What Is the Gift of Tongues?

In the final chapter of the Book of Mormon, Moroni lists a number of gifts which are given “by the manifestations of the Spirit of God.” Among these are “all kinds of tongues” and “the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues” (Moroni 10:15-16). These gifts are also included in lists of spiritual gifts given by the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 12:10), in a revelation received by Joseph Smith in 1831 (Doctrine & Covenants 46:24-25), and in the seventh Article of Faith.

What is the gift of tongues? We can understand it better by considering some examples of its practical use:

  • Shortly after the ascension of Christ, a group of His disciples experienced an outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentacost. Under the influence of the Holy Ghost, they began to speak in many different languages. People nearby, who were foreigners in Jerusalem, were amazed when they heard their own native languages. “Are not all these which speak Galilæans?” they asked. “And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” (Acts 2:1-8).
  • When the people of King Limhi found a record which was “engraven on plates of ore,” they were disappointed that they could not read it. Limhi was delighted when he later learned that King Mosiah, the king over the land of Zarahemla, “had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings” (Mosiah 21:27-28).
  • When Joseph F. Smith arrived on the island of Maui in Hawaii in 1854, he was only fifteen years old. “I was in a foreign land,” he wrote, “sent to preach the gospel to a people whose language I could not understand. Then I sought earnestly for the gift of tongues, and by this gift and by study, in a hundred days after landing upon those islands I could talk to the people in their language as I now talk to you in my native tongue” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, “The Ministry of Joseph F. Smith“).
  • Elder Larry R. Lawrence served as the president of the Russia Novosibirsk Mission from 2001 through 2004. He noticed that the young missionaries whom he led were blessed with many different spiritual gifts. Some were peacemakers. Some were fearless. Some had many creative ideas. And “some had the gift of tongues and quickly mastered the complex Russian language” (“Why Not Ask?” BYU Idaho Devotional Address, 13 June 2017).

Joseph Smith taught, “Tongues were given for the purpose of preaching among those whose language is not understood; as on the day of Pentecost” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 33: “The Spiritual Gifts of Healing, Tongues, Prophecy, and Discerning of Spirits”). Elder Robert D. Hales taught, “The gift of tongues is used by missionaries to teach the gospel to the nations of the world” (“Gifts of the Spirit,” BYU Devotional Address, 1 April 1993).

The prophet Amaleki urged us all to “come unto God…and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good” (Omni 1:20, 25).

Today, I will be grateful for the gifts God gives His children through the Holy Ghost, including the gift of tongues. I will be remember that God wants all of His children to hear the gospel and that He will send miraculous help to enable His disciples to communicate with those who have not yet received it.

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