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“The Gift of Tongues“ by Annaliese Lemmon

I have a gift of tongues. Unfortunately, it’s useless to me on my mission. I throw the Spanish flashcards down on the bed in our small Chilean apartment. “I’m never going to get this. Why does Spanish have to be so hard?”

My trainer, Sister Helm, puts her hand on my shoulder. “Why don’t we take a break? Would you like me to get you something to drink?”

“Sure.” I rub my forehead. A break sounds really good.

She smiles at me sympathetically, then silently leaves the room.

I flop back on the bed. Through the open window, a bird trills, its calls sounding like perfect English in my ears. “This is my tree, and I will boldly defend it from whoever wishes to challenge me.”

I glare out the window. I’ve been able to understand animals my whole life. I’d daydreamed that they would be able to translate for me on my mission. But no, they were more interested in talking about things like food. I spot the sparrow declaring its territory and sit up. What could be agitating it? Maybe yelling at a cat will help me feel better.

A yellowish-green finch with black markings swoops down and lands on the window sill. He cocks his head and looks at me with one beady eye. “Sister Morgan, I understand you are having trouble learning Spanish. I would like to help.”

I glance at the door. No sound that Sister Helm is returning. “Who are you, and how do you know my name?” Birds do not talk like this.

“I’m a messenger, sent to bring you the same offer given to Solomon of old. If you desire to know Spanish, I can give that to you.”

“Shouldn’t you be a serpent, if you’re trying to tempt me? What’s the catch?”

“I’m not Satan. All animal-speakers have an opportunity to exchange that gift for one of their choosing. Solomon chose wisdom. What do you desire?”

I press my lips together. That could explain why I had never been able to find other animal-speakers, even on the Internet. I like the idea, but my stomach twists. “Would I be able to switch the gifts back after my mission?”

“No. Any change made would be permanent.”

“Can I think about it and choose later?” I have a dog at home. Is there anything that would be worth losing the chance to speak with her again?

“I can’t guarantee that I would come speak with you again.”

I twist my mouth. How can I know I am making a choice I won’t regret later? Wealth made the Nephites prideful. Seeing an angel didn’t help Laman and Lemuel. Wisdom like Solomon would be great, but shouldn’t I trust that Heavenly Father had given me the best gift already? But what if being able to change it was something He wants me to be able to do?

I think a moment more. “Could you just make a small change to my animal-speaking gift?”

“What do you want?”

“Make it so I hear and speak to the animals in Spanish.”

“Why would you want to do that? You’ll still struggle with the language.”

“But I’ll be more immersed. And it will be useful to me even after I go home, because I’ll have a reason to keep my Spanish skills up.”

The finch laughs. “You’re as wise as a serpent. Lo hice. Chao.”

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