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Lesson Plan on Mosiah 11-17


King Noah and priests oversee the renovations of the 400-year-old Temple of Nephi in the Land of Nephi.

This week we read about King Noah, the son of King Zeniff. Mormon takes us back in time in the record to where we are about 60-80 years before King Benjamin gives his address in Mosiah chapters 2-6. When we get to King Noah it is about 30 years before King Benjamin's address. It should be remembered that King Zeniff is the "over-zealous" man (see Mosiah 9:3) who led a group of Nephites back out of Zarahemla to redeem the land of Nephi and its temple, just a generation or two after King Mosiah the first led the Nephites out of the land of Nephi.

It is projecting a bit, but King Zeniff may have gotten weary of living in the recently merged society of Mulekites with Nephites under the first King Mosiah. Mulekites would have been privy to the blessings and calling of the Israelite tribe of Judah while the Nephites were of the seed of Joseph, Lehi, and Nephi. Maybe some saw this as slowing down the eventual redemption of the land of Nephi as it wouldn't have been a priority for most of the "Nephites." Even further, we have evidence of political turmoil early in the days of King Benjamin's reign. This suggests some sort of deep-rooted political divide. Maybe Zeniff didn't even get the prophetic approval of King Mosiah for this journey because we don't get any indication of such approval in the Book of Mormon (most Book of Mormon Scholars interpret this to mean that he did not get prophetic approval like Ammon did a few generations later from King Mosiah the second). It should be easy to see that this righteous man in Zeniff had some political, national, and cultural beliefs that led to him desiring to retake the land of Nephi.

Elder Cecil O. Samuelson, former BYU President and former member of the Presidency of the Seventy, has commented on Zeniff:
"Zeniff had been a participant with a group of Nephites who were committed to taking back or reestablishing the Nephite nation in their initial place of residence. Not everyone shared his politics or his priorities, and, in fact, this issue led to considerable conflict and carnage among the Nephites themselves... It apparently was not necessarily so that Zeniff was inherently wicked or intentionally unwise, but he was overzealous. It is also clear that his misplaced zeal led to other poor decisions that not only affected him personally in adverse ways but also caused tremendous difficulties for others under his influence." (1)
This overzealousness was not only tied to national identity and politics, but it led to rash decisions and judgments all to try and redeem the land of Nephi. Zeniff and his people settle the land and have a lengthy spat with a deceitful Lamanite king that leads to war and needing to win their freedom again. Having won the war, they begin to prosper, and the kingdom is passed onto King Noah, Zeniff's son. This King Noah stands as a deliberate and stark contrast to King Benjamin a few chapters earlier. King Noah, given the above description, was raised by his father to see this newly retaken land and temple of Nephi as evidence of his and the people's "chosenness". THIS GREATLY INFORMS THE STRUGGLE HE AND HIS PRIESTS HAVE WITH ABINADI IN THESE CHAPTERS.

Elder Uchtdorf once taught, "I have learned that the difference between happiness and misery in individuals, in marriages, and families often comes down to an error of only a few degrees." (2)

This idea that they saw themselves as righteous has a lot of evidence. This includes how King Noah wrests the scriptures. For example, he implements a 20% tax like Joseph of Egypt did in a time of prosperity and redemption (see Genesis 47:24-26, remember that Nephites closely identify themselves with Joseph of Egypt). Noah completely replaces the priestly court of his father with newly consecrated priests like Jeroboam did in 1 Kings 12:31; Jeroboam was a kingly descendant of Joseph. Noah becomes a consumer of wine like his name-sake, the prophet Noah (see Genesis 9:20-21).

In following the footsteps of his father (see Mosiah 9:8), Noah continues to rebuild, renovate, and expand this ancient land of Nephi. He even renovated the temple of Nephi and the Book of Mormon borrows language used to describe the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (see Exodus 35 & 36) to describe their efforts.

In essence, you can see how there is possible widespread self-deception going on in that they see themselves "prospering in the land." In the Book of Mormon specifically, this is often directly connected with righteousness. That teaching dates all the way back to Father Lehi. THEY ARE ECONOMICALLY PROSPERING AND REINVIGORATING THE "LAND OF PROMISE."

On top of this, the Lamanites begin to renew the conflict they have with the people in the land of Nephi. In short, King Noah's people win this conflict and then add their meager military might to this portrait of self-deception.

It is within this mess that the Prophet Abinadi enters the picture. Abinadi in Hebrew probably means something like "my father is present with you" which foreshadows his teachings about Jesus Christ and the specific teaching that causes King Noah and the priests to sentence him to death (see Mosiah 17:8). Some scholars speculate that another possible meaning of Abinadi is "my father wanders" and take this double meaning to suggest that Abinadi was one of the former priests of King Zeniff's court who was displaced.

This first visit from Abinadi can be summed up with his large use of the word "repent" within his initial teachings to the people (see Mosiah 11:20-25). There was still space and grace the Lord was willing to extend this wayward covenant remnant of Israel. They reject Abinadi and his message of repentance. He goes into hiding for two years where he then comes again in disguise with a much more harsh message. John W. Welch notes that the contextual evidence suggests Abinadi makes this second appearance during the Feast of Weeks which is one of the three main yearly Jewish festivals in which the people gathered around the temple. Interestingly, this feast specifically celebrated the first fruits of the harvest season and the renewal of the covenant God made with Moses. Both of these items are heavily featured in Abinadi's teachings and possibly put Abinadi's trial and arraignment within a temple setting before the King and his court.


Abinadi is arrested mainly for his teachings against the king (see Mosiah 12:3 & 10-12). This really puzzles the priests as they go so far as to quote Father Lehi when they say "thou hast prospered in the land" as evidence against what Abinadi is teaching (see Mosiah 12:15). They cast Abinadi into prison and they deliberate in the newly renovated temple hall about what to do with Abinadi. They decide to bring him forth and have a back-and-forth discussion about the words of the prophet Isaiah.

READ MOSIAH 12:20-24
"20 And it came to pass that one of them said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:

21 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;

22 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion;

23 Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem;

24 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God?"

Why would the priests quote Isaiah 52:7-10 here? The manual points out that these men knew their scriptures, at least somewhat, but seemed unaffected by the Savior's gospel. Why was that? How can that happen to us? How can we guard against it?

These priests have wrested the scriptures (see Alma 13:20) which means "to twist. ... to distort; to turn from truth or twist from its natural meaning ... ; to pervert" (Webster's First Edition of an American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828, [1967]). They have proof-texted the scriptures, which will be commented on in a bit, instead of wrestling with the scriptures. Sister Sheri Dew notes the difference wrestling with the scriptures has with wresting the scriptures:
"Spiritual wrestling leverages the strength of true doctrine to overpower our weaknesses, our wavering faith, and our lack of knowledge. Spiritual wrestlers are seekers. They are men and women of faith who want to understand more than they presently do and who are serious about increasing the light and knowledge in their lives." (3)
In short, we wrest, usually, when we read the scriptures and see not much of a gap between us and the Savior. We tend to proof-text the scriptures to justify our worldview, politics, and other deeply held beliefs.

Elder Uchtdorf has spoken about this. As you read this, think of how much this might have occurred in the lives of King Noah and his people and how it can happen to us:
"None of us likes to admit when we are drifting off the right course. Often we try to avoid looking deeply into our souls and confronting our weaknesses, limitations, and fears. Consequently, when we do examine our lives, we look through the filter of biases, excuses, and stories we tell ourselves in order to justify unworthy thoughts and actions.

But being able to see ourselves clearly is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being. If our weaknesses and shortcomings remain obscured in the shadows, then the redeeming power of the Savior cannot heal them and make them strengths. Ironically, our blindness toward our human weaknesses will also make us blind to the divine potential that our Father yearns to nurture within each of us.

So how can we shine the pure light of God’s truth into our souls and see ourselves as He sees us?

May I suggest that the holy scriptures and the talks given at general conference are an effective mirror we can hold up for self-examination.

As you hear or read the words of the ancient and modern prophets, refrain from thinking about how the words apply to someone else and ask the simple question: “Lord, is it I?”

We must approach our Eternal Father with broken hearts and teachable minds. 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." (4)

Do we wrest the scriptures or read them in the attitude of wrestling where we leverage pure gospel truth to increase our faith, increase in knowledge, and overcome the natural man?

A quick commentary on how and why these verses were possibly quoted by the priests of King Noah will help as we move forward:

How beautiful upon the mountians... - Isaiah is referring to the fall of Babylon and how the watchman and prophets will place their feet upon the mountains that surround Jerusalem. Interestingly, the land of Nephi is constantly referred to as being "upward" or on top of a mountain or mountains (see Omni 1:13, 27-28, W of M 1:13, Mosiah 7:1, 4, 13). The feet specifically refer to the king and those who have placed their feet at the top of the spiritual mount, which was the divine throne or mercy seat in the ancient Holy of Holies (see Ricks and Baker, Who Shall Ascend the Hill of the Lord, p. 104). It gives you a sense of why it was seen as such blasphemy to speak ill towards King Noah.

... feet of them that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bring good tidings of good; that publisheth savlation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth - After the time of exile and the return of the temple in Jerusalem the Lord and his servants speak forth words of hope and comfort. In a sense, the people of King Noah perhaps viewed themselves as once exiled from their temple mount. To have Abinadi, therefore, speak forth such harsh things flies at the face of prophetic fulfillment in the opinion of King Noah and his priests.

Thy watchmen shall up the voice; ... they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion; - Having witnessed military victory against the Lamanites and economic prospering they all see eye to eye as being the eschatological fulfillment of promises made to Israel, Joseph, Lehi, and Nephi.

Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people; he hath redeemed Jerusalem - In ancient Israel it was metaphorically prophesied that even the waste places would rejoice at the return from exile; meaning that even the very stones of once wasted Jerusalem would rejoice. Zeniff and Noah both rebuild much of the decaying and dilapidating areas of the city of Nephi. Noah, specifically, is not just rebuilding but refining by adding more adornment and gold. This is a sign of the "Comfort" the Lord has supposedly given.

The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God - Again, anciently, the fall of Babylon and Assyria was evidence of the Lord of Israel being the true God. The military might of King Noah and Zeniff conquering the Lamanites was a sign of the mighty arm being bare before all nations. In Isaiah, this is directly connected with Israel becoming nursing fathers and mothers to the Gentiles. Zeniff was very sympathetic towards the Lamanites in the few pages of the story we get about his life.

(Much of the information in this short commentary can be found in Joseph Spencer's book, A Word In Season, p. 34-37)

It is of note that Abinadi specifically accused them of "perverting the ways of the Lord" in verse 26 after the priests quote these Isaiah verses. He goes on to say that they need to apply their hearts to understanding. We then find out that King Noah and the priests have become like the Anti-Christ Sherem who think that salvation is in and through the law of Moses.

The issue of keeping the law of Moses and thinking it is unto salvation is that it sets the stage for the fulfillment of Nephi's prophecy about those who will think "all is well in Zion" (see 2 Nephi 28:21). It is these individuals who easily subscribe to the notion of "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die" (see 2 Nephi 28:8). Instead of seeing the law of Moses point to Jesus Christ it pointed to a routine law of carnal commandments which made salvation cheap. If you quickly think about the future history of Anti-Christs in the Book of Mormon, you can see how this belief by Sherem and King Noah will set the stage for Nehorism which subscribes to the idea that one can be saved in their sins. Remember, it is the priests of King Noah who end up having a great influence over the Lamanites when Amulon, one of the leading priests in King Noah's court, and "his brethren" are "appointed teachers over" the Lamanites (see Mosiah 24:1).

Abinadi stands in the midst of all this alone. He stands alone in an apostate city, one that sees itself as rightful heirs of the promises made to the fathers which makes them all the more dangerous.


How can we prepare ourselves for when we will have to stand alone? Whether it is with people outside the church, or, like Abinadi, it is with people who might believe in some of the same things you do? They might be partakers of the same covenants you have made.

President Harold B. Lee has said: 
"The only safety we have as members of this church is to … learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet. … There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes. … It may contradict your political views … your social views … interfere with … your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, … ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you … and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you …’ (D&C 21:6)." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (2000), 84–85)

Abinadi mocks their interpretation of scripture and corrects their understanding of the law of Moses. They don't take too kindly to this and seek to lay their hands upon Abinadi to slay him, probably out of an accusation of blasphemy. Abinadi withstands their attempts, and his face begins to shine, "even as Moses' did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord" (see Mosiah 13:5).

Interestingly, Moses' face shines as he comes off mount Sinai with two tablets in his hands with the Ten Commandments written on them (see Exodus 34:29-34) and then Abinadi's face shines right before he recounts the Ten Commandments. This recitation would give evidence that King Noah, his priests, and the people were not keeping the law of Moses in the way they should have. Even further, Joseph Spencer suggests that this has great significance on how Isaiah is used in the rest of the Book of Mormon. This will also greatly inform the next 150ish years of Nephite history before the Savior appears to them.

To summarize, the Nephites had a scriptural tradition of "likening" Isaiah that stretched back all the way to Nephi, Lehi, and Jacob. This tradition took the form of literally "likening" Isaiah to their prophetic worldview/circumstances and how they saw themselves within the covenant of Israel. It also complimented their faith in the coming of Jesus Christ. What we have in King Noah and his priests is an absolute perversion of the practice of "likening" Isaiah. We are now close to 400 years removed from Nephi at this point and understanding Isaiah in a way in which it could be interpreted responsibly was long gone for many. 

What Abinadi does is quote Isaiah 53 which comes right after the verses the priests quote in Isaiah 52. He is giving Messianic context as Isaiah 53 is about the Lord in the suffering servant psalm of Isaiah. What is interesting is that Isaiah from this point until when the Savior comes in 3 Nephi will virtually disappear from the record. There are 3 very small instances where Isaiah is quoted but they will all quote Isaiah 52 & 53 and in the way Abinadi interprets them. 

Why does this happen? Alma, later in the narrative, becomes the leader of a newly organized Nephite Church that is based largely on the teachings of Abinadi (see Mosiah 18:1). Joseph Spencer suggests, with much more evidence than given here, that the full symbolism of Abinadi's face shining like Moses' is that he is doing away with the Nephite method of "likening" Isaiah. He quickly quips, "Abinadi’s handling of Isaiah is to Nephi’s [likening] as the Law of Moses is to the Abrahamic Covenant." (5) When Moses' face shines, it is right after destroying the tablets containing the higher and holier law of the Abrahamic Covenant. Abinadi, in the spirit of "why we cannot have nice things!", is doing away with the higher and holier practice of "likening" Isaiah in favor of a safer method of teaching based on the preparatory gospel/ordinance of baptism (this might answer the question as to why Jesus commands the already baptized Nephites to be baptized again in 3 Nephi 19:10-13, Jesus will reintroduce the practice of "likening" Isaiah to a more spiritually mature group of Saints).

(The above commentary largely borrows from Joseph Spencer's books An Other Testament, p. 58-70, and A Word In Season, p. 50-75)

Abinadi will quote Isaiah 53 as an example of a prophet testifying of the coming of Jesus Christ. It will show that the law of Moses points to this suffering servant. We will read the one portion that Abinadi will really focus on afterward.

READ MOSAIH 14:10-12
"10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

11 He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."


As the manual asks, what in these verses helps deepen your love and gratitude for Jesus Christ?

Speaking of the Savior "seeing his seed" when he made an offering for sin, Elder Merril J. Bateman once commented:

"The Savior, as a member of the Godhead, knows each of us personally. Isaiah and the prophet Abinadi said that when Christ would “make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed” (Isa. 53:10; compare Mosiah 15:10). Abinadi explains that “his seed” are the righteous, those who follow the prophets (see Mosiah 15:11). In the garden and on the cross, Jesus saw each of us and not only bore our sins, but also experienced our deepest feelings so that he would know how to comfort and strengthen us." (6)

After this, Abinadi goes on to explain the condescension of God in Mosiah chapter 15 with a very confusing and almost Trinitarian-sounding explanation. Without going into much detail, John W. Welch succinctly explains how ancient peoples understood this concept of "oneness": "It has more to do with exclusive loyalty than numerical counting." (7) I would add it refers to covenantal loyalty. When understood this way, you see Abinadi being wonderfully consistent in the context of his other teachings instead of inserting an awkward aside commentary. The mess of a numerical oneness is a trinitarian understanding that is a creation of Greek and Roman ideology mixing itself with Judeo-Christian covenantal theology some centuries later.

What needs to be understood though is why Abinadi is explaining this. Namely, he is explaining what it means to be the seed of the suffering servant. He is explaining how Christ is our covenantal Father. It is at this point in Abinadi's words that there arises a very large intratextuality with the words of King Benjamin's address some 30 years later. Both prophets, Abinadi and Benjamin, focus very heavily on the idea of the seed of Christ or becoming the children of Christ.
"What is not so well known is that nearly all the passages of scripture, both ancient and modern, which speak of God as our Father and of men on earth being the sons of God, have no reference to our birth in preexistence as the children of Elohim, but teach rather that Jehovah is our Father and we are his children." - Bruce R. McConkie ("The Promised Messiah", pg. 351-352)

READ MOSIAH 15:10-21
"10 And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?

11 Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.

12 For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?

13 Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy, that has not fallen into transgression, I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began? I say unto you that they are his seed.

14 And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!

15 And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet!

16 And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace!

17 And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!

18 And behold, I say unto you, this is not all. For O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people;

19 For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished.

20 But behold, the bands of death shall be broken, and the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead; therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead.

21 And there cometh a resurrection, even a first resurrection; yea, even a resurrection of those that have been, and who are, and who shall be, even until the resurrection of Christ—for so shall he be called."


Abinadi ties these beautiful feet upon the mountains with being the children of the seed of Christ. What message do you think this conveys to us? About our potential? About the importance of our covenants? About the temple? Anything else? What does it mean for our feet to be beautiful?

I personally like how Elder Neal A. Maxwell puts it into tangible and less symbolic terms:
"... Discipleship requires all of us to translate doctrines, covenants, ordinances, and teachings into improved personal behavior. Otherwise we may be doctrinally rich but end up developmentally poor. . . . The gospel’s rich and true doctrines combine to constitute a call to a new and more abundant life, but this is a lengthy process. It requires much time, experiencing the relevant learning experiences, the keeping of covenants, and the receiving of the essential ordinances—all in order to spur us along the discipleship path of personal progression." (8)
Joseph Smith quotes these verses in D&C 128:19 & 22. It might give us more insight into what is meant:
"19. Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!

22. Brethren [and sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren [and sisters]; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free."

Abinadi gives a whole chapter on the doctrine of the resurrection, which would have been fitting given the context of the feast of weeks. They would have all brought their first fruits to the temple. It is also a continued commentary on Isaiah 52 & 53. After a brilliant sermon, Abinadi ends with "Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come -  Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen." (see Mosiah 16:14-15)

It is at this moment they begin to discuss Abinadi's "blasphemy" and a young priest named Alma runs off because he believes Abinadi. We will pick up next week when Alma begins a new Nephite Church with his baptisms at the Waters of Mormon.

As for Abinadi, he gives some prophecies about the destruction of specifically King Noah and his priests. This is important later as the prophecies fulfill themselves in the record. They take Abinadi and tie him up. The text doesn't say he is burned at the stake. It says they poked and beat him with sticks that were on fire at the end until he burned up. This practice has precedence in Mesoamerica, and it could last for hours or even days.

The late Latter-Day Saint scholar, Robert J. Matthews, has commented:
"In my mind I see Abinadi bound, possibly supported by something, and his fiendish executioners (probably the priests) gathered about him with burning torches (faggots) in their hands, jabbing him and rubbing him with these until they caused him to die. They actively, eagerly, and physically caused his death …. I can imagine them dancing and cavorting about Abinadi, and hear them shouting, exulting, and gloating over what they were doing. And during it all, Abinadi was pronouncing prophecies of God's vengeance upon them." (9)
Abinadi serves a special place in the Book of Mormon as scholar John Hilton III notes:

"As a pivotal prophet who spoke 450 years after Lehi left Jerusalem, Abinadi is responsible for the conversion of Alma. Alma and his posterity would keep the sacred records and guide the Church for the next 470 years. Abinadi, living chronologically halfway between Lehi and Mormon, thus radically shaped the second half of Nephite history... Abinadi’s testimony of Christ affected generations and clearly had an important textual influence on later Book of Mormon individuals." (10)

Abinadi is quoted easily over 50 times, maybe close to 100 times in the rest of the Book of Mormon depending on how you count the quotations. He is, arguably, the most quoted Book of Mormon prophet within the Book of Mormon. It is safe to say that his teachings set the doctrinal framework upon which the new Nephite Church would be founded for centuries.


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