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Between the rush of text messages and the continual blunders of autocorrect, we see incorrect words almost daily. My latest confusion was in seeing the word, charity, and thinking it said clarity. And this was one of those times when I realized there might be a message in my muddling.
With your permission, let’s look at my misreading from 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, and replace charity with clarity:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not clarity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”
Whoa. Think of all of the charismatic, flowery speakers we meet in this life, who are all form but no substance. Like Sherem, they are persuasive, convincing, flattering– their tongues charm us with nearly irresistible temptations and arguments. Nearly. These are the moments when we must remember Satan’s ploys and spot the performance before we get swept away. It could be anyone from a deceitful suitor to a person eager to disconnect you from your life savings. It could be someone using emotional rather than logical political arguments. It could be someone seeking to undermine your faith. The image of sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal is perfect, as these are the moments when we need to cut through the tinny noise and the swirling fog, and insist upon clarity.
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not clarity, I am nothing.”
This verse reminds me of those with tremendous power and knowledge, who lack the clarity to know how to actually use those gifts to bless mankind. History is filled with tyrants who had immense power and even information, yet who were utterly uninspired and even evil. Such despots—clearly lacking the prophecy and faith mentioned here– have wreaked havoc upon the world and misused their opportunity to do good. Yes, charity is even more important. But power without clarity and understanding is truly a frightening formula.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not clarity, it profiteth me nothing.”
How many people start out with good intentions, but soon busy their lives with accolades for their generosity, whose service is to be seen, yet who have lost the whole point? Unless we know why we are doing what we do, we’ve lost clarity. We’ve lost Christ as the center of our purpose and it’s easy to become a people who are building a resume, focused upon applause and the honors of men.
“Clarity suffereth long, and is kind; clarity envieth not; clarity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
I love the line, rejoiceth in the truth. Clarity strips away the trappings of pride, the selfishness, the envy, the impatience. It cleans the stem of thorns, and leaves the bare and glistening branch. There is no false pretense or fakery with clarity. It forces us to face actual facts.
Without clarity we wander in unknown paths, we waste time pursuing that which is not of God, we miss the fullness and joy of a life centered upon actual truths. Clarity is a key component of a testimony—it’s that which the Holy Ghost tells us is right and real. Once we have clarity we know the restoration truly happened. We feel peace, hope, and clear direction. We may have but an embryo of knowledge, but it’s genuine. It guides us to more truth.
Clarity literally has the power to cleanse and purify us, to make charity, that greatest of all virtues, even more accessible. It is true that “Charity never faileth.” And clarity helps us see why.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.