COB and the Roman Curia: Balancing Management and Spiritual Leadership

By: Hedgehog
March 21, 2013

The LDS church with some 14.7 million members is a fraction of the size of  the Roman Catholic church with over 1.2 billion. As with my last post however, I feel drawn to the similarities in the hierarchical organisations, and the institutions that assist with the day to day running of both organisations. The Catholic church has the curia whilst the LDS have COB (taken from the ‘church office building’ which houses the many departments).

Media discussions surrounding the selection of the new Pope, both before and after the election of Pope Francis, included the idea that the new Pope needed to be as much a CEO as a spiritual and religious leader. The Rev Robert Gahl described things thus:

“Of course, the Church is a religious institution. She organises worship, private and public, and offers spiritual formation. But she is much more. She is a humanitarian relief organisation and a global array of educational and healthcare institutions…

A long and rich theological tradition prizes the need for spiritual shepherds who also excel in management skills and the virtues of leadership. Recent developments in theology converge with components of contemporary management theory.
Theologians increasingly emphasise that configuration in Christian holiness involves a three-fold office called tria munera that consists in governance, teaching and sanctifying.
While all the baptised enjoy this three-fold office, pastors must especially excel in their leadership. To fulfil the demands of his office, the supreme pontiff must enjoy the special expertise in governance and management needed to take charge and direct the flock and therefore manage all ecclesiastical organisations, from the local parish in Papua New Guinea to the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.”

This was the first I’d heard of any theology incorporating management theory, but a criticism I have seen in various discussions on the bloggernacle is that the LDS church leaders are frequently too much manager, and not enough spiritual leader. This has normally been attributed to their selection from the ranks of successful businessmen.

One argument made for the executive abilities of the Pope is the urgent necessity for reform of the Roman Curia as it currently stands. Gahl further wrote:

“The Vatileaks episode offered a glimpse into some of the disfunctionality, normally due to petty squabbles among internal factions within middle management, but also drew attention to the traditional feudal structure of governance within and among the offices, and how the current structures and attitudes impede the distribution of information to facilitate efficient governance, thereby hampering the Church’s mission to evangelise.
The culture and the attitudes of governance tend toward the antiquated vertical structures of authority found in Italian public universities, not to mention Italy’s notorious criminal organisations. Advancement depends upon loyalty to one’s superior, who is traditionally expected to defend the department’s turf from internal rivals to safeguard career advancement, often awarded more on account of seniority and credentials than for professional performance.
The next pope needs to be someone knowledgeable about the curia and its language and ready to open up the channels of information flow and decision-making to free the dedicated, talented men and women working in the Vatican to more effectively serve the pope and the Church’s mission of evangelisation.”

Well, the curia has been around a long time, far longer than COB, and I would imagine much of it’s structure may well be considerably more antiquated. That’s not to say that the corporate model used by the LDS church and COB couldn’t also do with some updating for the modern world, as discussed on Rational Faiths very recently. Both organisations are having to deal with the release of information on the internet.

One of the motivators for reform of the curia is the long-running child sex abuse scandal involving priests, and subsequent cover-up. To my knowledge, there is no procedure for reporting abuses by LDS leaders to church authorities beyond the level of Stake President (just as Catholic congregants would have reported problems to the Bishop), other than reporting serious abuses directly to local police (which is certainly necessary for some forms of abuse). Recent discussions on the problems of  abuse in missions have taken place over on ZD. Both the Catholic and LDS churches have sometimes given the appearance of valuing loyalty over the personal safety of individual members.

Pope Francis looks to be very much a down to earth spiritual leader, mixing with and relating to the ordinary members and eschewing the trappings of his position. He intends to get to grips with the necessary reforms, but also recognises the importance of the spritiual life of the church and its members.

“Pope Francis will deal with the problems of his Church first of all prayerfully rather than as a CEO coming in with a new broom.” (David Willey, BBC)

We should expect this of all religious leaders.

  • Do you feel the LDS church has the balance right between management and spiritual leadership?
  • Can the qualities which make a good manager also make a good spiritual leader (and vice versa)?
  • What reforms would you suggest?
  • What might we learn from the new Pope?

Discuss.

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48 Responses to COB and the Roman Curia: Balancing Management and Spiritual Leadership

  1. hawkgrrrl on March 21, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    I just read a book called The Marriage Plot (by the guy who wrote The Virgin Suicides among other novels). He makes the point through one of his characters that religion is the purview of the deep-thinking oddballs, not the jocks or the popular kids. And the character’s conclusion was that religious experience is a byproduct of deep personal pain, something the popular good-looking kids don’t experience much. Which I think is why when you put them in charge of the church, you don’t get deep spiritual experiences or revelations and visions – you get “good management” and “fiscal responsibility” and a dose of “prosperity gospel.”

    But I’m not sure I’m looking for some big bold new religion. I need a community to talk about how to apply gospel principles to real life. So maybe that’s enough for me.

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  2. Jeff Spector on March 21, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    I think there is a great challenge in managing a “company” consisting of millions of people and billions of dollars in assets that is global in nature. It cannot be done from a central location effectively without a well established hierarchy.

    But, where there is lack of real accountability, there is a real possibility of abuse of power and other bad management practices. Now I suppose one could point to this “higher purpose” we are all engaged in as the ultimate accountability, but human nature being what it is, “out of sight, out of mind” can rule the day, even if we do believe the Lord knows us and what we are doing at all times, the real measure of that comes much later at a judgment.

    Now, I don’t think the Church has a don’t ask, don’t tell policy when it comes to problems, but the “evil speaking” clause certainly has a chilling effect on bringing up issues that are discovered.

    That is why the sexual abuse issue gets some much attention these days is because the lack of openness and prevention that had been practiced in the past.

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  3. Howard on March 21, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    The church is largely a real estate company that funds it’s growth by brokering member’s relationship with God for a price.

    Day to day pastoral care is delegated to free local lay labor but their actions are tightly controlled via. highly defined centralized procedures and supplemented with occasional “management by walking around”.

    Spiritual leadership is limited to twice a year motivational speakers, occasional inspired minutia and care taking Joseph’s revelations and those of the scriptures. Visionary and proactive leadership is nonexistent.

    Corporate management is largely stuck in the 1950s characterized by centralized mass production one size fits most thinking.

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  4. Andrew S on March 21, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    I’ll post a few different thoughts, from my experiences in undergrad as a business major.

    1) Management is different than leadership (without even taking into consideration “spirituality”). I remember distinctly in my freshmen business initiative course that they wanted us to learn 7 core competencies, of which management and leadership were distinct and separate.

    Management deals with hierarchy, authority, titles. Leadership deals with vision, charisma, persuasion. So, you can check this out in your own life: your boss has “power” over you as a manager because of his organizational role…but someone whom you consider a leader has “power” only to the extent you find their message persuasive. (So, a personal question people should ask themselves at church is…am I listening to X because I am persuaded by their message, or because they have an institutionally higher role than I do?)

    2) A critical issue with management theory is measurement…where the problem is that the things that are easy to measure are usually not the things that matter, and the things that matter aren’t easily measured. So, as managers seek to make “the numbers” look better, they seek after metrics that aren’t sound for the business.

    3) Even though people usually get down on the idea of the church as a business, secular management theory has some items to offer that the church doesn’t fully take advantage of. For example, we know that diverse organizations (even if it’s just diversity of thought) make better decisions collectively. None of the theoretical models are going to support barring 50% of your “consumer base”, “employee stock,” etc., from institutional advancement. Just something to think about on the priesthood front.

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  5. Mike S on March 21, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    Do you feel the LDS church has the balance right between management and spiritual leadership? Can the qualities which make a good manager also make a good spiritual leader (and vice versa)?

    I think we’ve lost this balance. It seems that in prior generations of leaders, we had “thinkers” – people who pondered the deeper theological questions and debated various issues. These people still exist, but they generally aren’t at a high enough level of the Church for their thoughts to carry much weight. Our current crop of leaders seem to be primarily picked for their managerial skills as anything else – hence the predominance of businessmen and such.

    What reforms would you suggest?

    Transparency. The problem in the Catholic church isn’t primarily abuse by leaders, as bad things are going to happen in ANY organization of a billion people. The problem is the cover-up that occurred.

    Similarly, in our church, much could be gained by transparency. Many critics of things like a church building a $3 billion mall (including me :-) ) would be defused if finances were actually disclosed. Articles like “Mormons Inc” wouldn’t be as exciting if the secrecy surrounding the Church’s finances were disclosed. Many non-profit organizations do that. If there’s nothing to hide – don’t hide it.

    And I would extend this to more than just finances. In the past, Church leaders publicly disagreed about things like evolution as they worked through different implications. This led members know that it was OK to have different opinions about things, yet still be equally valid as “members”. Any dissension has been largely squashed for the sake of a unified corporate brand.

    What might we learn from the new Pope?

    The beauty of the basics. Serve the poor. Care for the needy. I can’t see Pope Francis giving the OK for a new billion dollar mall in the Vatican City with the assumption that the church will have more money to help the poor down the road. I can see him using the money to help people NOW, with the faith that God will provide money later to help people then too.

    The concept is obviously new to the Catholic Church as well, but the idea is appealing that when a leader has become less able to dynamically manage a large organization, that person can gracefully take emeritus status. Perhaps having free time to devote to spiritual study as opposed to the minutiae of running the Church would lead to further insights and revelations?

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  6. kd on March 21, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    For a lot of the problems of the church, I think that we can turn more to the membership than perhaps the leadership. I think of Jacob, who would have rather talk on holy things rather than having to deal with the adultery in Nephite society.

    The church is designed to be self-governing and ideally the Apostles and Seventy would not have to be managers. Thus considering the challenges of running a world wide church full of very imperfect people, I would say yes I think that the church has a decent balance between management and spiritual leadership.

    As it stands, I think the church leaders get a lot of unfair criticism. To state rather boldly that the prophets are inhibited from spiritual revelations or are too focused on “obedience” as is commonly asserted on the bloggernacle is odd considering 1) I doubt very many actually know many of the leadership personally to substantiate these claims 2) the commentators are not privileged to the same information (and especially divine revelation)that determine the actions of our leadership.

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  7. Howard on March 21, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    kd wrote: church leaders get a lot of unfair criticism…inhibited from spiritual revelations or are too focused on “obedience”…I doubt very many actually know many of the leadership personally to substantiate these claims Well it’s impossible to know since they are largely unavailable to common members and they claim to put on a united front with changes only made unanimously. But “by their fruits” it is possible to judge especially if you’ve been keeping up in the blog conversations in which these comments were made. The change in mission age is basically administrative minutia and obviously only worth a couple of D&C verses if it were to be canonized. And it is possible to read church sources of what President Kimball went through to seek and receive the revelation (largely inspiration) that became OD2. And Tim Malone roughly quotes Elder Perry visiting his ward saying the heavens are rarely indicating the OD2 revelation was a big deal. But would it have been a big deal to Joseph? So there is enough material to draw very reasonable estimates and conclusions unless you’re a Ostrich!

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  8. Howard on March 21, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    Should read; the heavens are rarely open

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  9. kd on March 21, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    Howard,

    I don’t see how you are addressing the point I make in my comment (but then again its hard to read a computer screen when my head is in the sand). In a way, you seem to prove my point by implying the church isn’t reaching you define as inspired (odd since its “impossible” to know the personal experiences of our prophets). Even if it doesn’t take a revelation on par with 1978 or the first vision, who is to say that lowering the mission ages from 21 to 19 isn’t the right thing to do?

    Its a big jump to say that the leadership are uninspired based upon what you cite as evidence. The Book of Mormon covers nearly a thousand years, yet we have only a few hundred pages. Most of those pages come within a few hundred years and are based on events that take a few days, like most of 3 Nephi. Most of those revelations are on par with what we receive in General Conference (have faith in God, repent, forgive, have faith, repent, forgive). Is that minutia? Does the fact we aren’t given earth shattering revelations every 6 months mean our leaders aren’t inspired?

    My point is that as D&C 43:5-7 says, the prophets are one of the primary ways we determine if we are on the right track. If they are what the scriptures say they are, then that means they will have a better idea on how to run things than we ever will.

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  10. Howard on March 21, 2013 at 7:05 PM

    Kd,
    I have NEVER said our leaders are uninspired, I believe they are inspired but true prophets, seers and revelators prophsize, have visions and reveal what they receive, can they magnify their callings if they don’t? I’m at a formal dinner now, I will respond to the rest of your comment later.

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  11. Howard on March 21, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    Kd,
    I did address your comment. One does not have to know the minds of the brethren to compare their fruits to the fruits of Joseph and when one does the brethren come up seriously lacking. The fruit of the total of all 15 is but a tiny fraction of what Joseph produced. Joseph was a great Prophet as as such sets the modern bar for what can be received by God. By comparison the brethren while well intended inspired good men are but care taking prophets that make up an inspired committee that occasionally attempts to actually know the will of God on select questions. The idea that the Lord is dictating daily detail to TSM how the church is to be run is without merit although he is probably regularly inspired.

    There is a HUGE difference between revelation and inspiration so don’t conflate the two! Inspiration is far more man than God and revelation is far more God then man. If you want me to describe the difference I will be happy to.

    Prophets are one of the primary ways we determine if we are on the right track. Oddly we were on the wrong track From Brigham till 1978 regarding the ban on blacks but our prophets didn’t pick it up until after the civil rights movement shall we say brought it loudly to their attention so I wouldn’t put too much stock in that idea or the idea that the president of the church can never lead us astray!

    Please google straw man argument and learn what they are because you are repeatedly using them and I don’t want to take the time to untangle them here.

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  12. Hedgehog on March 21, 2013 at 10:59 PM

    Hawkgrrrl, #1:
    I do think those “deep-thinking oddballs” who have experienced “deep personal pain”, can make very caring and excellent managers, although their style maybe rather different to that of the popular kids. There’s probably fewer of them, but I know which kind of manager I’d prefer.

    Jeff, #2:
    I agree that some level of hierarchy is required to manage effectively, though personally I’d err on keeping the number of layers to a minimum. I’d also want to see some system in which the bottom layer can feel a connection to and communicate with the top, should that be necessary.

    I do agree that accountability is very important, and for good governance leaders ought to be held accountable for their behaviour and actions as leaders, in this life as well as the next. I think we can make a hedge around the whole “evil-speaking” clause. I’d define it as ‘not lying about, or spreading malicious gossip or untruths about’, but many certainly seem to conflate it with any measured discussion of fact, where those facts are unpalatable, and I don’t think of that as “evil-speaking” at all.

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  13. Hedgehog on March 21, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Howard #3,7,11
    I’m getting from your comments that you feel the balance has swung too far in the direction of management, and that you’d like to see more Joseph Smith-style revelation.

    “Day to day pastoral care is delegated to free local lay labor but their actions are tightly controlled via. highly defined centralized procedures and supplemented with occasional “management by walking around”.”
    As I understand it, the handbook states that local leaders may make local adaptations as necessary in a whole number of areas. I don’t think many local leaders always feel confident about doing that, and perhaps the area authorities could do more to encourage the empowerment of local leaders. I guess there is a tension in allowing that however, and still feeling some measure of control over the areas they are responsible for. Local leaders may feel it is easier to follow the programs as laid out, than to think too hard about and get the local members on board with any adaptation.

    What reforms would you recommend that would open up the “visionary, proactive leadership” you feel is lacking?

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  14. kd on March 21, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    Howard

    Comparing Joseph Smith to modern prophets is a mistake, they live in completely different times. The Apostles don’t have to set up an entire church, they have to lead the saints to become a more perfect union. That means managing and administrating. This goes back to my original comment. We aren’t going to get talks about the details of the celestial kingdom if we ourselves are stuck in the so-called minutia. We the church must progress from precept to precept, God will not force us to do so (though I believe that if we were better at following the counsel of GC we would be moving faster).

    I don’t attribute the length of the priesthood ban to the leadership but to the church. It took a long time for the core of the church to be ready and yes some (not all, I will admit) of the Apostles were out in front on the issue.

    The main point I am trying to make is that we of the church have little idea of what the prophets are up to. We don’t know if God is telling them to not be as bold as you obviously would like. We don’t know what is coming ahead and how appropriate their policies and counsel is for the future. But God does and God choose them, not me or you, to be the head of the church at this time. While their leadership might be imperfect, I doubt anyone of their detractors could do any better.

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  15. Hedgehog on March 21, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    Andrew #4,
    Thank you for that addition to the discussion.

    On your point 1: I’m not sure that the leadership qualities you describe “vision, charisma, persuasion” are necessarily qualities I’d like to see in a spiritual leader, although they probably work well in business. I guess it is charisma I get hung up on most in that list, as it is something I tend to distrust. I’d far prefer humility. On vision, I’d want it to be God’s vision, not their own, though that would necessitate being open to new ideas. On persuasion, I’d qualify that as accompanied by love, patience, long-suffering etc. I don’t like coercion.

    2: I’ve certainly experienced leaders who weigh heavily on the whole numbers exercise. It can be grim.

    3: I do think a lay clergy can also lead to a limited pool for institutional advancement. Those who advance tend be those who can afford the costs themselves. This could easily be solved by allowing fuel costs and other expenses to be claimed back, or in giving an allowance for meeting attendance and so forth, and expecting less in ‘sacrifice’. The problem with the sacrifice model, is that often only those seen as able to afford the sacrifice get called, particularly at SP level and above. And of course I agree it is a big disadvantage to effectively disenfranchise half the membership :-).

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  16. Hedgehog on March 22, 2013 at 3:16 AM

    Mike, #5
    Do you think the imbalance is because those calling leaders only value or recognise qualities they themselves hold, or because (to hark back to my comment to Andrew) business leaders have the best paid jobs and are therefore seen as more able to make the required sacrifices? I’m racking my brains for the variety of experience we have amongst the 12 at the moment – legal, medical, pilot (all from the top of their professions mind you). The closest link I can get to science is Pres Eyring’s father’s influence on him. Pres Monson was very young when called, so perhaps the closest we have to professional clergy. I think there is something of a mix, though not as broad a mix as I’d really like. As to the ranks of the Q70s, I have no idea of the majority of the backgrounds. The very few I do know are business oriented.
    I agree whole-heartedly that we need transparency.
    As far as public disagreements go, I think we have built a hedge around the whole idea of unity, of being of one heart and one mind. My own view is that real, true unity discusses and debates all viewpoints, ensures that everyone is heard and that everyone knows they are heard, and then with that understanding moves forwards. Problem is, any debates in the top leadership take place behind closed doors, we don’t know what the debates are, and are expected to accept what is. So, on the ordination of women for example, we don’t know if it is ever discussed, we don’t know if it is something they pray about, and the not knowing can be a big problem.
    I do love the way the new Pope has gone about his ministry, and the things he has said. I think Pres Monson has exhibited that pattern of service also, but I think it could be hard for him, especially now at his advanced age and frailty, to push that emphasis, and get the rest of the top team on board, so instead we generally hear about his acts of individual service prior to becoming President.

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  17. Hedgehog on March 22, 2013 at 4:27 AM

    kd, #6,14
    #6 “For a lot of the problems of the church, I think that we can turn more to the membership than perhaps the leadership.”
    I don’t disagree entirely, but on the other hand the leadership is drawn from the membership, and as you yourself acknowledged (#14 “I don’t attribute the length of the priesthood ban to the leadership but to the church. It took a long time for the core of the church to be ready and yes some (not all, I will admit) of the Apostles were out in front on the issue.”), leaders are subject to much the same weaknesses and so forth as the general membership. I think some those of those problems could be alleviated by structural or procedural improvements, to the benefit of all.
    #6 “The church is designed to be self-governing and ideally the Apostles and Seventy would not have to be managers. Thus considering the challenges of running a world wide church full of very imperfect people, I would say yes I think that the church has a decent balance between management and spiritual leadership.”
    On average, you could be right about the overall balance, however the balance as experienced by the individual member does, I think, very much depend on who their local leaders are. I’m guessing your experience has generally been good, and that’s great (but by all means correct me if not).
    One stake I was in for a while, a new stake, had a highly successful business executive SP. On the plus side, he spent a lot of time with less active members, who adored him. But he was very target and numbers driven when dealing with the Bishops/Branch Presidents, and put them under huge stress. There was very much an atmosphere of battening down the hatches to survive his term of office, and the rate of attrition amongst Bishops in the stake was horribly high. (I don’t know to what extent the atmosphere was influenced by the then area presidency.) At the time it was pretty obvious to everyone the SP was being groomed by Salt Lake. He did go on to become a MP, and I believe he spent some time in the US in one role or other. I’m not aware of him holding a particular leadership calling at the moment, but I do hope that he was able to learn from those earlier days serving as SP.
    On the other hand, my current stake is a total delight, with stake leaders focused on nurturing and developing the leaders in the wards and branches, with heavy emphasis on the spirit, and much less on numbers. That was also the emphasis of the area presidency (recently replaced, so I’m hoping the good continues).
    #6 “To state rather boldly that the prophets are inhibited from spiritual revelations or are too focused on “obedience” as is commonly asserted on the bloggernacle is odd considering 1) I doubt very many actually know many of the leadership personally to substantiate these claims 2) the commentators are not privileged to the same information (and especially divine revelation)that determine the actions of our leadership.”
    My view is that problems with the ‘obedience culture’ many complain of, could be alleviated if those members felt they had a voice that was heard, instead of being told to shut up, knuckle down , not worry about that, or any of the many other things people can be told sometimes when they try to raise issues. See my remarks on unity #16.
    #14 “The main point I am trying to make is that we of the church have little idea of what the prophets are up to.”
    Well, that really, is the essence of the problem IMO.

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  18. Andrew S. on March 22, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    re 15,

    Hedgehog,

    re point 1, fair enough on humility vs. charisma. I would think on vision, that even if it’s God’s vision over there own, there should be a way to be really passionate about that. (Which I guess that’s a “your mileage may vary” sort of thing.)

    I totally agree that persuasion with love, patience, long-suffering, etc., is preferable to coercion. In fact, when I was writing up my summary of differences between leadership and management, what struck me at least was the idea that a *manager* has built-in capability to coerce (because the manager has institutional power)…persuasion doesn’t work on coercion to begin with, however.

    Really good points on the limits to the sacrifice model.

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  19. Will on March 22, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    “Do you feel the LDS church has the balance right between management and spiritual leadership?”

    YES. The presiding bishopric manages most of the business aspects of the church, while the presiding quorums offer the spiritual insight and counsel. I for one am extremely inspired and motivated each conference. I like some talks better than others and some apostles are better speakers than others, but overall their message does exactly what it should – cry repentance and testify of Christ.

    As for Mike’s concern about the 3,000 Million spent on City Creek, it was a great investment paid for by non-tithed funds. If you have a 10 percent cash on cash return that equates to about 300 Million per year. That is a huge chunk of change that yells financial stability. In contrast, I wish our government was that wise and effective with our money.

    “Can the qualities which make a good manager also make a good spiritual leader (and vice versa)?”

    NO. I see local leaders for instance that are called for their leadership skills, but are not as spiritual as others in the ward. In contrast, I have had local leaders that have been extremely spiritual, but have little managerial skills.

    “What reforms would you suggest?”

    None. I like the way it is setup. I like the presiding quorums and who is involved. I find them to be men of God.

    “What might we learn from the new Pope?”

    For me: nothing. I have never listened to a pope and have no desire to do so, I have enough to read and learn from the presiding quorums and LDS scriptures of my own faith.

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  20. Howard on March 22, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    Hedgehog,
    I often offer an unvarnished view from a different perspective than you would ever hear at church for the purpose of stimulating thought.

    On the plus side I’m actually quite amazed that in 3,000 stakes around the world wards offer homogenous services with the consistency of a McDonalds product every Sunday and I realize this takes some adaptation to pull it off. For example I attended a ward made up of mostly seniors and when one large young family was out of town there was no Aaronic priesthood because they were all members of that family. So Melchizedek holders prepared and passed the sacrament. But these adaptations do not extend to say commonly allowing tribal dress in place of white shirts and dresses or drums and local Hymns or not wearing garments near the equator or other hot regions or drinking green tea one of the healthiest liquids on earth in Japan. So, yes adaptations are allowed but they are restricted to very narrow limits.

    I’m a 5th/6th generation Mormon and comparing what I read in my family’s history to what is offered at church today yes the balance has swung away from revelation and spirituality toward 1950s management of pharisaical rules. …you’d like to see more Joseph Smith-style revelation. I would love to see the brethren reaching for it, but that is not evident in any way. What is evident when we read even church sources about the OD2 revelation is the church had been astray on the issue of blacks since Brigham and after at least months of pondering, fasting and praying fairly beginning level methods of inspiration were used to receive this “revelation” and it was seen by the brethren as a big deal! Compare this to Joseph, Jesus or Moses. So it is clear that far more is available from the heavens but we aren’t really reaching for it. Instead we are content with conference talks, with skim milk instead of meat while 2/3 of the plates remain sealed.

    The there is the isolation, celebrity and top down only communication from the brethren with no method of approaching them directly as Zelophehad’s daughters did Moses. Local units don’t even communicate with a GA they communicate with “Salt Lake”. In other words local units communicate with a bureaucracy at the home office. Yet tithing money quickly and efficiently finds it’s way to SLC. It’s sad really.

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  21. Howard on March 22, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    What reforms would you recommend that would open up the “visionary, proactive leadership” you feel is lacking? President McKay practiced early morning prayerful meditation these are beginning steps to opening the heavens. I would love to see the brethren lead in early morning prayerful meditation by the most spiritually capable of the group. Then from there all they need to do is follow the Spirit, it may take years but as the heavens open the most spiritually capable among them is chosen as Prophet of the church and he becomes the spiritual visionary quite separate from the administrative office of President.

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  22. Howard on March 22, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Kd,
    Comparing Joseph Smith to modern prophets is NOT a mistake. Great Prophets like Joseph, Jesus and Moses set the bar for what is possible to receive from God. By making this comparison we are able to roughly gauge where we are currently relative to what has been demonstrated as possible and where we are currently is in spiritual preschool. I know many non-members who are more spiritually advanced than this.

    Kd, managing and administrating means marching in place spiritually. Why is this good for us? …if we ourselves are stuck in the so-called minutia. So it’s up to the body of the church to lead itself out of the minutia? The brethren’s job is to follow the members not lead them?

    Sorry Kd but I know God and he is not asking us to march in place!

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  23. Howard on March 22, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    Will,
    Even the presiding bishopric disagrees with you that City Creek was a great investment!

    No one would undertake the City Creek project if the financial rewards were the only thing they were looking at because it will not “pencil out” to great return numbers, Bishop Burton said.

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  24. Mike S on March 22, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    #19 Will: “What might we learn from the new Pope?” For me: nothing.

    This is sad. I have learned a tremendous amount from the Pope and Catholicism, as well as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. I am a better Mormon for having studied all of these other faiths and what they have to offer.

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  25. Mike S on March 22, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    #16 Hedgehog: I’m racking my brains for the variety of experience we have amongst the 12 at the moment

    Luckily, you don’t have to. There is a post on By Common Consent that did just that.

    A summary from that post: A large proportion of GAs were in some field of business before beginning service, if one counts law firms, something well over 70%.

    Also from that post: Seriously, this is the same trend noted by Mauss. As he points out, science was a represented field among GAs until mid-20th century when it dropped out of sight as retrenchment was starting to take hold. Church expansion meant increased challenges in finance and administrative pressures.

    I predict, based on the data, that we are unlikely to see theological fun from Salt Lake. While the pendulum may be swinging back from “retrenchment” in some respects, it seems unlikely that we are going to see church leaders drawn from disciplines of basic science or history, etc. You guys, don’t count on that office suite at 47 East. (grin) There is not going to be any engagement with, well, thorny stuff from religious studies and so on. (See Mauss pp. 81ff.)

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  26. Mike S on March 22, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    My beef with the current “business” aspect of the church with two examples:

    1) On my mission, we had one round of zone conferences. An AP stood up and wrote three parallel lines on the chalkboard and asked “What’s that?” No one knew. He said it was 111, the number of hours that he worked the prior week. We were in a small town at the time that hadn’t had missionaries for 30+ years and had no members. We were knocking on doors 10 hours a day in below freezing weather. Following all the rules, we “turned in” 65 hours / week. He told us if we got better numbers like him, we would be more successful (which actually wasn’t possible, unless we gave up studying or stayed up later). The rest of the zone conference was a similar focus on statistics and numbers and such.

    The result: Everyone got pissed off and demoralized because of the “business” focus. There wasn’t a single baptism in the entire mission for the next 2 months. Zero.

    2) Fast-forward to current day. Last month I was asked about home teaching numbers. One of my families is inactive and part-member. We are good friends. I told them that I didn’t give them a formal visit, so yet again my response is “no visit”. I was asked if I’d even just said hi to them in the previous month and if I wanted to count that. I replied that I talk to them all the time, as they’re friends. And they could check whatever box they wanted for home teaching.

    So the numbers are meaningless. I was counted as doing my “home teaching” because I said hi to my neighbor as I drove by? Seriously? Yet the EQ gets hammered on to get his “home teaching” stats up by the stake – who gets hammered on by their leaders – and so on.

    These are just a few examples. I’m come to hate the business-aspect of numbers and tracking in the Church. But I suppose that’s why I’m not a businessman.

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  27. Mike S on March 22, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    #19 Will: about the 3,000 Million spent on City Creek, it was a great investment paid for by non-tithed funds.

    I can’t see Pope Francis spending $3 billion on a shopping mall.

    I think of 1 Nephi where we read: “And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.”

    OK – maybe not the harlots, but the rest of that sounds like the most expensive shopping mall in the world.

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  28. Howard on March 22, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    Btw, I’m a businessman and I believe a business model is necessary for administering the business of the church but not it’s spiritual business! A 1950s hierarchical model? No thanks! That model is inefficient and passe in business today it was put out of business by computerization making a much more efficient and flexible flat network model possible and that model empowers it’s members. So who does a 1950s model appeal to? God or octogenarians who cut their teeth on that top down control freek model?

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  29. dorothy on March 22, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    If you were to undertake a study of what a “harlot” symbolizes in the Old Testament as well as the Book of Mormon, you would probably not feel that you need to exempt that descriptor from the verse you quoted.

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  30. Hedgehog on March 22, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Howard,
    #20: I was surprised your view of adaptations was so narrow. Most of what you mentioned I wouldn’t actually count as adaptations at all. I had in mind adaptations to programs, and in some cases pretty extensive adaptations at that, when I wrote that area authorities could be empowering local leaders to do that kind of thing. There are lots of things that work well in Utah, where (I imagine) you can pretty much walk over to church, or your primary teacher’s home or wherever, which can be very draining to run over a more extensive geographical area, or which are a poor fit with local education systems or whatever. So for instance, in a lot of places in Japan there are no weekday youth activities, it doesn’t work for the leaders, because of the employment culture or the youth, because of the way schools work. It bugs me hugely that our youth in Britain are expected to start seminary at the very time, and for the full 4 years when they are taking the extensive public examination courses required for their futures. If it was down to me, they’d all be allowed to do it online, and the weekly class would be held on a Sunday. CES seem to apply overly stringent rules about who can and can’t work online, and have a horror of holding the class Sundays. The pressure is immense, many drop out of seminary, but are made to feel less than because they did so. There are many things I’d cut wholesale, Howard. Hatchet job probably. My view is, local leaders have far more power than they think they do, and could stand up for the local membership a lot more over these issues. But the middle management can get in the way, when it could instead be building confidence to lead.

    I’m definitely with you you on the faceless communication with Salt Lake. To me it looks like poor practice, and it doesn’t help accountability.

    #21: That sounds lovely.

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  31. Hedgehog on March 22, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    Mike
    #25: Thanks for the link, new to me since it was posted before I was aware of bloggernacle.

    #26: I agree. It can be really bugging, on the one hand to be told that we need to build friendships with the people on out lists, but then be asked to quantify that friendship for the numbers game. Having said that, as an introvert, I do find VT to be a good way to get to know people.

    #27: “I can’t see Pope Francis spending $3 billion on a shopping mall.”
    Indeed, especially given that he said he regretted the wealth of the church.

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  32. Jeff Spector on March 22, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Just because they look like a bunch of 1950s businessmen does not mean they act like it.

    The Church jumped on technology before a lot of mainstream technology companies.

    The Church is also quite progressive in the building program and incorporating environmental advances and use of green technology.

    I think the organizational structure has been changed to meet the needs of a growing Church. While we would all like a flatter organization, the eliminations of Area Presidencies gives the local Stake President more access to the Presidents of Seventy and other leaders. We are always hearing about meetings that the Stake President has with members of the 12.

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  33. Howard on March 22, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    A flat network business organization is much more than just organizationally flat it is creatively interactive rather than top down monolog. It is closed loop rather than open loop commanded. It is the type of organization that could be taught correct principles and almost be allowed to govern themselves.

    Of course this requires trusting and self confident leaders at the top. Someone who feels uncomfortable by the sacrament being handled by women in tribal dress might not be well suited for the job!

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  34. kd on March 22, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Hedgehog,

    Thanks for the response and I actually agree with several of your points. For example, I allow that I have had a generally pleasant experience in the church that not everyone shares. However, I actually am more critical of local leadership (whom I don’t really separate from the body of the church) than I would ever be with General Authorities. In this case I do think we could make an improvement to move away from numbers. For example, my mission president really upended the mission by going from reporting like 12 different kinds of numbers to 4 and required us to think of the people who those numbers represent. I’m sure that such reforms could be instituted through the church, but not to repeat myself I think that’s more a local/membership problem than a general leadership problem.

    That being said I do understand the point that leadership come from the general membership. Perhaps its not an intellectually satisfying point, but I trust the Lord when it comes to who is made a General Authority. I don’t see them as perfect people and I even get annoyed when people kind of glorify them (there was a 70 at a meeting in my mission with an Apostle and made the comparison between his greeting to us and the Lord’s ministering to the one. I thought it an odd comparison since I had seen much more personable greetings). However, I think that we ought to give a huge amount of respect to the office. I’m always impressed by the example of Orson Pratt by giving in to Brigham Young when they disagreed.

    That being said I think that there needs to be discussion in church of the difficult issues. As these discussions are made we need to remember that the Apostles will always be privileged to information and revelation that we will never have access to. Not knowing what they are up to for me is the essence of faith, we have to trust them because they are the ones ordained to lead the church.

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  35. kd on March 22, 2013 at 4:58 PM

    Howard,
    Comparing Joseph to Monson is a false analogy, the quintessential apple and orange. Joseph Smith had to bring back a whole system of theology and I personally don’t think we need something that elaborate. However, as I tried to point out before in the whole history of revelation such an outpouring of revelation usually comes in a concentrated amount of time. However, the prophets Alma, Helaman, and Mormon all presided over times with relatively few ‘new’ revelations but rather were trying to perfect the church by focusing on the fundamentals. Are they not great prophets?

    True leadership is knowing when to expand new revelation and when to focus on fundamentals. We have been promised that as the body of the church becomes ready for revelation, it will be given. This is the Lord’s way, He waits until we have a good handle on current principles before we receive more.

    To emphasize my point, I return to the story of Mormon. He was restrained by the readiness of the people to receive not just “new” revelation, but even the fundamentals. This shows that the ultimate responsibility of improving the church lies in the church itself.

    As for leadership, if you look at recent conference talks, the emphasis has been on growing our spiritual capacities.If we are to improve (and from your comments in other places our definition of that word is different) then we have to have a handle on what we have before we get more. One can’t teach calculus to preschoolers.

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  36. Howard on March 22, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    Kd,
    I thought your last comment to Hedgehog was well stated.

    You wrote: We have been promised that as the body of the church becomes ready for revelation, it will be given. This is the Lord’s way, He waits until we have a good handle on current principles before we receive more.

    “…It will be given.” Well I know this is a common LDS belief but maybe you’d like to take a look at what President Kimball had to say about receiving revelation in a letter to his son regarding OD 2: Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired. I think few people receive revelations while lounging on the couch or while playing cards or while relaxing. I believe most revelations would come when a man is on his tip toes, reaching as high as he can for something which he knows he needs, and then there bursts upon him the answer to his problems.. So perhaps desiring them and reaching for them is a part of the body being ready?

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  37. Geoff - A on March 22, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    I believe the leadership of the church has problems because of the age and background of the present leaders. Also because of the selection process for the Apostles and potential Apostles.

    I think there should be a retirement age of 80 for Apostles. Christ said 72 in BOM, but medical science may allow 80. This would retire the top 10 and leave the Prophet to be selected from Uchtdorf (my choice), Holland, or Cook, if done by seniority, but by merit would be even better.

    The next problem is the culture that promoted compliant men and performers, over those who were always seeking for a better way. So apart from at least half of the new apostles being non USA born, I’m not sure where you find people who want to have the Church as a vehicle to help us to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as opposed to a vehicle to spread Utah culture to the world.

    I think a church lead by Uchtdorf (before he much older), with younger, open minded apostles, might be capable of receiving revelation, again.

    It seems to me the default position (if there is no revelation) is to rely on your own culture. Utah 50 or 60 years ago at present.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have Prophet who would ask the Lord, what our attitude should be toward Gay Marriage, or woman and the priesthood, and be confident we had the Lords answer.

    How do we suggest to the leaders they should follow Pope Benidict and retire at 80? I believe this would solve most of the problems of the church hierarchy.

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  38. Will on March 22, 2013 at 10:13 PM

    What would be nice is if the members would support and sustain their leaders rather than complain about their age.

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  39. Roger on March 23, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    All organizations of any size and complexity suffer from means/ends inversions and the toll on decency and dignity can be significant—there are no exceptions, whether one considers the HRC Church, the LDS Church, GE, NASA or Apple. Seduction by quant-jocks into measuring intermediate outcomes or inch stones becomes all-consuming.

    I remember the story of a now-retired BYU Organizational Behavior professor (those who know him will recognize him) who, while serving as a bishop in a ward located in a Big Ten university town, would submit his monthly statistical reports up the hierarchy only after scrawling with a heavy marker through the Totals row, “my greatest concern is that our members don’t love each other enough”.

    Maybe that is why Thomas Monson invests in telling us about serving one another rather than giving us revelations on when the Holy Ghost will get a body or whether Eve had a navel.

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  40. Howard on March 23, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    So since a little abuse is normal it should be ignored? Eve having a navel is of far less interest than if she can hold the priesthood, high calling or marry and be sealed to her girlfriend. Do these questions not touch on loving one another? Is an exclusionary church more loving than an inclusive church? Is exclusion fine as long as you are included? Is that loving one another?

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  41. dorothy on March 23, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    re: #34
    you said: As these discussions are made we need to remember that the Apostles will always be privileged to information and revelation that we will never have access to. Not knowing what they are up to for me is the essence of faith, we have to trust them because they are the ones ordained to lead the church.

    I believe everything contained in this statement is contrary to scripture. IMO it is false doctrine and represents what is really wrong with our top-down corporate organization. Joseph told us that everything he possessed in the way of spiritual gifts and PH was available to even the least among the Saints (paraphrasing, sorry).

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  42. Roger on March 23, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    Whoa—-Howard……

    I’m obviously failing to communicate. I believe I decried the “toll on dignity and decency” found in this church and others. I know a little about feelings of exclusion. I haven’t attended a quorum meeting in any of my home wards in almost 30 years. Because when I did and expressed a concern like those you’ve articulated and others, I get answers and reproofs like those found in #19 and # 32.

    Sisters, you’re missing out on very little.

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  43. Howard on March 23, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    Sorry if I misunderstood Roger!

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  44. Geoff - A on March 23, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    Will 38. I have no idea how old you are, I am 65. My father is 87. To ask him to be an apostle would be “elder abuse” It becomes increasingly difficult to make your body do as you want as you pass 65. My father was a sealer in the temple and then in the temple presidency until he could no longer cope at about 78.

    It is very noble that you unquestioningly support the leaders.

    I am the kind of person who is always looking for a way to improve life. I live in an abnormal house, I drive a different car.

    I question whether we have the model for the best possible leadership of the church to take us forward. There is plenty of evidence that the Lord allows the leadership of the church to exercise their own judgement, and then confirms their decision when they correct course.

    I can not think of any benefit to a succession system where 10 of the top 15 are over 80. I can think of a number of benefits to having someone young (early 70) and vital enough to actually lead and with enough energy to seek revelation from the Lord.

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  45. Hedgehog on March 24, 2013 at 2:39 AM

    Jeff , #32:
    Where do you live, that you don’t have an area presidency? (http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/08/new-area-leaders-assigned?lang=eng)

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  46. Hedgehog on March 24, 2013 at 3:10 AM

    Will, #19,38
    I think I recall from previous comments on other posts that you live in Utah. It makes a lot of sense that you are going to be happier with the status quo in that circumstance. The programs and so forth were developed in Utah, and are bound to be a better fit for the members there. It’s great that you are happy, but a little bit of understanding for those in other parts of the world might not be amiss sometimes.
    It is CES that riles me most about the current organisation. From where I am, those running CES would appear to be paid employees, not people serving in callings that we have been required to sustain in that service. As such I’m hoping you might feel happier discussing this particular area at least. And if ever a part of the organisation looked like it was bent on justifying its own existence, well that’s what CES looks like from where I’m sitting, with their very dubious interpretations of statistics that they are constantly pushing down our throats.
    I raised my issues for the students in an earlier comment (#30). I also have a lot of sympathy for the teachers on the ground delivering the CES curricula in this country. They are given callings to do just that. Extremely heavy and burdensome callings, that they take on with faith because they are asked/called. My observation is that CES do not care for, or nurture those teachers. Lesson quality is variable, but those called really do put in their all, often to the detriment of their own personal physical and mental health, and to the detriment of their families. CES would seem to chew people up and then spit them out when they’ve drained every last drop. I taught institute at one point. I was working full-time, with a long commute. I wanted to do justice to the lessons, and to the students. My life for that year, was work and institute, all the spare time I had was put into preparing the lesson for the following week, so that it would be worth the while of the students who put in the effort to attend. At the end of that year, I said that’s it. I’m not prepared to spend another year on this gruelling schedule. But not everyone feels able to pull out. They keep on going until it breaks them. I have seen it happen, particularly with the seriously gruelling schedule that a daily seminary teacher who also works full-time has to endure. CES do not appear to care for these people. They do not seem to care that the system requires such extreme sacrifice, they appear totally inflexible, with very much a one-size fits all approach in the way they go about it. They seem to stamp all over local concerns, and appear to exhibit little respect for local leaders. I’d like to be wrong, but this is my personal observation. Would I want to reform CES? It’s on the very top of my list.

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  47. Will on March 24, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    The financially poor cannot help the financially poor, at least not from a financial standpoint. I am proud and greatful our leaders makes good financial decisions with the Lord’s money. I am glad they have 3 BB (al least in investment dollars). It screams stability, which means they are ABLE to help the needy.

    As for age, The Lord told Adam by the sweat of thy brough shall thou eat all the days of thy life. He never intended for us to retire at 65 and then be a financial burden to others the rest of our life. For an example of this poor model in action, look to the social security program. As for the senior, a body at rest, stays at rest. It is not good for thier soul. It is a lose, lose situation. It is not a companionate model. One if the main reasons I support the Lords way of working tirelessly until you die, is that it truly benefits the old. And, from the current apostles and prophet, we truly benefit from thier wisdom. It is a win, win situation from God.

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  48. Howard on March 24, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    Will,
    Many of the finically poor are dying everyday due to malnutrition, thirst and easily curable disease. When (how many more need to die) do you think the church balance sheet will strong enough for the accountants to allow treauge and help to be given to them?

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