Vernon Sparks M.D.

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(Physiology and the Three Angels’ Messages)


N the earth made new the eternal physical, mental and spiritual health of the saints will be maintained not by a momentby-moment supernatural corrective or preventative intervention by the Creator. Their eternal health and well being will be the natural outworking of the saints’ complete obedience to the Creator’s laws reigning in their bodies and environment. God is committed to the task of bringing together out of every nation, kindred, tongue and people a final generation who are willing to obey and through submission to the Holy Spirit are able to begin living that life here and now. To call out such a body of believers God has committed to His final church a body of truth encompassing all aspects of man’s existence. The Creator has entrusted us with a knowledge of the everlasting gospel of the eternal principles of physical, mental, and spiritual health. With this fountain-of-youth body of truth God has promised the here- and-now enabling power of the Holy Spirit. But fallen Lucifer has indeed come down as a roaring lion. He has devised and promulgated a seemingly endless variety of falsehoods which has made it humanly impossible to determine truth from error. For every divine principal of truth in the physical, mental, and spiritual realms Satan has broadcast a field full of tares. Only through the utilization of yard sticks of truth provided by God will we be able to determine divine principles from falsehood. This standard is just as essential in determining the divine truths regarding physical health as it is in determining truth in regards to our eternal mental and spiritual health. The world is full of differing voices in the field of health. One claims, “I have truth” while dozens of others re-echo, “No, here is truth.” 3


Physiology and Our Health Work

Satan is causing every wind of doctrine to blow in the field of health just as surely as he is the cause of the humanly insurmountable confusion in the spiritual world. If by roaring the lion cannot panic and separate us in our religious beliefs, he is determined to divide and conquer us in our understandings of truth in regard to our health practices and preaching. But God has not left us to be tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine. Eph. 4:14. By His spoken Word in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy and through the revealed laws reigning in His created handiwork, God has given us yardsticks by which to determine the principles of health in this life and in the life to come. The task of the Comforter to guide us into all truth through the still small voice saying, “Here is the way walk ye in it” will be recognized and confirmed by its harmony with the Law, the Testimonies, and the principles of physiology as found in nature. God requires His children “to obey natural law, to preserve physical health. Nature’s path is the road He marks out, and it is broad enough for any Christian.” “He has graciously made the path of nature sure and safe, wide enough for all who walk in it.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 63; Counsels on Diet and Foods, 39 For the benefit of this final generation God has permitted great light to shine forth regarding His laws governing physical as well as spiritual health. “God has permitted a flood of light to be poured upon the world in both science and art.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 113 In harmony with God’s will this generation has experienced a veritable explosion in understanding of human anatomy and physiology. Textbooks in physiology including the subjects of organ and tissue functions in healthy and also diseased states have had to be re-written every few years. The more science has discovered how the human body functions, the more it has come into harmony with the principles of healthful living as given in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Although the human discoveries in the field of physiology are incomplete and must always be tested by the Law and the Testimonies, they are another yardstick for determining truth.

Physiology and Our Health Work


One of the purposes for increased knowledge in physiology is that man might confess and forsake sin. “It should be made plain that the violation of God’s law, either natural or spiritual, is sin and that in order . . . to receive His blessing, sin must be confessed and forsaken.” The Ministry of Healing, 228 Sin includes disobedience to physiological law as well as to any other of God’s laws. “The laws that govern our physical organism, God has written upon every nerve, muscle, and fiber of the body. Every careless or willful violation of these laws is a sin against our Creator.” Education, 196–197 We are given much counsel regarding the importance of knowing and living in harmony with the laws of physiology: “Children should be early taught, in simple, easy lessons, the rudiments of physiology and hygiene. The work should be begun by the mother in the home and should be faithfully carried forward in the school. As the pupils advance in years, instruction in this line should be continued until they are qualified to care for the house they live in.” Ibid., 196 “Every school should give instruction in both physiology and hygiene, and, so far as possible, should be provided with facilities for illustrating the structure, use, and care of the body. . . . As the foundation principle of all education in these lines, the youth should be taught that the laws of nature are the laws of God—as truly divine as are the precepts of the Decalogue.” Ibid. Education in physiology should begin at the first dawn of reason. “Parents should seek to awaken in their children an interest in the study of physiology. From the first dawn of reason the human mind should become intelligent in regard to the physical structure. We may behold and admire the work of God in the natural world, but the human habitation is the most wonderful. It is therefore of the highest importance that among the studies selected for children, physiology occupy an important place. All children should study it. And then parents should see to it that practical hygiene is added.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 125


Physiology and Our Health Work

Children should be taught that physical health is dependent upon obedience to the laws of physiology and is pleasing to God. “Our children should be instructed that they may be intelligent in regard to their own physical organism. They can at an early age, by patient instruction, be made to understand that they should be made to obey the laws of their being if they would be free from pain and disease. They should understand that their lives cannot be useful if they are crippled by disease. Neither can they please God if they bring sickness upon themselves by the disregard of nature’s laws.” Child Guidance, 105 God has promised to keep in health those who obey His laws of physiology. “The Creator of man has arranged the living machinery of our bodies. Every function is wonderfully and wisely made. And God has pledged Himself to keep this human machinery in healthful action if the human agent will obey His laws and cooperate with God. Every law governing the human machinery is to be considered just as truly divine in origin, in character, and in importance as the Word of God. Every careless, inattentive action, any abuse put upon the Lord’s wonderful mechanism by disregarding His specified laws in the human habitation, is a violation of God’s law.” Medical Ministry, 221 Those who study physiology will be inspired with reverence and they will consider obedience to God’s eternal laws of health as a privilege and blessing. “As in the study of physiology they see that they are indeed `fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14), they will be inspired with reverence. Instead of marring God’s handiwork, they will have an ambition to make all that is possible of themselves, in order to fulfill the Creator’s glorious plan. They will come to regard obedience to the laws of health, not as a matter of sacrifice or self-denial, but as it really is, an inestimable privilege and blessing.” Education, 201 Thousands die due to ignorance of the laws of health based on the principles of physiology. “There are but few among the young who have any definite knowledge of the mysteries of life. The study of the wonderful human organism, the relation and depen-

Physiology and Our Health Work


dence of all its complicated parts, is one in which most mothers take little if any interest. They do not understand the influence of the body upon the mind or of the mind upon the body. They occupy themselves with needless trifles and then plead that they have no time to obtain the information which they need in order to care properly for the health of their children. It is less trouble to trust them to the doctors. Thousands of children die through the ignorance of their parents regarding the laws of hygiene.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 126 The three angels’ messages include a final call to sinful man to honor and give glory to the Creator. A knowledge of physiology is necessary in order to answer that call. “A practical knowledge of the science of human life is necessary in order to glorify God in our bodies. “ Healthful Living, 13 The term health reform applies to bringing one’s health practices into harmony with the laws of human physiology. Instruction in physiology and urging life-style changes to conform to it is an essential part of God’s final message to man. “I was . . . shown that the health reform is one branch of the great work which is to fit a people for the coming of the Lord. It is as closely connected with the third angel’s message as the hand is with the body. . . . To make plain natural law, and urge the obedience of it, is the work that accompanies the third angel’s message to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 161 “For years the Lord has been calling the attention of His people to health reform. This is one of the great branches of the work of preparation for the coming of the Son of man.” Ibid., 61 An intelligent knowledge of physiology and conformity to it has the threefold purpose of opening doors, relieving suffering, and purifying God’s people. “The work of health reform is the Lord’s means for lessening suffering in our world and for purifying His church. Teach the people that they can act as God’s helping hand by co-operating with the Master Worker in restoring physical and spiritual health. This work bears the signature of Heaven and will open doors for the entrance of other precious truths. There is


Physiology and Our Health Work

room for all to labor who will take hold of this work intelligently.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 112–113 In the early days of our church the knowledge of medical physiology was still in a comparatively primitive state. Most illnesses were treated without knowing their cause and most medication then given have since been shown to actually be poisons without beneficial effects. With a very limited understanding of the physiology of the healthy as well as of the multitude of diseased states of the human body much of the health care of those days was indeed irrational. Even today in this era of increased knowledge much of our health care is irrational, primarily due to a failure to harmonize science and “Thus saith the Lord.” Over and over the Lord has instructed us to base our treatment on rational remedies. The word rational means to be logical and sensible, thus in harmony with the natural laws of physiology and anatomy. “As the work developed, we were instructed that suitable places were to be provided, to which we could bring the sick and suffering who knew nothing of our people and scarcely anything of the Bible, and there teach them how to regain health by rational methods of treatment without having recourse to poisonous drugs, and at the same time surround them with uplifting spiritual influences. As a part of the treatment, lectures were to be given on right habits of eating and drinking and dressing.” Counsels on Health, 469 “In Southern California there are many properties for sale on which buildings suitable for sanitarium work are already erected. Some of these properties should be purchased and medical missionary work carried forward on sensible, rational lines.” Testimonies, vol. 7, 98 “In the Sanitarium which we are about to erect in New South Wales, provision must be made for all classes. The accommodation and treatment must be such that patients of the higher class will be attracted to the institution. Rooms must be fitted for the use of those who are willing to pay a liberal price. Rational methods of treatment must be followed. The patients must not be given alco-

Physiology and Our Health Work


hol, tea, coffee, or drugs; for these always leave traces of evil behind.” The Kress Collection, 85 Writing in the Review and Herald of October 11, 1898, Mrs. E. G. White quoted the following report of Elder H. C. Lacey regarding the nurses’ training at Avondale School. “In connection with the other work undertaken by our school, there has been organized this year a special department of physiology and hygiene. This department offers to the student the means of acquiring a practical knowledge of the workings of the wonderful mechanism of the human body, and furnishes an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the most approved methods in the rational treatment of disease. The study of anatomy, the form and structure of the body; of physiology, the use and functions of the various organs; and of hygiene, the laws that underlie their healthful activities, is pursued from a biblical and scientific point of view. “The object we have before us is the qualifying of laborers to engage in the all-round work of the third angel’s message.” Review and Herald, October 11, 1989 We should note in the above reference that the physiology taught was from a scientific as well as biblical point of view. Repeatedly the Spirit of Prophecy counsels us to emphasize the simple, rational remedies and to de-emphasize the use of drugs. In 1909 Ellen White wrote that we are to work with all rational methods. “As Christ’s followers, we are to work with all rational methods to preach the gospel of present truth. Not only by words but by deeds we are to give evidence that Christ is willing to unite with His devoted ministers today in healing the sick and suffering.” Medical Ministry, 28 One can obey this counsel by emphasizing the simple rational remedies while working in harmony with, but resorting to only as necessary, the more complex rational remedies. To use a complex rational remedy when a simple rational remedy will take care of the problem is irrational and leads to unnecessary risk of side effects from the remedy. It is also irrational to depend on a simple rational remedy when a more complex rational remedy is truly


Physiology and Our Health Work

needed and leads to unnecessary risk of complications from the illness. For further discussion of the relation between simple and complex rational remedies, see the article “Agriculture and Our Health Work,” on this same website. Medical missionary work is an essential part of the third angel’s message. (See Testimonies, vol. 6, 288; Medical Ministry, 160; and the article “The Lord’s Work,” on this same website. It is the union of Christlike work for the body and Christlike work for the soul. It includes the promulgation of living habits and remedies in harmony with natural law. The health practices and rational remedies promoted by Christ’s final message to the world will be in harmony with His laws of physiology. But the devil has muddied the waters and created differing understandings and interpretations in the areas of physical law as well as of spiritual law. There are differing approaches to and various explanations of the laws of physiology. Whom are we to believe? Whose interpretations of natural law are to form the basis of health reform, of rational remedies, of medical missionary work, of God’s third angel’s final message of compassion and pardon to a dying world? It is God the Creator being represented. He is to be represented by true interpretations of His natural as well as His spiritual laws. One of His representatives is not to be saying one thing and another representative saying another. “The third angel’s message is infallible. Upon the grand, ennobling truths connected with that message you can dwell with perfect safety. Labor intelligently to encourage union of faith and union of judgment . . . .Those who are engaged in proclaiming the last solemn message to a dying world . . . although possessing different temperaments and dispositions . . . will see eye to eye in all matters of religious belief. They will speak the same things; they will have the same judgment; they will be one in Christ Jesus . . . . “No one should feel that his judgment is faultless, that his ideas are above criticism, and that he can pursue a course of his own, regardless of the opinions of others with whom he is united in

Physiology and Our Health Work


labor. When we think we know all that is worth knowing, we are in a position where God cannot use us. The third angel’s message is not a narrow message. It is worldwide; and we should be united, so far as possible, in the manner of presenting it to the world. “Man is fallible; but the message is infallible. With it all should be in harmony; it is the center of interest, in which all hearts should be united. We may get up points that are of no consequence, and seek to maintain them; but we shall gain no strength by so doing.” Lift Him Up, 309 We are reminded by the above reference that we are to be united in the giving of the third angel’s message and that none of us alone has a perfect understanding of all that the message contains or of all the ways it is to be presented. We are cautioned against issues of no consequence. We are instructed to find unity on doctrines and plans by a study of the Scriptures and the Testimonies. If as a people we had accepted and followed the above counsels, our health work today would indeed be a marvel to behold. Our health institutions would be country located, administered and staffed by Seventh-day Adventist health professionals working for Christlike sacrificial remuneration. We would be stressing preventive health practices and the simple, economical, readily accessible rational remedies. We would be providing health care for body, mind and spirit at a cost which would be the envy of and model for the world. But those desirous of participating in the loud cry of the third angel based on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy must not tarry unduly lamenting over what might have been. The third angel’s message is to be given in its fullness. It is to be given in a loud voice by a people united in speaking with one voice. The Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy are veritable gold mines of truths in the area of physiology. The instruction regarding proper diet, exercise, sunlight, rest, trust in divine power, dress, and so on, are of inestimable value to temporal and eternal health. The Lord has also revealed a “flood of light” in physiology through the discoveries of science. Those presenting God’s final message to


Physiology and Our Health Work

the world will be united not only on the physiological truths of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy but also upon those truths discovered by science which are in harmony with the law and the testimony. God’s final-hour medical missionaries will not work or speak contrary to the generally recognized physiological truths unless specifically called to by a “Thus saith the Lord.” In the beginnings of our health work, the Lord could have led us to a learn-by-experience health program based on the physiological truths in the Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible utilizing the eight natural remedies, charcoal, and simple herbs. But He knew that personal experience would not be a reliable instructor and guide. He purposed that His final-hour health program would be in harmony with physiological laws discovered and demonstrated in a scientific manner. “True experience is in harmony with natural law and science. . . . Genuine experience is a variety of experiments entered into carefully, with the mind freed from prejudice and uncontrolled by previously established opinions and habits; marking the results with careful solicitude, anxious to learn, improve, and reform, on every or any habit that is not in harmony with physical and moral law. With some, the idea of others gainsaying that which they have learned by experience seems to them to be folly, and even cruelty itself. But there are more errors received, and firmly retained, under the false idea of experience, than from any other cause; for this reason, that which is generally termed experience is no experience at all, because there has never been a fair trial by actual experiment and thorough investigation, with a knowledge of the principle involved in the action.” Health Reformer, 78 If we believe that something will benefit us we will about 60 percent of the time feel better after we use or do it. This is called the placebo effect. It makes it nearly impossible to determine whether that something is actually causing the improvement or if it is merely mind over matter. Science has devised several methods of study to determine the true effectiveness of a given treatment. If not supported by such studies or by a specific “Thus saith the

Physiology and Our Health Work


Lord,” one’s experience may not be a true experience. The most reliable way to determine the physiological effect of a medicinal substance, be it a food supplement, an herb, or a medication, is by the double-blind method. The substance to be tested is placed in a capsule, and identical capsules (or tablet or liquid) are filled with a medicinally inactive substance such as starch. A group of patients (the larger the number the more reliable the results) with an identical health problem are treated equally except one half receive the capsule with the substance being tested and the other half receive the inactive capsule. Neither the patient nor the observers noting the treatment results know which patients are receiving which capsule; hence it is called “double-blind.” At the end of the treatment the code is broken and the effectiveness of the substance can be determined. Another method to determine physiological effect is the randomized study. A large group of patients with the same problem (say low-back strain) are treated equally except every other one is assigned to total bed-rest until pain is gone. The alternate one half are permitted out of bed as desired. By noting which group tends to get back to work the sooner, the physiologic effect of rest versus activity can be determined. Non-harmful simple rational remedies for nonlife-threatening illnesses need not perhaps be studied to such a degree, but the more potentially serious the health problem, the more important it is that the treatments given be studied scientifically in order to determine if the experience with those treatments are really true experiences. God purposed that the leaders of His health program were to receive formal training as physicians. Writing in the Review and Herald of May 24, 1877, Elder James White stated: “We became satisfied that our health institute could not rise to eminence and the full measure of usefulness without thoroughly educated physicians to stand at the head of it. We laid our plans to gain this point.” The Story of Our Health Message, D. E. Robinson, 203 Early in the 1870s Ellen and James White had arranged for


Physiology and Our Health Work

four young men to get their M.D. degrees at a hygienic center operated by Dr. Trall. After the short course there, Dr. J. H. Kellogg was sponsored to the regular three-year training program at Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City. Ibid., 205 In 1905 the servant of the Lord wrote the following: “Much good can be done by those who do not hold diplomas as fully accredited physicians. Some are to be prepared to work as competent physicians. Many, working under the direction of such ones, can do acceptable work without spending so long a time in studying as it has been thought necessary to spend in the past.” Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 6, 49 This divinely led association with the medical profession was in part or in whole due to the recognition that of all the health professions the medical doctor has generally been trained the most thoroughly in scientifically evaluated anatomy and physiology and also in the details of the various disease processes. This statement in no way was or is a blanket endorsement by God of the regular medical profession. The leaders in His health work were to get their basic training as recognized medical doctors and then they were to harmonize that training and knowledge with the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. God’s health workers were to work with nature’s own resources to enable the diseased organs to resume and regain their natural functions. “The most difficult cases are best and most successfully managed by nature’s own resources. This science, fully adopted, will bring the bests results, if the practitioner will be thorough. The Lord will bless the physician who depends on natural methods, helping every function of the human machinery to act in its own strength the part the Lord designed it to act in restoring itself to proper action.” The Use of Drugs in the Care of the Sick, 43 Such a system of health care requires a thorough knowledge of the human structures and their various functions, for example, anatomy and physiology. The methods of treatment used in our “sanitariums were to reform the medical practices of physicians.” Medical Ministry, 27.

Physiology and Our Health Work


The Lord’s health-care workers were not to limit their methods of labor to any health-care system present around the turn of the century. Their knowledge of the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy and the principles of anatomy and physiology was to guide them in selecting and utilizing truly scientific methods, regardless of their source. “When questioned regarding the work to be done at Loma Linda, Mrs. White said during the Mountain View Conference in January 1910, `Whatever our young people, preparing to be physicians need to know, that we must prepare to teach.’ “Our medical missionaries should be given the opportunities to know the very best things done by the allopaths, the eclectics, the homeopaths, the osteopaths, [the `naturopaths’] and the watercure doctors, but none of these systems should be adopted as comprising that which our physicians need to know: nor should the name of any of these systems be adopted as the `sign of our order.’ Neither should our medical men give the credit or honor of the results of their labors under God, to any man or group of men, or to any locality, or to any system.” The Medical Evangelist, OctoberNovember, 1911, 132, as quoted in A Compendium on Outpost Evangelism, by James and David Lee, Fourth Edition, 1986, 540 The understanding of truth is progressive. Especially is this so in the imperfect discoveries of science. We cannot rest safely upon the understanding of our forefathers. This is just as surely true in the understanding and application of physiology as it is of God’s written Word. God wants us to speak and work in harmony with the present-day knowledge of natural law which is not conflicting with God’s Word. Science is, however, somewhat fickle. What she says a study reveals one day, she says another study reveals the opposite the next. Thus we must not lean unduly upon her proffered arm but maintain a stable approach through our faith in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy. Dr. J. H. Kellogg revealed to Dr. David Paulson that the above approach enabled Battle Creek Sanitarium to remain ahead of the general medical profession. “He [Doctor Kellogg] said when a new thing is brought out in


Physiology and Our Health Work

the medical world he knew from his knowledge of the Spirit of Prophecy whether it belonged in our system or not. If it did, he instantly adopted it and advertised it while the rest of the doctors were slowly feeling their way, and when they finally adopted it, he had five years the start of them. “On the other hand when the medical profession were swept off their feet by some new fad, if it did not fit the light we had received [from Ellen White] he simply did not touch it. When the doctors finally discovered their mistake, they wondered how it came that Dr. Kellogg did not get caught.” How Kellogg Kept Ahead, E. G. White Publication Document File 45, Windows, 144 If there is a method of diagnosis, a proposed type of disease or a new form of treatment not generally accepted by the body of health-care providers most thoroughly rooted in up-to-date physiology and there is no clear-cut “Thus saith the Lord,” we would best leave the controversial matter alone. With the combination of a “Thus saith the Lord” and the advancing discoveries in physiology, the Lord’s health work will thus be blessed with advanced physiological concepts rather than handicapped by antiquated or false beliefs. By no means do we all need to be physicians or ministers to present the physiological and spiritual truths of the three angels’ messages. We may not all speak and work on the same level, but we will all be searching for and directing others to the same sources of truth. Obedience to the laws of physiology as expressed in the eight natural remedies will prevent the development of many of the physical ills modern medicine has been raised up to treat in sinful man. A healthy lifestyle will undoubtedly decrease the need for trauma centers, intensive care units, radiation, chemotherapy, organ transplants, and so on, but God’s medical missionaries will be found speaking and working in harmony with the same physiological truths that make the developments in modern medicine possible. Obedience to the natural laws gives success to those using simple rational remedies as well as to those using complex rational

Physiology and Our Health Work


remedies. We are all to be drawing from the same body of truth. Some might question how important it is to have the physiological concepts correct as long as one lives and leads others to live the proper health practices. I believe that the end does not justify the means and that false or outdated beliefs regarding physiology result in several problems. 1. They create barriers between our message and those who know up-to-date physiology. Rather than opening doors, they close doors. Granted there are those who believe and promote contrary concepts of physiology and knowingly reject newer seemingly proven findings. This group we should work with, encouraging them to glorify the Creator by the acceptance of truth in all of its forms. 2. They lead us to become crusaders and even social martyrs for matters for which God has not required us. 3. They waste time, talent, and energy which could be used more effectively. 4. Wrong or antiquated beliefs about physiology lead to wrong or antiquated treatments of disease, such as a controversial herb stimulant for cardiac arrest to the neglect of the firmly established physiological approach of mouth-to-mouth breathing and rhythmic heart compression until emergency assistance is available. 5. Wrong concepts create conflict, controversy, confusion, and disunity within the body presenting the third angel’s message. 6. Wrong or antiquated concepts on the fringes of or outside of the scientifically or thus-saith-the-Lord proven truths will leave us and those we influence more susceptible to Satan’s last-day deceptions. “Because they received not the love of the truth . . . God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10–11. As the Holy Spirit withdraws from the earth Satan will be permitted to exercise more fully his supernatural powers. He will not only work through openly miraculous powers, but he will also lead


Physiology and Our Health Work

man astray through seemingly scientific natural means of diagnosis and treatment (see the book Bringing Seventh-day Adventists to the Test on this website). It will be argued that they are based on technology yet undiscovered or unproven or just unaccepted. This argument may or may not be true. But it may be the only clue that it is false and that it will lead eventually to rejection of God’s written Word. It is wisest to leave methods alone that are unproven to be in harmony with natural laws unless we have a clear “Thus saith the Lord.” The third angel’s message is infallible. It speaks with a loud voice and with one voice. It is God’s final call to sinful man to repent and by His grace live in harmony with and obedience to His rules of physiology and of social and spiritual well being. He has permitted a flood of light to unite us in this work. May the Lord help each one of us regardless of previous training or practice through submission to His revealed truths in the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy, and in the natural world to experience as well as to participate in this final grand work. This heartfelt plea should be the prayer of each one.

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