Do people still speak in tongues today?
March 1975

“Do people still speak in tongues today?” New Era, Mar. 1975, 48–49

“Do people still speak in tongues today?”

Answer/Brother John E. Carr

The simple answer is yes they do.

But I am sure you want some evidences. Perhaps these are so numerous that you do not recognize them. Because of the very nature of this subject you may be inclined to look for the spectacular or something so out of the ordinary that only then would you believe you have seen evidence of the gift.

To fully understand the question, it is only right that we try to understand the purpose of what the scriptures teach is a gift. Joseph Smith, in teaching this principle, said, “Tongues were given for the purpose of preaching among those whose language is not understood.” (History of the Church 2:607.) Based on the teachings of the scriptures and the revelations of the latter days, President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “there has been no cessation of the gift of tongues.” (Answers to Gospel Questions 2:26.) Also, “The true gift of tongues is made manifest in the Church more abundantly, perhaps, than any other spiritual gift. Every missionary who goes forth to teach the gospel in a foreign language, if he is prayerful and faithful, receives this gift.” (Answers to Gospel Questions 2:29.)

Hundreds of testimonies have been given by missionaries and some remarkable experiences are recorded in Church history evidencing this gift in the lives of such recent church leaders as President David O. McKay, (Gospel Ideals, p. 552.) Elder Alonzo A. Hinckley, (Answers to Gospel Questions 2:32–33.), and others.

As one of this dispensation’s great leaders and a devout missionary in his middle teens, President Joseph F. Smith was so blessed with this gift that he taught the Hawaiians in their own language. On one occasion he said, “So far as I am concerned, if the Lord will give me ability to teach the people in my native tongue or in their own language to the understanding of those who hear me, that will be sufficient gift of tongues to me.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 201.)

But consider another evidence that is very prominent today. In 32 languages throughout the world the work of translating the scriptures and other publications of the Church is being carried forward. Many translators who can scarcely claim a complete knowledge of English read and study the gospel in the English language and translate their understanding into their native tongue. By persistent effort and practice they develop the gift they have received and become proficient in the work. These faithful people are inspired and motivated by the story of Oliver Cowdery; he tried to translate but was unsuccessful, so the Lord said to him, “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore you shall feel that it is right.

“But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.” (D&C 9:7–9.)

Missionaries are being prepared in language training missions for the work of teaching the gospel in a foreign tongue, and all of this that the scriptures may be fulfilled. We read in Doctrine and Covenants 90:11 [D&C 90:11], “For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Section 1, verse 2 [D&C 1:2], also says, “For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.”

In a general epistle issued by the First Presidency of the Church on July 9, 1853, a most enlightening statement was issued on the subject we are discussing. The statement read as follows:

“Translate the Book of Mormon into every language and dialect under heaven, and print the same, as God shall give you the opportunity. And from this hour the gift of tongues, and by it translation, from language to language shall be more and more manifest unto the Elders of Israel, until no nation, kingdom, tribe, or family, shall be destitute of the offer of the word of God on the earth.”

Might we not conclude that only with this marvelous gift can the purposes of God be fulfilled? For this is the dispensation of the restoration of all things. “For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (D&C 112:30.)

Consider how difficult it would be to communicate the truths of the gospel throughout the world unless by the power of God this gift were also restored. Jesus made it clear that all things should be restored when he said, “Elias truly shall first come and restore all things.” (Matt. 17:11.) The gift of tongues is one of those many things that needed to be restored, and it has been as we read in the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord enumerates many gifts including this one that gives rise to your question. (D&C 46:24.)

Now this may not be spectacular in the same sense as some other stories that are familiar to us. But a dimension to this whole matter, which is a great evidence to those of us who are close to the translation work in the Church, is that people with this gift are raised up by the Lord at places and in times of need.

Think of 3.3 million members of the Church scattered over the earth populated with approximately 3.7 billion people in 228 separately administered countries and territories speaking over 3,000 languages and dialects. How could it be possible to fulfill the purpose of the restoration of the gospel for the eternal salvation of mankind unless the Lord did strategically locate those with the gift of tongues at places where they can become instruments in his hands. So the natives in their various homelands and many who are relocated either temporarily or permanently for business or professional reasons in lands with languages different than their own find themselves deeply involved in building the kingdom of God on the earth because they are blessed with the gift of tongues.

  • Director of Church Distribution and Translation, Internal Communications Division