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Dan Vogel

Pious Fraud

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Brigham Young read it the way I do, along with several others that I also quoted. Both are viable readings to my mind. Mine is probably stronger based on standard English practices, but if one assumes that JS is the author, there is no reason to assume that he followed standard English practices 100% in this case as he certainly didn't in other ones.

BY would be the strongest witness since he was a contemporary....that is if the point is to determine what this verse meant to JS.

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Dan Vogel - In Christian tradition, angels are a different class than mortals.

I am honestly not trying to be a bother, nor pick at nits, however, your statement here is quite a bit too vague to be of much value. *Which* Christians had this idea? You see, the Christian tradition is hardly homogenous on this. And how far back do we go to include a Christian tradition? If you are thinking of the Christian tradition in Joseph Smith's day, then it would be more precise and probably more correct. However, if you mean by Christian tradition, that which goes all the way back to Christ, I will kindly and gently thrash your junk! :P Oh. I mean, I will kindly and gently disagree with your assessment........ <_<

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As you can see, I have my hands plenty full. I

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Cal,

Mr. Vogel, you have referred to some of the comments here as "ad hoc." I am wondering why you are assuming this is the first time that some of us have examined the scriptures in this way. It's not as if others haven't had these same thoughts that we are stating before, as evidenced from the commentary quote I provided (revised edition, 1972).

I appeared to me that your interpretation was contrived in response to my interpretation, which is the straightforward reading. When you did quote other sources, you presented them like new discoveries. Moreover, there is nothing in the D&C commentary that particularly supports your interpretation or contradicts mine. I

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Juliann,

I would think that someone who claims to be an expert in Mormonism would be aware of standard interpretations used in the evolution of their theology. My 1950 edition of Sjohdal's Doctrine and Covenants Commentary has also engaged in similar "ad hoc" interpretation on pg. 93:

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I appeared to me that your interpretation was contrived in response to my interpretation, which is the straightforward reading.
Since it has been the way I have always read it for the past 35 years that I've been reading the D&C, this would be a wrong assumption. Whose is the straightforward reading is what is being debated I thought.
If someone lies in this fashion, what is to prohibit him from lying in other ways? If he can rationalize this behavior, he likely has other rationalizations for all forms of deception.
Possibly, but I know of people that refuse to utter falsehoods themselves. This is one of the ways they rationalize those times that they do not share all the information necessary for correct conclusions. One would not be accused of lying on the witness stand if all they did was not give information that was not asked for even if they were aware that others were taking iwhat they did say the wrong way. This point of technicality is often a very 'big deal' to those who see themselves as honest and truthful men who never tell a falsehood or lie. I have had some rather involved philosophical arguments about it over the years.

So I could make the argument that the fact that Joseph appears to be focusing so strongly on this type of rationalization is evidence that he would not engage in actual falsehoods or direct lying.

I don't see how any conclusion one way (it was a line Joseph was drawing that he would not cross) or the other (the tip of the iceberg of rationalization) can be drawn from the use of D&C 19 alone. I am assuming you have a variety of evidences to support your position, including stronger ones.

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Annie,

Agreed, with the caveat that it would technically be possible for the plates to be manufactured by another person to delude Joseph Smith. JS either made metallic plates of some sort, or was given some by God. But that's a separate question from whether or not Joseph Smith believed the Book of Mormon to be historical. I'm convinced he could very plausibly have manufactured some plates to help others' faith in the translation of a book he only saw himself with an eye of faith. This is not to say that that is what happened. Only that the position is tenable, and worthy of consideration alongside other positions such as your own. I disagree, in other words, that if JS was a pious fraud when it came to his physical possession of gold plates, he must necessarily have been a pious fraud when it came to the Book of Mormon's historicity. Hypothetically speaking.

There is only one problem with your hypothesis: the BofM is not historical. If the BofM is historical, then there was a Nephi and a Mormon who made plates and buried them in the hill Cumorah. If the plates were in the hill Cumorah, why would JS have to make plates to increase faith and manipulate people to see them with the eye of faith? Moreover, predictions in the book that the plates would be shown to three witnesses would not be true.

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Juliann,

Um, Dan...I have never claimed to be a scholar. You are the one that does that. I have also admitted to being everything that you have accused me of...a dimwitted sissy who knows nothing..nothing! But I really don't know what any of this has to do with the topic.

Why are you so shy about calling yourself a scholar? Why the self-deprecation? I didn

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Since this appears to have been overlooked, let me pose it again:

I am not turning the texts on their head, but rather I

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Dan Vogel -

Annie,
Agreed, with the caveat that it would technically be possible for the plates to be manufactured by another person to delude Joseph Smith. JS either made metallic plates of some sort, or was given some by God. But that's a separate question from whether or not Joseph Smith believed the Book of Mormon to be historical. I'm convinced he could very plausibly have manufactured some plates to help others' faith in the translation of a book he only saw himself with an eye of faith. This is not to say that that is what happened. Only that the position is tenable, and worthy of consideration alongside other positions such as your own. I disagree, in other words, that if JS was a pious fraud when it came to his physical possession of gold plates, he must necessarily have been a pious fraud when it came to the Book of Mormon's historicity. Hypothetically speaking.

There is only one problem with your hypothesis: the BofM is not historical. If the BofM is historical, then there was a Nephi and a Mormon who made plates and buried them in the hill Cumorah. If the plates were in the hill Cumorah, why would JS have to make plates to increase faith and manipulate people to see them with the eye of faith? Moreover, predictions in the book that the plates would be shown to three witnesses would not be true.

[This post has been edited because I think I misread your question the first time around.]

I think there are some other problems with this hypothesis, but I don't think this is one of them. If the plates were buried in the hill Cumorah, JS may have wanted to make fakes of some sort to gain credibility because he didn't have physical possession of the plates, but wanted to be taken seriously. He wouldn't have seen encouragement of seeing through the eye of faith as manipulative. He was building spiritual receptivity, preparing people to have the spirit work through them.

I don't understand your last statement that "predictions in the book that the plates would be shown to three witnesses would not be true". Is this still following the same assumptions that the BoM is historical but JS's physical plates are fake? I'm confused, sorry. From Joseph Smith's perspective, I tend to think, the Book of Mormon was historical, and the predictions in the book that the plates would be shown to three witnesses proved true (if not in every particular original detail).

If the BoM is not historical, he has to have manufactured plates of some sort, but I don't think he used them with the three witnesses (and maybe not the :P , and I don't think the this negates the plausibility of JS's sincere belief in the Book of Mormon as an ancient document.

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Well, it is too bad that I haven't been around for a while. Things have certainly gotten more interesting here.

A couple of comments on the more recent posts in this thread (since it would probably be counterproductive to go back and rehash everything from the beginning).

First, on lying -

To take Dan's comments a little further - intent is by far the most important determinative of what is a lie. If we are attempting to mislead someone by making a claim or a statement that we do not believe ourselves, we are lying. The factual accuracy (or inaccuracy) of the statement isn't really relevant. We like to think that we usually believe things that are factually true, and disbelieve things which are not factually true. But in any particular instance, the fact that we are telling a falsehood when we lie is purely accidental.

Take for example, the boy who leaves his homework at home on the kitchen table. He gets to school, realizes he doesn't have it, and lies to his teacher claiming that the dog ate it. Unbeknownst to him, the dog, earlier that morning, after some bacon grease was spilled on the homework, pulled it down, and ate it. The fact that he told a factual truth does not change the fact that he believed that he was telling a falsehood and thus that he was lying.

On another note, a great deal has been said by Dan and others here in this forum on the nature of prophets. I wanted to run another definition by Dan - which appears to be used in the Book of Mormon - for his consideration.

In the Old Testament, Moses marries an Ethiopian woman which prompts a cry of outrage from his sister (Merriam) and his brother (Aaron). In response to this outrage, we get this passage (Number 12:4-6 ff.)

And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said,

Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.

So, we have the identification of a prophet coming from God Himself. In the early parts of the Book of Mormon, Lehi is intentionally portrayed as a prophet like Moses. And this passage seems to be referred to in 1 Nephi 1:8 and 1 Nephi 2:1
And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he [Lehi] was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, ... FOR behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him ...
This isn't so much a prophet "talking to God" as it is "God talking to" the prophet. And, it would seem, that Joseph Smith himself invokes this notion of a prophet when he describes his First "Vision".

Finally, as far as this topic goes, at the beginning of this thread you wrote:

Again, personally, I do not believe prophets REALLY talk to God, but I realize that even my paradigm does not make it impossible for the believer to maintain belief if they are willing to make modifications in their background beliefs, such as the definitions of prophet and revelation.
This, however, is actually not as simple as you make it. I believe that I REALLY talk to God. I believe that God wants all his people to be "prophets". To suggest that prophets don

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Human beings are complex. Rarely are they as portrayed in the BoM, a sort of stock, one sided character. Look at David - he loved God, God loved him, yet he murdered to obtain a woman.

Often when people engage in complex behavior, they try to justify and explain this behavior through their own particular moral prism. Revival faith healers, for example, may engage in a bit of trickery, but justify it because these "miracles" lead people to accept Christ.

Whether or not God, or other people, would accept such rationalizations, is completely beside the point that Dan is trying to make, IMO. The point is that it is completely conceivable that an individual would, him or herself, accept such rationalizations. The world shows us evidence of that almost every day.

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Isn't the crux of Mr. Vogel's argument dependent on showing how far the rationalization will go though?

To take Dan's comments a little further - intent is by far the most important determinative of what is a lie. If we are attempting to mislead someone by making a claim or a statement that we do not believe ourselves, we are lying. The factual accuracy (or inaccuracy) of the statement isn't really relevant. We like to think that we usually believe things that are factually true, and disbelieve things which are not factually true. But in any particular instance, the fact that we are telling a falsehood when we lie is purely accidental.

I agree with both you and Dan on this point. My personal measure for lying is intent. I do know others who do not hold this as the most important determinative of what is a lie though. Perhaps CI can clarify on what the legal defintion of "lying" would be as this might help demonstrate the specifics of others' paradigm.

There is also the difficulty when intent is not obvious and must be assumed on the basis of clues that may or may not be projected by the evaluator. For example, on ZLMB we do not allow accusations of intentionally telling falsehoods, but we also assume lack of intent of violating the rules unless the individual states that intent. That does not stop many from making complaints because they've assumed the intent of the poster is to break or at least bend the rules.

Intent is also a complicated psychological motivator. Simple intent to misrepresent is not always equivalent to intent to deceive. For example, when someone I know asks how things are going and I respond that they are going great, am I intent on deceiving them? I know, from my acquaintance with them, that if I say "great" they will assume that there are no problems going on and go on their merry way content that life is treating me and mine well. The reality is actually different in some areas of our lives (great in others so I am telling a 'technical truth'), but since they are not able to help I withhold this information from them. My intent here is not to deceive them, though the ultimate known outcome is deception. My intent is to spare them worry. Knowing that the ultimate outcome is deception does not mean that my intent is to deceive, but merely that is a byproduct of my actions.

One may say this is a rationalization, that if the outcome of actions is known and one proceeds with those actions, than all results of those actions are intended. I would disagree and state that behaviourally speaking, psychologists do not include byproducts of actions as motivators. To make my point clearer, consider cancer treatment. Doctors know that an individual's hair is going to fall out. Does that mean one of their intents for the treatment is to cause the fallout? I would say it is better described as an "unintended side effect." In the case above, my intent is to not cause worry; there is no intent to deceive. That is an unintended side effect, imo.

This assumption of innocence until intent is proven guilty is only relevant to this discussion of D&C 19 because I don't see the guilt of God promoting a deception for his own ends (as opposed to just allowing it to happen as a byproduct of the interaction of his behaviour and man's free agency) as being definitely established there.

In fact, I have doubts that there is anything relating to lying within D&C 19.

Making the assumption that God is the revealer of Truth, as I believe Dan agrees that JS does, then one can look at D&C 19 in this manner whether it is God actually speaking or JS putting the words he wants to hear in God's mouth unconsciously:

The whole lecture is based on the milk/meat paradigm that is taught in Hebrews and 1 Cor 3 (IIRC). What is the meat? The more difficult doctrines and practices of the Gospel, whcih are those that require a greater spiritual development, a greater commitment to righteous behaviour and/or a greater ability to overcome cultural or other bias. What is the milk? The easily digested parts of the Gospel that are what one builds on to prepare oneself for the meat, the ones that require no more effort than a baby sucking.

If the "milk" is part of the Gospel teachings, then how can they be lies or inaccuracies? And that would have to include intended misunderstandings, imo. 'Milk teachings' can't be falsehoods and still be a part of the Gospel. Even if one assumes that misunderstandings could be used to lead one to the Gospel (and I agree that God allowing the misunderstanding to continue once it appeared could be used to demonstrate this), the misunderstandings themselves are not part of the Gospel.

Since what is to be allowed to stand is the 'Milk Truth' according to verse 22 ("but milk they must receive"), then I don't see D&C 19 promoting a continuation of a falsehood, but merely the incomplete as it stands and was originally written terms of "eternal damnation" and "endless torment."

The question then for me is whether or not D&C is structured as to teach that God intended for men to misunderstand the terms "eternal damnation" and "endless torment" in that manner. Given the parallel structure in verses 6 and 7 as well as the use of the term "express" (meaning according to Webster's 1823 "direct" and "unambiguous" which much applies better to truth than inaccuracies) and the comparison to "other scriptures" which likely teach the incomplete information, it appears to me that what God wants to work on the hearts of men is the 'Meat Truth' he is about to teach. This teaching is first only available to in the heart of Harris and Joseph, but God's intent to share it more widely in the near future is alluded to (when "it is wisdom in me").

Even accepting it as the 'Milk Truth' that is to be taught (which I am still very open to if someone can come up with an explanation that works with the English construction), there is no indication that God intends the misunderstanding to be taught along with the incomplete term.

How does one explain the appearnce of the incorrect understanding of "torment that does not end" if it is not one that was intended by God though?

This is the point that I believe one could introduce the original meaning of the terms "endless" and "eternal" as discussed here by CI and Scripture Lover. I have read elsewhere commentary on this as well and I believe their presentation is accurate. (This part of my argument is new to me as oppposed to what I have described as my original "straightforward" reading.)

If so, then as originally taught, IOW as intended to be taught by God, "endless torment" and "eternal damnation" were correctly understood by at least some of the people. God's intent then does not have to be for a misunderstanding to be perpetuated and therefore it does not have to be assumed that he 'lied' in any sense of the word.

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All this being said, I do not intend in any way to demonstrate that God is above lying by using 'technical truth'. I just don't think that D&C 19 is good evidence for this. I believe God (as the speaker, read JS here if you prefer) placing the entire context of the revelation within the milk and meat paradigm limits the possibility of teaching of deception being promoted here. One has to either ignore the milk/meat of the Gospel context or find evidence elsewhere that Joseph believed or God taught that the milk of the Gospel includes falsehoods.

OTOH, I think the scriptures dealing with Abraham and Sarah's entry into Egpyt as well as others do demonstrate the promotion of deception for good purposes. The one limitation this has over Mr. Vogel's interpretation of D&C 19 is that it is not promoting the misunderstanding of a doctrine, but rather deals with human interactions.

I am trying to think of any scriptural context or events from Joseph's life that do demonstrate deception on behalf of doctrinal understanding as opposed to affecting human interaction and I don't remember any.

If this limitation does exist, then it is possible that Joseph held the view that lying was okay when dealing with his fellowman in order to improve relationships, but he may not have felt that it was acceptable when it came to teaching what he believed was the Gospel, whether or not it was the milk or the meat.

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In addition to the problems that I see above in definitely establishing God as a guilty party in this specific case, I don't see that D&C 19 demonstrates that even if this were true (God promotes the use of 'technical truth' deception), that this means all types of lying are allowed by the Lord and/or are being promoted as acceptable by JS.

Limitations on the act of killing, marriage, and various other behaviours are the rule in the scriptures. Why wouldn't Joseph also assume that there were limitations on lying? Mr. Vogel's paradigm of the Pious Fraud demonstrates one possible limitation already--deception is acceptable for God's purpose only.

Perhaps Mr. Vogel deals with the issue of limitations elsewhere and doesnt' leave it as openended as it appears above in his comments about rationalization.

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Calmoriah -- killer post. Yet I think Billy Joel said it more concisely: "Honesty is such a lonely word, and frankly all I get from you."

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Calmoriah -- killer post. Yet I think Billy Joel said it more concisely: "Honesty is such a lonely word, and frankly all I get from you."

Thank you. I am hoping that it is complete enough in showing my thought to avoid the misunderstandings that occurred previously. If you see any gaps or apparent contradictions, please point them out.

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The dispute in JS day, to which the commentary alludes, was over the duration of eternal punishment, not over the concept of time held by the Hebrews and that held by modern readers, which is what CI suggested and Cal bought into.

This is mind boggling....you are really going to claim that duration of anything is not...time??

Main Entry: du

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It seems to me that the D&C passage is somewhat periphereal. We can decide from Joseph's later behavior whether or not he believed that, at times, God wanted him to lie, or at least sanctioned it.

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We can decide from Joseph's later behavior whether or not he believed that, at times, God wanted him to lie, or at least sanctioned it.
Unfortunately this is not as easy to do as it would appear. Motivation for human behaviour is quite complex. Two people performing the same behaviour at the same time and in the same environment still may give a different explanation of their own intent and even expectations and depending on how aware they are of their own personal dynamics, there may be a whole 'nother' :P story going on that they are not totally aware of.

At best, I would say that without information provided by JS himself, one can only assume that JS felt the cost of the behaviour was worth the anticipated reward in some manner.

Mr. Vogel's approach of collecting commentaries of Joseph Smith, both personal and 'professional' and analyzing them in this manner is a good one, imo. The important thing would be to establish a global pattern of opinion and belief consistent with other of the same including the limitations involved and try and connect it with actual behaviour. That is not to say that someone cannot have apparent contradictory behaviour, just that if one approaches the evaluation as global rather than isolated, the contradictions should be able to be resolved. The more material examined, the better. There is a type of study that I can't remember the name for where one basically divides known behaviour into two groups, uses the first group to establish the hypothesis and then uses the second group to judge the predictive value of that hypothesis. This would obviously work better with more numerous, varied and detailed material. Historians have to be satisfied with what they can get their hands on though, so there may not be enough material available.

PS: I am inconsolable. Not only did the local library not have Making in their catalog (I have to check if it is on order), but my book allowance just dried up with my daughter's trip to the orthodonist yesterday. Not only can I say goodbye to another bookshelf full of fun, but my soaker bathtub is back on the wish list too. <_<

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There's a few too many personal insults being flung around here for my taste. Please try to address the arguments, methodology, criticisms, etc. and not personal attributes of the poster. Thanks.

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Unfortunately this is not as easy to do as it would appear. Motivation for human behaviour is quite complex. Two people performing the same behaviour at the same time and in the same environment still may give a different explanation of their own intent and even expectations and depending on how aware they are of their own personal dynamics, there may be a whole 'nother'  story going on that they are not totally aware of.

At best, I would say that without information provided by JS himself, one can only assume that JS felt the cost of the behaviour was worth the anticipated reward in some manner.

Let's look at one clear example in which JS lied - the question of polygamy. The record is clear that JS consistently, publicly denied practicing polygamy, even across the pulpit, as he was actively engaged in it. As a believer I would assume that JS engaged in such clear, dishonest behavior due to the fact that he felt God sanctioned this behavior for some reason. Are you saying that is feasible for believers to imagine JS either did not seek to know the will of God concerning whether or not he should admit polygamy, or believed that it was contrary to the will of God but engaged in it anyway? Either option seems more troubling, to me, than simply admitting that JS most likely believed God justified lying at times, for the greater good.

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Let's look at one clear example in which JS lied - the question of polygamy. The record is clear that JS consistently, publicly denied practicing polygamy, even across the pulpit, as he was actively engaged in it. As a believer I would assume that JS engaged in such clear, dishonest behavior due to the fact that he felt God sanctioned this behavior for some reason. Are you saying that is feasible for believers to imagine JS either did not seek to know the will of God concerning whether or not he should admit polygamy, or believed that it was contrary to the will of God but engaged in it anyway? Either option seems more troubling, to me, than simply admitting that JS most likely believed God justified lying at times, for the greater good.

But you are missing the context in which Joseph engaged in this disception. At the time, the heat was on the Saints in Nauvoo. Joseph's enemies were just looking for an excuse to come at him. Admitting to the practice at that time could (and some would say it did) result in his death. In other words, the polygamy case is, IMO, almost an exact parallel to the Abrahamic example that has been referred to before. That context is far different from the context that the B of M was produced in.

Like I said before, I think Vogel is taking the simple fact that God recognizes a "situational ethic" wherein certain circumstances can justify behavior that otherwise would not be tolerated and expanding that create the underlying rational for massive criminal conspiracy (and yes, it would be a criminal conspiracy).

I find the connection tenuous.

C.I.

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Are you saying that is feasible
No. I am saying for drawing conclusions about a global attitude and then applying this hypothesis to explain other behaviour, one needs to demonstrate a global pattern. Polygamy may or may not be sufficient depending on what type of material is available for analysis. If it is the only type of behaviour you have to examine, then you have a problem with determining what type of limitations JS put upon it and it becomes difficult to know whether application of the hypothesis you create should be extended to other cases.

CI mentions one possible limitation--Joseph feeling his life was threatened. To assume that he would behave the same where he lacked this fear for his life, a very strong motivator for behaviour that would be absent, is too much of a jump, imo.

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yes, the context is the issue. That is part of Dan's point, and the point some of you seem to be missing, to my view.

The context of the situation justified lying about polygamy, at least in Joseph's eyes. Perhaps he thought it justified it in God's eyes as well. So clearly he thought that lying was at times justified by God. So this point is settled. The subsequent issue is whether or not there is evidence to support that JS lied about other things, such as plates being given to him by angelic messenger. It's not necessary to continue debating whether or not he would have lied under certain circumstances deemed justifiable by him, and likely by God in his eyes. We already know he would.

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