Brother Jake: Mormons are Not Sexist

By: Bro. Jake
April 18, 2013

brother jakeI decided to do an experiment: if you ran through all the explanations for why the structure of Mormonism isn’t sexist back to back, how long would it take before you completely contradicted yourself?

Turns out about 30 seconds.

For all we try and magnify the positive and downplay the negative, the fact of the matter is that the Mormon doctrine of priesthood structure is blatantly sexist. You can’t really get around it—believe me, I’ve tried. But at the end of the day, I’m part of an organization that systematically discriminates people of a certain gender from holding positions of influence above a certain point in its hierarchy.

That’s it. Game over. Sexist.

Now, people can choose how to respond to this fact. Denying or ignoring the issue is common, and honestly, I don’t blame anybody for going that route—many people have deep, powerful spiritual ties to the Church. They’ve experienced life-changing hope and nourishment from its teachings, and the idea that the organization that brought them so much joy is also sexist is repulsive, so they turn a blind eye to a troublesome fact. But for others, the issue is something of a deal breaker. I include a wide spectrum of responses under this umbrella, from those that distance themselves from the church altogether over this issue to those that ask what many see as “uncomfortable questions” about it in Sunday school. The thing these people have in common is that the issue of systemic sexism is something they cannot be actively or passively complicit with. It conflicts with their perception of the basic tenants of morality and compels them to act—so they speak, they question, and in many cases, they call for change. This can’t really be what God means. This is a cultural bias projected on the Church structure. We can weed out the human error eventually.

Over the past few years, I’ve transitioned from the first to the second group, and I have met like-minded people. The more we have talked, the more I have become aware of one common element in our experience: when something about Church policy conflicted with what we felt deep down was right, we tended to detach ourselves from either the orthodox Mormon view of God, or the idea of God altogether. And truthfully, I don’t find that reaction surprising in the least; after all, how can one believe in and worship a God whose value system and moral compass differ so wildly from his or her own?

The encouraging thing is that the scriptures provide enough rays of hope to allow for the possibility of a more equality-oriented, socially conscious God than that depicted in orthodox Mormonism. We can hope for the God embodied in Christ, who valued women highly during his ministry and first appeared to women after his resurrection.[i] We can hope for the God who called Emma to be an ordained spiritual instructor to the early church.[ii] We can hope for the God that finally, finally allowed a woman to pray in General Conference.

But lately, a terrifying thought has been slowly growing in the back of my mind: what if the Boyd K. Packers of the world are right? What if God exists AND He’s a jerk? What if, for all our social evolution and striving for a kinder, gentler, more equal world, He gets here and chews out women for speaking publicly? Or working outside the home? Or not submitting to their husbands?

What if all the worst interpretations of God’s motives and actions in the scriptures are the most accurate, and in reality He ends up being the God who killed a guy who was just trying to protect the Ark,[iii] or the God who fired Saul for not following through on genocide,[iv] or the God who manipulatively badgered Emma for her complicity in polygamy?[v] What if God ends up being more Javert and less Valjean after all?

Perish the thought.

In the meantime, I’ll just make my little videos.

 


[i] Mark 16:9

[ii] D&C 25:7-8

[iii] 1 Chr. 13:9-12

[iv] 1 Sam. 15:18-22

[v] D&C 132:52-55

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52 Responses to Brother Jake: Mormons are Not Sexist

  1. Jenn on April 18, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Hear, hear. Well done.

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  2. Chris on April 18, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    Great post, Bro. Jake. Since Jesus Christ set the perfect example of how women should be treated and will be treated in the hereafter, I know how He expects Church leaders to behave and how women will be respected and cherished on an equal basis with men in the eternities to come.

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  3. Howard on April 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Ha ha too funny! Very, very well done video! It sums up years of Bloggernacle discussion!

    No need to waste time on any more discussions about this just post the link and play the video! You’ll end up at the same place in a lot less time.

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  4. Leah on April 18, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    The funny thing about that video is how many people I know that would watch it, and say, “Yes, exactly.” and not get that it is satirical at all.

    I’m sorry, did I say funny? I meant aggravating and depressing.

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  5. Anony on April 18, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    You’ve captured my recent feelings so perfectly it’s scary. I’ve been ghosting about on the bloggernacle for a while, and you’ve brought me temporarily out of hiding to say thanks. It’s oddly reassuring when someone out there in the universe articulates exactly what’s been eating at you. As I’ve confronted my feelings about sexism in the church, I have found the distance between myself and God growing greater–you hit the nail on the head when you said “how can one believe in and worship a God whose value system and moral compass differ so wildly from his or her own?” Following your same terrifying thought that the Boyd K. Packers of the world might be right, I’ve gone down the dark avenue of wondering whether women even matter to God, or whether we’re capable of being fully exalted. I’m still wallowing in that pit a little, though I’ve begun to contemplate trying to climb out. My only hope–really, my only hope–has been Christ’s relationship with the women in his life. I can’t bring myself to trust God right now, but I am trying very hard to take comfort in the idea that at least Christ is my advocate. He loved women and treated them well, and he’s the one who will be interceding for me at God’s throne. Because if the God of Ark-zapping is the real deal, I’m going to need a whole lot of intercession.

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  6. Nancy Ross on April 18, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    Hilarious and so painful at the same time.

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  7. RockiesGma on April 18, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Chris, could you explain what you mean by, or why, “in the eternities,” please? Why not now? Thank you.

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  8. Will on April 18, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    Alma 5:30-31

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  9. ji on April 18, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    D&C 45:29.

    Some may mock, but I believe God is entirely fair. Jesus Christ did set the perfect example of how women should be treated and will be treated in the hereafter, and Church leaders respect and cherish women on an equal basis with men.

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  10. hawkgrrrl on April 18, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    There’s a big difference between god and humans. Or at least I hope so. There’s also a huge difference between how different leaders behave with regard to women. The level of inspiration sometimes fails to be inspiring to me.

    Great post, Bro. Jake. Succinctly put.

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  11. Will on April 18, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    I don’t see the Churches position to be sexist at all. I think The Family : A Proclaimiation to The World as the most inspired document since the Book of Mormon

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  12. hawkgrrrl on April 18, 2013 at 9:11 PM

    I have to seriously consider whether the church would be a better place if everyone but Will left it.

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  13. Douglas on April 18, 2013 at 9:57 PM

    #12 – then WHO, pray tell, could the leaders rag on in General Conference, especially PH session?

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  14. Uh..Oh on April 18, 2013 at 11:23 PM

    Wow! Watching your clip was the best laugh I’ve had all day.

    One question…How the heck can you talk that fast and have it all come out the way you want it?

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  15. Why Not on April 18, 2013 at 11:47 PM

    I found the humor in your post refreshing. Me thinks W&T has become waaaaay to serious about life. Don’t get me wrong. Life can be a serious proposition. Humor can make a day tolerable.

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  16. Mark G on April 19, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    Preach on Brother Jake!
    Keep making the videos :)

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  17. Roger on April 19, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    #12—

    Will and his clones are the only ones left. The rest of us got tired of swallowing bile.

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  18. Arcadian on April 19, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Jake, you made my day with this and other videos. We really need the humor to counter the frustration and depression that reality inevitably incites within us.

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  19. Bruce Bogtrotter on April 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Jake – fantastic video.

    The final point in your post is reminiscent of Stephen Law’s Evil God Challenge. He posits that any argument in support of a benevolent god who permits evil can be flipped on it’s head to invoke a malevolent god who allows good.

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  20. Will on April 19, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Roger,

    The vast majority of Temple recommend holders (the heart and mind of the church) believe we follow living Prophets and Apostles. In this group, I believe I am with the majority and don’t really care what anyone else thinks.

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  21. Andrew S on April 19, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    Will,

    If you don’t really care what anyone else thinks, then why do you even comment? I mean, isn’t a discussion really about engaging with what other people think?

    If you would like a platform where you don’t have to pay attention to what anyone else thinks, then I would suggest that you get your own blog.

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  22. Sherry on April 19, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    way too cool brother Jake….you need to show this in every p-hood and RS meeting!

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  23. Roger on April 19, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    Will–

    The Pharisees and Saducees were as equally cocksure of their own standing,

    Try Luke 18:9-14 on for size.

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  24. Will on April 19, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    Andrew,

    To me, it is about defending what I see as the truth. Defending the Prophets and Apostles as sexists pigs for instance. The personal insults don’t really bug me anymore; you get use to it corresponding with liberals.

    Roger,

    I would hardly equate the Prophets and Apostles to the Pharisees and Saducees, which is what this is all about. The tone of the video and this post is that the church leaders are sexist. I do not believe they are and I don’t’ feel the vast majority of temple recommend holders (men and women) don’t believe this either. That is what I am defending. I believe they are good and honorable men that are trying to do their best to lead this church in very difficult times. Like me, I think they view The Family: A Proclamation to The World as inspired. After all, they signed it as a collective group. They feel it is what is best for members, families and society as a whole.

    I think this video ‘trifles with sacred things’ and is disrespectful to the sacred calling of Women, the Lord and his church.

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  25. Roger on April 19, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    Will–
    It is not my intention to insult you since I don’t believe it possible. I was in no way referring to the Apostles and Prophets as Pharisees and Saducees. That characterization was directed squarely at you. I view most of the Church leadership as continuing to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Somehow you’re the only one not seeing through a glass darkly.

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  26. Andrew S on April 19, 2013 at 4:58 PM

    re 24,

    Will,

    That would be a great thing to do on your own blog. Please let us know if you have no intentions of refraining from using the W&T comments as your own personal blog and we will help

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  27. hawkgrrrl on April 19, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    What’s great about the video is that these are the arguments members muster (not necessarily leaders, although sometimes) to defend the indefensible. Whenever we come up with convoluted arguments or have to change the definitions of words (preside = ask to say prayers) or make contradictory arguments (polygamy is an eventual reality for all, polygamy was only practiced by a few), we should recognize we’re on shaky logical ground. That’s how PH ban folklore was perpetuated. Unfortunately, it’s how most of our classes are taught. This is how the unwritten doctrine of the church pervades.

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  28. Chris on April 19, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    RockiesGma #7,

    Right now the belief that I have the God is not sexist and will treat women with kindness and fairness in the hereafter keeps me sane! Over the years, I have seen women marginalized and denigrated on so many levels in the Church that it has broken my heart. I have spent decades in Church leadership as a woman and can testify that misogyny is everwhere in the LDS patriarchal culture and is causing many women to leave the Church.

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  29. daniel parkinson on April 20, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    Can I just say that your videos are brilliant!

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  30. brjones on April 21, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    It seems odd to me that anyone would say that jesus set the example of how to treat any group of people, considering his barbaric track record as god of the old testament. Beyond that, this post demonstrates aptly why I don’t particularly care whether the church, or any other church, is true. If god exists, he has been clear about his lack of respect for human beings individually or as a group. As society progresses, religions can attempt to soften prejudicial or discriminatory doctrines of the past, but if those teachings or policies ever represented the will of god, then he is a hateful bigot who has no claim to the respect of any person simply by virtue of who he is. If by their fruits we may know “them,” then god fails that test miserably, and it’s not close.

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  31. Lee on April 24, 2013 at 4:44 AM

    I disagree. You fail to define the term “sexist.” It has many negative connotations that you falsely ascribe to the Church. Just because you’re purporting to reluctantly “admit” that the Church is sexist does not make it accurate. I think the best you can do is admit that you are sexist. The Church differentiates between the genders. That is not the same thing as being sexist.

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  32. hawkgrrrl on April 24, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    sexist = discriminatory based on sex; behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

    discriminatory = responding differently to two stimuli that differ in some manner

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  33. Lee on April 24, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    You’re confusing sexism with legitimate differentiation. Doesn’t hold up.

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  34. hawkgrrrl on April 24, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    Try that sentence again but substitute racism for sexism,and you’ve got every racist person’s argument why segregation was vitally important.

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  35. Lee on April 24, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    No. Racism and sexism are not interchangeable. There is no good reason to differentiate between blacks and whites. There are legitimate reasons requiring differentiation between male and female.

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  36. Douglas on April 25, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    #35 – Actually, there IS a reason to differentiate between black and white, and I see with almost every episode of “Cops”. Is such a distinction necessary insofar as the Gospel of Jesus Christ? No, with the exception of that “little” thing which became moot on 8 Jan 1978.

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  37. Lee on April 25, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    #35 – No. Too much TV.

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  38. brjones on April 25, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    #36 – What the hell?

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  39. hawkgrrrl on April 25, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    Simple answer = Mormons are sexist in doctrine and culture.

    Middle ground = Some Mormons are sexist; the culture is sexist. The doctrine needs to be stripped of sexism over time.

    Mental gymnastics = let’s redefine words like “sexist” and “preside” and “modesty.” If we make our own dictionary, nobody can accuse us based on the other “worldly” definitions that are in fact the real meanings of these words.

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  40. Andrew S. on April 25, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    re 31, 33

    Lee,

    You’re shifting the goalposts. First, you noted that sexism was not defined. Now that sexism is defined, you disagree with the definition. And certainly, you are free to personally disagree with the definition of sexism. However, in a conversation, you are interacting with other people, so at the very least you have to take into consideration the opinions and definitions of those others.

    And the issue is that for the vast majority of society, sexism would exactly be: “discriminatory based on sex; behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex”.

    The real challenge is that for someone who believes that the social role expectations and stereotypes the church has (or that society has) are legitimate based on legitimate distinctions from sex (such as yourself, apparently), you are going to believe that discrimination is justified. But the issue is that most people in society don’t agree. You might say this is because the prophets are “in the world, but not of it” or because the church is not afraid to stand up against “political correctness,” but to a lot of other people, this is going to look instead just like “Mormons are sexist.”

    In other words, asserting that in reality there are a wide range of legitimate differences among the sexes that justify that women should not have the priesthood, etc., etc., when most members in society would not recognize such a wide range of differences as being legitimate (even if most people would recognize that there are at least *some* legitimate differences between the sexes) is precisely a sexist attitude.

    I’ll use an example: most people in society would definitely say that there is at least a difference between the sexes in that men don’t get pregnant and women (at least women who are not infertile, not androgen-insensitive XY, etc.,) can get pregnant. But *most* people in society do not think that the different capabilities of the sexes to become pregnant justifies exclusion from leadership roles (e.g., “priesthood”) or a reprioritization of life choices (e.g., women should prioritize the home over a career just because they are the ones who can become pregnant.) So if you think that it follows that because someone has two XX chromosomes, or because someone has certain body parts, or because someone has the capability to bear children, that this should more broadly determine the life choices they should make, there is a real question as to whether that is sexist!

    I think the racism and sexism analogy is very appropriate — because it points out that for socially constructed categories like race and yes, like sex, there is going to be difference on what one believes is “legitimate” differentiation and what another believes is not. So, Lee, you yourself believe that there aren’t legitimate differences between races (but there are for sexes)…Douglas disagrees in 36 (and he has, as far as I know, also disagreed elsewhere.) The issue cannot be resolved decisively precisely because the categories are socially renegotiated constantly.

    What I can say confidently is that we can contrast perspectives. From X’s perspective, a particular differentiation is legitimate. From Y’s perspective, a particular differentiation is illegitimate, and therefore racist, sexist, etc.,

    And so for me, I would look at what people in greater society in general would say: the church is overtly sexist today, the church was overtly racist until 1978, and Douglas is overtly racist even today.

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  41. Lee on April 26, 2013 at 12:11 AM

    Of course “discrimination” is incorrectly defined above – according to the “definition” that suits the commenter’s opinion. The correct definition is “to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing on the basis of the group, class, or category to which the person or thing belongs rather than according to actual merit” The key term there is “in favor of” – and since the Church differentiates between men and women, but does not favor one over the other, it does not “discriminate”. This is a very common obfuscation used by liberal thinkers – if you do not treat men and women as being the same, then you must be discriminatory. The false dilemma is cured by realizing that differentiation is not the same as discrimination.

    hawkgrrl, your response is trite and fails to address the merits.

    Andrew, yours is too long to read. But the short answer is with the correct definition, it is clear that the Church is not sexist.

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  42. Andrew S. on April 26, 2013 at 12:23 AM

    re 41,

    Lee,

    When the church makes priesthood male only, it is making a distinction in favor of men and against women on the basis of a category to which those people belong (i.e., sex) rather than actual merit. [I would note that if you’re in favor of the priesthood exclusion, your argument would NOT be that the church isn’t making a distinction in favor of men and against women on the basis of a category to which those people belong. Rather, your argument is that that category (“sex”) has actual merit.)

    This is a very common obfuscation used by liberal thinkers – if you do not treat men and women as being the same, then you must be discriminatory.

    By default, YES, if you treat women and men differently, you are discriminating.

    The question is whether discrimination is justified or not. For example, in the workplace, legal discrimination is allowed when there are bona fide occupational qualifications involved.

    It seems that you are uncomfortable with the word discrimination, so you actually say the same thing, but you put it like this:

    The false dilemma is cured by realizing that differentiation is not the same as discrimination.

    Anyway,

    hawkgrrl, your response is trite and fails to address the merits.

    Andrew, yours is too long to read. But the short answer is with the correct definition, it is clear that the Church is not sexist.

    If you do not plan to actually engage people on the substance of their comments, but will instead 1) dismiss some responses as being trite and 2) dismiss other responses as being ‘too long to read’, then I would suggest that you can instead find a different site to read and comment at.

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  43. Lee on April 26, 2013 at 12:35 AM

    Andrew,

    Still too long.

    Ah, the old liberal “take your ball and go home because we don’t like your opinion.” To that I say: Screw you.

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  44. Andrew S on April 26, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    re 43,

    Lee,

    It’s not your opinion that people don’t like. It’s the fact that you don’t appear to actually want to engage in a conversation with people. You just want to put your position out there and then dismiss everyone else.

    And you know; it’s a free country; there are certainly venues for you to do this — but those venues are on your own site.

    In other words, you don’t come into my “home” to screw me.

    If you want to call that a “liberal” value, then I’m fine with that. Either way, either start engaging people constructively or stop loitering on private property.

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  45. brjones on April 27, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    Lee, it wouldn’t be so bad that you’re an asshole if you weren’t also wrong.

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  46. FireTag on April 27, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    brjones:

    It’s being handled. Play nicely.

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  47. brjones on April 27, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Noted.

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  48. Rockies Gma on April 27, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    Thanks for responding, Chris. I understand your point. I think we better do better in the here and now, or we’re on shaky terms in the hereafter, as far as the institution goes. But I feel your pain and have experienced your reality.

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  49. Oh my... on May 1, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    I just got an email with my ward’s monthly theme for May.
    “Motherhood”
    “God trusts women so much that He lets them bear and care for his spirit children”
    I don’t know the author of the quote, but the word “lets” comes across as sexist, and what about those who don’t or can’t have children. I would argue that sexism is so ingrained that most women in the church are not aware of it. This was in the RS newsletter.

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