DICTIONARY OF MORMONISM
A brief reference guide to common terms of the LDS Church
To know the teachings of Mormonism is to understand its terminology.
One of the greatest barriers in sharing God’s Word with Mormons is not taking the time to understand their unique language. Not only have they coined words and expressions distinctive to Mormonism, but they also utilize common words familiar in Christian theology. At first-glance, the differences appear subtle. Yet when compared to the teachings of biblical Christianity, the differences are drastic. So much so, we refer to the language of Mormonism and the use of these common Christian terms as “Mormonese.”
This short dictionary will help you get started in learning the language of Mormonism. The primary focus of this dictionary is on words that are not only common in their usage, but also the most helpful to bringing a Mormon to heaven. For many of the key words, we include a brief review on how biblical Christianity defines these terms.
The definitions for every LDS word are intentionally brief and meant to be user-friendly. Quotes and references used in the dictionary come from well-known LDS sources, including True to the Faith. This small book published by the Mormon Church contains definitions of key terms and is one of four essential books carried by Mormon missionaries today. While you read the definitions, it is highly recommended to cross-reference each term in order to grasp its full meaning.
Learning the language of Mormonese is essential when a Christian desires to share God’s Word with a Mormon. It will help them in the following ways:
- Reduce anger, confusion, and frustration by understanding the different uses of the same word.
- Provide an answer whenever the Mormon readily agrees on a certain subject.
- Begin a meaningful conversation with a Mormon.
- Share God’s Word in a way that a Mormon can fully understand.
We pray this dictionary will be a blessing and help prepare many Christians to share God’s Word with Mormons. We recommend the following article that provides examples on how to use this dictionary in our witness.
Sharing the Seriousness of Sin with a Mormon (click here)
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“Your success and happiness, both now and in the eternities, depend largely on your responses to the difficulties of life.” (True to the Faith, p. 9) Adversity is a part of Mormonism’s plan of salvation that allows a person to eternally progress and receive redemption. Through the trials of life, a Mormon receives opportunities to […]
Mormonism teaches that agency is a person’s free will and natural capacity to choose right from wrong. This ability enables a Mormon to achieve eternal life. “Your Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability to choose and to act for yourself. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without agency, we would not […]
Apostasy occurs when a Mormon turns away and rejects the commands and ordinances of the LDS gospel. The consequence is even greater if a Mormon makes covenant promises with God in the temple then chooses to break them by leaving the LDS Church. This action is considered an unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost and […]
Twelve current apostles of the Mormon Church serve immediately under the First Presidency of the Church (Living Prophet). They are considered prophets, seers, and revelators.
This word is used almost exclusively in Mormon teachings as a reference to Jesus’ sacrifice that took place in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. According to Mormonism, Jesus has made it possible for all people to enter again into the presence of Heavenly Father to be judged according to their good works […]
As one of the essential requirements of faith, Mormons view baptism as the first of several saving ordinances of the gospel. When baptized, Mormons enter into a covenant with Heavenly Father. God has done His part. Now it is up to Mormons to do their part by striving to be obedient to the Lord’s commands, […]
One of the three main missions of the LDS Church is to redeem the dead. The teachings of Mormonism state that non-Mormons will enter spirit prison after physical death and wait for Judgment Day. Those in spirit prison have the opportunity to convert to Mormonism, but they cannot eternally progress unless they are baptized. Such […]
The LDS Church uses the Bible as one of several sources of Scripture. They believe the Bible to be the Word of God “as far as it is translated correctly” and only utilize the King James Version. The LDS Church considers the Bible as unreliable by claiming that human error must have occurred when it […]
A bishop is considered the leader of a Mormon congregation. He is a member who is called from within the ward. “[He is] a man who has been ordained and set apart as the presiding high priest for a ward, or congregation. He has overall responsibility for ministering the temporal and spiritual affairs of the […]
Subtitled Another Testament of Jesus Christ, “The Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ and confirms the truths found in the Holy Bible.” (Gospel Topics: Book of Mormon, lds.org) Mormonism teaches that the Book of Mormon supports and even supplants the Bible as a source of truth. “I told the brethren that The […]
He was the second president of the LDS church. After Joseph Smith’s death, he led the Mormons to Utah where they prospered under his leadership.
This is a common expression for a specific task faithful LDS members are assigned by the bishop within their ward. Since Mormonism teaches that the bishop is representing God, there is a high level of importance assigned to the task, which makes turning down a calling difficult for a faithful Mormon. Most active members serve […]
The celestial kingdom is the highest of the three LDS kingdoms of glory where a person will live eternally with Heavenly Father and Jesus. The primary goal of faithful Mormons is to “inherit” the Celestial Kingdom on Judgment Day. This “will depend on the depth of your conversion, expressed by your obedience to the Lord’s […]
Mormons refer to themselves as being Christian. The LDS Church will refer to itself as a denomination within Christianity. Their primary reason for being considered a Christian is that they claim to place Jesus Christat the center of their theology and the need to follow His commandments. The LDS Church claims to be the only […]
Faithful Mormons abstain from drinking coffee because it is part of following the Word of Wisdom. This includes abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and tea. The Word of Wisdom is a part of LDS Scripture (D&C 89) set forth by Joseph Smith for which obedience will bring physical and spiritual blessings. Following the “laws of health” […]
Confirmation is an ordinance performed immediately after baptism and consists of priesthood holders “laying on their hands” and giving a blessing. Mormons believe this ordinance confers the gift of the Holy Ghost who can become their constant companion if they remain worthy in keeping their covenant promises and the commands of the LDS Church. This […]
The Mormon concept of conversion has two distinct yet complimentary understandings. On the one hand, conversion means to accept the teachings of Mormonism so that a person may have the opportunity to inherit eternal life. On the other hand, conversion means to “be changed.” By the power received through the Holy Ghost or the Atonement, […]
A covenant is a sacred and serious promise given in association with specific ordinances that are essential to a Mormon inheriting eternal life. LDS covenants are always bilateral and conditional on the obedience of the person. For instance, Mormons will make a covenant when they are baptized and renew their covenant when they partake of […]
According to Mormonism, Jesus Christ created the heavens and the earth under the direction of Heavenly Father. He did not create the world from nothing, but organized all of the elements that already existed. Mormonism teaches that others were involved in the creation. LDS Scriptures refer to the plurality of gods (See Exaltation) at the […]
Mormons do not utilize or exhibit the symbol of the cross in their meetinghouses or homes, nor wear them as jewelry. “But because the Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith.” (True to the Faith, p. 46) Mormons prefer to focus on the fact that […]
Doctrine and Covenants is one of Mormonism’s four scriptures. It consists of “divine revelations and inspired declarations” received mostly by Joseph Smith. These scriptures teach more about Mormon doctrine than any of the other three LDS scriptures combined.
The title Elder is given to men who are holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood. This grants them authority to guide the Church and bestow spiritual blessings on its members. Even though an LDS man attends Elder quorums at their church, they don’t necessarily refer to each other as Elders. Instead, they will call men “Brothers” […]
It is “a special spiritual blessing given to worthy and faithful members of the Church in the temple.” (Gospel Topics: Endowment, lds.org) “The ordinance consists of a series of instructions and includes covenants we make to live righteously and comply with the requirements of the gospel.” (True to the Faith, p. 171) This important initiatory […]
The main goal of every faithful Mormon is to be judged worthy enough to receive the reward of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. To attain eternal life means to live in God’s presence and continue to live as eternal families. This is distinct from immortality which is a gift given to all people […]
These phrases are common in LDS teachings. They refer to the Mormon belief that every person has the capacity within them to continually progress throughout the eternities and eventually obtain godhood. This teaching is the heart and core of Mormonism.
See “Eternal Life/Exaltation”
Mormonism teaches that faith is not just a passive belief, but a principle of action. It is a work that leads to receiving all the gifts and blessings from God. The object of a Mormon’s faith is in their obedience to follow Christ and to carry out the laws and ordinances of the LDS Church. […]
Mormonism teaches that the consequence of the Fall is that Adam and Eve were separated from God, which is referred to as spiritual death and they became mortal beings, subject to physical death. The LDS Church believes this act of transgression is a blessing and an integral part of Mormon theology. “In addition to introducing […]
“The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. ..In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughter knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize […]
“Before the creation of the earth, faithful women were given certain responsibilities and faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood duties. …As people prove themselves worthy, they will be given opportunities to fulfill the assignments they then received.” (True to the Faith, p. 70) Mormonism teaches that Jesus Christ was foreordained to carry out the […]
“The Lord commands us to repent of our sins and seek His forgiveness. He also commands us to forgive those who offend or hurt us. ..Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive forgiveness for our sins through sincere and complete repentance.” (True to the Faith, p. 70) Mormonism teaches that the forgiveness […]
Redeeming the dead is a sacred ordinance and an important mission work carried out in the temple. However, before this ordinance can be performed, the dead must be accurately identified. For this reason, Mormons do an extensive amount of genealogical research. It is an important duty for every Mormon. This is referred to as doing […]
The General Conference is held twice a year (April and October) in Salt Lake City. The General Authorities, the higher echelons of the LDS Church, give speeches that Mormon congregations study and discuss for the next six months.
“Spiritual gifts are blessings or abilities given by God to His children through the power of the Holy Spirit. Gifts of the Spirit are given to bless and benefit those who love the Lord and seek to keep His commandments.” (Gospel Topics: Spiritual Gifts, lds.org) “[There are] many gifts of the Spirit. The Lord may […]
The best way to describe the LDS concept of God is within the context of earthly family relationships. Mormons consider themselves literal spirit children of Heavenly Father. One of the central teachings of the LDS Church is that God has a physical body. He “is a concrete being, he possesses a physical body, and he […]
Mormons do not believe in the biblical teachings of the Trinity. Instead, they believe that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are “distinct beings with distinct roles, [yet] are one in purpose.” The three beings of the Godhead are not equal in power or authority. Mormons do not worship or pray to Jesus. Instead, […]
The gospel of the LDS Church is a set of commands and ordinances that needs to be fulfilled in order to reach exaltation. “The gospel is our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. … In its fulness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinance, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the […]
Mormonism teaches that Christ’s death on the cross (Atonement) is an act of grace. As a result, all people will be saved from physical death and be resurrected. For this reason, a Mormon will say they are saved by grace. The LDS Church extends the concept of grace in two different ways: a divine help […]
Outward happiness is a testament to the strength of a Mormon’s faith. Heavenly Father has given a plan of happiness (or plan of salvation) so a person “can be happy in this life and receive a fulness of joy in the eternities.” (Gospel Topics: Happiness, lds.org) “As you seek to be happy, remember that the […]
LDS heaven consists of three kingdoms of glory: Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial. The vast majority of people will go to one of the three kingdoms.
See God the Father
The LDS Church uses several meanings for hell. In one sense, hell defines a temporary state of suffering referred to as spirit prison. It is a place for those who have “died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.” (D&C 138:32) While in spirit prison, non-Mormons […]
Mormonism teaches that the Holy Ghost is the third member of the godhead, but not equal to Heavenly Father. “He is a personage of Spirit, not having a body of flesh and bones.” (True to the Faith, p. 81) The Holy Ghost performs several roles in the plan of salvation, namely revealing truth and sanctifying […]
LDS Church teaches that if a person faithfully carries out works of righteousness, they can receive hope by trusting that they will eventually receive rewards in this life and in eternity. A person can gain hope and grow in their ability to hope by striving to obey the LDS gospel, studying the LDS scriptures, and […]
Mormonism teaches that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He was the first spirit child of Heavenly Father and a heavenly mother. He was the only son physically begotten by Heavenly Father and a human (Mary). He was foreordained to His calling and under the direction of Heavenly Father, created the […]
He is the founder of the Mormon religion and is referred to as The Prophet. “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3) Testifying that Joseph Smith […]
A Mormon can receive justification of their sins by faithfully carrying out a process of repentance and steadfastly obeying and doing all they can to follow the laws and commands of the LDS gospel. Through a Mormon’s obedience, they can receive the gift of grace from Jesus Christ who satisfied the law of justice by […]
Because of Christ’s Atonement, Mormonism teaches that all people will be saved from physical death and be resurrected. All people will stand before Heavenly Father and be judged according to their good works. Heavenly Father will assign an appropriate kingdom of glory to be their eternal dwelling place (Celestial, Terrestial or Telestial). “The glory you […]
This is an abbreviation for Latter-day Saints. The name refers to those who follow the teachings of the restored gospel as given to Joseph Smith during these latter days. Most Mormons prefer to be called LDS.
Marriage is an essential component to the LDS plan of salvation. When a marriage is sealed for time and eternity in the temple, it can be referred to as an eternal marriage, a temple marriage, or a Celestial marriage. A benefit of fulfilling a Mormon’s divine potential by following the plan of salvation is receiving […]
In Mormonism, since God knows that humans are weak in sin, He extends mercy in two ways. First, God sent His Son to satisfy the demands of justice by standing in our place to suffer the penalty of our sins. Jesus’ Atonement conquered physical death so all people will be resurrected and stand before Heavenly […]
In the fall of 2012, the LDS Church lowered the minimum age requirements for missionaries. Now, young men can begin a two-year mission at the age of eighteen and young women can begin an eighteen-month mission at the age of nineteen. This change has dramatically increased the number of missionaries serving worldwide. Young men and […]
This is a popular name for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was originally a nickname established by non-Mormons during the 19th century. It comes from the prophet and general by the name of Mormon who allegedly compiled a group of Scriptures that became “The Book of Mormon.”
Obedience is the hallmark of the LDS Church. All of God’s blessings are dependent upon one’s obedience. (D & C 130:20-21) In the Mormon pre-mortal life, Heavenly Father established a plan for His spirit children. This plan gives every spirit child an opportunity to exercise its divine potential and be worthy to inherit exaltation — […]
Ordinances are rites administered by the authority of the priesthood. “Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called “saving” ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing. With each of these ordinances, we enter into solemn covenants with the Lord.” (True […]
Outer darkness is a term used exclusively for the biblical definition of hell. It is the eternal dwelling place of Satan, demons, and apostates (“sons of perdition”). Atheists or hardened criminals are still designated to the lowest kingdom of glory (Telestial).
Mormonism teaches that when people die, their spirits enter the spirit world. This world is divided into two parts: paradise and spirit prison. When Mormons remain faithful throughout their mortal lives, they will enter paradise in the spirit world until the day of judgment when their bodies will be resurrected with their spirit. In paradise, […]
“Patriarchal blessings are given to worthy members of the Church by ordained patriarchs. Your patriarchal blessing declares your lineage in the house of Israel and contains personal counsel from the Lord to you.” (True to the Faith, p. 111) This blessing identifies a person as a member of the tribe of Israel, eligible to receive […]
For Mormons, a person can receive inner peace and be an influence for peace in this world by remaining true to their testimony. Works and obedience will lead to receiving the feelings of peace. “Peace comes through the gospel — through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the ministration of the Holy Ghost, and our own […]
This book is one of the four sources the LDS Church refers to as Scriptures. “The Pearl of Great Price contains the book of Moses, the book of Abraham, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of Matthew chapter 24, and some writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.” (True to the Faith, p. 158) Because this […]
In Mormonism, the fall brought physical death where the spirit is separated from the mortal body. Because of Christ’s Atonement, every person will conquer physical death and be resurrected with their body on Judgment Day. “Death is an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. In order to become like our Eternal Father, we […]
The plan of salvation is also referred to as the plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, or the plan of mercy. According to LDS teachings, Heavenly Father prepared this plan in the pre-mortal existence. He wants all of his spirit children to fully exercise their divine potential and become like Him. Those who exercised […]
Mormons use this term instead of polygamy. In 1843, this doctrine became part of LDS scripture until 1890 when “the Lord inspired Church President Wilford Woodruff to issue a statement that led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.” (lds.org) The LDS Church currently teaches that God’s standard is a […]
Prayer is encouraged by the LDS Church and is part of its church life. They believe it is a time to communicate with God and get to know Him and His desires. They do not pray to Jesus Christ or to the Holy Ghost, but direct all of their prayers to Heavenly Father. The power […]
The president of the Mormon Church is called the “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” or the Living Prophet. Mormonism teaches that he, and he alone, receives direct revelations from God for the entire church. These revelations take precedence over written scriptures, because they are the most applicable to life in today’s world. The presidency is a […]
The LDS Church teaches that the priesthood is the power and authority of God to act on His behalf. All worthy male members enter into the priesthood. Only they can properly administer the ordinances necessary in obeying the gospel of the LDS Church. Certain priesthood holders are given the authority to hold priesthood keys which […]
A Mormon will refer to Jesus Christ as Redeemer since He paid the debt of all sin through His Atonement. As a result, Mormons believe that all people are redeemed from physical death and will be resurrected to appear before Heavenly Father on Judgment Day. Mormons believe that Jesus has paid off the ransom of […]
According to Mormonism, all the blessings of God, including forgiveness of sins and happiness on this earth, are dependent upon a person’s obedience. Jesus Christ has done His part to provide a way to receive God’s blessings, now it up to Mormons to do their part. These actions are referred to as repentance which is […]
After the last of Jesus’ original twelve apostles died, Mormons believe a Great Apostasy occurred. This was a period of spiritual darkness where people had lost the “fulness of the gospel truth.” It was not until Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to a young Joseph Smith in the early 19th century that the fulness […]
The LDS Church is guided today through revelation to chosen servants (prophets) either to validate the teachings of Mormonism or sometimes to change or add new teachings. Revelation is also given to any worthy person to fit a specific need or to strengthen faith. Mormons will know if they have received a revelation by their […]
The LDS Church carefully observes each Sunday as the Sabbath day. Faithful Mormons are not to work, shop, go to the movies, or engage in sports. Instead, they are to attend church meetings, meditate, study Scriptures, write letters to family or friends, visit the sick, or read inspirational and wholesome materials. “Because the Sabbath is […]
This word refers exclusively as a reference to the Lord’s Supper. Mormons partake of the sacrament, consisting of bread and water, every Sunday as a means to remember Jesus’ Atonement. In doing so, they reaffirm the covenant promises they made to Heavenly Father to remain faithful and obedient to the LDS gospel. “When you partake […]
Mormonism teaches that personal sacrifice is essential to being a faithful and active member of the LDS Church. Sacrifice is necessary to exercise faith and to receive blessings from Heavenly Father. Faithful members of the LDS Church are willing to make any sacrifices required by the Lord to eternally progress on God’s plan of salvation […]
If Mormons are asked if they are “saved”, they will quickly reply “Yes!” or “Yes, but with conditions.” Every person will be resurrected and “saved” from physical death as a result of Jesus’ Atonement. In order to be saved or receive salvation, a Mormon must remain obedient to the covenant promises they have made before […]
Mormonism teaches that Lucifer is a spirit son of God who rebelled against Heavenly Father and the plan of salvation. Currently referred to as Satan, he and his followers were denied a physical body, cut off from God’s presence, and will never enter any of the kingdoms of glory. God allows Satan to tempt people […]
Mormons will refer to Jesus with the title of Savior since He saved all people from physical death through His Atonement. As a result, He offers the opportunity of redemption for all people if they follow His example and are obedient to all of the commands and ordinances of the LDS Church. Biblical Christianity teaches: Jesus […]
The official (or “canonized”) scriptures of the Mormon Church are the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Bible. These books are referred to as the standard works. Mormons also refer to the messages of the living prophet and the talks given at general conferences as scripture. “The holy […]
Faithful and worthy Mormons who desire to have an eternal family will have their marriage sealed “for time and eternity” in the temple. Since marriage is a requirement to reach exaltation, this temple ordinance is referred to as a celestial marriage. If both spouses are faithful to the covenants, then the sealing will continue for […]
Mormon teenagers are required to attend seminary while in high school. Here, they will receive daily instruction on LDS Scriptures. In areas with large LDS populations, seminaries are built next to local public high schools and can serve as a social center.
Mormonism teaches a person sins only if they consciously and deliberately disobey one of God’s commandments. This includes when a person fails to act in a righteous manner despite having the knowledge of what is good and right. Mistakes, errors, or lapses of judgment are not necessarily sins that require repentance. Mormons are encouraged to […]
Mormonism teaches that in the pre-mortal world all people lived as spirit children of Heavenly Father and mother. Anyone who has ever been born on this earth was considered worthy and accepted God’s plan of salvation as a spirit child. Life on earth gives people the opportunity to be tested and eternally progress. This is […]
Mormonism teaches that the spirits of all people will go to a spirit world after death and wait for the resurrection. Spirits of all Mormons will be designated to a place of peace and joy called paradise. Here they will continue their eternal progression towards perfection by remaining obedient and doing mission work. Spirits of […]
Mormonism teaches about spiritual death in two different ways. They believe spiritual death means separation from God. All people on earth are spiritually dead because they are physically separated from God. The resurrection of Christ is what redeem all people from spiritual death and brings everyone back into the presence of the Lord to be […]
A stake is an organizational unit consisting of a number of wards or congregations. LDS churches are sometimes referred to as stake houses. The term is from Isaiah 33:20 where the verse presents a picture of a tent (the Church) held up by a number of supporting stakes. It is equivalent to a Catholic diocese.
It is the lowest of the three LDS kingdoms of glory. This kingdom will not be visited by Heavenly Father or Jesus but will have access to the Holy Ghost. This will be the final destination for the irreligious and immoral people, even professing atheists. “The people who live in the telestial kingdom are those […]
Temples are a central component to the doctrine of the LDS Church. The temple serves as the place to carry out essential and sacred covenants which are paramount toward inheriting eternal life. “The principal purpose of temples is to provide the ordinances necessary for our exaltation in the celestial kingdom.” (True to the Faith, p. […]
It is the middle of the three LDS kingdoms of glory. Mormons who were not valiant enough in their efforts to follow the LDS gospel and non-Mormons with good morals will eternally dwell in this kingdom. It is a good place, but not nearly as good as the Celestial kingdom. They will not live with […]
A Mormon testimony consists of the following: a) Belief in Heavenly Father; b) Belief in Jesus Christ as the literal son of God who carried out the Atonement on their behalf; c) Believe that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God who brought forth the Restoration; d) Belief that the current president of the […]
A significant part of Mormon culture is being self-reliant and to care for those in need. It is a Mormon’s responsibility to provide for the social, emotional, spiritual, physical, and economic well-being for themselves, their family, and their church. They are to apply themselves to exercising their faith and to working diligently so that all […]
Following the Word of Wisdom means to abstain from alcoholic drinks, tobacco, tea, and coffee. The LDS teaches that the Holy Ghost revealed to Joseph Smith a “law of health” that is to benefit the spiritual and physical welfare of Mormons (D&C 89). Attached to these commandments are promises of blessings that are associated with […]
For Mormons, to worship means to work. It is through action that Mormons worship God and display their love and devotion for Him. “To worship God is to give Him your love, reverence, service, and devotion.” (True to the Faith, p. 188) These actions include a regular prayer life, attending LDS Church meetings, and participating […]
Personal worthiness is the underlying factor for receiving all the blessing from God including the forgiveness of sins. It is based on following the LDS gospel and carrying out all the commands and ordinances of the Church. Temporal blessings, or the lack thereof, are typically traced back to whether or not a Mormon has been […]
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