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Makestraightpaths.com examines the teachings of the religious group variously known as “the Family,” “The Family International,” the “Children of God,” or the “Family of Love,” and evaluates these teachings from a Christian perspective.

This page contains a discussion of the Family's use of Bible memorisation aids.

 

The Memory Book and Word Basics

Committing Scripture to memory has been part of the culture of the Family since its beginning. In fact there were set cards before there were any MLs, before its founder began distributing his own teachings. Over the years, the Family produced a number of memory books, containing lists of scriptures for members to memorise, beginning in its early days with set cards which were lists of Bible verses organised into categories. These set cards gradually evolved into pocket-sized booklets. At the time of writing, the most recent is the MB2K (Memory Book 2000).

The Family also produced an extensive, categorised Scripture book, the ‘Word Basics’ (copyright Global Missions, Sydney, Australia, 1990), which differs from the Memory Book in that there are far more verses listed under far more categories and subsections, and was produced in order to provide some form of scriptural backing to the Familys basic beliefs rather than as an aid to memorisation.

The Bible exhorts its readers to hide the Word of God in their hearts, to learn it, study it, and teach it. It is a commendable practice to memorise Scripture.

 

Memory Book problems

However, there are a number of serious concerns with the various memory aids produced by the Family, and more importantly with the principles on which the Family has based its entire memorisation program. These problems appear to have made the Memory Book a detriment to the Family rather than an asset. The problems include:

  • The use of the Memory Book as a replacement for studying Scripture.

  • The belief that a Family member knows the Bible well because he or she can quote many verses from memory. If s/he also knows the reference, s/he is looked on with awe and admiration. In reality those memory verses usually amount to the sum total of that person’s entire Bible knowledge.

  • Some Family-produced Memory Books include quotes from the writings of its founder (MLs) to memorise.

  • The use of the Bible as an instant reference book to find verses to support a particular Family doctrine.

  • The careful selection of those verses which appear to support Family doctrine, and the deliberate exclusion of those verses which contradict or condemn Family beliefs.

  • The misapplication or incorrect categorisation of Bible verses.

Each of these concerns are addressed on this page.

 

Memorising scripture can never replace Bible study

A damning indictment on the Family is that it has never produced an in-depth Bible study program for its members. This is despite publishing hundreds of thousands of pages of the writings of its founder and his successors. As a general rule, all Bible study within the Family is confined to reading commentaries published by the founder. No Family member ever presumes to interpret Scripture in such a way that contradicts the founder, and indeed in general, Family members do not know how to study the Bible.

The primary rule of Bible interpretation is context. No Scripture should be taken out of context, for then one may arrive at a meaning which is very different from that which is in the Bible.

In fact, it can be said that if no in-depth, contextual Bible study occurs then committing verses to memory might actually be detrimental to one's knowledge of the ways of God. If the Bible student has no idea of to whom God was talking and why that particular verse was included in the Bible, s/he may arrive at an incorrect interpretation of the passage, which when put into practice may result in wrong decisions.

An example may be given to illustrate the ease with which it is possible to misuse Scripture. The Family (in general) does not use this particular verse in this way.

Suppose a Christian has an extremely busy schedule, and is therefore neglects certain duties. He feels bad about this, and so to encourage himself, he memorises an appropriate verse:

1 Samuel 21:8b The king’s business required haste. (NKJV)

This appears reasonable to our busy Christian, but a study of the context of 1 Samuel 21 is eye-opening. When David said those words, that ‘the King’s business required haste’, he was in fact lying to a priest of the Lord, and this lie indirectly brought on a massacre.

David was on the run, escaping for his life from jealous King Saul, who was obsessed with murdering David. David was frightened, so when he met Ahimelech the priest, he lied to him in order that the priest would give him food and weapons. David pretended that King Saul had sent him on an urgent errand and had commanded him not to tell anyone the nature of that business. David obtained food and a sword, and went his way.

The consequence of David’s lie was that when King Saul realised that Ahimelech had helped David, he was so angry that despite the priest’s pleas of ignorance, the priest, his family, the other priests and temple workers, and many people in their village were put to death, including women, children and babies.

When David learned of the massacre, it weighed heavily on his conscience. He said to the sole survivor of Ahimelech’s family, ‘I have caused the death of all the persons of your father’s house’ (1 Sam 22:22).

However our busy Christian sadly neglects to read the passage in its biblical context, so he categorises his memory verse (‘the King’s business requires haste’) under a section entitled ‘Haste’ in his personal memory book. Other verses in that section might be John 13:27 ‘What you do, do quickly’ (Jesus talking to Judas Iscariot on the night of his betrayal) and Luke 16:6b ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly’ (the unjust steward). None of these verses, of course, actually mean that God expects His children to act in haste.

Memorisation that is not the product of contextual Bible study can lead to misinterpretation. A better method is to read and study the Bible in its context, and then to memorise the key verse that summarises or gives the point of the passage. Memorising verses should be the result of contextual Bible study not a replacement for it.

 

Memorising Scriptures is not enough

When Bible knowledge is confined to little more than memorised verses, this can lead to some serious misconceptions.

Family members believe they know the Bible well, because of the sheer quantity of verses they have memorised. In reality, however, they often know very little about the Bible itself and less about those very Scriptures they have memorised. True Bible knowledge consists of understanding the principles behind the stories, letters, parables, laws, prophecies and exhortations given in the Bible. Studying the Bible is an unending task, for God leads His children into ever deepening knowledge of the truth. Bible knowledge that is limited to selected, categorised, memorised verses is extremely limited. In some cases, it may be better than no Bible knowledge at all, in other cases it may actually be detrimental.

An example of detrimental use of the Scripture in the Family is that of Matthew 22:37-40:

Matt 22:37-40

37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.  39 “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

NASU

The Family uses these verses to justify the incorrect doctrine that the Ten Commandments no longer apply to Christians. They teach that Christians are not required to obey the Ten Commandments and in fact are free to break them with impunity. Their particular application is that they say that Christians may engage in extra-marital sex without fear of committing adultery, an application completely unjustified by the text. For more on what Jesus said about sex, see ‘The Law of Love in the Gospels’. Actually, there are no verses anywhere in the Bible that condone extra-marital sex between Christians. This is a case when memorising verses under the ‘wrong category’ can be extremely harmful.

The harm caused by this incorrect application of Scripture by the Family is far-reaching. For more information, please see this website.

 

Memorising non-biblical quotes

Previous versions of the Memory Book also included selected quotes from the writings of Berg/ Dad, the founder of the Family. The danger in this is in the implicit statement that these non-biblical quotes are on the same level or should be given the same weight as Scripture. The truth is that the Bible alone is the Word of God, and no other writings can ever be on the same level. Family members, however, see their official internal publications as God's Word, and give them precedence over the Bible.

For more, see ‘The Standard of Measurement’.

 

The Bible as a reference book

Family members often rely on the Memory Book or the Word Basics for their Bible knowledge. However, each verse in these books has been removed from its biblical context and placed in a category decided by the compiler. This is in fact conducting Bible study in the opposite direction from which it should be done.

The purpose of studying the Bible is to learn what God said in order that we might understand His truth, which can then be applied to our own lives.

Memory Book Bible study, by contrast, begins with a particular Family theory or doctrine, assumes it is correct and then looks for verses to support it. This method can successfully be used to support almost any doctrine. People decide what they want to believe, and then look for the ‘proof-texts’ that appear to give support. God’s word was not designed for that purpose. The Word of God is the light that shines in the darkness, searching hearts and exposing sin in order to conform His people to His own perfect likeness. This is a process that will probably take forever, but it cannot even begin when the Bible is manipulated and misused.

The scribes and Pharisees were experts in devising theories and doctrines, backing them up with Scripture, and yet they entirely missed the fact that they pointed to Jesus as their Messiah. Anyone may fall into the same trap if they begin by assuming their own doctrines are correct, rather than allowing the Bible itself to direct study.

 

Missing sections

Another major problem with the Family’s Memory Books concerns the omissions, the deliberate exclusions. There are major ‘holes’ in the various Memory Books and the Word Basics, topics conspicuous by their very absence.

For example, in the ‘MB2K,’ there is no section on ‘sin.’ The Bible has a number of passages in both the Old and New Testaments specifically listing those things that we should not do. How can one live a Christian life if we do not know the things that displease God? Surely the Family does not mean to imply that sin no longer exists? No Family member would ever go so far, however most would tend to dismiss sin as ‘things that are not done in love’. The Bible, however, goes into great detail about the nature of sin and lists numerous specific actions that displease God.

Related to the subject of sin is that of moral behaviour. There are many specific instructions throughout the entire Bible on how Christians are to act in order to please God in day to day life. For example, they are to act with truthfulness, integrity, generosity, a lack of vindictiveness, honesty with secular governments and so on. For a book that claims to give the Scriptural foundation for the most important Christian beliefs, the absence of a moral code is puzzling.

When it comes to sexual matters, this is a case of careful selection. The verses that condemn sexual promiscuity, adultery and fornication have been deliberately excluded from the Memory Book, but a section on the ‘Law of Love’ has been included in order to support the Family’s sexual doctrines. The Word Basics includes a section on ‘Marriage and the Home’, but Bible verses on sexual fidelity, divorce and remarriage have not been included. Instead, there is a short explanatory note stating that this topic is ‘personal’, and that as there are ‘such wide differences of opinion, interpretation and application’ these topics should be ‘best left to the reader’s personal faith and conviction’ (Word Basics p.274). This is notwithstanding the fact that the editors are quite dogmatic on Family doctrines, saying for example, that the law of Moses (including the Ten Commandments) was replaced with God’s grace by the New Testament (p.250) and that God’s only requirement for Christians is that they act in love (p.252). The obvious reason that the Scriptures on sex have been omitted is not due to “wide differences of opinion” but rather that these Scriptures clearly condemn Family teaching as false.

Likewise the warnings in the Bible against contacting the dead, as well as other forms of witchcraft are omitted, and it seems to be a reasonable observation that they were not included for the very reason that they contradict Family teaching and practice.

 

Some of the misapplied verses in the MB2K

Many verses in the Memory Book are simply in the wrong category, if indeed they should ever be categorised.

The following is a selection of verses from the MB2K which should probably not be included in their particular categories, or which necessitate extra explanation. This webpage does not contain an extensive list of every wrongly categorised verse in the MB2K, nor an in-depth study on the verses mentioned, nor an exposition on every topic. Rather, the following list shows that there are serious problems with the concept of memory books in general, and in particular with the Family-produced versions.

It is possible that serious errors of application may occur if these Scriptures are not studied carefully in the context in which they were given. Without that understanding doctrines may be invented that are simply not in the Bible at all.

 

The Holy Spirit

Luke 11:13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!  NKJV

An important Family doctrine regarding the Holy Spirit is that “She” (for the Holy Spirit is female, according to the Family) comes in response to a Christian’s request, like an extra bonus given upon demand, or a genie from a lamp. The Holy Spirit (according to the Family) does not come until requested, whereupon ‘She’ fills the believer to overflowing. This is despite the fact that Jesus indicated that the Holy Spirit was to be the permanent enduring presence of God with believers. This is a case where Family members have not engaged in thorough study and have limited understanding of the topic.

For more see ‘The Holy Spirit’.

 

The Word

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. NKJV

This verse is categorised under the section ‘The Word’. The common Family interpretation of this verse is that as God's Word is a sword, Christians should use it against the Devil, to ‘cut the Devil to the heart’. In fact, in the Family, this verse is used to support the doctrine that inspired Family writings may be used to defeat the Devil.

First, Hebrews 4:12, when taken in context, actually says nothing about fighting the Devil, using the Word of God as a sword. For a detailed study of Hebrews 4:12 on this website, please click here.

Second, the ‘word of God’ in Hebrews 4:12 does not carry the same meaning as used by the Family. The ‘Word of God’ means the entire Bible, it is the Word that was made flesh, it is Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God, it is the Logos of John chapter one, it means the collection of God’s eternal unchangeable statements, but it does not mean Family writings. The writer of Hebrews had Jesus Christ and the Scriptures in mind, not the doctrinal teachings of small Christian sects. It is a presumptuous misinterpretation with serious consequences to claim that prophecies and teaching given by a twentieth century man (Berg/Dad) or a twenty-first century group are also the word of God. To state it categorically, no teacher, no prophecy, no instruction will ever be on the same spiritual level as the Bible. To elevate such teachings to a place of such exaltation is to court disaster.

Third, the verse does not say that Christians can use portions of Scripture to destroy the Devil. The works of the Devil are destroyed by Jesus Christ Himself (1 John 3:8), not by Christians waving Bible verses around. The idea that the Devil runs in terror when a Christian quotes Bible verses is not supported by the Bible itself - the Devil was unafraid to quote Scripture to Jesus in the temptation (Matt. ch.4). To be sure, the Devil was misusing Scripture, but the incident proves that Bible verses themselves do not frighten the Devil.

 

Our Relationship with the Lord

Rom 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another — to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. NKJV

The Family uses this verse to support the doctrine that believers are (or will be) literally married to Jesus. This in turn leads to a number of spurious teachings, many with explicit sexual content.

In Romans chapters six and seven, Paul writes extensively on the relationship between sin and the law, showing that obedience to the law can never be enough to secure our eternal salvation. It is in this context that the above verse occurs. Romans chapter seven does not discuss the Christian’s so-called ‘marriage’ with Christ, nor their intimate relationship with Him. For more, see ‘Who is Jesus’, or ‘Jesus the Bridegroom’.

 

Faith

Luke 1:37 For with God nothing will be impossible. NKJV

In the Family, faith is seen as spiritual power, faith is believing for what we want, faith is obtaining the impossible. Family members are told they can access unlimited spiritual power if they have enough faith.

In the Bible, faith is coming to God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son for eternal salvation. Miracles and the impossible are solely God’s domain. When and if He chooses to do the impossible, it is according to His will, His plan and His idea, not those of a Christian.

For more, see ‘Working Miracles’.

 

Prayer

Isa 45:11 Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. (KJV)

The Family interprets this verse to mean that the Lord wants Christians to make bold requests, to ‘command’ Him what He should do. The Family teaches that God waits on the requests of believers before He acts and that if they ask in faith, they can actually change God’s mind or alter the outcome of specific events so that they are favourable to their own circumstances.

The problem is that the Family has completely misread the verse, not having read it in its context.

In Isaiah 45:5-12 God is proclaiming His own sovereign power. He declares Himself to be the only God (vs. 5-6) and the mighty Creator of the heavens and the earth (vs. 7-8). Verses 9-11 rebuke people who dare to question the works of His hands. In verse 11 the Lord is hotly indignant at the presumption of man telling God what He should do.

The NIV puts it this way:

Isa 45:11 “This is what the LORD says —  the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? (NIV)

The RSV:

Isa 45:11 Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Will you question me about my children, or command me concerning the work of my hands? (RSV)

The Living Bible:

Isa 45:11 Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, Israel's Creator, says: “What right have you to question what I do? Who are you to command me concerning the work of my hands? (TLB)

The NET Bible:

Isa 45:11 This is what the Lord says, the Holy One of Israel, the one who formed him, concerning things to come: “How dare you question me about my children!

The NASB is less indignant, nonetheless very clearly informing man to leave God’s works in His hands.

Isa 45:11 Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, And you shall commit to Me the work of My hands. (NASB)

Thus we see that the Family has misapplied the King James version, to read something into the passage that the translators of the KJV did not intend, and which is not present in the chapter as a whole. In fact, it seems reasonable to say that the ‘command God’ interpretation is only possible if we (a) select a translation that suits our liking and (b) surgically remove Isaiah 45:11 from its context.

For more, see ‘Commanding God’.

 

Prophecy

Jer 23:28 “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD. NKJV

The entire section on ‘prophecy’ in the MB2K is comprised of verses from the Old Testament. This appears to support  the Family’s high emphasis on individual members being directed through personal prophecies. Family members are taught to receive ‘prophecies’ at will. They are also taught allegiance to the leaders of the Family as though they are mouthpieces of God, similar to Old Testament prophets.

For more, see Getting Prophecies and "Believe his prophets".

 

The Law of Love

As mentioned above, not one of the verses in this section actually justifies the Family’s promiscuous sexual practices. All are grossly misapplied when used to justify extra-marital sex between Christians.

John 13:34-35

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 

35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  NKJV

During the last supper, Jesus gave extensive instruction on a number of subjects, including His command to ‘love one another’. Jesus was talking to His remaining eleven disciples, all male. When He told them to ‘love one another’, there was, of course, not the slightest hint of sex involved. There was absolutely no possibility that His disciples could interpret this teaching to involve sex as Jesus Himself clarified the meaning of ‘love one another’ a few minutes later, during the same discourse.

John 15:12-13 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  NKJV

Christian love is to love each other as Jesus loved us. Jesus is the model for love, and the primary example is His self-sacrificial death for us. To say that these verses mean Christians may break Old Testament rules against adultery and fornication is to be guilty of flagrant abuse of the Scripture.

For more see what Jesus said on adultery, the ‘Law of Love in the Gospels’, or ‘Sexual Freedom in the Early Church’.

 

Unity

1 Cor 1:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. NKJV

A vital point regarding Christian unity is one that is rarely, if ever, mentioned in the Family. The principle of unity between Christians does not only mean that churches should avoid the sin of internal discord, but also the sin of holding to divisive doctrines and practices that separate  denominations or churches from each other. In other words, if a church holds to a belief that separates it from other Christians, that church is no longer following the Lord. The question must be asked here if the Family strives to ‘speaks the same thing’ as the other Christian churches. Is the Family ‘perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement’? Or is it that the Family presumes to have the only truth in these matters?

For more see Doctrinal Unity.

 

Discipleship

Luke 14:33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.  NKJV

The Family interprets ‘Forsaking-all’ to mean that in order for anyone to be accepted as a Family member, he or she must leave all that they have and/or permanently donate all their assets to the Family. The Bible has a far more extensive application that relates to all Christians, their life in Christ and their desire to relinquish the obstacles to that life.

See ‘Forsaking All’.

 

The Memory Book: Conclusion

There are serious problems with the Memory Book. Primarily, it encourages shallow Bible understanding, and actually discourages Family members from studying the Bible for themselves. If Family members actually do read the Bible, the explicit categories into which the verses have been placed colour their interpretation so that it is very difficult for them to learn what it really says.

Many Family members rely on Scripture compilations like the Memory Book and the Word Basics for their Bible knowledge, without realising that a large proportion of the verses included have been miscategorised, misapplied, or even deliberately included for the sole purpose of supporting Family doctrine, while contradictory verses have been deliberately excluded.

Relying on these publications can only foster an ignorance of the Scriptures.

Memorising Scripture is valuable and important if it is the result of Bible study, and it is not the intention of Make Straight Paths to imply that Christians should not memorise Bible verses. However, Scripture memorisation without a thorough understanding of the Bible can lead to grave doctrinal errors. There is currently an urgent need in the Family for its members to study the Bible for themselves and discover the truths that are within.

 

How to read the Bible

  1. Pray. David prayed that his eyes should be opened (Ps. 119:18), and Jesus said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’ (Matt. 11:15) Our first prayer should be that God opens our eyes and ears to what He has to say.

  2. Listen to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can teach us the things of the Lord (John 16:13), but if we are not willing to let go of our sin, we will not hear His voice.

  3. Submit to the Bible’s correction. The Bible was written to teach us truth, to correct our sin and warn us of its consequences, and to instruct us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). So we should allow its words to cut into the thoughts and intents of our heart (Heb. 4:12), correcting and instructing us.

  4. Repent. It is the Bible that will cleanse us from our sin (John 15:3), but without repentance, our own sin will block the truth.

  5. Let the Bible be the teacher. It is important not to bring our doctrines to the Bible looking for confirmation, but to let the Bible speak for itself. Anyone with a concordance can find verses that supposedly support almost any conceivable topic, but this kind of Bible study is little more than a vain exercise in categorisation. When the Bible teaches, we grow, learn and are changed. If we use the Bible to support our own doctrines, we run the risk of falling into error, reducing the Bible to a reference book, used to support our own fanciful theories.

 

How to study the Bible

The following are steps for gaining a thorough understanding of Bible doctrine. It is understood that the Bible student must first start with a clean heart and a regenerated spirit, and that s/he follow the ‘How to read the Bible’ steps above.

  1. Understand the purpose of the particular book of the Bible you are reading. Why was it written? To whom? What was the particular occasion? Try to understand the author, the recipients and the particular occasion that prompted this book to be written. How does this book relate to other books? Which books complement its message? Which give a contrast or balance?

  2. Understand the structure of the book. What are the sections? How does the line of thought develop? What are the overlying or recurring themes? Does the book state its purpose?

  3. Understand the chapter. Are there chapter divisions according to subject matter? What is the general topic of this chapter? How does this chapter relate to previous and following chapters?

  4. Read the entire chapter. How do the verses fit together? How do they fit the purpose of the book? How does the passage relate to other books in the Bible? How does it relate to the general purpose of God? How does it fit within the salvation as found in Christianity?

  5. Read the verse in question. What is God saying to that person? How did he or she understand it? How did the author of that book understand it? How does it relate to the verses before and after? Is it part of an extended exposition on a particular topic or is it a stand-alone thought (as many of the verses in the book of Proverbs are, for example).

  6. Understand the principle behind the particular verse in question. What is the truth that lies behind this verse? What is God’s principle that inspired this to be said to these people on this occasion? What is God’s truth?

  7. Apply the principle. How does that principle apply to me? How can that truth be translated into the context of my life and my current situation?

  8. DO NOT take a verse as meaning something which its original authors could not have meant.

  9. DO NOT attempt to impose a personal doctrine onto a verse in a way that the original authors did not mean.

  10. DO NOT interpret a verse to justify something that is condemned elsewhere in the Bible.

  11. DO NOT attempt to correct the writers of the Bible for their failings or lacks. In other words, do not assume that we know better than them because of the ‘revelations’ given to us by the Lord.

  12. DO NOT remove the verse from its original context and categorise it as the proof of a certain doctrine.

  13. DO NOT interpret the verse in such a way as to cause division between Christians and Christians.

  14. DO NOT presume to have come to full and final understanding of a particular verse. Always be open to the Holy Spirit revealing more.

 

Finally

Organising the Bible into categorised sections treats God’s word with great disrespect. It is a disservice to Bible students, as it forces the Bible into certain doctrinal boxes, chosen by the compilers and dissuades readers from learning truth for themselves. It assumes a lack of ability on the part of the readers, and the inadequacy of the Holy Spirit to teach.

The Bible is the living Word of the Eternal God, who can never be categorised, who will not fit into convenient doctrinal boxes, and who refuses to take second place to anything or anyone. His Word can instruct us, correct us, and change us, but it may be that groups like the Family who rely on individual Scriptures for their Bible knowledge may actually be cutting themselves off from the power and truth of God.

 

See also

Basic Bible Interpretation

The Bible Student

Proof-texting

Scripture Twisting in the Family

 

 

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