"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
October 2, 2013
Speaking with the Tongue of Angels
by Kathryn Grant

Consider the miracle of words. Words enable us to speak with each other, read books, sing songs, tell jokes, and learn new things. Without words, we couldn’t say, “Thank you” or, “I’m sorry”; it would be difficult even to think! Words are a gift from God.

In the scriptures, Nephi offers intriguing counsel about using words. He tells us that after we have “entered in by the way” and received the Holy Ghost, we can “speak with the tongue of angels.” “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost,” he tells us, “Wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.” (2 Nephi 32:1–2).

What a privilege — to speak with the tongue of angels, or in other words, to speak the words of Christ! So, we might ask, how would an angel speak? And how would an angel avoid speaking?

It’s probably safe to say that an angel would avoid gossip — that is, sharing sensational or personal information about another person. Sometimes we excuse gossip by saying, “I was just telling the truth.”

But gossip is gossip whether there’s truth to it or not. And gossip usually has far less truth to it than we realize, for two reasons: first, those who gossip usually don’t know the whole story, and second, gossip is not loving — and unloving words tend to have an element of falsehood. Gossiping words are not the words of angels.

Another non-angelic use of words is what the scriptures call murmuring, or what we usually call complaining or “whining.” Complaining has become ingrained in our culture. We complain about the weather, high prices and bad schools. We criticize government leaders, neighbors, and even friends and family members.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a convincing reason for avoiding complaining words: “No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse.”

In addition, complaining is contagious! Have you ever been with a group of friends when one brings up something negative? Soon the whole group joins in, each complaint building on the last. And perhaps the most serious problem with complaining is that it shuts out gratitude, which tends to blind us both to current blessings and future solutions.

When we feel distant from the Lord and His Spirit, part of the problem may be the negative words we think and say. So how can we replace those negative words with the words of angels?

Nephi provides an important clue when he explains why his brothers Laman and Lemuel were constantly complaining: “They did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” (1 Nephi 2:12), emphasis added.) So the first antidote to negative words is to learn about the dealings of God.

The scriptures teach us that God does everything “for the benefit of his children” (2 Nephi 26:24) and “all things” — all things — “work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). This is how God deals with his children, and it is cause for rejoicing, not complaint! When we remember the glorious plan of salvation, especially that God gave His Only Begotten Son to save us, how can our hearts not overflow with gratitude!

Another strategy is to reduce the negative words we allow in our lives, and replace them with positive, even holy words. Much entertainment today offers a steady diet of sarcasm, put-downs, and complaints of all types. We can’t afford to underestimate the effect of these negative words, especially when sugar-coated with laughter or set to appealing music.

I love an experience shared by Steven Cramer in his book Worth of a Soul. To overcome years of negative thinking, he put scriptures on 3x5 cards and read them at every opportunity. As he did so, he found that the power of God’s word literally changed his attitudes and thinking.

Finally, we can bear our testimony, and not just in testimony meeting. While gossip and complaint express a lack of faith in our Savior, testimony does exactly the opposite.

A very busy friend of mine is often asked, “How do you do it all?” In the past, her typical answer was an overwhelmed “I don’t!” But one day when asked that question, she had the impression that the questioner needed to hear something different. So she replied, “I have callouses on my knees from prayer.”

The other woman responded, “I hadn’t thought of that. I think I need to get back into prayer.” My friend went on to testify how she could only accomplish what she did with the Lord’s help. How differently the conversation turned out because my friend replaced negative words with faithful ones! She spoke with the tongue of angels.

In the book of Alma we read how long ago, a group of Lamanites were converted to the Lord. He changed their hearts so completely that they buried their weapons of war deep in the earth, and nothing, not even the prospect of death, could persuade them to take up those weapons again.

Can we, like the faithful Lamanites, bury the weapons of our negative words deep in the earth, and refuse to take them up again?

Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63.) As we turn to our Savior and seek His help, He will give us victory over negative words and their effects. We can “speak with the tongue of angels” and speak the words of Christ.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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