And it came to pass that he did teach and minister unto the children of the multitude of whom hath been spoken, and he did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he had revealed unto the people; and he loosed their tongues that they could utter. (3 Nphi 26:14)
What does this mean when it says that Jesus loosed the tongues of the children? It almost sounds like magic the way it is expressed here. But can we assume that? A child can babble on quite happily saying nothing in particular. But here it says the children spoke great and marvelous things.
Previous to thinking about this verse I sort of had this idea that the children were wrought upon to say great things, and they didn’t understand what they were saying, but now that doesn’t seem quite right. They had just been taught and ministered to by Christ. I think it likely that they had been thinking about what He taught them and drawing conclusions, synthesizing what He had said and building on the foundational principles until they had profound insights to share, greater than Jesus had revealed so far to the people.
How is a child’s tongue loosed? I can think of several ways. It might be loosed if he/she has a speech impediment. That’s a healing process. A child’s tongue can be loosed if he/she is given permission to speak or invited to speak or engaged in conversation. Third, a child’s tongue can be loosed also if he/she is inspired by the Holy Ghost to speak.
A fascinating thing about this verse is that it shows that when Jesus loosed the children’s tongues, it wasn’t to speak to Him; it was to speak to their fathers. It is almost as if He asked them to talk to their parents.
I wonder how great and marvelous those things were. Sometimes it seems when kids say the right thing right when you don’t expect them to and it hits you between the eyes.
I almost get the sense that the Nephies had a tradition of training their children to be quiet all the time. It wasn’t that long ago—maybe some decades—that our culture was the same way, if you remember the saying, “Children should be seen and not heard.” I suppose that saying was designed to help children be courteous and respectful until they could learn when it was appropriate to speak up and what things were good to say, but can also be misused to silence children’s voices and take away any chance of self-expression. So maybe Jesus was demonstrating that it was possible to have parent-child conversations in which mutual learning takes place.
This reminds me of some times that I’ve substitute-taught primary classes, which have been a mix of learning and fun. Here’s a journal entry about a CTR 7 primary lesson that I taught back in 2010:
I had Scottie and Celeste in my class. When I got to the classroom, Scottie had hidden behind a chair so that I kind of had to hunt for him. I didn’t get bothered by that; I just asked him to come out for the lesson. He asked if we could play hide-and-go-seek and I said that we would if there was time at the end of the lesson. Before class started, I asked them if they needed to go to the bathroom or get a drink. One wanted a drink and the other wanted to go to the bathroom. Then Scottie asked if they could play hangman, and I told them we could do that too if we had time at the end of the lesson. So then I had their cooperation.As it turned out, the pictures held their attention very well. I would hold up a picture and say, “Tell me about this picture” and they would try to supply all the detail and I would keep them on the right track if they started to wander. They both seemed pretty interested in the pictures. I would fill in some extra things and then I’d go on to the next picture. Celeste asked some good questions. When I showed the picture of Christ ordaining the 12 apostles, she wanted to know what “ordain” meant, so I told her. The really neat thing about the whole lesson for me was that I felt for them a very special love, which I can only suppose was a small measure of the love that Christ feels for little children. It helped me be patient and to show respect for them and I felt that they really responded to that. At the end of the lesson when all the pictures we had talked about were out on the floor, I pointed to how the things Christ did in His day are also done in our church today and Celeste suddenly got very excited and insisted on comparing them herself and I could see that she had gotten it. [And then we played games of Hangman and hide-and-go-seek until class was over, since we got finished ahead of time.]
Here’s another journal entry about another primary class I substitute-taught in 2011:
Today I taught the CTR 7 class. The lesson was on Easter and what Jesus did for us. It was kind of interesting because in primary sharing time Sister Reeder went through all the pictures and the story of the crucifixion and resurrection, so I wondered how I was going to make it new for my class. But we ended up having a very good discussion, and some of the questions they asked were amazing. Ryland asked two questions. She asked, “Is Jesus everywhere at once?” and “Did Heavenly Father live on this earth?” (I told my husband those questions and he was like, “Wow! That’s like a high priest group!” He asked me if I went into the Adam-God theory, and I told him I didn’t. Why would I drop something like that on CTR 7s? It’s wrong anyway!)I told Ryland first of all that Heavenly Father had once been a man before He was God, but it was a very very long time ago and that he had lived on a different earth. “50 thousand years ago?” she asked. “Way more than that,” I said. I also told her that Jesus can’t be everywhere at once because He has a body, but that the Holy Ghost can be with each one of us. Kyla asked how the Holy Ghost could be with everyone at once, and us. I told her I had asked myself that question before and I didn’t know. Then Emmeline spoke up and said it was like the sun; it was in one place, but everyone could feel it. I told her that was an excellent way of explaining it. I asked her if we could still feel the Holy Ghost if it was dark outside, and she said, “yes.” I told her she was right.At another point in the lesson I told them that when Jesus visited the apostles after He was resurrected, they were in a room and all the doors were shut, but Jesus was able to come in anyway. They asked how He did it, and I told them I didn’t know, but I knew resurrected bodies could do some really amazing things.At another point, I asked them if Jesus still bled after He was resurrected. They seemed to think that He didn’t but that His body had sores. I told them that His wounds were completely healed but you could still see the marks. I asked them what that told them about what their bodies would be like when they were resurrected. They answered that their bodies would be perfect.I also asked them why it is important to know about the resurrection. They weren’t quite sure, so I asked them what they might think about death if they didn’t know there was a resurrection. They said they would be scared. I asked them how they would feel if their mom died if they didn’t know there was a resurrection. They said they would be very sad. So it seems they have figured out that knowing the resurrection takes away fear and a lot of the sorrow of death.
These are 7 year olds!
What good conversations have you had with children about the gospel? When have you seen their tongues loosed so that they speak marvelous words?