be in class. I had better go find some of those Mormon apologists who DO KNOW how to answer these questions, and get their cliff notes.

    LOL. I’m not trying to offend anyone, but merely to remember what it used to be like. Thanks for the article.

  4. setfree says:

    By the way, before I ever left Mormonism, I knew I was a sinner and couldn’t live up to the mormon standard, but I just hid in shadows hoping no-one would notice that I wasn’t perfect. When I was shown the truth of God’s Word (the Bible) which for the first time in my life, it SET ME FREE.

    And I hadn’t realized that secretly I craved Bible exegesis. I deeply desired that someone show me the Bible messages in their context, and lead me through them in truth, rather than bouncing around from “prooftext” to prooftext. I remember one of the first things I was thrilled to understand was what the book of Hebrews was saying about Jesus and the priesthood. It MADE COMPLETE SENSE!!! For the first time EVER, I had read a piece of the Bible, and instead of it sounding like a jumbled mess, it was just a plain and simple message, start to finish. That had NEVER happened to me, while I was trying to fit my Mormon religion into the book.

    It’s good to think these things out. I too have trouble talking to my Mormon friends and family, because they seem to be blind on purpose. But let’s not forget… it takes a work of God to remove open eyes, and to recreate the heart, and set the captive free. More than anything, we EV’s better be on our knees if we want to see people get saved. 🙂

  5. WWJD says:

    “I’ll be your friend, and I’ll listen to what you have to say, but if you ever say one negative or critical thing of me or my religion, our friendship is over.”
    This very thing happened to me recently. The person was more than a friend, they were family. My criticism consisted of posting public links to articles from sites like MRM, bible verses, Christian sermons, devotionals, etc. My actions were viewed as “bashing”, “intolerant”, and “offensive”. The posts were made to my account, not sent to anyone specifically and were simply put there as a way of sharing information in a nonconfrontational way, or so I thought. I did not force anyone to read the information and it was still viewed as a personal attack.

  6. daBland says:

    I’m more bothered by people who are consumed with criticizing others and their religious traditions and dogmas. Even Jesus Christ said He didn’t come into the world to condemn the world. Criticism should be invited-not foisted upon–that’s just good manners. And since the point of the post was to ask, I am sharing my own criticism.

    Regarding the imagined sensitivity on the part of mormons (which is hyped up a bit by evangelicals in the same sentence that they criticize mormons): since it was legal to kill mormons until the 70s, that might explain the lingering complex and perhaps that’s understandable 🙂

  7. grindael says:

    Hmmm. How is this blog “foisted upon” anyone? And Criticism of Mormonism was asked for. Example, Orson Pratt, who said:

    “convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information” (The Seer, p. 15 (1854)

    In Mormon Scripture it states,

    “Wherefore, confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private” Doctrine and Covenants 71:7 (1831)

    “Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil.” (D&C 18:20)

    And who is the Church of the devil? The Book of Mormon answers this for us:

    “And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.” (1 Nephi 14:10)

    Since every other church is the “church of the devil”, it must be ok for Mormons to “contend” with them. They certainly have no problem in relating the Joseph Smith story where he tells us that God told him that all the churches were “wrong” and their creeds an “abomination”.

    Mormons raising concerns about contention, (that it is of the Devil) apparently aren’t too familiar with their own scriptures, and that the Doctrine and Covenants apparently contradicts the Book of Mormon. (3 Nephi 11:29) _johnny

  8. Rick B says:

    I know your new here and probably never read anything that I said. But in times past I have said to Mormons and have asked of them, You feel we are being unfair to you in what we say, Yet I will honestly say, You will not answer this question, I suspect you come here, complain about people supposedly criticizing your church so in a round about way you are criticizing us. Funny how you can do it, but then complain we are.

    Yet what I want you to do an really dont believe you will is, Tell us where we are wrong? When we use your prophets and say look, JS said, or BY said, tell us how we are getting it wrong when we quote word for word what they said tell us, if the prophets really did say what we quoted, how are we wrong? It seems you guys dont know your church’s teaching, dont want to know, and dont care. Yet then you tell us we are criticizing your church and yet it is ok for you to criticize us for that. You know their is a word for that, can you guess it? It starts with the letter (H).

  9. grindael says:

    Perhaps if Smith hadn’t had this included in his Book of Commandments, available for all the old Missouri settlers to read:

    “For I will consecrate the riches of the Gentiles, unto my people which are of the house of Israel.” (Book of Commandments, XLIV:32)

    There would have been far less problems. And he was warned not to publish those revelations by David Whitmer, but Smith wouldn’t listen. Smith’s intentions were perfectly clear, to “redeem” Zion by force and power:

    “Behold I say unto you, that the redemtion of Zion must needs come by power: Therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel; for ye are the children of Israel and of the seed of Abraham; and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched out arm. And as your farthers were led at the first even so shall the redemtion of Zion be.” (Kirtland Revelation Book, February 24 1834, original spelling).

    But Smith was no Moses, and a cholera outbreak stopped this “revelation”. The “saints” who were booted out of Jackson County and had gone to Clay County were stuck there, with no help from Smith. Interesting that David Whitmer calmed down the Missourians, and the Mormons were getting along well with those around them. That is, until Smith showed up after he fled Kirtland in the middle of the night, to avoid arrest for his phony bank scam. David Whitmer was forced out of the Church, because of Smith’s greed over land issues, and from there it all went downhill.

    Perhaps if Joseph Smith hadn’t stupidly ordered “Captain Fearnaught” (David W. Patten) and his “Danites” to attack Missouri State Militia at Crooked River, then perhaps there would not have been an “extermination

  10. grindael says:

    order”. That certainly didn’t stop Sidney Rigdon from using the same rhetoric in a fourth of July “Oration” (earlier that year & attended by Smith) where he said:

    “And that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us: for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed.—Remember it then all MEN.” (Alexander L. Baugh, A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri, BYU Studies, 2000.)

    Or of threatening church “dissenters” with death, a document made and signed by 83 Mormons including Hyrum Smith, which read in part:

    “We have solemnly warned you, and that in the most determined manner, that if you do not cease that course of wanton abuse of the citizens of this county, that vengeance would overtake you sooner or later, and that when it did come it would be as furious as the mountain torrent, and as terrible as the beating tempest; but you have affected to despise our warnings, and pass them off with a sneer, or a grin, or a threat, and pursued your former course; and vengeance sleepeth not, neither does it slumber; and unless you heed us this time, and attend to our request, it will overtake you at an hour when you do not expect, and at a day when you do not look for it; and for you there shall be no escape; for there is but one decree for you, which is depart, depart, or a more fatal calamity shall befall you.” (Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders &c. in

  11. grindael says:

    Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; And the Evidence Given Before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, in a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12, 1838, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others, for High Treason and Other Crimes Against the State., Fayette, Missouri: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1841).

    The “extermination order” is a straw man, for there is not one instance of it being used as an excuse to harm Mormons after the “Mormon War” of 1838. In fact many splinter groups kept their lands and erected churches in the area, and were never bothered, except for the in-fighting between Smith’s factions, like the Temple Lot Case, and the burning of the Temple Lot Church, by a member of the Salt Lake bunch, in 1898. Then again on January 1, 1990, a member of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) who had recently also joined the Salt Lake Branch of the Mormon Church, set fire to the unoccupied church building on the Temple Lot, claiming that his actions were part of a political protest and a prophecy that war was coming to America.

    Seems like those in Missouri had more to fear from the Salt Lake bunch, than anything attributed to Bogg’s Extermination Order. What is interesting, is that Smith had no intention of ever going back to Missouri, for he told the “saints” to sell all their land there. Perhaps outstanding charges of treason had something to do with that? Finally, Brigham Young & his “apostles” sold their interest in the Temple lot in 1848 for a mere $300.00.

  12. grindael says:

    Perhaps they too figured that God would redeem Zion by “power”. They certainly bragged about it enough, (Mormon “prophecy”) but alas, they had a long fruitless wait, and it still doesn’t look good for the Salt Lake Mormons. But they have a lot of money. You know what they say about money.

    Reading scripture in context also helps:

    16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3)

    Jesus didn’t have to condemn the world. If that isn’t a condemnation of evil, than I don’t know what is. _johnny

  13. Rick B says:

    You say as do many mormons that we criticize you and what you believe. How do you read these verse in the Bible and not believe them or allow some one to say anything with out the charge of, Your criticizing us/me?

    Here we read in 2 Timothy chapter 4:1-5

    4: I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge
    the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word!
    Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all 3
    longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure
    sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have 4
    itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn
    their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be
    watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

    We are Charged or Commanded to be like this.

    These questions need to be asked. Who is being Rebuked? What is Sound Doctrine verse unsound Doctrine? What are the Fables that people are turning to? I believe if you read your bible, you will find
    That the people that are being rebuked are people who are teaching another Gospel, as Gal 1:8-9 teach. I believe the fables and unsound Doctrine being taught, can and is in this day and age, Mormonism. Their is much evidence to show Mormonism is a false Gospel. I have pointed out to LDS before, According to Paul in Gal 1:8-9 it talks about ANOTHER GOSPEL (Cont)

  14. Rick B says:

    ANOTHER GOSPEL, THAN WHAT (I) PAUL PREACHED. I have asked mormons, from the Bible only, show me the Gospel Paul taught, then show me how this lines up with the LDS Gospel. It simply cannot be done.

    Then to add to the fact that Timothy speaks about rebuking people, we read in Titus:

    TITUS 1:9-16

    9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and
    deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This
    testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. 15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but in works
    they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.

    Here, Titus is Speaking about people using SOUND DOCTRINE, to EXORT, CONVICT those who contradict. He talks about people whose mouths must be stopped. He also talks about Commandments of men who turn from the truth. Mormonism is full of Mens Commandments that are not of God and put you under the law.

    I would love your thoughts, But I honestly think your a hit and run poster.

  15. Little Nephew says:

    With respect to serious public criticism, perhaps the most insidious element is the fear to criticize. Knowing that the primary purpose of doctrinal discussions (classes, public discourses, etc.) is to edify, criticism in and of itself risks consternation and potential segregation. Gospel matters preclude commentary that questions certain church tenets or history, and to do so defies the distinction of acceptable inquiry vs. the more difficult or discomforting.

  16. Rick B says:

    My pastor has a saying, and I agree with it. Yet I know from the replies I read many will not agree with it or like it.

    The pastor says, We/I can be rude enough to get you into heaven, or I can be polite enough to let you go to hell.

    In other words, I can either speak the truth and tell you as Paul said, The entire Gospel and you can decide, Or I can say well, It might offend you and I dont want to hurt your feelings, so I guess I wont say anything and sadly as a result you might end up going to hell.

    Also as He says and I agree, the bigger issue is, Do I care more about what I think you think of me? O-no, they might think I am being mean or harsh or some thing, I have a image to uphold, I care more about what people think of me, so I better keep the gospel message to my self.

    Then I have a saying I had a mormon tell me and it has never left me.

    Love that tolerates deception, really is not love at all.

    If we truly love Jesus as we say we do, do we knowingly not tell people about the gospel because it might offend them? Or they might get mad at us? Or what ever, I mean we can if we choose, keep silent lest we offend, or we can share the gospel.

    My other problem is, No matter what we do, some one will get offended. Your offended, I come across harsh, I’m offended that your spineless and weak and cannot handle the truth. I say these statements as an In general, as if I were speaking to a certain person, to make my point.

  17. Rick B says:

    But like it or not, someone will find a reason to cry and claim they were offend and were hurt. So you can look at it as it’s a lose/lose position, We say something and someone cry’s I’m offended, But then someone like me can reply with, well I’m offended for you being such a wimp and not wanting to say anything.

    Sadly people in foreign country’s die for the gospel, and go to jail for the gospel, over we we cry over the gospel and want people to go to jail for dumb things.

    I heard their is a video on youtube, It is Ray comfort asking Christians, Will you go share the gospel with that person over there, and he points to a person. The person replies with excuses as to why they cannot or will not share, so Ray then offers them 100.00 dollars to do it, and then they do. Really sad how we as Christains are, Do we really care about the lost? I tend to say, No, the vast majority of believers really dont, and their actions bear this out.

  18. WWJD says:

    Rick B,
    You hit the nail on the head! I knew that my LDS family members were not going to like my attempts to share the gospel with them, but I decided that I was not going to let that stop me because I care more about their souls than I do about being liked, accepted, or what they think of me. My pastor also has a saying: “Courage is doing what pleases God regardless of the outcome”. I really don’t think there is a “right way” to go about sharing the gospel. The same tactics that seemed to work for one person seriously offended another. I have more faith in God’s ability to take what I have shared with somebody and use it for His good than I have in my ability to share. I share, God converts.

  19. Rick B says:

    When you said there is no “Right way” of sharing the Gospel, I gotta say that is so true. Sadly people want to believe their way is the right way and everyone should witness like they do. I view Christians like tools in a tool Box. Some of us God uses as a Hammer, which happens to be my nick name given to me by a fellow poster here. Some believers are more of Tissue, A person needs to blow his nose after getting hit with a hammer from God, and then God gives them a tissue. I’m the hammer and I know who is the tissue. Sadly the tissue people believe everyone should be tissue.

    The Bible does tell us, Not everyone is an Eye, or a foot, or an ear, we all have different functions and are used differently. I personally have more respect for people who are like me, Bold and blunt and tell it like it is, But then again, that was how I was raised.

    I also have spoken in person with many Mormons, and some did not like me or my style, But many have been open to talks, one talk lasted 4 hours long because they knew that even though I came across hard, I was also honest and sincere and really took the time to show love and concern. I was sharing in private with someone from here, I was on a website like this where we share with Mormons, I was being myself and many Mormons vocally stated they liked my honest approach and respected me for it. Sadly one Christian did not like my style and tried to get me removed. He finally became a “Mod” then he had more power and had me removed. (Cont)

  20. Rick B says:

    Sadly this so called believer was IMO used by the Devil. He had me removed because I was honest in my thoughts and shared with the LDS, They openly on the forum told everyone they liked me and had great respect for my style, Yet one so called believer did not like it so he cried and finally after months had me removed. I suppose it did not help that since he was vocal in his views in an open forum about me, I was the same with Him and questioned if he was saved since he was trying to get me to not share with mormons, I questioned the fact that while I shared the gospel with them, he rarely did and I questioned if he even had a spine or knew the Bible.

    I hate it when so called believers give me or people a hard time for our styles, yet we share, and the people that cry about my style, rarely themselves share the gospel and if and when they do it tends to be so watered down you have to wonder why they are even bothering to say anything.

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