“Brother McKay, They Got Your Message”

David O. McKay Witnesses the Gift of Tounges Among the Maori in New Zealand, 1921

David-O.-McKay-230x300The 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!”

Well, I knew they had by the attention and the nodding of their heads during the talk. I said, “I think they have but for the benefit of those who may not have understood or had that gift, we shall have the sermon interpreted.”

While Brother Meha was interpreting that or giving a summary of it in the Maori language some of the natives, who had understood it, but who did not understand English, arose and corrected him in his interpretations.
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.

“I Learned That Day the Gift of Tongues is Real”

ensignlp.nfo_o_27d6This story comes from Elder John H. Groberg’s missionary memoir, The Other Side of Heaven.

By now I could bear my testimony in a heartfelt way and understand much of what was going on.  I could contribute some to our discussions, but as far as feeling that I could carry on an extended, meaningful conversation or explain anything in understandable detail was concerned, I had no confidence at all.  I knew lots of phrases and some parts of various lessons, but feki kept pushing me to say new things and participate more in the discussions.  I tried but often felt i was more of a hindrance than a help.

One day while in the home of a family who had agreed to listen to us, Feki started to give his usual introduction. I was busy running the words of testimony and phrases of support through my mind when I heard feki say, “you are such good people and we like you so much, I am going to turn the lesson over to Elder Groberg to explain the correct princples in clarity and truth.” I was jolted from my mental complacency. I protested with my eyes and looks of bewilderment and even a little anger, but Feki just sat there smilng. The whole family looked at me expectantly. What could I do?

I hesistantly started to speak. I gave a couple of memorized phrases and bore testimony of their truthfulness. I then stopped and looked at Feki. Beads of sweat were forming on my brow. My throat was dry. Please help me, my expression pleaded. Feki continued to smile, with an expression of confidence in me. The mother said, “I believe what you just said is true. Do you have more for us?” They looked at me with so much hope and trust and longing. I knew I had to say something, but what? How I prayed!

I closed my eyes and seemed to see a beautiful grove of trees on a clear spring day. There was an aura of light and goodness about the scene. I started to speak and found myself describing Joseph Smith’s desire to find which church god wanted him to join. Without realizing it, I began explaining about Joseph’s feelings–his desires to please God and his confusion at not knowing for sure how to do this. I asked the husband, “Do you know how he felt?” He replied “I sure do.”
I went on and on, explaining and asking questions and hearing responses. It never consciously occurred to me that I was saying words and using phrases I had never used before or that I was threading sentances together in a way that brought meaning into the hearts of these good people.

I found myself saying, “Now I’m sure when  you learn what Joseph Smith learned about God’s true Church, you will want to do what he did and be baptized and follow god’s will, won’t you?” Only then did it hit me that a miracle had occurred. The husband and wife looked at each other, then at Feki, then back to me. They had tears in their eyes. They said, “Of course we will. You’l need to explain more, but we do want to do God’s will just like Joseph Smith did.”

I didn’t know what to say. I knew I had been able to explain things so others understood. I knew I had even used the proper tenses. I felt like shouting “Hallelujah” but thought it might not be appropriate, so I simply said, “God’s Spirit has been here. I’ll now turn the time back to Feki.”

I learned that day that the gift of tongues is very real and very much alive in the Church today. I learned that the gift of tongues is much more than just saying or understanding words; it involves deeper understanding that comes from a divine source far beyond mere words. I learned that this gift also involves lots of hard work, hours of study, and a degree of discomfort, even pain, that tests our resolve almost to the breaking point.