Moroni 10:8-18 — (part 2) — gifts of the Spirit — prophecy, angels, tongues, interpretation of tongues — LeGrand Baker

This is a continuation of Moroni 10:8-18

Like much of the scriptures, Moroni’s list of gifts may be understood in our every-day language like we might discuss it in Sunday School, or it might be read as having to do only with priesthood authority and responsibility. That is the way I wish to discuss it here.

In the scriptures there are three comparable lists of the spiritual gifts. But since each one lists the gifts in the same order, and that order is a progression upward, we are left to conclude that they are not lists at all but sequences. If sequences, then the order in which they appear teaches us almost as much about the gifts as naming them does.

These sequences are in Moroni 10:8-18, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Doctrine and Covenants 46:8-33.


13 And again, to another, that he may prophesy concerning all things (Moroni 10:13);

10 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 (1 Corinthians 12:10):

22 And to others it is given to prophesy (D&C 46:22);

Prophecy is usually thought of as a prediction about the future. However, in the scriptures and in our present time, a prophecy is the word of God spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost, and at times is about future events or circumstances. While all of the gifts can be counterfeited by clever words, a slight of hand, or well-placed money, prophecy is probably falsified more frequently than all the rest. False prophets were the bane of ancient Israel. When Jeremiah called the people to task for accepting them, he also gave us the transcendent definition of a true prophet.

16 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
17 They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
18 For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD [the word “counsel” is sode, a reference to the decisions of the Council in Heaven {1}], and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?
19 Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.
20 The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.
21 I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my counsel [sode], and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings (Jeremiah 23:16-26).

If a false prophet is one who has not had a sode experience, then a true prophet is one who has, like Jeremiah, Lehi, Alma, and the Prophet Joseph Smith.{2}

However, that is not the only definition of a true prophet. John the Beloved quoted an angel as teaching him that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10). Alma demonstrated that principle:

8 And Alma went and began to declare the word of God unto the church which was established in the valley of Gideon, according to the revelation of the truth of the word which had been spoken by his fathers, and according to the spirit of prophecy which was in him, according to the testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who should come to redeem his people from their sins, and the holy order by which he was called. And thus it is written. Amen (Alma 6:8).

While it is true that no prophecy is binding upon the church except those spoken by the Lord’s anointed, it is equally true that all persons who have the gift of the Holy Ghost and who know that Jesus is the Christ have the right to prophecy for themselves, their families, and others who are under their charge. The Lord’s instructions are very clear:

43 And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.
44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ (D&C 84:43-45)


14 And again, to another, the beholding of angels and ministering spirits (Moroni 10:14);

10 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 (1 Corinthians 12:10):

23 And to others the discerning of spirits (D&C 46:23).

I am convinced that before we came here we had many dear friends who were assigned to come to mortality at different times and in different places. Some of those friends are still in the premortal spirit world, and others are in the postmortal spirit world. They are still friends — time and space do not change such friendships. The fact that we have temporarily forgotten them while we are in mortality is not evidence that they have forgotten us. In the end, all of the righteous family of Adam will be sealed together. That means that we will ultimately be sealed to those friends by the same priesthood authority that seals us to our immediate family.

We are very fortunate that some of those friends are assigned to come to mortality in the same time and place where we were also assigned. When we meet those people and “renew” our friendships they become the stability to our lives. Without such friends our experiences here would be very dreary indeed.

With that view of the eternal relationships of family and friends it is only reasonable to believe that people who love us and are concerned about our welfare will look after us while we are alone in this world. It is equally reasonable to believe that we looked after some of our friends who came to this world before us, and will look after others when we are in the postmortal spirit world.

Our experiences teach us that usually these eternal friends work without our explicit knowledge and without our seeing them. If we understood too much about their doings, that information would probably impinge upon our decisions, attitudes, and actions. That would encroach upon our free agency. However, in those instances where one does see an angel, the Prophet Joseph has given us clear instruction about how to judge if they are from heaven or if they are not friends, but appear in counterfeit light (D&C 129:1-9).

Mormon explained why some people see angels but the great majority of us do not. He said,

30 For behold, they [the angels] are subject unto him [the Savior], to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.
31 And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.
32 And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men (Moroni 7:30-35).

When Hyrum M. Smith III was a young missionary, his father President Joseph F. Smith sent him letters in which he answered many of his son’s questions. These letters were later compiled and published. Relative to guardian angels President Smith wrote:

In reply to your question: “Do we all have guardian angels, and is the Key to Theology authentic on this subject, pages 117 to 119?”
To both of these propositions, I can answer yes, so far as I have been taught and am able to learn. Jesus said (Matt. 18:10): “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you that in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven.” This is no exception to the rule. The rule applies to all of God’s children or little ones. But, the guardian angels of the pure, the innocent “which believe in me,” as Jesus said, verse 6, are they which “do always behold the face of my Father.” {3}

Parley P. Pratt’s Key to Theology is one of the great classics of early LDS literature. Its language is beautifully Victorian, but the ideas are as valid now as they were when he wrote them.

For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.” (Job 33:14-16.)

In all ages and dispensations God has revealed many important instructions and warnings to men by means of dreams.

When the outward organs of thought and perception are released from their activity, the nerves unstrung, and the whole of mortal humanity lies hushed in quiet slumbers, in order to renew its strength and vigor, it is then that the spiritual organs are at liberty, in a certain degree, to assume their wonted functions, to recall some faint outlines, some confused and half-defined recollections, of that heavenly world, and those endearing scenes of their former estate, from which they have descended in order to obtain and mature a tabernacle of flesh. Their kindred spirits, their guardian angels then hover about them with the fondest affection, the most anxious solicitude. Spirit communes with spirit, thought meets thought, soul blends with soul, in all the raptures of mutual, pure and eternal love.

In this situation the spiritual organs are susceptible of converse with Deity, or of communion with angels and the spirits of just men made perfect.

In this situation we frequently hold communication with our departed father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter; or with the former husband or wife of our bosom, whose affection for us, being rooted and grounded in the eternal elements, or issuing from under the sanctuary of Love’s eternal fountain, can never be lessened or diminished by death, distance of space, or length of years.

We may, perhaps, have had a friend of the other sex, whose pulse beats in unison with our own; whose every thought was big with the aspirations, the hopes of a bright future in union with our own; whose happiness in time or in eternity would never be fully consummated without that union. Such a one, snatched from time in the very bloom of youth, lives in the other sphere, with the same bright hope, watching our every footstep, in our meanderings through the rugged path of life, with longing desires for our eternal happiness, and eager for our safe arrival in the same sphere.

With what tenderness of love, with what solicitude of affection will they watch over our slumbers, hang about our pillow, and seek, by means of the spiritual fluid, to communicate with our spirits, to warn us of dangers or temptation, to comfort and soothe our sorrow, or to ward off the ills which might befall us, or perchance to give us some kind token of remembrance or undying love!

It is the pure in heart, the lovers of truth and virtue, that will appreciate these remarks, for they know, by at least a small degree of experience, that these things are so. {4}


15 And again, to another, all kinds of tongues (Moroni 10:15);

10 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 (1 Corinthians 12:10):

24 And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues (D&C 46:24).


16 And again, to another, the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues (Moroni 10:16).

10 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 (1 Corinthians 12:10):

25 And to another is given the interpretation of tongues (D&C 46:25).

Articles of Faith:7
7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

The gift of tongues apparently has two purposes. One is to be part of a deeply spiritual experience so that those present may bear testimony of the power of the Spirit of God.

Speaking in tongues was relatively common when the Church was young in back-country New York and in Kirtland. At that time numerous itinerant Protestant preachers were forever holding highly “spiritual” (translate: emotional) camp meetings. Reports of some of those meetings say speaking in tongues was accompanied by excited, “enthusiastic” frenzies. {5} The Prophet Joseph was concerned that such displays did not happen in LDS meetings. He said,

The gift of tongues is the smallest gift perhaps of the whole, and yet it is one that is the most sought after. {6}

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, but when they are applied to that which God does not intend, they prove an injury, a snare and a curse instead of a blessing.(June 15, 1842.) {7}

It appears that one reason speaking in tongues was relatively common in the LDS Church was to show the Saints the contrast between the “camp meeting spirituality” and the peaceful, yet profound spirituality that is the manifesting of the Holy Ghost. Here are three accounts of such experiences by Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and Heber J. Grant.

Brigham Young prayed in a tongue which the Prophet Joseph identified as the Adamic language.

The same evening after their arrival, Brigham relates, Joseph called a few of the brethren together, and “we conversed on the things of the kingdom. He [Joseph] called upon me to pray; in my prayer I spoke in tongues. As soon as we arose from our knees the brethren flocked around him and asked his opinion concerning the gift of tongues that was upon me. He told them it was the pure Adamic language. Some said to him they expected he would condemn the gift Brother Brigham had, but he said, ‘No, it is of God, and the time will come when Brother Brigham Young will preside over the Church.’ ”
The Prophet Joseph Smith had never heard the gift of tongues until he heard it from Brigham that day, and by the gift of prophecy he knew that a great man and a great leader had joined his standard. {8}

Wilford Woodruff reported that during a meeting one of the brethren blessed him in tongues and prophesied about his future. The Prophet Joseph presided at that meeting.

At about candle light the meeting commenced with great interest Joseph requested the congregation to speak their feelings freely & pray according to the spirit the saints began to open their mouths & they were filled with language unto edification one a prayer another an exortation some a doctrin & a Psalms others a toungue. some an interpretation Prophecy was also poured out upon us & all things was done decently & in order & the night was spent gloriously by the saints much of the gifts of the gospel rested upon us. One Brother clothed with the gift of tongues laid his hands upon my head and prophesied great blessing upon me another Brother possessing the interpretation uttered it unto me to my joy & consolation with the many blessing pronounced upon my head he rehersed the blessing that Jacob pronounced upon the heads of Joseph & said that I should possess the blessings of heaven & of earth & be much blessed in my ministry &c. much Prophecy was uttered upon the heads of many of the Saints in other languages & was interpreted which was glorious, thus was this day & night spent gloriously & those scenes will long be remembered. {9}

Heber J. Grant told of a blessing he received when he was just a little boy from Eliza R. Snow.

I seldom hear a hymn written by Sister Eliza R. Snow sung in any of our meetings, or sing one myself, that I do not thank God for the gift of tongues to that noble woman. She gave to me a blessing when I was a child, predicting incidents in my life, promising me that I should grow to manhood and become one of the leaders in the Church of Christ, Sister Zina D. Young giving the interpretation. I thank God that we have the gift of tongues. {10}

The second reason for the gift of tongues is “to build up and strengthen the kingdom of God,” as Joseph Fielding Smith explained.

Answer: There has been no cessation of the gift of tongues. Perhaps the idea of some members of the Church is that this gift belongs to the testimony meetings of the fast day. It is true that messages have been given in such meetings, and when this was so, it was evidently for the benefit of a portion of the congregation who may have had the gift of interpretation. Manifestations of this character are, and should be, rare, for this is not the real purpose of this great gift. The gift of tongues is not something for the entertainment of members, nor is it for the purpose of creating awe or to increase faith in those who are weak. The gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues are given for the purpose of helping to build up and strengthen the kingdom of God. {11}

Many of us believe that the relative quickness of the way missionaries learn foreign and sometimes very difficult languages is a quiet, but very real manifestation of the gift of tongues.

However, there are times when it is very public. One of my favorite stories is this one told by President David O. McKay.

The occasion was a conference held at Huntly, New Zealand, a thousand people assembled. Before that time I had spoken through interpreters in China, Hawaii, Holland, and other places, but I felt impressed on that occasion to speak in the English language. In substance I said, “I have never been much of an advocate of the necessity of tongues in our Church, but today I wish I had that gift. But I haven’t. However, I am going to speak to you, my brothers and sisters, in my native tongue and pray that you may have the gift of interpretation of tongues. We will ask Brother Stuart Meha who is going to interpret for me, to make notes, and if necessary he may give us a summary of my talk afterwards.”
Well, the outpouring of the gift of tongues on that occasion was most remarkable. Following the end of my sermon Brother Sid Christy, who was a student of Brigham Young University, a Maori, who had returned to New Zealand, rushed up and said, “Brother McKay, they got your message!”
President George Albert Smith and Brother Rufus K. Hardy visited New Zealand several years after that event, and Brother Hardy, hearing of the event, brought home testimonies of those who were present, and he took the occasion to have those testimonies notarized. So it is the gift of interpretation rather than the gift of tongues, that was remarkable. {12}


In each of these three scriptures, the sequence about the gifts of the Spirit concludes with the assurance that it is God who decides who will receive these gifts and when they will be manifested.

17 And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.
18 And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ (Moroni 10:17-18).

11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will (1 Corinthians 12:11).

26 And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.
27 And unto the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God.
28 And it shall come to pass that he that asketh in Spirit shall receive in Spirit;
29 That unto some it may be given to have all those gifts, that there may be a head, in order that every member may be profited thereby.
30 He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.
31 And again, I say unto you, all things must be done in the name of Christ, whatsoever you do in the Spirit;
32 And ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with.
33 And ye must practise virtue and holiness before me continually. Even so. Amen (D&C 46:26-33).


{1} For several discussions of prophets returning to the Council in Heaven to reaffirm their covenants, search “sode” in this website.

{2} See “sode experience” in the subject index of Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.

{3} Joseph F. Smith, From Prophet to Son: Advice of Joseph F. Smith to His Missionary Sons, compiled by Hyrum M. Smith III and Scott G. Kenney (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981), 39 – 40. Italics in original.

{4} Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology/A Voice of Warning (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1965), 120-22.

{5} Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-over District: The social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850.

{6} Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), 246.

{7} Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 247.

{8}Preston Nibley, The Presidents of the Church, 13th ed., rev. and enl. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974), 39-40.

{9} The Kirtland Diary of Wilford Woodruff by Dean C. Jessee Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 12 (1971-1972), Number 4 – Summer 1972, 391.

{10} Elder Heber J. Grant., Conference Report, October 1913, Outdoor Meeting. 91-92.

{11} Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966), 2: 26.

{12} David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay (Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953), 552. DNCS, October 18, 1952, p. 2.


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