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Showing posts from 2009

Mormon Scholars Testify

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My initial study of the Gospel quickly turned to reading various works of scholarship. I've read 90% of Hugh Nibley's works, and many other Mormon scholars. An interesting new website was just launched titled "Mormon Scholars Testify". I don't know how often it will be updated, but I'll be following it anyways. Check out these excerpts from a couple of entries:

Royal Skousen
[My] personal testimony of the Book of Mormon is independent of my work on the critical text project. The Book of Mormon stands on its own and is ultimately not dependent on how that text may vary in printed editions or in the manuscripts. Moroni promised that the Lord will give a testimony of the book to the prayerful reader – irrespective of any infelicities and errors in the text (which Moroni recognized could be there, as he himself noted in the last part of the title page of the Book of Mormon). I received my own personal witness of this book long before I ever began work on this proje…

Understanding Hanukkah

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The BYU Religious Studies Center just published a short column by Jeffrey Chadwick, a professor at the Jerusalem Center, on the importance of Hanukkah to Jews, Christians and Latter-day Saints. The introduction:
Hanukkah, the Jewish Feast of Dedication, begins this Friday night at sundown. The Hebrew word Hanukkah actually means “dedication.” The eight-day festival in 2009 runs from Saturday, December 12, to Saturday, December 19. It is a holiday period of considerable significance, both religiously and historically, to Jews the world over. But it should also be of some importance to Christians, including Latter-day Saints, for without the events celebrated in Hanukkah there would have been no Christmas. Here’s the story. (Read the rest.)

I've Been Published!

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I just received today my 2 complimentary, author-signed copies of "Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Why did I receive these complimentary, you ask? Because on page 73, the author used two of my photographs of the Mexico City Temple. Get your very own copy here! (It would make for a wonderful Christmas gift.) The official description:
For more than 150 years, missionaries have traveled the world, spreading the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). In their wake, beautiful temples have sprung up on nearly every continent. These buildings are the heart and soul of local LDS congregations and represent much more than places of worship. Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is both an architecture and history book that chronicles the growth of the LDS faith as it spread around the world. With their elegant spires reaching to the heavens and massive square footage, Mormon temples are majestic structures. …

Literal Sidewalk Proselytizing

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A couple of Latter-day Saint missionaries set out to proselytize on the sidewalk, literally. More images found here.


LDS Resource Compilation

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I ran across a seemingly useful site called OpenLDS.com that has compiled and sorted LDS resources on the web. From the site:
Thanks for stopping by- Open LDS is an effort to organize the abundance of good LDS information that is available online. Our purpose is to help you find interesting and useful LDS sites quickly and easily.

Praise to The Man

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Early on, my study of the Gospel began as a study of the life of Joseph Smith. The first book I read was called "Journal of Joseph". It was basically an abridged version of the first few volumes of the History of the Church set. It helped me to see him as a person, as someone real and genuine. I've always enjoyed studying his life and teachings.

Whether or not the work he performed was true, I have a very deep and sure testimony that Joseph Smith believed the work was true. There was no conspiracy or design to fool anyone into believing he was a prophet. There was only a man who truly believed he was called of God, and suffered from that time until the end of his life testifying of that calling. There isn't a single shred of evidence that he was anything less than sincere in his work. This must be understood if you want to know what he taught, and whether or not it's true.

Feast Upon The Word blog publishes commentary on each chapter studied in Priesthood quorum a…

Book of Mormon Hero Posters

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I just ran across this website that has some pretty amazing posters of Book of Mormon and Bible heroes. The digital artist is Steve Nethercott:
With his new release of Real Hero Posters, Steve has chosen to use various digital illustration techniques to achieve the look and feel he desires. With these posters, he wishes to touch the heart of everyone, but especially the youth. "In a world full of fantasy heroes and pop-stars, we should never forget the real heroes, with real courage, real strength, and real stories," says Steve. Through his artistic talents, Steve strives to capture the spirit of real heroes, the uniqueness of their world, the strength of their character, and the reality of their heroism.

Reflections of Christ II

Another beautiful video incorporating the photography of Mark Mabry has been made. The first can be found here on this blog. This latest one is titled "Another Testament of Christ" (YouTube, 7m, 52s):

What's This Fuss About DNA?

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Michael De Groote wrote a nice series of articles for MormonTimes that quickly examines the fuss about DNA and the Book of Mormon. Reading this short series is a great way to get educated on the issue. It's a 4-part series; part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. The introduction:
Somewhere among the varied coasts of the two American continents was landfall for a small group of ancient Israelite seafarers led by a prophet named Lehi.

Whether they stepped upon the sands of an empty or crowded continent is at the heart of the DNA debate over the historical nature of the Book of Mormon.

Ugo Perego, an Italian-born researcher in human genetics, tries to look with a scientist's eye at the controversy surrounding DNA and the Book of Mormon.

He is a bit impatient with some of the strong conclusions of some critics and LDS apologists. There is too little data. He believes critics and apologists need to be cautious.

"I see that from both the critics' side and the LDS side there is …

An Apostolic Witness of the Book of Mormon

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One of the highlights for me of the 179th Semi-annual General Conference was Elder Holland's testimony of the Book of Mormon. It is much better watched (.wmv) than read, but here is an excerpt:
As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?

Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four qu…

The Mormon Myth of Evil Evolution

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Ask your average member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) what he thinks of evolution, and he'll probably tell you it's a fallacy. Ask him what his Church says about evolution and he'll probably tell you that Church doctrine says it's a fallacy as well. He would be wrong. The Mormon Church has no official doctrinal position on the question of organic evolution. Many members are unaware of this. Mormon apologist Michael R. Ash, however, is completely aware of the debate that has taken place about evolution among members and leadership in the Church, and put that knowledge into a great essay that seeks to clear the myth held by so many that the Mormon Church has a negative view of evolutionary theory. His introduction:
Several years ago while teaching the priests’ quorum, part of my lesson focused on the deceptive methods used by Satan. I asked my class for suggestions as to what tools, techniques, and deceptive teachings Satan employs. Som…

A Look at Self Betrayal

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I've come to the conclusion that we, at least I, betray myself almost everyday. I reached this conclusion after reading through a series of posts at the LDSPhilosopher blog named "Two Ways of Being". This series looks at the way we betray ourselves by looking at others as objects, rather than human beings. The series and post introductions can be found here. An excerpt:
According to the book Anatomy of Peace, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber
observed that there are basically two ways of being in the world: we can be in the world seeing others as people or we can be in the world seeing others as objects. He called the first way of being the I-Thou way and the second the I-It way, and he argued that we are always, in every moment, being either I-Thou or I-It—seeing others as people or seeing them as objects.
In other words, Buber believed that human experience oscillates between two different kinds of relationships: “I-Thou” and “I-It.” We sometimes experience others as ob…

Korihor's Philosophical Tapestry

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Nathan Richardson at LDSPhilosopher.com has done a great job analyzing the philosophy of the antichrist Korihor, and Alma's response in unraveling it, in the 30th chapter of the Book of Alma, in the Book of Mormon. It consists of 3 parts, introductions of each can be found here. An excerpt:
While teaching among the Nephites, Korihor lays out a variety of complaints he has about the doctrines taught in the Church of Christ. He asserts that there is no life after death, that guilt is caused by a frenzied mind rather than a conscience, and that prophecies are just foolish traditions.

Alma could have taken the same shotgun approach that Korihor used, peppering Korihor with detailed counter-arguments to each of his assertions. The first time I read Alma 30, that is what I was expecting, or at least hoping for. I thought, “Alma could explain near-death-experiences as evidence of life after death,” or, “Maybe he’ll talk about ‘Natural Law’ or what C. S. Lewis calls ‘the Tao’ as evidence t…

Mormonism and The Cross

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I've discovered an interesting website dedicated to "interreligious dialogue and discussion with Latter-day Saints, Evangelicals, and Catholics." It goes by the name of Summa Theologica, which is the title of a work by the Italian Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas. Their latest article is on Mormonism's relationship to the Cross, that is as an ornamental symbol. The author does a great job looking at the history and giving advice on how to approach those wondering why they don't see Mormons wearing crosses or crosses on our meetinghouses. An excerpt:
What all of this [history of the cross in Mormonism] tells me is that there is often a very unfortunate result when we feel compelled to make up some sort of explanation for why we are different from someone else that has no basis in history. To point out that Latter-day Saints do not use a particular symbol in the same way as other religions is not an explanation but merely an observation. In addition, a Latter-day…

Mormons and the Bible

I sent the following letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News today:
9 September, 2009

Editor, Dallas Morning News

Dear Editor,

Re: "On teaching the Bible: Equal time for other texts," Mr. Fisk seems to be under the impression that Mormons would have a problem with study devoted to the King James version of the Holy Bible. Let it be known, Mormons believe the KJV Holy Bible to be the word of God, just as any other type of Christian. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism's entry regarding the Holy Bible can be found here: http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Bible.

Regards,
Skyler Collins

Intelligence & Agency

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I've discovered a fantastic, thought-provoking website at LDSPhilosopher.com. I've enjoyed reading through their archives and I'm sure I will be sharing more from their site as time goes on.

One of their series of posts is named "Intelligence & Agency" and I wanted to link to it from here. The series is about what the Lord means by intelligences in the scriptures. There has not been too much revealed on the topic and these guys do a pretty good job deciphering. After reading the series, I posed a question regarding the millennium and received a satisfactory answer. Here are some excerpts:
Part One

There are a lot of vital doctrines the Lord usually focuses on: priesthood, repentance, the second coming. Usually it seems like he chooses such doctrines because they are vital to our salvation or help us in the process of repenting and becoming like him. On the other end, there are a lot of things he has chosen to not reveal: the full process involved in creation, th…

Faith - Initiatory & Enduring

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The purpose of this short essay is to explain the concept of faith as I understand it. As I have exercised and studied faith, it seems to me that there are primarily two types, or levels, of faith. The first type I call initiatory faith, and the second, enduring faith. These names describe the differences in these two types of faith well.

Initiatory faith, I believe, leans more heavily on hope. For as the Bible says, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Heb. 11:1). Though I can't see if I will make it to work safely, I hope that I will. And because I have made it to work safely every day in the past, I have faith that I will today. It takes initiatory faith to move me to start my car in confidence.

Enduring faith is developed faith. It takes action, which is initiatory faith, and time to have the perfect faith that I will arrive to work safely. Having done it hundreds of times, having seen it every day over the last few years, I can easily …

My Exchange with Bill Keller

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It's been almost 3 years since a short email exchange I had with the Reverend Bill Keller of LivePrayer.com. I thought this blog would be a better place for it than my Gmail archive. After writing an article for USAReligiousNews.com (cross-published at TheChristianPost.com) about the Mormon church, I sent him an email to start what I hoped to be a good debate. But I was disappointed, as you'll see in his reply. It seems USAReligiousNews.com has removed his article after I forwarded our exchanged to them expressing my disapproval in their publishing of his article. I will separate each email with "-----" and his words are in blue:

(September 7th, 2006)
Mr. Keller,

This email is in response to an article you published at USA Religious News (www.usareligiousnews.com) on September 6th, 2006. You have made several statements that I believe to be inaccurate in regards to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I would like to present your article back to you with m…

An Objectivist Critique of Mormonism?

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A friend of mine, Chris Brown, has written an excellent article looking at the objectivist critique of Christianity and examines whether or not it applies to Mormonism, for LDSFreemen.com. His introduction:
Many latter-day saints were drawn to ideas of laissez-faire capitalism after reading Ayn Rand’s best-selling novel Atlas Shrugged. While Rand’s views are foundational to her fiction works, it is in her non-fiction works, and particularly those of the founder of the Ayn Rand Institute Leonard Peikoff, where her philosophy—Objectivism—is delineated and developed into a more coherent framework. While Objectivism heavily criticizes Christianity as nothing more than mysticism, the more relevant discussion for this article regards whether this criticism applies to Mormonism. It is meant to answer whether the Objectivist judgment of Christianity in general, including faith and the nature of God, also applies to Mormonism.

In order to answer the question it becomes necessary to understand ho…

Non-Aggression and The Constitution

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My highest aim in life is to be on the side of truth, wherever it can be found. I believe this is synonymous with being on the side of God. For that, I have journeyed down several paths in search of truth in such areas as faith, science, economics, and politics. Truth in each cannot contradict truth in the others. Any seeming contradictions are because of either incomplete information or incorrect interpretation of the available information.

Along this journey, I have found true and just such libertarian principles as self-government, self-ownership, and non-aggression. I understand what each of these principles are, I try to live them, and I try to promote them. But I've certainly had some questions along the way as these principles pertain to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Within the Gospel, it is doctrine that the American Experiment was directed and established through either the direct or indirect influence of the Almighty. What this means is that God had a hand in the initial est…

On Faith, Self-interest, & Greed

It is my opinion that faith is a beautiful thing. It is required in almost everything we do. In remarking on faith now, however, I refer to faith in life after death. I have faith and I have hope that my spirit will continue living long after my body dies. Is this reasonable? Of course it is. Who of sound mind wouldn't want to continue life after death? But what causes that faith and hope?

It can only be self-interest. Can I say that? Is it okay for me to admit that the reason I have faith and hope in an afterlife is because I am interested in myself? Is that selfish? I don't think it's selfish; I think it's logical and true. Self-interest is behind everything we do, even altruistic things like serving our neighbor. I also believe it's behind everything God and Jesus Christ do.

In the book of Moses we read, "For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Emphasis added.) Obviously, God is as self-intere…

Sunday Will Come

The Resurrection and the Atonement of Christ are the pinnacle events in the history of the world. The darkness and sadness of Christ's crucifixion did not endure. Christ was resurrected, enabling the resurrection of all mankind. In our lives we will have our dark days, but because of Jesus Christ we can have hope in overcoming our trials and ultimately returning to live with our Heavenly Father (2m, 32s, YouTube):

Let Us Be Men

A true man makes sacrifices in order to honor his commitments. Even though he will give much, the blessings he receives outweigh the sacrifice (3m, 12s, YouTube):

War is Sin

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I just read a great article on war and wanted to share it. I thought this blog a more appropriate place than my other one. After reading this, I remembered what Mormon said after the fall of his people:
And my soul was rent with anguish, because of the slain of my people, and I cried: O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!The introduction and conclusion to the article "War is Sin" by Chris Hedges:
The crisis faced by combat veterans returning from war is not simply a profound struggle with trauma and alienation. It is often, for those who can slice through the suffering to self-awareness, an existential crisis. War exposes the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves. It rips open the hypocrisy of our religions and secular institutions. Those who return from war have learned something which is often incomprehensible to those who have stayed home. We are …

To Renounce War and Proclaim Peace

Here's a great article from Conner Boyack for LDSFreeman.com on war from an LDS perspective. We need to start listening to the council of our prophets past and present to renounce war and proclaim peace. An excerpt:
In a world of constant conflict, how well are God’s chosen people renouncing the status quo of destruction and death and proclaiming peace? Do the followers of the Prince of Peace carry His standard in the face of war, or do they gladly parade around with the flags and insignia of their respective Caesars?

Hard Times

Here's a great video from Mormon Messages (3m, 23s, YouTube) on the hard times we face, from Elder Cook's conference address:

Conference Summary Video - April 09

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I discovered this great General Conference summary video (10m, 56s) produced by the church that highlight great parts of each of the First Presidency and Apostles' talks. It helped to fill in some of the parts I missed, as will the conference issue of the Ensign. Different formats of it can be found here. I hope these find their way to YouTube.

An Apostle's Easter Message

I wanted to share two Easter messages. The first is a message by the First Presidency of the Church. The second is a video of the Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland bearing witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement:
At this Easter season of hope and renewal we testify of the glorious reality of the atonement and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The empty tomb brought comforting assurance and provided the answer to the question of Job, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14).

Because of the Savior’s resurrection we will overcome death and become the beneficiaries of His mercy and grace. In a world of trouble and uncertainty, His peace fills our hearts and eases our minds. Jesus is in very deed “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

We give our sure witness that Jesus is the Christ. Though He was crucified, He rose triumphant from the tomb to our everlasting blessing and benefit. To each member of the human family He stands as our Advocate, our Savior, and our Frie…

Even a Child Can Understand

Great video by Mormon Messages featuring part of a talk by Elder Gerald Causse. It's embedded below this excerpt:
God would indeed be unjust if the gospel were only accessible to an intellectual elite. In His goodness, He has ensured that the truths regarding God are understandable to all His children, whatever their level of education or intellectual faculty.

Happy is the Man (and Woman)

Great article at LDSFreemen.com on God's commandment to multiply and replenish the Earth, by Ezra Taylor. The introduction:
Happiness, that is true joy, is something that all of Heavenly Father’s children desire to have. The Psalmist says that “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them” (Psalms 127:5). What is a quiver and what do we need to fill it with to bring us that happiness?

When we read the context, of course, more understanding is opened up to us. King Solomon writes, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” (Psalms 137:3-5) A quiver is a case for holding or carrying arrows. It was used as a metaphor to point out the fact that when one fills up their life with children, which are “an heritage of the Lord”, true happiness follows.

Why We Build Temples

The Church has started publishing a video series called Mormon Messages on Youtube and among those are the two embedded below about why we build temples and the blessings that are received through the temple.

My wife and I have began doing temple work for our family. My side has been mostly done and still requires some more work for the furthest back and outward of my family tree. We've just begun baptisms and are working through those of the names we have. My wife's side is completely untouched except for her grandmothers, grandfathers, and a couple of uncles that have passed away. We have a lot of geneology work to do for her family as she is a first-generation convert. It's been exciting to do the work for those who you can trace to and possibly share a surname with. It's felt a little more significant for me knowing a little better those whose work we are doing. They're not complete strangers, anyway.

Here's those two videos that I recommend watching to bette…

A First Vision Harmony

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MormonTimes.com reports on a student, Michael Baldwin, at Brigham Young University who has put together a paper harmonizing the several accounts of Joseph Smith's first vision. The report contains an excerpt from the harmonization and I recommend reading it. Here's the report explaining what that means:
Baldwin noticed that each version had some aspects that were unique. One would mention one detail while another would focus on another detail. He decided to bring all the different versions together in a harmony -- similar to what many have done with the four New Testament Gospels.

He made two columns to help organize the information. One column had the common elements of the First Vision. Another column contained the unique elements. He created a single narrative of the First Vision from the different accounts and color-coded the words to keep track of the sources.

Nibley Explains Gospel Best

Orson Scott Card's latest MormonTimes.com column is a reflection on Hugh Nibley. As one who has read most of his work, I can appreciate what Card has to say about him:
My father knew I was interested in the Book of Mormon; he also knew that I was frustrated with the amount of nonsense -- bad reasoning, shoddy scholarship, gross overreaching -- that pervaded the books then available that tried to "prove" the Book of Mormon through archaeology.

Hugh Nibley's book did none of the things that had made me so unhappy with the others. Instead, he studied the text of the Book of Mormon closely, and treated it, not as something to be proven, but as something that was true.

The Book of Mormon, Nibley showed me, is not trying to prove its own genuineness, it's trying to get people to repent of their sins and accept the Atonement of Christ. But the culture is there -- it simply isn't explained or pointed out, because that wasn't the writers' purpose.

A Call for End to Darwin Debate

Scientists and religious leaders call for an end to the fighting over the legacy of Charles Darwin. This week, the bicentennial of his birth is being celebrated throughout the world. Brigham Young University has a series of lectures planned throughout the week that I will be attending on Wednesday evening. I'm sure this article was timely released. An excerpt:
"Evolution, we believe, has become caught in the crossfire of a religious battle in which Darwin himself had little personal interest.

"We respectfully encourage those who reject evolution to weigh the now overwhelming evidence, hugely strengthened by recent advances in genetics, which testifies to the theory's validity.

"At the same time, we respectfully ask those contemporary Darwinians who seem intent on using Darwin's theory as a vehicle for promoting an anti-theistic agenda to desist from doing so as they are, albeit unintentionally, turning people away from the theory.

"In this year of all years…

Reflections of Christ

This video is making it's way around the blogosphere. It's a slideshow collection of the Mark Mabry "Reflections of Christ" photography project. It is accompanied by the hymn "Come Thou Fount". It is a beautiful collection of photos depicting the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflections of Christ - Mark Mabry

My Talk: Opposition & Agency

I delivered this talk in Sacrament meeting on January 25th, 2009:

[Good morning brothers and sisters.]

I am privileged for this opportunity to speak here in Sacrament meeting and pray that the Spirit has been with me as I prepared this talk. Before I begin though, I’d like to just share a few updates on my family. My son is in his first year of primary and from what I can tell, he really enjoys it. I think there are six or seven kids in his class and knowing how rambunctious those kids are, all I have to say is that the Bishop owes Sister Ferguson big time! Julieta is teaching full time in primary and has quite the class herself. I’m really proud of how well she’s handled her kids. I can see how much she loves them and they love her in the way they’re quick to give her a hug. She has also been enjoying Activity Days with Sister Smith and Sister Parry. For myself, and I say this with true sincerity, I have really enjoyed Gospel Doctrine and the opportunity to lead our discussions on the …