The gift of tongues is one of the many gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1st Corinthians chapter 12 verses 7 to 10: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.”
Note: This post on the gift of tongues is part of the language learning series.
Gifts of the Spirit
Moroni chapter 10 in the Book of Mormon contains a list of gifts of the Spirit, similar to the one found in Corinthians. Then Moroni adds, in verse 24, “And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.”
These verses of scripture teach us that all of us, if worthy and faithful, can receive these gifts of the Spirit. The Preach My Gospel manual teaches missionaries (and future missionaries) that “the gifts of the Spirit are special spiritual blessings that the Lord gives to worthy individuals for their own benefit and for their use in blessing others. For example, missionaries who must learn a new language may receive the gift of tongues to give them divine help in learning a language…These are only some examples of the many gifts of the Spirit. The Lord may bless you in other ways depending on your faithfulness, your needs, and the needs of those you serve. You should desire spiritual gifts and earnestly seek for them. These gifts come by prayer, faith, and works, according to God’s will.”
Gift of Tongues
As was pointed out in my previous post on learning the language of your mission, as a missionary, you have been called to preach the gospel in a certain language and you have been ordained to accomplish that. Therefore, you should seek earnestly for the gifts of the Spirit, including the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues to help you speak and understand the language of the people in your mission.
Just because the ability to speak and understand a foreign language is a gift from doesn’t mean it will come easy or without much effort. Part of showing your faith in the Lord will be by working as hard as you can to learn the language. Then, as you live worthy, trust that the Lord will send his Spirit to help you teach, understand, and help others come unto Jesus Christ.
Language of the Spirit
For missionaries that have to learn a new language, as well of those that teach in their native tongue, you will no doubt struggle, from time to time, to express yourself as clearly as you would like. Remember, in times like these, that the Spirit is able to speak to the hearts of all of God’s children. President Thomas S. Monson taught:
“There is one language . . . that is common to each missionary—the language of the Spirit. It is not learned from textbooks written by men of letters, nor is it acquired through reading and memorization. The language of the Spirit comes to him who seeks with all his heart to know God and keep His divine commandments. Proficiency in this language permits one to breach barriers, overcome obstacles, and touch the human heart” (“The Spirit Giveth Life,” Ensign, June 1997, 2).
Joseph Smith on the Gift of Tongues
The former Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society class manual, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, explains that Joseph Smith taught that the gift of tongues was particularly instituted for the preaching of the Gospel to other nations and languages. Said Joseph Smith:
“I read the 13th chapter of First Corinthians [at a meeting held on December 26, 1841], also a part of the 14th chapter, and remarked that the gift of tongues was necessary in the Church; … the gift of tongues by the power of the Holy Ghost in the Church, is for the benefit of the servants of God to preach to unbelievers, as on the day of Pentecost.” But, said the prophet, “Be not so curious about tongues, do not speak in tongues except there be an interpreter present; the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners, and if persons are very anxious to display their intelligence, let them speak to such in their own tongues. The gifts of God are all useful in their place.”
Gift of Tongues to Benefit God’s Children
I’ll conclude with a great scripture from Doctrine and Covenants section 46 verses 24 – 26: “it is given to some to speak with tongues; And to another is given the interpretation of tongues. And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.”
I know that I was blessed with the gift of tongues during my mission to Argentina. I worked hard and strived to be worthy and the Lord blessed me with good abilities to communicated in the Spanish language. And, undoubtedly, the Spirit of the Lord was often present in my preaching to bless my hearers with the gift of interpretation of tongues so they could understand me and come to know the plan God has for them.