Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in tongues was an important aspect of Latter-day Saint spirituality. Heber C. Kimball remembered he and Brigham Young visiting a group of Mormons who spoke in tongues. Brigham and Heber were baptized shortly thereafter, and it was Brigham Young who introduced Joseph Smith to speaking in tongues. With the prophet's endorsement (including his singing in tongues), the practice spread.

It is important to recognize the connection between Joseph Smith's view of ancient languages and his views about the gift of tongues. Joseph Smith saw the "pure" language as being corrupted at the time of the Tower of Babel. A restoration of aspects of this Pure or "Adamic" language was a part of what he envisioned as part of the restoration. Certain words such as the name of God, keywords mentioned in the facsimiles of the Book of Abraham and aspects of the temple endowment ritual were tied to the Adamic tongue. Often, when one spoke in tongues, fellow Mormons thought they were speaking in the Pure or Adamic language.

Items having to do with the translation of ancient languages are not included here, except for a few references to translations of the characters from the Adamic or Pure language.

Speaking in tongues became an integral part of 19th century Mormon spirituality. Brigham Young would sometimes hold conversations with others in tongues. Perhaps because women could not exercise spirituality tied to priesthood, they readily engaged in the practice of speaking and singing in tongues, as well interpreting. Patriarchal blessings often promised the gift, sometimes in conjunction with preaching to American Indians (Lamanites). One interpretation of a song in tongues was included in a collection of revelations, and some blessings were given in tongues. After some time, caution was urged. Interpretation was to accompany the gift, and that which was said was not to be taken as doctrine.

The frequency of the gift slowed and eventually those who commonly spoke in tongues died off. Sometimes, manifestations of the gift in the 20th century were regarded with suspicion. Eventually church materials would define the gift of tongues primarily as the ability for missionaries or others to learn languages to preach the gospel.

Over the next couple of months, a few items having to do with speaking in tongues will be posted each day in chronological order. These are drawn from diaries, journals, meeting minutes, reminisces, autobiographies, patriarchal blessings, and other sources.

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