Melanie Stroud

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Renee lets us in on some secrets about goodly parents and how to deal with crummy days by following Nephi’s example.  

It Counts

I’ve been thinking a lot about blessings lately. When people say,  Count your many blessings, I’ve always interpreted that as counting, like, 1,2,3.  But after years of being told that everything is just a coincidence or to disregard blessings from Heaven as just luck, I am persuaded to use a different meaning of the word count. Today I want to use count like, make it count, or it counts.

This year when I don’t get to be with my children for the first Thanksgiving of my life, it counts that I was able to have 5 beautiful children at all. Right? That counts. This year I got divorced and it’s been hard. It’s not where I ever imagined I’d be at almost 47 years old. But it counts that I was able to spend so many years in love with a man who loved me back. It counts that although we had rough times and it didn’t end the way we would have wished when we started that journey together, it counts that we were able to share so much love and raise 5 beautiful children.  

This year I get to be in Alabama with my sister and her husband’s family. It counts that they have been so sweet to me and I haven’t spent one minute thinking that I wasn’t a Stroud, because they’ve treated me just like family the whole time. 

It counts that I was born into a family with awesome parents and siblings that bless my life and make me laugh. And although we lost our dad far too young, it counts that we were able to have  the best dad ever for the short time we did. It counts that he made me feel like I could do anything and had so much worth. I feel the waves of his encouragement, counsel, and love to this day; and he’s been gone 24 years.  

It counts that my mom is the most amazing woman and even before my dad died she went forward with unwavering faith and humility and courage and ended up raising six kids on her own from 49 years of age. I don’t remember seeing her ever breakdown. I didn’t ever see her shake her fist at God or ever even question, “Why me?”. She cheered us all on and made all of us feel we were the best at everything we tried. I always knew she was in my corner, praying for me, clapping for me, and bragging to all her friends about how wonderful I was.  My mom is a great example of unconditional love. She doesn’t judge the choices people make, she just loves them. Her arms are open wide to everyone within her sphere of influence. That counts for so much!

And this year especially, the fact that I was born into that family with parents who taught us not only in formal ways but by the examples and goodness of their lives that there IS a God and that He loves us counts the very most. The fact that the babe in the manger we will celebrate next month is real and that he grew into the man who hasn’t left my side this last year counts the most. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so glad that I know him, that he loves me and that he strengthens me when I’m sad or weak. I’m so grateful I have had a place to turn in my trials or in my loneliness when my kids are not with me. This year I have learned that when I feel I’m about to sink completely into my sadness, I can immediately think of Peter on the water and know the Savior is there, ready to pull me out before I get any deeper. It’s a beautiful truth.  I don’t have to get so sad or so low. I can stop the plummet by looking up sooner and reaching out quicker. He is always there and that counts!

I got a note from a mother about something her 10-year-old son said to her when they were listening to the podcast this week. He said, ” She’s a big fan of Heavenly Father, isn’t she? You can tell. It’s kind of obvious.” It was the greatest compliment I’ve had this year. The fact that a ten-year-old can feel my love and enthusiasm for my Heavenly Father in a different state, over the radio in his car, is a miracle. It counts for so much. The fact that I’ve found a way to share my testimony with the world is a miracle to me. It’s a blessing I count every day.  

So maybe this year if you look around and feel that life hasn’t dealt you the number of blessings you had hoped for or maybe you don’t see anything to be grateful for, I would ask you to count the blessings you have. See the beauty around you. Look in the faces of those that love you and count that. Let the fact that people offered to have you spend Thanksgiving with them even if you decided not to go count. Let the love you have had in your life, even if you don’t currently feel it count. Remember the day that gift arrived on your door or the phone call that came at just the right time? It counts!   Count the man who opened the door for you or smiled at you today. Count the sacrifice of the Savior, the love of your Heavenly Father, and the gift of the Holy Ghost as your biggest blessing this holiday season. Believe that they love you and are cheering you on! Believe that you are always in their thoughts because you are!! Even on the days when you feel you have nothing to count, you will always have that. Always.

I hope today I will remember not only to number my blessings, but to let all the beauty and blessings around me count.  It’s so important.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Moms who Know

So about a month ago I was interviewed by another podcaster named Chanelle Neilson. Her podcast is called, Moms who Know. I was really nervous about being interviewed by someone else because I EDIT MY PODCASTS FOR A REASON. Live me could be a disaster. After I talked to her I thought, “Oh crap! I told too much!” But the interview came out today and in the end, I think it was good. So, as you’re anxiously waiting for tomorrow’s podcast, you might want to swing on over and take a listen. Chanelle was so nice and great to talk to. I’m so happy she wanted to talk to me!

Shine on Chanelle!

I was watching a bunch of talks this morning and ran into this little gem again. I loved his view of the kindness of members of the church. And I also love his thoughts on civility and his thoughts about respect and marriage and everything else he said! Enjoy!

More Love, Less Contempt


President of the American Enterprise Institute

April 25, 2019 • Commencement

President Worthen, distinguished guests, parents, friends, and members of the Brigham Young University class of 2019: Congratulations on this important day, and thank you for this incredible honor. With this honorary degree, I am proud to say that I am finally a real member of the BYU community.

I have to confess that, up to this point, I have only ever impersonated a member of the BYU community. I know that sounds bad, so let me explain. Several years ago I came to this beautiful place, to BYU, to deliver a lecture. My wonderful hosts sent me home with a ton of branded souvenirs: T-shirts, mugs—you name it. You guys are great at product placement.

One particularly nice gift that I got that day was a briefcase. It had BYU emblazoned across the front. Now, as it happened, I actually needed a new briefcase, but I kind of hesitated to use it because of the logo. It felt a little weird—like false advertising. See, I am not a member of the faculty at BYU, nor am I a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am a Catholic.

Somebody told me, by the way, that I am your favorite Catholic—but I figure you say that to all the Catholics.

When I expressed this hesitance, my wife, Esther, said, “That is ridiculous. Use the briefcase. It is beautiful.”

So I loaded it up and took it out on the road. I travel all the time. I am in airports constantly. And here is the thing. I noticed that people would look at my briefcase and then look up at me. They would have this weird look on their face, like, “I have never seen an aging hipster Mormon before.” (Excuse me, Latter-day Saint!) That gave me some amusement, but here is the funny part: I found that it was changing my behavior. I was acting with greater love and kindness than I ordinarily would. People would look at my briefcase, and I would want to help with their luggage. I would want to give up my place in line. That sort of thing. Why? Because I was unconsciously trying to live up to the high standards of kindness of your church and your university. At the very least, I was trying not to hurt your well-earned reputation.

You know what else? I even stopped carrying cups of coffee. Look, I love coffee, but I didn’t want people to think that a member of your church is a hypocrite! I had this paranoid fantasy of some guy telling his wife, “I saw this Mormon guy in O’Hare airport ordering a venti latte at Starbucks. I knew they were hypocrites.” I didn’t want that.

And you know what? That briefcase made me a happier person, a more loving person. I was like the person I wanted to be. Why? Because I was trying to be like you. So what is the lesson here? It is not that your BYU briefcases have magic properties. It is that your greatest witness to the world as members of this community is the conduct of your lives. Our nation and world need this. They need you, more than ever today.

If you pay attention to politics or television or social media, what do you see today? You see recrimination, reproach, insults, and sarcasm. You see leaders at the highest levels of our country who bully and berate those with whom they disagree. You see families torn apart over political disagreements. You see political foes who treat each other as enemies.

People often characterize the current moment in America as being “angry.” If only this were true. Anger is an emotion that occurs when we want to change someone’s behavior and believe that we can do it. According to the research on anger, while anger is often perceived as a negative emotion, it has social purpose. And it is not to drive others away. Rather, it is intended to remove problematic elements of a relationship and bring people back together. Believe it or not, there is no evidence that, in a marriage, anger is correlated with separation or divorce.

For twenty-eight years I have been married to a Spaniard. The secret to the success of my decades of marriage is the lack of correlation between anger and divorce.

The problem is not anger—it is contempt. In the words of the nineteenth-century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt “is the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”1 The destructive power of contempt is well-documented in the work of the famous social psychologist and relationship expert John M. Gottman, professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle. Over the course of his work, Gottman has studied thousands of married couples. He has explained that the biggest warning signs for divorce are indicators of contempt. These include sarcasm, sneering, hostile humor, and—worst of all—eye-rolling.2

I have teenage kids. I see lots of eye-rolling. But if you roll your eyes at somebody you love, woe be unto you. That is a little act that effectively says, “You are worthless,” to the one person—your spouse—you should love more than any other. Do you want to see if a couple will end up in divorce court? Watch them discuss contentious topics and see if either partner rolls his or her eyes.

And just as contempt ruins a marriage, it can tear a country apart. America is developing a “culture of contempt”—a habit of seeing people who disagree with us not as merely incorrect or misguided but as worthless.

This is causing incredible harm to our country. One in six Americans have stopped talking to close friends and family members over politics since the 2016 election. Millions are organizing their social lives and curating their news and information to avoid hearing viewpoints differing from their own. Ideological polarization is at higher levels than at any time since the American Civil War.

Listen to the words of Church president Russell M. Nelson: “Hatred among brothers and neighbors has now reduced sacred cities to sites of sorrow.”3 He said this in 2002. Today it is even truer, isn’t it?

And this is harming more than our nation. Remember that America is a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. We are an example of democratic capitalism that has pulled two billion of our brothers and sisters out of starvation-level poverty over the past half-century alone. This is a nation that has attracted you or your ancestors with the promise of equal opportunity, religious freedom, and a good life for you and your family. When America is torn apart, we become incapable of living up to the plan—the holy plan—for our nation, which is to shine a light for the rest of the world.

So what do we need? Some say we need to agree more, but that is wrong. Disagreement is good, because competition is good. It makes us sharp and strong, whether in sports, in politics, in economics, or in the world of ideas. We don’t need to disagree less; we need to disagree better. Other people say we need more civility. But that is wrong too, because civility is a hopelessly low standard for us as Americans. Imagine that I told you that my wife, Esther, and I are “civil to each other.” You would say we need to get some counseling!

If we are going to beat the problem of contempt, we are going to need something more radical than civility—something that speaks to our heart’s true desire. We need love, which was defined by Saint Thomas Aquinas as “to will the good of the other.”4We need a new generation ready to model lives of love in the midst of a culture of contempt. We need young people who can live out in today’s culture the words of Helaman:

And it came to pass that they did go forth, and did minister unto the people. . . .

And as many as were convinced did lay down their weapons of war, and also their hatred and the tradition of their fathers.[Helaman 5:50–51]

He was talking about you. Make no mistake, this isn’t easy to do. It requires people who will not run away from the problem, who are unafraid to infiltrate the culture of contempt, and who are capable of modeling a better set of values. This requires the agility to be in the culture but not of it. When you think of it, it is kind of like missionary work, isn’t it? Missionaries have the training and experience to participate in society without getting sucked into its pathologies. They have the courage and fortitude necessary to face resistance and go forth with the joy that comes from sharing the truth.

Just out of curiosity, do you happen to know anyone with missionary experience? Well, guess what? It is time to dust off that experience and use it in a brand-new way, starting today.

Near my home there is a Catholic retreat center where my wife and I teach marriage preparation classes for engaged couples. In the chapel there is a sign posted over the door—not the door coming in but rather the door going out into the parking lot. It is written for people to look at as they are leaving. The sign says, “You are now entering mission territory.” The message is simple, but it is really profound: You are here because you have found what is good and true, but you are going to go out where people have not yet found what you have discovered. You have the privilege of sharing it—with joy and with confidence.

That should be a message to you who want to make America and the world better. You know what our world needs: more love, less contempt. You have the skills and training to make this a reality. Most of you have been raised your whole lives with the values that I magically got for a few minutes from my BYU briefcase. You have received an education through hard work at one of the world’s greatest universities. You have prepared your whole lives to enter the world and make it better. This university has an unofficial motto: “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” You get to live up to that motto, starting today—to sanctify your learning and ordinary work by lifting up and bringing together our great nation.

So ladies and gentleman of the BYU class of 2019, I pray that our Heavenly Father will bless the world abundantly through you. Congratulations on this accomplishment. And don’t forget, you are now reentering mission territory.

God bless you. God bless America. Thank you very much.


After a conversation I had last night, I was tempted to make an Instagram story that said, “I changed my mind about what I said on the podcast today,   I hope that person burns!🔥🔥”. (Then you all could see how “real” I actually am. ) 😩😩 Ugh.

But upon further inspection I realized that I talk about forgiveness all day long, but if I can’t actually stop bringing stuff up that still hurts me then I haven’t truly forgiven at all.  If my forgiveness is conditional only on getting an apology or on someone else changing something, then I’m never going to find the peace I need to find.  Ever.

I have to let it go.  We need to learn to let it go. 

And then we ask Christ with all the power of our whole souls to help us let it go.  And we may have to go through it again and again until we can finally learn how great it feels to let go of hurt and hold onto grace.  I’ve felt it.  I know it works! Why do I forget? Why do I let the natural man sneak back in and drudge up stuff that only makes me sad?  

I’m grateful that God forgives my stupidity every day.  I’m thankful Christ doesn’t throw my imperfections and the the mistakes I’ve made back in my face every day.  Can you imagine that? No! They would never do that.  We just apologize and work harder at doing better and we are forgiven!

True, life-changing forgiveness takes real humility, a lot of help from the Savior, and trust that when we let it go, as Elder Budge so beautifully put in conference, we make space for joy.  I loved the poem he shared in his talk.  He spoke about sorrow, but I think if you replace the word sorrow with “forgiveness” the message is the same.  Even more applicable maybe, because bitterness leaves no place for joy.  It fills up the whole space that sorrow carved out and we won’t ever be able to feel the promised joy until we learn to fully forgive and let it go.

Here is part of the poem from  Elder Budge’s talk, “[Forgivenss] prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow…”

I want that.  I need that.  We all need it. 

I’m including Elder Budge’s talk and a video I remember seeing years ago that is actually titled, Let it Go.  I’m pretty sure the guy wrote a book too.  But if this guy can let go of his anger and forgive the drunk driver that killed 3 members of his family, surely I can forgive the people in my life that have hurt me right?  He’s amazing.  The Savior is amazing.  And it feels amazing to apologize and forgive, even if we feel it isn’t warranted or if it’s never accepted.  We need to always remember that! 

This reminded me of several other stories that I’ve heard about forgiveness. One was the woman who was almost killed when some teenagers threw a frozen turkey off a bridge and destroyed her face. I was sad to hear that she recently died. I couldn’t find any great videos or stories about it, but it was in a talk by Gordon B. Hinckley so I’m going to include it too. Also, the story of the Amish children who were killed in a school shooting and how members of the community reached out to the shooter’s family. My forgiveness is such a small thing to give in comparison.

And lastly, as I was searching for these videos I ran across another Matthew West song that I haven’t heard titled, “Forgiveness.” I’ve included his songs and lyrics in many podcasts. He’s a Christian Musician that I love. He puts into words what my heart so often feels so beautifully. I’m including the only version of that song I could find. It even includes the words, let it go. Must be a theme today.

“It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do
So let it go and be amazed by what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is youForgiveness, Matthew West

Lots of listening. Lots to learn. 

We learned so many amazing truths this conference and I hope everyone came away feeling as much love as I did! I came away wanting to serve more and do better and love harder. I know I want to share my testimony more, like the woman in Sister Franco’s talk this morning!  I want to glory more in my Jesus and consider my ways. I don’t want to be spiritually snoozy and lazy. Elder Budge’s words have been ping-ponging around in my head since yesterday filling me with brighter and brighter hope as the hours pass. The imagery of my sorrows making more space for joy illuminates my future!

But! Here’s the takeaway. There were so many talks I loved. I learned stuff I don’t think my soul has even fully realized that I have learned yet.  But the reason I started writing this was that I got a note from a podcast listener shortly after Conference that said, 

“One of the things from General Conference that I have been thinking a lot about is the new Young Women’s theme. You always have such a positive spin on things, and a way to see things and optimism. I am wondering if maybe you can help me look at this in a better light. When I heard it said strive to qualify my first thoughts were that we are not good enough the way we are. Young Women are so impressionable, I worry if they say this every week it will make them feel as though they are not good enough the way that they are. And if [they] fail to do the things that the Lord asks they will not qualify. With suicide rates being so high, I worry so much about the youth who struggle with sin, especially moral sin. Please help me see this in a way that can help me.”

I want to share this concern publicly and my reply for two reasons. One, because I feel the exact opposite about this theme and two, because I feel this is an important opportunity to reiterate a very important principle I’ve been trying to share with all of you for the last 8 months.

First, this was the heart of my reply about the new theme. 

“I, too, bumped for one second on that word qualify as well until I heard the very next sentence. (Heart, heart, heart) I cherish the gift of repentance. The old theme didn’t mention Jesus Christ at all. It talked about Heavenly Father loving us and the good things we can do to help prepare us for the temple and exaltation, right? But it is irresponsible to hide the fact that we have to qualify for exaltation. We do! But what do we have to do to qualify (besides receiving essential life-saving ordinances)? READ THE NEXT SENTENCE! “Cherish the gift of repentance and seek to improve each day.” It’s the most beautiful thing ever! Heavenly Father wants me to have all he has! He wants me to be happy and to have peace and eternal life and what I have to do to qualify for that is to cherish the Savior’s gift and try to be better. I have to strive to keep all of the commandments and then repent when I mess up? Wow!  Easy. 

I hope this takes the pressure OFF the youth. I hope this empowers them to see what an integral part Jesus Christ plays in their lives, how beautiful and simple the gospel is and how learning to turn to the Savior and repenting continuously improves and strengthens home and family, helps me make and keep sacred covenants and receive the ordinances of the temple! Without repentance, none of us would ever qualify. It’s impossible. We all sin! That’s the truest thing in the kingdom. So this new theme is empowering to me. The pressure of perfection is lifted in these words not added.  Cherish repentance! These girls need to love Jesus Christ and that isn’t going to happen by being fed that they are perfect just how they are! It will be through seeing that they are all NOT perfect, but are still able to qualify because of the Savior and the gift of the atonement. Without that qualification, no relationship would ever develop between us and Jesus Christ!”

I really do LOVE the new theme.  I’m excited for us to memorize it.

And this next part of what I wrote to her is the important truth I’ve been trying to tell anyone who will listen for the last 24 years of my life.  It is this:

“And if you feel I’m wrong in my interpretation (which is fine) or still struggle with this then please get on your knees, tell your Heavenly Father how you feel about it and then open the Book of Mormon! Today Peter M. Johnson said, “Study the Book of Mormon with a question in mind.” This is where the Book of Mormon becomes magical to me. This is where we begin to understand how we can receive personal revelation from the Lord. And when we do, we are never the same again! When he specifically answers our prayers, our questions, or our doubts through the pages of the Book of Mormon we become further anchored to Jesus Christ. And not just to Jesus Christ, but to the entire gospel of Jesus Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! Because if the Book of Mormon is true, and we learn it is true through feeling its’ powerful influence on our minds, then it is all true! I no longer need to question every piece of information I find on the internet and I don’t have to second guess if there is a prophet today, etc. etc. Let the Book of Mormon clear this up for you!”

Here is my plea people.  If any part of General Conference bothered you, or you have some doubts stemming from something else,  take it to the Lord and then to the Book of Mormon before you take it to the internet. You’ll not only be blessed with a question answered, or at least peace, but your anchor to the Savior and his gospel will become one link stronger and that testimony gained will help buffet all the storms that are bound to come in the coming months as we prepare for the UNFORGETTABLE April 2020 Conference! 

I love you people. I love this gospel. I love that someone would think to turn to me for some clarification on something, but I know that I’m so flawed I get stuff wrong all the time! But our Heavenly Father never does. Turn to him. Ask him. Love him. Trust him and then go read the “most correct [book] of any book on earth and the keystone of our religion.” 


This is the prophet’s devotional from BYU yesterday I think. It’s so amazing! Please take a minute to listen to it. My siblings and I are debating whether his blessing at the end extends to those watching it the next day… ha ha. I have no idea, but wow, the spirit is so strong as he speaks. I really, really loved it and needed it today.

That’s a lot of talks I’ve given you to listen to lately. Get busy!

On Facebook this week I was trying to get people to subscribe to the blog so they could get notified when a new podcast came out or when any other information was available.  In the post I said that in Lauterbrunnen I recorded a “low quality, crap podcast.”  A listener wrote this, “Please don’t berate yourself. It’s the only thing I don’t like about your podcast.” Her comment made me think for a long time.

I am learning that this a  problem of mine.  I met with a life coach yesterday and she told me one of my biggest problems is my negative self-talk.  I had to write down my thoughts all day yesterday and watch what effect they had on my day.  And do you know what I learned?  I berate myself all day long!  “You are so lazy.”  “Could you be more unorganized?”  “You can’t even get busy the exact day you went to get help!”  It was ridiculous.  I didn’t realize how often I did it.  It made me really sad.  How did I get here?

But then I came to a realization.  Satan is the one berating me.  I’ve just gotten used to his words and have incorporated them as my own.  When I stopped and started saying good things to myself, my day changed.  I was able to accomplish A LOT.  My desire changed.   I had to say to myself, “You can be organized.  You can accomplish a lot!  You are smart.”  I felt a little like Stuart Smalley.  It felt weird and somewhat wrong.  Ya, I said wrong. It’s going to take some getting used to.  

Joy D. Jones said, “. . . how many of us struggle, from time to time, with negative thoughts or feelings about ourselves? I do. It’s an easy trap. Satan is the father of all lies, especially when it comes to misrepresentations about our own divine nature and purpose. Thinking small about ourselves does not serve us well. Instead it holds us back.”  I’ve thought about that phrase so many times since she said it.  “Thinking small about ourselves does not serve us well.”  It doesn’t serve me well.  In fact, I’ve let it hold me back for far too many years. 

I’m not exactly sure how I am going to correct this.  I don’t notice I do it half the time.  But maybe I’ll follow the advice found in Romans 12:12.  Paul counseled us to be “instant in prayer.”  Maybe when I start down that road and start noticing I’m doing it, I can start to pray.  “Heavenly Father!  Satan is back again and telling me all sorts of lies.  I’m sick of it.  Will you help me see some good in me today.  Will you help me to conquer his words with better ones?”  Sometimes I have very little faith in myself, but I have all the faith in my Heavenly Father.  I just need to rely on Him more.  He’s ready to help me.  I think like any good parent He’s ready and wanting to show us how He feels about us.  

Almost every time I do this, I’m filled with all sorts of love.  He looks past so much.  We need to realize this.  I need to realize this.  He said to me yesterday, “Melanie! You went and ministered to your brand new sister and you didn’t even have a treat to share.  That’s hard to go up and say, ‘I’m just here to love you.’  But you did that!” And that thought compounded upon other thoughts until I was up, being productive and accomplishing the things I wanted to accomplish.  

So, I’m going to say that I know I have a lot of faults.  I know I constantly mess up and don’t always do what I know I should.  (I just started listing a mountain of my faults! What the heck man?!  I can’t even stay focused on what I’m trying to do while I’m doing it!)  What I was trying to say is that although I’m far from perfect, I love my Heavenly Father.  I like to share my testimony.  I have a happy laugh and pretty smile.  I have a good heart and I want to help people.  I love deeply and I’m pretty funny.  

Please don’t write nice things about me.  This isn’t a post begging for compliments.  It’s the opposite. It’s a post about me learning to stop thinking small and to start looking at myself the way God looks at me.  Try it.  It feels pretty good.  I’m sick of Satan trying to convince me I’m the worst.  He’s the one who’s the worst!

So for today, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And dog gone it, people like me!” 

Head over to for this week’s support materials for the lesson.

3 thoughts on “What’s New”

    1. It will be on Amazon soon! I’m sorry it’s taking longer than I thought. Hopefully it will be out in the next few weeks. We really thought it would be out by Valentines Day. I guess I have to learn patience or something hard like that.

  1. I’m listening to your book. I love it!
    I also look forward to the next Come Follow me for Us every week! I’ve learned so much.

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