The Speaker of Our Words


Since we’re Un-Blogging about the adult Institute class, I’ll tell you about the time I signed in tongues.

Our friend Sean, introduced in the previous post, had a friend who was profoundly deaf. You have to understand Sean to appreciate why. Sean collected people as friends from the fringes of society and the church. If there was someone who was different, or on the outside of activity, who had isolated themselves from society, they liked Sean a lot, because he was like them. In his blunt way, he just told them to get back to church, and they usually complied. One of these people was a young man who had been born deaf.

A month or so before Sean invited this young fellow to come to Institute class, he asked me if he could take five minutes of our class time and let him teach us ASL (American Sign Language). I thought it was a good idea, and we had a few ASL classes. The funny thing was that Sean didn’t know ASL himself, he just picked up a book and memorized it. After that he “spoke” ASL. Like I said, he’s an interesting guy. He did all this so that he could help his deaf friend.

When I met the deaf visitor for the first time it was difficult. I couldn’t remember anything Sean had taught us, so Sean translated. They sat down near the head of the table and we began, with Sean signing away for the visitor. I don’t remember the topic, but about half way through the meeting I noticed that my hands were flying around like an Italian trying to describe the perfect marinara sauce. Sean stopped signing, and both he and his deaf friend watched with great attention. When the lesson was over, the only thing I noticed was that my arms were tired. Sean signed through the closing prayer.

When everyone was leaving I walked up to our visitor and asked, with Sean translating, if he was able to understand the lesson. The deaf fellow signed back, “I enjoyed it very much. I didn’t realize you spoke ASL, you’re quite fluent at it. Thank you for inviting me.”

I thought Sean had translated wrong. “I don’t know ASL,” I replied.

Sean shook his head, and while signing, said, “about halfway through the lesson, you started signing, and it was very good ASL. We both understood what you were saying.”

I knew I had been feeling the Spirit during the class, and my arm waving had seemed expressive to me, but not another language. The visitor left, and Sean waited for most of the class to leave.

When we could speak I said, “I’ve never signed in tongues before, are you sure that’s what I was doing?”

Sean nodded. “You were signing a little more basic message than what you were speaking. What you were saying to the class was way over my friend’s head, but what you were signing was right on his level. He understood everything you signed. The Spirit was very strong, and he was touched because he realized it was Heavenly Father helping him understand the lesson. I told him beforehand that you didn’t speak ASL, and my translation abilities are not that good. I think it was a miracle because he heard exactly what he needed to hear tonight.”

Our young deaf friend attended quite a few more classes and sacrament meetings before he moved into another area, though I never again signed in tongues for him.

This experience confirmed to me Heavenly Father’s love of every one of us, and his tender caring for this young man. It also tells me that He is willing to work miracles any place and any time we place ourselves into his service, and allow him to become the speaker of our words, and the doer of our deeds.

Brother John

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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