The Gift of Tongues
This is the third in a series by our writers and guests regarding spiritual gifts. We hope you enjoy our take on giving and receiving spiritually this Christmas season.
I taught the gospel in very small towns in Brazil almost twenty years ago. There was no internet, no lds.org. There wasn’t even a satellite dish at the stake center (if there was a stake center at all), not even the closed-circuit radio broadcast of my youth in the eastern US. Members waited patiently for the Liahona to read the words of the prophets in general conference. But for solemn assemblies, the church sent a video tape of the solemn assembly session so that the members could participate in sustaining a prophet of God.
My first conference was a few months after my arrival in Brazil. My Portuguese was finally gaining ground and the homesickness was finally beginning to abate. We took the hour long bus ride with investigators and members to the nearest church building where a television sat atop the podium in front of a standing-room-only congregation to see the new prophet (President Hunter), to hear his counsel and to raise hands to sustain him.
I’d never watched a dubbed conference before and, standing in the back, I found myself quietly crying. Conference for me has always been an auditory feast. My childhood was filled with the scratchy whisper of President Kimball, the fiery bellow of Elder McConkie, and the distinctive Idaho warning voice of President Benson. My young adulthood had warmed to the soothing counsel of Elder Scott, the tender (often cracking) voice of President Eyring and the piercing and precisely crafted words of Elder Maxwell. I reveled in the opportunity to “listen to a prophet’s voice” and here I was in a place, among people I was beginning to love, who loved the Lord and His prophets and they would never hear the prophet’s voice. Not really. They could see him in these rare video taped meetings. They could raise their hands to sustain him, but the voice they heard belonged to someone else.
I spent my mission watching the love the Brazilian saints have for the Lord and His servants. I saw how dearly they loved President Faust because he never lost the Portuguese he learned as a young Brazilian missionary. They loved and accepted each word of the gospel translated for their consumption, but to have the words of their leaders directly in Portuguese was something they treasured close to their hearts.
Fast forward to the present. Our stake president spoke of his brother in law, who organizes interpretation for the church. He described the vast cubicles in the conference center where the words of the prophets are interpreted into many languages. And then he began to lay out the criteria for interpretation. Only native speakers with beautiful language skills and speaking voices would be enlisted to interpret conference. Only women would interpret for women, men for men. Ages of speakers would be matched with ages of interpreters. All this so that those listening to interpreted conference messages would have the closest approximation of what their prophets’ voices actually sound like. My heart remembered Brazil and solemn assemblies of almost two decades past.
We met a lot of Pentecostals in Brazil. They would always ask about the gift of tongues in our church. We would talk about the gift of tongues given to missionaries to speak in the languages where they serve. We would talk about the importance that messages be understood to be edifying. But sitting with the stake president, I saw that gifts of tongues are also small things, tender mercies like a woman interpreting for Sister Beck and an experienced man interpreting for President Monson.
- What tender mercies have you seen in spiritual gifts you have received or witnessed?
- How does it help you to know the Lord and His servants are mindful even of the vehicle by which we receive His words?
Image (Brazil): Miriam Cardoso de Souza