The gift of differences of administrations may apply to the gift of tongues in its manifestation as a “gift of foreign language communication.” Moroni says that “there are different ways that these gifts are administered” (Moro. 10: 8), and the Lord himself in D&C 42: 15 says that “to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.” The conditions among the LDS children of men are such that they ask for the gift of foreign language communication in order to preach the gospel to non-members, but do not ask for the gift of tongues, nor cloven tongues of fire, to praise God in the tongue of angels. Therefore, according to the current condition in the church, it could very well be that the Lord, in His mercy, is allowing some measure of the gift of tongues to be manifest in the church, according to the faith of the living members.
Assuming the above to be true, it is entirely correct to say that the gift of tongues is present with the church, although it is being administered differently than how it was administered in previous dispensations and also in the early church history of this dispensation. The difference in administration we see displayed today, then, is because of the current condition among the LDS children of men.
Again following this line of logic, the “gift of foreign language communication,” a different administration of the gift of tongues, would do away with the gift of interpretation of tongues, since the hearer would understand the speaker. If this “gift of foreign language communication” is made manifest so that the preacher cannot understand the language he or she is preaching in, then the gift of interpretation of tongues would be necessary to have both preacher and hearer understanding each other. There could be many variations of this gift (and the gift of interpretation of tongues) in this manner, when it is administered so that the gospel can be preached in a foreign tongue by the missionaries. It may be manifest miraculously all at once, remain with the individual or depart once the preaching has been done, or the missionary may gain the ability to learn a language easily, or quicker, etc.
When administering the gift of tongues (and the gift of interpretation of tongues) in any of these lesser ways, speaking in the tongue of men is the norm, not the tongue of angels, for speaking in the tongue of angels is the scriptural administration of the mighty gift of tongues, and that type of administration requires that someone interpret what is said.
The Tongues of Men
Paul said, “THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13: 1)
Paul mentioned speaking with the tongues of men. This may have a couple of meanings. It could mean that a person who is manifesting the higher gift of tongues may both speak with the tongue of angels as well as an unknown tongue of men, both of which circumstances require that someone interpret, or he may have simply been saying that even though we can speak in known tongues (the tongues of men) as well as in unknown tongues (the tongue of angels) we still require charity. In other words, having the gift of tongues and being able to speak all languages is not good enough. So the scripture is open for interpretation.
However, early church history records that often when people manifested the gift of tongues, they didn’t just speak in the tongue of angels, but spoke in dead tongues or foreign tongues, tongues which those present did not know, and which required an interpreter to explain the meaning of the pronouncement.
Ultimately, there is one sure way to learn all of the ways that the gift of tongues is administered and manifested, and that is by seeking it in prayer, obtaining it, and using it. As with all gifts, experience is the best teacher.
Previous Gift of Tongues article: The gift of tongues (part two): a Book of Mormon account