The Word Guile: Defined
I’ve been having all these deep thoughts lately about words.
Usually I don’t fully understand what it means, or it’s an older word not used regularly in today’s lexicon.
I’m teaching early morning seminary this year. Church history. From the book of scripture Mormons call Doctrine & Covenants. Most of the sections are modern day revelations directly from Joseph Smith in the 1820s-1830s. And a few later revelations from prophets who came after Joseph Smith as well.
I know. Hold on.
Church history sounds dull.
Especially to study for a whole year, 5 days a week, at 7AM in the morning.
I do my best to bring the people and stories to life. Describing those who were there ushering in the last dispensation and helping the kids understand why it’s all so important to know.
Obviously understanding who Joseph Smith was is very important, but Emma Smith is fascinating and it’s hard to imagine just how much pain and suffering she went through.
Poor Oliver Cowdery? He worked so hard and he experienced and witnessed greatness and was their on the right hand of Joseph for so long. But Section after Section the Lord reminds him to work on keeping his pride under control. We’re not there yet but I have a feeling his pride gets the better of him during those years he left The Church.
There’s a new character introduced in Section 36 and I’ve decided he is currently one of my favorite gentlemen from those early days, Mr. Edward Partridge.
Soon after our new friend Ed is baptized into the brand new church he is called to be a bishop. He doesn’t get to go ask the former bishop what he’s supposed to do. There isn’t one to ask! He’s the first bishop in the new dispensation. The Church needs him to figure out his new calling as he goes along!
Have you ever felt that way, even though your calling has been around for EVER?
You still end up inventing the wheel as you figure it out? Me too. Hello… Seminary Teacher.
Here’s how The Lord describes Mr. Partridge as he is calling him to be the first bishop:
D&C 41: 11 And this because his heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile.
First I had to go look up who Nathanael of old is?
Oh? One of the original 12 apostles in Galilee.
And here is how The Lord describes him:
John 1: 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! –New Testament, KDV
Hold on. The Lord uses the same word for both people?
But what does Guile mean?
I seriously have no idea.
It’s a funny word, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard anyone use it in regular language today. Also I don’t think it’s used in the Bible and other Scriptures minus the words –NO or –WITHOUT in front of it.
I told them:
To have guile is to be deceitful or hypocritical.
Therefore, having “no guile” means being honest and sincere.
Then I asked the teens what deceitful or hypocritical means? More Blank Stares.
They guessed deceitful sounds like maybe lying? And we talked about what we mean when we say someone is a hypocrite. “When someone says one thing and does another”, they agreed.
I replied, yes—but. There’s more to it… When someone says THEY will do one thing but then do something different. Later … they judge someone else for doing the exact thing they said they would do… but didn’t.
That ‘judgment’ part is the real catch.
Because if a bishop in an LDS congregation judges unrighteously that would be a nightmare. So clearly, if you can find someone without guile, someone who will not judge people unrighteously, someone who is not deceitful—THAT is the perfect person to be a bishop.
Ed Partridge. Come on Down!
I only speak for myself, but I can think of several bishops we have known in past congregations and THAT is exactly how I would describe them. (Now that I know what it means.) They are without guile.
Another definition I found for the word guile was this:
Something intended to deceive; deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage.
And I always find it useful to look up antonyms and opposites:
- Good Faith
By the end of the discussion I challenged the kids to find a way to use the word Guile in a sentence that weekend.
And just as the kids were all leaving for school we realized someone had left a cell phone behind. We weren’t sure whose it was. And I didn’t want to scroll through it fearing I would breech some unwritten law of student-teacher phone privacy.
I grabbed the closest freshman who genuinely could care less about the phone or its contents. And I said: “You have no guile, will you please open this phone and see if you can find out who it belongs to for me?” Which he did.