We talk of Christ (FHE plans and quotes from President Packer and Elder Christofferson)

Our family theme this year centers on Jesus Christ as our foundation. Teaching about Jesus Christ is the essential family curriculum! I want to introduce my children to one of my favorite scriptures, so tonight’s lesson is built around this verse:

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).c53e03b589db4bc6da442f2d6bed4b27

Lesson Plan

Read 2 Nephi 25:26. Remind the children that everything we do in the gospel is designed to bring us closer to Jesus Christ. Prophets in all time periods have always testified of Christ (we talked about this in Primary yesterday). It is important for us to learn about Jesus, about his life, his miracles, and his teachings. That is why read scripture stories as a family.

Ask the children: what are some of your favorite stories about Jesus Christ?

At the last session of General Conference, President Packer and Elder Christofferson both spoke about Jesus Christ and his atonement. I plan to have my children color a picture of Jesus Christ while we discuss as much of the talks as we can! Below are the points that especially stood out to me:

President Packer

“Those who will repent and forsake sin will find that His merciful arm is outstretched still. Those who listen to and heed His words and the words of His chosen servants will find peace and understanding even in the midst of great heartache and sorrow. The result of His sacrifice is to free us from the effects of sin, that all may have guilt erased and feel hope.

Had He not accomplished the Atonement, there would be no redemption. It would be a difficult world to live in if we could never be forgiven for our mistakes, if we could never purify ourselves and move on.

The mercy and grace of Jesus Christ are not limited to those who commit sins either of commission or omission, but they encompass the promise of everlasting peace to all who will accept and follow Him and His teachings. His mercy is the mighty healer, even to the wounded innocent.”

“If we seek to understand His Atonement, we will come to a deep reverence for the Lord Jesus Christ, His earthly ministry, and His divine mission as our Savior.”

“The true success of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be measured by the spiritual strength of its individual members. We need the strength of conviction that is found in the heart of every loyal disciple of Christ.”

“As one of the Twelve Apostles, I bear witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. He lives. He is our Redeemer and our Savior. “Through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved” (Articles of Faith 1:3). He presides over this Church. He is no stranger to His servants. As we move into the future with quiet confidence, His Spirit will be with us. There is no end to His power to bless and direct the lives of those who seek truth and righteousness. I bear witness of Him in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” (source)

Elder Christofferson

“The gospel of Jesus Christ opens the path to what we may become.”

“Divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency. My plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with.” (source)

Further Reading

Neil L. Anderson, “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus”.

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Family Tree Gatherings (FHE plans and quotes)

In the April 2014 General Conference, Elder Cook put forth the idea of “Family Tree Gatherings”: a recurring effort where families bring family histories, stories, and photos to share. He said,

“Our young people are excited to learn about the lives of family members-where they came from and how they lived.”

“Family history centers are now in our homes.”

I really liked this idea, and I have spent some time pondering how to make this work the best for our family. Then Elder Allan Packer spoke about this same topic in the October 2014 General Conference:

“Temple and family history work is part of living the gospel at home. It should be  a family activity far more than a Church activity.”

“Family history is more than genealogy, rules, names, dates, and places. It is more than a focus on the past. Family history also includes the present as we create our own history. It includes the future as we shape future history through our descendants. A young mother, for example, sharing her family stories and pictures with her children is doing family history work.”

I have also been watching some of the sessions online from the recent Rootstech conference held in Salt Lake City. Many of the sessions mentioned the importance of sharing and passing on family stories (I especially enjoyed the Family Discovery Day sessions).

I know that I need to be doing family history work. My family (as well as my husbands family) goes back many generations in the church. Our ancestors were some of the first members and pioneers. Which means that there are a lot of generations in the church now, and a lot of genealogists who have kept and recorded the important dates and places. Searching out new names in our family line to take to the temple would definitely take some digging.

But sharing the stories of ancestors is the part that is intriguing to me. My children (age 10, 7, and nearly 5) love to hear stories. They like to hear about when I was young, but honestly, my stories are running out! So it is time to look deeper and gather stories  and photos of our ancestors to share. Like Elder Packer said, sharing family stories is the perfect fit for a young mother!

I am doing this in a few ways.

1) Collecting stories from my parents: I am conducting interviews with my parents, in two different methods. For my dad, it is working well for me to send him an email with a question (for example: Where did you live as a child? Describe your home.) Then he can respond in writing when he has time. My mom is not so computer proficient, but she can recall and tell her stories verbally. So I am planning regular phone calls to her where I can transcribe the stories she shares.

2) Collecting photos and stories from ancestors: This step will take a little more digging, and I will need to enlist the help of extended family. Thankfully I know that the information is out there, I just need to do a little digging and compile it in a way that I can share it with my children.

3) Preserving our own family history: I can’t forget the history that we are currently making! Keeping up our family blog and keeping my children’s schoolwork, photos, memories, etc. organized is important too.

4) Building connections with living family: Sadly, we live far away from any family members. That means that we have to work a little harder to stay connected to cousins and siblings. Technological advances certainly help, and we are working on some good old-fashioned letter writing to cousins.

5) Sharing stories: share stories at bedtime (or anytime!) with my children, and make the stories I collect available to my siblings and their children also.

Whew! This is getting long-winded!

To get my family involved, our FHE tonight will be our first “Family Tree Gathering”. Yesterday I introduced the topic by showing them a clip from Elder Cook’s Family Discovery Day session. I skipped to 11:30 in the video and we learned and sang “The Hearts of the Children” song.

Our scripture of the week is Malachi 4:5-6

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…”

After discussing the scripture and some of the quotes from above, we are going to spend some time on Family Search introducing the children to our ancestors!

 

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God’s Love for Us (FHE plans and quotes from President Uchtdorf)

During the month of February, our Family Home Evening lessons have been centered on the topic of Love. Tonight we will conclude with a lesson on God’s Love for Us. As I have studied the talks from the recent General Conference, I felt that two of President Uchtdorf’s talks fit perfectly with this theme.

Lesson Plan

Remind the children of the lessons and focus on love that we have had this month: Loving Others and Loving God.

Tonight I want to testify of the love that Heavenly Father has for each of us. President Uchtdorf recently said:

“You are loved. You are dear to your heavenly parents. The infinite and eternal Creator of light and life knows you! He is mindful of you. Yes, God loves you this very day and always…He knows everything about you. He sees you clearly—He knows you as you really are. And He loves you—today and always!…He loves you not only for who you are this very day but also for the person of glory and light you have the potential and the desire to become” (source).

Show poster from 2015 February Friend Magazine.february-2015-friend-magazine-mormon_1377320_tmb

“Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us.”

Can you think of some of the blessing that He has rained upon us? Play the Raining Blessings game: One person sits in the middle of the room, with an umbrella open over their head. Other family members drop bouncy balls onto their head (which is covered by an umbrella), naming a blessing for every ball that is dropped.

The greatest gift that Heavenly Father has given us is the gift of his Son. (Recite and work on memorizing this scripture this week).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

The ability to gain a testimony of Jesus Christ is another way that Heavenly Father loves us.

“The process of gathering spiritual light is the quest of a lifetime.” (Uchtdorf, source).

Additional Quotes

“God cares about you. He will listen, and He will answer your personal questions. The answers to your prayers will come in His own way and in His own time, and therefore, you need to learn to listen to His voice. God wants you to find your way back to Him, and the Savior is the way.God wants you to learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, and experience the profound peace and joy that come from following the path of divine discipleship.”

“I suggest that this personal testimony of the gospel and the Church is the most important thing you can earn in this life. It will not only bless and guide you during this life, but it will also have a direct bearing on your life throughout eternity.”

The Experiment

1) Search the word of God

2) Consider, ponder, strive to believe, and be grateful

3) Ask Heavenly Father with faith

4) Live the principles of the gospel

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth”. October 2014 General Conference.

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Messages on Love

Below are some timeless messages on love, messages that are worth studying repeatedly!

Thomas S. Monson, “Love-the Essence of the Gospel”. April 2014 General Conference.

“Love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar.”

“Our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love will be within the walls of our own homes. Love should be the very heart of family life.”

“As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way.”

Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Great Commandment”. October 2007 General Conference.

“The measure of our love is the measure of the greatness of our souls.”

“Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship.”

“Often, the greatest manifestations of love are the simple acts of kindness and caring we extend to those we meet along the path of life.”

“Love is the greatest of all the commandments—all others hang upon it. It is our focus as followers of the living Christ. It is the one trait that, if developed, will most improve our lives.”

Moroni 7:45-48

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.”

Jeffrey R. Holland,”How Do I Love Thee?” BYU Speeches, Feb 15, 2000.

“Real love is best shown in the “how”.

“True love blooms when we care more about another person than we care about ourselves.”

Jeffrey R. Holland, “The First Great Commandment”. October 2012 General Conference.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand onecommandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.”13 And if at such moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.”

Richard G. Scott,”The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”. April 2011 General Conference.

“Pure love is an incomparable, potent power for good. Righteous love is the foundation of a successful marriage. It is the primary cause of contented, well-developed children.”

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Setting goals and making choices (FHE plans and quotes)

The start of a New Year is a time to evaluate our life in all areas and make changes as necessary. I have been thinking about this a lot in my own personal life, and at Family Home Evening tonight I will encourage my family to do the same. I am planning to share the following quotes (all from the October 2014 General Conference), and then spend a few minutes assisting each child to set personal goals for improvement.

“I encourage everyone, young and old, to review goals and objectives and strive to exercise greater discipline. Our daily conduct and choices should be consistent with our goals. We need to rise above rationalizations and distractions. It is especially important to make choices consistent with our covenants to serve Jesus Christ in righteousness.”(Elder Quentin L. Cook, “Choose Wisely“.)

“We must be willing to learn and to change. And, oh, how much we gain by committing to live the life our Heavenly Father intends for us.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Lord, is it I?”.)

“Just because things are going well does not mean that we should not from time to time consider whether there might be something better.” (Elder Carlos A. Godoy, “The Lord Has a Plan for Us!”.)

“Acknowledge and face your weaknesses, but don’t be immobilized by them.” (Elder Jorg Klebingat, “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence”.)

Conclude with this loving reassurance of God’s love from President Uchtdorf:

“God loves you this very day and always. He is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits. He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles. … He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed. And still He loves you. … He wants you to achieve your destiny—to return to your heavenly home in honor.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Living the Gospel Joyful”.)

A few more quotes from Elder Cook that I liked:

“My concern is not only about the big tipping-point decisions but also the middle ground—the workaday world and seemingly ordinary decisions where we spend most of our time. In these areas, we need to emphasize moderation, balance, and especially wisdom. It is important to rise above rationalizations and make the best choices.

“When we rationalize wrong choices, big or small, which are inconsistent with the restored gospel, we lose the blessings and protections we need and often become ensnared in sin or simply lose our way.”

“In all things we should remember that being “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” is the great dividing test between the celestial and terrestrial kingdoms.

 

 

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An excellent lesson on love and putting God first

The great test of life is obedience to God. “We will prove them herewith,” said the Lord, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25). The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it. The great commandment of life is to love the Lord.”

“To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—to a love of the Lord.”

When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities. We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives.”

“You mothers, who are especially charged with the righteous rearing of the youth of Zion, are you not putting God first when you honor your divine calling? … Our mothers put God first when they fill their highest mission within the walls of their own homes.

Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life.”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson

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A Fireside with an Apostle

Last night our family had a rare treat. Our stake in Florida was able to participate in an evening fireside with Elder Neil L. Anderson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We were excited to take our children to a meeting where they would be in the same room as an apostle, and we could all hear his counsel.

Our Stake President spoke briefly first. He challenged youth and adults to do five things this year

1) daily prayer morning and night

2) daily scripture study

3) live worthy to hold a temple recommend

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the last two (in between dealing with my children). I wish I had written it down!

Elder Rulon Munns of the Seventy was also present and spoke briefly. He quoted Elder Neal A. Maxwell,  “Patience is tied very closely for faith in our Heavenly Father”.

Sister Kathy Anderson then took some time to address us. She had been born and raised in Florida and thinks Florida is the best place to live! Her ancestors were some of the first people in Florida to join the church, and she spoke about their legacy of faith. She quoted Helaman 5:12, which was especially significant to me since that is our family scripture for this year. My children all perked up at the word “foundation”.

Elder Anderson then spoke for the remainder of the meeting. He focused on and testified of Jesus Christ, declaring that having a testimony of Jesus Christ is the most important thing. He made reference to a talk he gave in General Conference in 1999 (a talk given in interesting circumstances, since President Hinckley called him the Friday before and asked him to speak and fill in for Elder Hales who was ill). In that talk he talked about mole crickets (a common threat to grass in Florida) and how they eat away at the roots and destroy the grass. Satan works the same way, by eating away at our spiritual roots. Be watchful!

It was interesting to me that he referred to that talk, since I had actually just come across it this week while preparing for our Family Home Evening Lesson on prayer. Below are the points that stood out to me from his 1999 talk.

We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform” (“Policies, Announcements, and Appointments,” Ensign, June 1999, 80).

We all know the struggle necessary to retain family home evening. There are thieves among us who would steal our Monday nights. But the promises of the Lord made to families who hold family home evening, that were spoken by the First Presidency 84 years ago and reiterated by our Prophets today, have never been revoked and are there for us:

“If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influence and temptations which beset them” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [1965–75], 4:339).

Who within the sound of my voice would be willing to sell these promises to those who would confiscate our Monday nights? Not one of us.

For you and me, the disciples of Christ, these moments of building faith in the lives of our children must be strengthened. We will at times fall short as parents. I know I do. But we must begin again. The Lord sees our righteous efforts and will open the blessings of heaven as we give our families our highest priority.”

Neil L. Anderson, “Prophets and Spiritual Mole Crickets”. October 1999 General Conference.

What a blessing it was to hear an apostle speak in our own stake center, and feel his powerful witness of Jesus Christ.

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Teaching our children to pray (FHE plans and quotes)

Teaching our children to pray is one of the most important responsibilities of parents. There were a number of talks in the most recent General Conference relating to prayer, so I felt it was an important topic for Family Home Evening.

Our FHE lesson tonight will be based on two lessons from A Year of FHE: here and here.

Discuss how Heavenly Father wants to hear from us, just like our earthly parents want to hear from us if we are far away.

Review the four parts of prayer.

Coloring page: Give the children a “Did you think to PRAY?” coloring page: prayer reminder page (adapted from the page available here)

They can hang this in their rooms as a reminder to say daily prayers. Especially encourage the habit of daily morning prayer. Discuss the following quotes from General Conference while they are coloring.

“As parents, we can teach our children to pray for things of eternal consequence—to pray for the strength to be morally clean in a very challenging world, to be obedient, and to have the courage to stand for the right.

No doubt most of our youth have their evening prayers, but perhaps many of them struggle with the habit of personal morning prayer. As parents, as their prime gospel teachers, we can correct this. Which parent in Book of Mormon times would have let their sons march out to the front of battle without a breastplate and shield and sword to protect them against the potentially mortal blows of the enemy? But how many of us let our children march out the front door each morning to the most dangerous of all battlefields, to face Satan and his myriad of temptations, without their spiritual breastplate and shield and sword that come from the protective power of prayer? The Lord said, “Pray always, … that you may conquer Satan” (D&C 10:5). As parents, we can help instill within our children the habit and power of morning prayer.”

Tad R. Callister, “Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children”. October 2014 General Conference.

“We need revelation from God. And we will need not just one revelation in a time of stress, but we need a constantly renewed stream. We need not just one flash of light and comfort, but we need the continuing blessing of communication with God.”

“Heavenly Father hears your prayers. He loves you. He knows your name. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and our Redeemer. He loves you beyond your ability to comprehend. God pours out revelation, through the Holy Ghost, on His children.”

President Henry B. Eyring, “Continuing Revelation”. October 2014 General Conference.

God cares about you. He will listen, and He will answer your personal questions. The answers to your prayers will come in His own way and in His own time, and therefore, you need to learn to listen to His voice. God wants you to find your way back to Him, and the Savior is the way.God wants you to learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, and experience the profound peace and joy that come from following the path of divine discipleship.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth”. October 2014 General Conference.

“Choose to converse with your Father in Heaven often. Make time every day to share your thoughts and feelings with Him. Tell Him everything that concerns you. He is interested in the most important as well as the most mundane facets of your life. Share with Him your full range of feelings and experiences.”

“Family prayer should be a nonnegotiable priority in your daily life.”

Richard G. Scott, “Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority”. October 2014 General Conference.

Additional Resources

Bright Ideas posters from the Friend magazine:

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Powerful teaching comes from concerned parents

“As the world continues to watch us, let us be certain that our example will sustain and support the plan the Lord has designed for His children here in mortality. The greatest teaching of all must be done by righteous example. Our homes must be holy places in order to stand against the pressures of the world. Remember that the greatest of all the blessings of the Lord come through and are given to righteous families.

We must carefully continue to evaluate our performance as parents. The most powerful teaching a child will ever receive will come from concerned and righteous fathers and mothers.

Elder L. Tom Perry, “Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families”. October 2014 General Conference.

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2015 Family Theme: Building a foundation on Jesus Christ

Each new year I like to pick a scriptural theme for our family. Having one verse to focus on gives me something to direct my personal and family study and Family Home Evening lessons. I have known since October what the theme for 2015 should be.

It started with General Conference, when I noticed that many of the talks were focused on Jesus Christ, and how we should know him and build our foundation on him. (This isn’t really a surprise, since we belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after all, but it was the overlaying theme that stood out to me).

As I have reviewed and studied the talks, I found three speakers who quoted the same verse of scripture. Heleman 5:12 has always been a favorite of mine, so I noticed when it was quoted.

“The gospel of our Lord and Savior provides a sure and solid foundation…Jesus is the great Exemplar. The only way to find lasting peace is to look to Him and live.”  Elder L. Tom Perry, “Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families”. October 2014 General Conference.

“That sure foundation is Jesus Christ. He is “the Rock of Heaven.” When we build our house upon Him, the rains of the latter days may descend, the floods may come, and the winds may blow, but we will not fall. We will not fail, for our home and our family will be founded upon Christ.” Elder Robert D. Hales, “Eternal Life–to Know Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ”. October 2014 General Conference.

“When we heed the words of the prophets, we build our homes and our lives upon an eternally sure foundation.” Carol F. McConkie, “Live According to the Words of the Prophets”. October 2014 General Conference.

So Helaman 5:12 will be the focus for our family this year.

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

I found this pretty graphic at LDS Printables, which I will display in a prominent place in our home all year long. We will work on memorizing it as a family.helaman-5-12

I am planning to introduce the theme tonight at Family Home Evening. When talking about building a foundation on Jesus Christ, a lesson with young children will naturally lead to the Parable of the Wise Man and the Foolish Man (Matt 7:24-27 ). A Year of FHE has a great lesson here, complete with printables and directions for an object lesson. A few other resources to consider: Scripture Figures: The Wise Man and the Foolish Man or this colored and enlarged version and Sharing Time: Build Upon My Rock.

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