In a book called “History of Mormonism” published in 1840 and written by Eber D. Howe, we get an interesting look into the use of tongues amongst the early Mormons. It raises questions about why tongues are no longer practiced by Mormons. Howe writes:
On the opening of the year 1833, the “gift of tongues” again made its appearance at head-quarters, and from thence extended to all their branches in different parts…it would appear, from all the facts which we have been able to gather upon this subject, that if this gift were not supernaturally bestowed, it required but a few moments instruction from a priest, to render his pupil expert in various dead languages, which could never be understood by man or beast, except a supernatural power was at the instant given to some one present to interpret it. They sometimes professed to believe that these “tongues” were the same which were “confounded” at the building of Babel.
Some curious particulars are related respecting these blasphemous practices by a Mr. Higby, who was eight months an Elder in the Mormon church, and which he published in a small pamphlet. He says that shortly after he joined them, a Mormon Elder said to him, “you must go to work in the vineyard of the Lord as a preacher of the Gospel. I have viewed your heart by the spirit of discernment; I see what is in your heart and what the will of the Lord is, concerning you all.” Mr. Higby says that he was soon after ordained as an Elder in the said church, and commissioned to preach and baptize, ordain Elders, confirm the churches, heal the sick, in short, that he was ordained to all the gifts of the church, which were the same as given to the apostles of old. He continues – “about the 10th of April following, R. Cahoon and D. Patton came again to the place-a meeting was called, and previous to the meeting, they said that some one would speak with tongues before they left the place. Accordingly he set himself to work at that meeting to verify his prophecy. During the meeting he said, “Father H. if you will rise in the name of Jesus Christ, you can speak in tongues.” He arose immediately, hesitated, and said, “my faith fails me-I have not faith enough.” Said Patton, “you have-speak in the name of Jesus Christ-make some sound as you list, without further thought, and God will make it a language.” The old gentleman, after considerable urging, spoke and made some sounds, which were pronounced to be a correct tongue. Several others spoke in a similar manner, and among them was myself. I spoke as I listed, not knowing what I said, yet it was declared to be a tongue. The sound of the words used by some, in speaking in tongues, was a medium between talking and singing-and all, as I am now convinced, a mere gibberish, spoken at random and without thought.
“The next time those men came among us, they gave us a rule for speaking in unknown tongues, and also for interpreting what was spoken by others. This rule, they said, was perfect-that as long as we followed it we could not err. And so I believe; it was a prefect rule to lead men astray. The rule, as given by Cahoon, is this: rise upon your feet and look and lean on Christ; speak or make some sound; continue to make sounds of some kind, and the Lord will make a correct tongue or language of it. The interpretation was to be given in the same way.”
They would frequently sing in this gibberish, forming a tune as they proceeded. The same songs, they said, would be sung when the lost tribes appeared in Zion, in Missouri.
Another seceder from this delusion, relates that he was present on a certain occasion, in an upper room in Kirtland, where were assembled from fifteen to twenty Elders and High Priests. After sundry exhortation by the priests, the prophet himself arose, and with much earnestness, warned his followers to be zealous and faithful in their duties…Joseph next arose, and passing around the room laying his hand upon each one, and spoke as follows, as near as the narrator can recollect:
“Ak man oh son oh man ah ne commene en holle goste en haben en glai hosanne hosanne en holle goste en esac milkea jeremiah, ezekiel, Nephi, Lehi, St. John,” Ec. Ec. After administering the sacrament, several of the brethren were called upon to arise and speak in tongues. Several of them performed with considerable applause. Our informant says he was at length called upon to speak or sing, “in tongues,” at his own option-preferring the latter mode, he sung, to the tune of Bruce’s Address, a combination of sounds, which astonished all present.
This gibberish for several months was practiced almost daily, while they were about their common avocations, as well as when they assembled for worship.