Our callings to serve as temple ordinance workers has brought us to consider more deeply what it means to be without guile and how it applies to our marriage and family. The more we explore the concept the more we realize what a truly Christ-like attribute it is to be “without guile.”

We hear the words but do we really understand their full meaning.  According to The Guide to the Scriptures  guile “is deceitful cunning.” To explore the meaning further it directs us to see Deceit, Deceive, Deception. It then directs us to scriptures, including :

  • Blessed is the man in whose spirit there is no guile: Ps. 32:2; ( Ps. 34:13; 1 Pet. 2:1; )
  • Pure knowledge enlarges the soul without guile: D&C 121:42;

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve said, “To be without guile is to be free of deceit, cunning, hypocrisy, and dishonesty in thought or action. To beguile is to deceive or lead astray, as Lucifer beguiled Eve in the Garden of Eden. A person without guile is a person of innocence, honest intent, and pure motives, whose life reflects the simple practice of conforming his daily actions to principles of integrity.”

As further evidence of the importance of being without guile, Elder Wirthlin stated, “In the New Testament, we learn that the Savior was without guile (see 1 Pet. 2:22) and that `he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.’”(1 Pet. 3:10.)

If any be left wondering, Elder Wirthlin clarified by saying, “If we are without guile, we are honest, true, and righteous. All of these are attributes of Deity and are required of the Saints. Those who are honest are fair and truthful in their speech, straightforward in their dealings, free of deceit, and above stealing, misrepresentation, or any other fraudulent action.”

How this applies to marriage

To see how this works in marriage consider the following scenarios and which options are without guile.

Scenario A: You just received word that you are getting a sizable raise at work. This is exciting news because you know this will be a financial blessing for your family. However, you have to make a decision regarding whether or not you will tell your spouse. Your options might include:

Option 1: If I tell my spouse she/he will immediately start mentally spending it. I won’t tell my spouse and I’ll use it the way I want to. I worked hard for this and should be the one to reap the reward.

Option 2: If I keep it a secret and put it in a special savings account my spouse won’t need to know about it and it will be safe from unwise spending.

Option 3: If I tell my spouse the news she/he will have the opportunity be part of the joy of what it means to us and our family.

Response to Option 1: Keeping in mind that the meaning of the word guile is deceitful, and that being without guile means being honest, fair, and righteous, where does this option fall?  Obviously, not telling your spouse would be unfair to her or him. You are not the only one who has been working hard. So has your spouse. Just look around your home and you will see all that your spouse does to bless the lives of your children and you. Your spouse deserves her/his fair share. Remember, being without guile means being fair.

Response to Option 2: Keeping your raise a secret from your spouse falls in the category of being deceitful, one of the meanings of the word guile. Being open and honest is the only way for a marriage to succeed. If you think saving the raise is the best then discuss this with your spouse and decide together what the goal of your savings will be. You need to be united in this decision.

Response to Option 3: Clearly this is the option that is without guile. It means you and your spouse are equal partners. You are open and honest with each other. You share equally in the joys and blessings that come your way. It means when good things happen, like a raise, you jointly plan how this can bless your family. Being truthful with your spouse is being without guile.

Scenario B: You are with friends and they start saying things about their spouses that are far from complementary. In fact, they seem to take great delight in insulting their spouses. Your options could include:

Option 1: You join in the fun of making fun of your spouse. You rationalize that it doesn’t matter, that it’s all in jest.

Option 2: You laugh along, but don’t feel comfortable sharing things about your spouse that could be considered ridicule, so you keep quiet.

Options 3: When you are chided by your fiends to join in you could say something like, “I prefer telling you something good about my husband.” Then you share an incident like, “He’s a great dad. After helping the kids with the dishes, he played catch with Johnny. Then he helped put the kids to bed. I feel lucky to be married to man who enjoys our children.”

Response to Option 1: This shows you are being deceitful. You would never say negative things about your spouse in your mate’s presence so why would you deceive him or her with friends, just for a laugh. Your relationship with your spouse is far more important than peer approval. Your mate needs to trust that his or her reputation is safe in your hands. The psalmist wrote, “Blessed is the man . . . in whose spirit there is no guile’ (Ps. 32:2), and then admonished, “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” (Ps. 34:13).

Response to Option 2: Laughing along but not saying anything bad about your spouse might be a temporary response. However, your laugh will signify approval of what your friends are doing, even if you don’t add your two bits worth. Your silence helps, but may not show that you disapprove of their actions. You need to speak out, which leads to the next option response.

Response to Option 3: Going against the crowd always takes courage. However, the feeling you receive for standing by your spouse will be more than worth it. You may even find that the direction of the conversation changes. Your friends may start saying good things about their mates. Now that would be refreshing. If not, you have the peace of knowing you were faithful in speaking good about your spouse. That shows integrity, which is one of the chief characteristics of being without guile.

[A caution: If you are being abused by your spouse that is something that needs to be talked about and reported to authorities. You must always keep yourself safe.]

Scenario C: You are hurt by something your spouse said about your parents. There seems to be a growing animosity between them. Treating a spouse’s parents with respect is crucial for a happy marital relationship. Even if the derogatory statement is true. Here are a few options.

Option 1: You might retort with a mean word about his or her own parents. Sometimes when people are hurt by someone they hurl the same stone at the offender. Getting even appears to be the goal here.

Option 2: You give your mate the silent treatment, accompanied with a scowl that could pierce the heart, or at least you hope it does.

Option 3: You talk with your mate about his or her feelings toward your parents. If what your spouse said is true, then validate it. Talk about what could be done to improve your in-law relationships.

Response to Option 1: Retaliation rarely works. In fact, the usual result is that it only creates more animosity. To be without guile in this situation involves having pure motives. First, ask yourself what your motive is. If it is to understand what your spouse is experiencing, then you can ask a few questions. Such as, “What happened?” or “What boundaries do we need to set so it doesn’t happen again?”  By creating an atmosphere of understanding, a goal to achieve greater respect and happier in-law relationships is possible. This action denotes honest intent, which is a characteristic of being without guile.

Response to Option 2: The silent treatment doesn’t work. Holding your tongue and refraining from saying things you’ll regret does. Save the scowl and be involved in a conversation that shows understanding. Otherwise, you may find yourself engaging in hypocrisy, which is a characteristic of having guile.

Response to Option 3: Being able to express your feelings to each other without fear of causing an argument is vital for real communication to happen. It harkens back to having “honest intent” or the desire to know what each other is experiencing. Doing this takes a good listening ear. One that doesn’t interrupt or correct what the other is saying. Just listening with the intent of trying your best to understand. It takes being truthful, having pure motives—all qualities of being without guile. If you need help knowing how to communicate effectively we suggest you read our book I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better, which you can find at most libraries or order here.

Scenario D: You are bored or feeling unloved by your spouse, so you mistakenly think you can spice up your life by looking elsewhere, even though you have no intention of really leaving your spouse. You’re just looking for a little excitement. If this is the case, here are your options.

Option 1: You think going online to a chat room that spits out promises of how fun it is to seek a new online “friend”, just for the thrill of it, will enhance your life. You have no intention of it going beyond your simple little chats, which you are surprised to find escalating into intimate conversations. Something inside you screams that this is inappropriate, but still you continue.

Option 2: You find yourself attracted to a co-worker who has been paying extra attention to you lately. It feels good to be noticed and complimented by someone of the opposite sex. You like the rush it gives you, so you flirt back, giving the impression that you want this to develop into something more serious.

Option 3: You recognize that any romantic contact with anyone other than your spouse will be disastrous to your marriage and family. You immediately take control of your feelings and make a decision that you will not go this route. You will remain true to your spouse, even though you may be having a few problems that need addressing. You remember your wedding vows and are determined to live them.

Response to Option 1: The only appropriate action here is to stop any contact with people of the opposite sex online. Recognize that this is a trap Satan uses to destroy marriages and families. Stop immediately. Be true to you spouse, no matter what.

Response to Option 2: Stop any flirting with coworkers, or any person other than your spouse, immediately. Do not have lunch or meet with them privately. Be pleasant, but engage in business or innocence banter only in your conversations. That is being true and faithful to your spouse.

Response to Option 3: This is the option that will protect your marriage and family. No matter what, your marriage and family must be your first priority, for your sake and theirs. Every effort must be made on your part to be faithful to your spouse. By doing this you show that you are truly without guile in this regard.

There are terrible consequences to infidelity in marriage. Not only does it destroy marriages but it can cause serious health risks. Recently a report on KSL TV, NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah, told of the alarmingly high rate of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) among married people. Some who think a one night—or one hour—stand will be harmless are seriously misled. The consequences are tragic. It will never be worth it.


Husbands and wives need to do all in their power to employ the virtues found in being a person without guile. To review, they include having honest intent, pure motives, an innocence, integrity, being true, fair, righteous, and without deceit.

Pray for the ability to be without guile in your relationships with your spouse. It will bring peace and joy into your marriage and family. We conclude with the words of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, “To be without guile is to be pure in heart—an essential virtue of those who would be counted among true followers of Christ.

For more info on improving marriage relationships see the Lundbergs’ ebooks Wake-Up Call: What Every Husband Needs to Know and What Every Wife Needs to Know.