“Sang By The Gift of Tongues and Translated”

By December 1, 2010

David Golding completed an MA in the history of Christianity at Claremont Graduate University and is currently pursing a PhD in the same field. David was a fellow in this past summer’s Joseph Smith Summer Seminar at BYU during which he encountered the broadside reviewed below. We’re pleased to have him guest posting here today.  For some previous discussion of this issue, see this summary of the BYU Studies issue with the Frederick G. Williams article and subsequent comments.

BYU professor Frederick G. Williams has argued that his ancestor and namesake, the Frederick G. Williams of 1830s First Presidency fame, authored five hymns grouped together as “Songs of Zion.”[1] His argument rests on a claim of authorship for a curious entry in the Kirtland Revelation Book (Revelation Book 2 in the Joseph Smith Papers collection) in Williams’ hand titled “Sang by the gift of Tongues & Translated.” Because no author is mentioned for this passage and significant parallels exist between it and the “Songs of Zion” hymns, Dr. Williams makes a strong case for “Sang by the gift of Tongues & Translated” as the principal influence. In establishing his namesake as the author of “Sang by the gift of Tongues & Translated,” Dr. Williams missed an crucial source that identifies David W. Patten and Sidney Rigdon as authors of one of the “Songs of Zion” hymns and the most closely tied of the five to the Kirtland Revelation Book entry.


This undated broadside lists David Patten as the principal author of “Age after age has roll’d away,” which he sang in tongues and which Sidney Rigdon is credited with translating. The title mentions Patten’s death, meaning the earliest it could have been printed was sometime after October 25, 1838. “Age after age has roll’d away” first appeared in the Evening and Morning Star in May 1833 (“Songs of Zion,” 96) without attribution. Patten could have authored the version published in the Star, having returned to Kirtland after a four-month mission to Pennsylvania on February 25, 1833 and remaining there for a month before receiving a call to leave on another mission with Reynolds Cahoon. But this mission would take him to New York, far from the printing offices in Missouri where William W. Phelps was preparing editions of the Star. Between Patten’s early missions, the most likely way he could have contributed to the Star would have been in Kirtland, though most of the correspondence Phelps printed in the Star came from letters sent by missionaries scattered throughout the country.[3] Given Rigdon’s purported role in translating Patten’s singing in tongues, it would likely be through Rigdon’s correspondence with Phelps that the song made its way into the Star.

Patten arrived in Kirtland precisely when the first sessions of the School of the Prophets had begun. Singing and speaking in tongues and the translation of tongues inaugurated the School, and members of the School described several manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit in subsequent meetings. Regular meetings took place between January 23 and March 25, 1833, making Patten’s participation a possibility though his name remains absent from the Kirtland Council Minute Book and Far West Record for this time period. If Patten is the author behind “Sang by the gift of Tongues & Translated,” then Rigdon would have been present on February 27, the date given in the Revelation Book entry. This much is confirmed by the fact that the Word of Wisdom revelation was also recorded on February 27 as part of the School which Rigdon is listed as having attended. Of note, Rigdon served in the School as the “chief scribe and councilor” and Frederick G. Williams as the “assistant scribe and counciler.”[4] Patten and Rigdon were in Kirtland on February 27 when a meeting of the School of the Prophets was held in which speaking and singing in tongues was not unusual.

On at least one occasion in 1836, Patten was known to have sung in tongues. Stephen Post recorded in his journal how “Apostles Brigham Young & David Patten sang each a song of Zion in tongues & each spake in tongues & Elder Patten interpreted Brother Young’s tongue which he spake.”[5] Post’s recollection may have inspired the reference in the History of the Church that describes Patten singing in tongues and interpreting Brigham Young’s own singing and speaking in tongues: “President Brigham Young gave a short address in tongues, and David W. Patten interpreted, and gave a short exhortation.”[6] Little else directly mentions Patten’s use of tongues-singing, except for the Mysteries of God broadside. He demonstrated a command of the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham in an article printed in the July 1838 Elders’ Journal titled “To the Saints Scattered Abroad.” Mormon concepts of priesthood, lineage, and Zion exhibited in “Sang by the gift of Tongues & Translated” appear in this article, making the suggestion that Patten authored the song possible. Whatever the case of authorship, this small broadside demands a negotiation with Patten and Rigdon before ruling “Sang by the gift of Tongues & Translated” or “Age after age has roll’d away” the production of Frederick G. Williams.

[1] Frederick G. Williams, “Singing the Word of God: Five Hymns by President Frederick G. Williams,” BYU Studies 48, no. 1 (2009): 57-88.

[2] David W. Patten and Sidney Rigdon, Mysteries of God, As revealed to Enoch, on the Mount Mehujah, and sung in tongues by Elder D. W. Patton, of the “Church of Latter Day Saints,” (who fell a Martyr to the cause of Christ, in the Missouri persecution,) and interpreted by Elder S. Rigdon (N.p., n.d., Americana Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah). This document appears in an appendix in Linda Shelley Whiting, David W. Patten: Apostle and Martyr (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, 2003).

[3] S. George Ellsworth, “A History of Mormon Missions in the United States and Canada, 1830-1860” (PhD diss., University of California-Berkeley, 1951), 122, esp. fn 2. See also “History of David W. Patten,” Millennial Star 26, 406.

[4] Kirtland Council Minute Book, January 22, 1833 in Fred C. Collier, William S. Harwell, Kirtland Council Minute Book, 5. Frederick G. Williams also noted in the Kirtland Revelation Book his office as assistant scribe and councillor in Revelation Book 2, 46 (JSP 504-05).

[5] Stephen Post in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844 (Provo and Salt Lake City: Brigham Young University Press and Deseret Book, 2005), 351.

[6] History of the Church, 2:428 (March 27, 1836).

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Nice find, David, and thanks for contributing it here.

    Comment by Christopher — December 1, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

  2. You seem to be making a tentative claim here. Hasn’t the JSPP crew accepted the manuscript version to be a Patten/Rigdon production?

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 1, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

  3. The JSP Manuscript Revelation Books, 509fn67 states “No other version of this item exists to provide additional detail about its creation, so its authorship is unknown.” I haven’t found any other references to “Sang by the gift of Tongues & Translated” in the volume’s various commentaries.

    Comment by Dave G. — December 1, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  4. Oh, errata sheet at http://beta.josephsmithpapers.org/article?target=X5898&loc=front

    “An undated broadside of the hymn states that it was ?sung in tongues? by David W. Patten and ?interpreted? by Sidney Rigdon.”

    Comment by Dave G. — December 1, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  5. Thanks for this post. This broadside was brought to my attention just as R1 went to press, or just when it came off the presses. I don’t recall exactly–but late enough that we don’t have it in the volume obviously. (Consider this a friendly reminder to check the JSP errata).

    As has been mentioned here and at the other post, there are several difficulties in assigning FGW as author. But I would also second the tentativeness given by David in the OP. Just because authorship is assigned to Patten by a broadside published after his death, doesn’t mean that the authorship was remembered/reported accurately. More work needs to be done.

    Comment by Robin Jensen — December 1, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

  6. Fascinating, David! Personally, I had assumed that this was the work of Joseph Smith. So I’m glad to be corrected.

    Do you think that the omission of this revelation from the D&C could be because 1) it was not by Joseph, or 2) it had already been published in the E&MS?

    Comment by Chris Smith — December 1, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

  7. This is cool, David. Doesn’t Sam deal with the content of this in his Church History article? Seems like there’s some cool New Jerusalem stuff here.

    Comment by David G. — December 1, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

  8. Great fun. You will want to be thoughtful about the mechanics of glossalalic hymns. The “singer” of a hymn is NOT the author of the hymn according to general historiographical standards, the “interpreter” is. The “singer” of such a hymn sings in what sound like nonsense syllables, then the interpreter states what we would recognize as the poem (and someone else often has to reconstruct the speech act in writing). If you take a supernaturalist view, then it’s channeled speech and the “singer” still isn’t the author, it’s an angel or other divine being. What’s interesting to me is how they (?John Taylor, ?William Phelps) incorporated this hymn in Nauvoo into the hagiography of Patten.

    This looks like a simple reprint from the Evening and Morning Star, where the hymn was published without attribution under Phelps’s editorial supervision in 1833. My notes suggest that Michael Hicks (Mormonism and Music, 36) has comments about this particular hymn but I can’t find the details right now. I agree that the feel of the hymn is a little different from Phelps’s usual, but I haven’t seen much hymn-writing in Rigdon’s hand. I’d be delighted to be able to put this securely with Rigdon, as so much of the fascinating stuff comes from Phelps–good to have a variety of voices on these topics.

    Interested to hear what other people have to say about this authorship question. I still have a couple more weeks to incorporate updated information into the footnote for this chapter before it goes off to copyediting.

    (I don’t treat this hymn in the Church History paper–it’s in my divine anthropology chapter in the book.)

    Comment by smb — December 1, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

  9. And there are plenty of fascinating interpretations of glossalalic hymns that are not canonized. These were free-form utterances in the midst of energetic worship, not the typical fare for Smith’s revelations.

    Comment by smb — December 1, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

  10. Pondering this just a touch more, and then I have to write a talk for tomorrow morning. I’m going to suggest, very tentatively, that this could be part of Rigdon’s attempted contribution to the New Translation. The Prophecy of Enoch was very important to the effort, Rigdon’s urging seems apparent at different minor points in the New Translation, and he periodically sought after bigger, more important contributions. (Incidentally, collaborative authorship may also be an appropriate explanation.)

    The BYUS article strikes me as unreliable.

    Comment by smb — December 1, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

  11. I did a little research on this topic after Professor Williams article appeared in BYU Studies. His suggestion that his ancestor sang, translated, recorded, and then revised the text into five songs seemed inconsistent with the practices associated with speaking in tongues in the early church. I was led to the undated broadside “Mysteries of God” attributed to Patten and Rigdon by a footnote in Dan Vogel and Scott C. Dunn’s article in the Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 19, no. 2, Fall 1993 – “‘The Tongue of Angels: Glossolalia among Mormon Founders.”

    Interestingly, Professor Williams cited the article in a footnote but apparently missed the reference to the broadside. (An examination of a copy of the broadside held in the Church History Department archives failed to reveal a specific date, though the paper and print style suggested early Nauvoo or early Salt Lake City.) In any event, I shared this material with Rob Jensen, but as he noted, it was too late to be included in the publication of Revelation Book 2 material.
    I subsequently met with Professor Williams and provided a copy of the broadside, etc. He was about to leave for his assignment as Temple President and so we have not pursued our conversation further. I also met with an editor at BYU Studies who seemed unconcerned about the apparent errors in Professor Williams article since the paper had been peer reviewed.

    Comment by Joseph Darowski — December 2, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

  12. Last comment–I checked Mike Hicks, and I agree with him that Phelps probably did tidy it up a bit for publication, though this is tentative.

    Comment by smb — December 2, 2010 @ 6:16 pm

  13. Great run-down on this document, David, and thanks for sharing it here at the JI. I remember you telling me about it at the BYU Library this past summer and hoping you’d do this. At the time the errata sheet was not available, and I think you’re right, as Robin affirms, to maintain a tentative posture. Fun stuff and thanks to the other commenters for their insights.

    Comment by Jared T — December 3, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

  14. I realize I’m a little late to this discussion, but I wanted to point out that when this poem was published in the Women’s Exponent on August 15, 1885, it said ?Sung in tongues by Elizabeth Ann Whitney, at Nauvoo, 1843, and interpreted in verse by Parley P. Pratt.? See the link below:


    Comment by Brett — December 11, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

  15. Good comment, Brett. I think that’s incorrect, but it’s useful collateral material. By then EAW was the glossolalia heroine, and Pratt was an easy hymn-writer for the association.
    To my mind the big question is who commissioned the creation of the formal hymns from the glossalalic hymn? Was it a group? Having now read the entire FGW article, I feel comfortable that the primary contribution of the article was demonstrating the integrity of the “songs” as an amplification of the original hymn. The article unfortunately does almost nothing to clarify the question of authorship.

    Comment by smb — December 11, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  16. I was trying to point out that people shouldn’t automatically assume that because someone’s name is listed on an undated broadside that he or she is the author. Mormon hymody is filled with examples of hymns being attributed to the wrong person – and some of these are still in the current hymnbook.

    Although I don’t think the Women’s Exponent attribution is correct, I also have to doubt the Patton/Rigdon authorship, if only because as far as I know Sidney Rigdon never wrote any poetry (please correct me if I’m wrong).

    In my opinion, Williams provides a very strong argument that Frederick G. Williams wrote those five hymns. Maybe it’s because I have long suspected that Pratt did not write ?Ere long the veil will rend in twain? and that Philo Dibble did not write ?The happy day is rolling on? and maybe I’m reading more into it because someone has validated my feelings. Not to mention that the manuscript had at one time belonged to Emma Smith and F. G. Williams had published Emma Smith’s 1835 hymnbook. Anyway, I realize this doesn’t prove anything.

    Comment by Brett — December 12, 2010 @ 5:33 pm

  17. Good point that we shouldn’t assume the Patten/Rigdon broadside is correct automatically. All you need Rigdon to do is to make some nonspecific statements about Enoch after someone sings a glossolalic hymn. Then someone else can prepare them for publication as the Songs of Zion. Could FGW have been the one who created the Songs from the glossolalic hymn? Perhaps. The problem with the BYUS article is that it betrays no real awareness of the mechanics of glossolalic hymnody or the editorial practices of the day. It basically points out the existence of a cluster of the hymns together in FGW’s hand presumably submitted to Emma for her hymnal. It takes a scribal record of a glossalalic hymn and misinterprets a title as a terse report of the scribe’s own experience, an error that ramified throughout the article. The existence of the MS of the songs together is useful but far from conclusive. The Rigdon attribution is useful because he could not have been chosen after 1845 and perhaps not after 1842. At that point, someone presumably would have called foul if that were not the case. But it’s still the case that Rigdon could have authored the glossolalic hymn and the derivative Songs could have come from someone else. Phelps is a candidate. FGW is a candidate. I doubt Rigdon finished up the work. I’ll be eager to find additional material on this, as I’ve been hoping it’s someone other than Phelps.

    Comment by smb — December 12, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

  18. […] an unknown scribe, and Joseph Smith. The text was later adapted into a hymn and published. An undated broadside of the hymn says that it was “sung in tongues” by David W. Patten and […]

    Pingback by Thoughts on Language: A Song in Pure Language | Dawning of a Brighter Day — January 1, 2011 @ 10:27 pm


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