Friday, August 31, 2012

The Man Called John the Baptist

John, son of Zacharias, is one of the most known men in the New Testament because he was the one that baptized Jesus Christ.  When his father was visited by Gabriel we learn these other great things about John:
"For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
"And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
"And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:15-17).
From this we learn that he followed what is now called the word of wisdom, meaning he refrained from wine and other harmful substances.  He was also a great missionary, teaching many of Christ.  From an exceeding young age he had the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Lord, to guide and teach him so that he could prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah.

Why was this man such a spiritual giant?  For this we should look to his parents, Zacharias and Elisabeth.  Luke describes them by saying, "They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:6).  These two people were righteous followers of Christ as well, no doubt teaching their son to do likewise.  The story of John is often talked about, but before I do so I'd like to share the story of both Zacharias and Elisabeth, his parents.


Zacharias was a temple worker, one that rightfully held the keys of the Levitical Priesthood.  Once a year a priest was chosen, by casting lots, to enter the Holy of Holies and offer up a prayer on behalf of all Israel concerning the coming of Christ.  While this priest burns incense and prays in the Holy of Holies, the people of the land pray outside the temple.  This particular year Zacharias was the chosen priest to perform the prayer.

Because Zacharias was a worthy Levite, he was able to pray to the Lord and receive an answer through revelation or ministering angels, if necessary.  While at the altar the priest also prayed that he and his wife would have a child before they got too old.  Zacharias at this time was fifty years old, or nearing that age.  In reply to his prayers the angel Gabriel (Noah of the Bible) came to him.  The heavenly messenger explained to the priest that he and his wife would have a son, who was to be named John.  He then recited to the Levite the scripture, written above (Luke 1:15-17), about John being the prophet to prepare the way for Jesus Christ.  When Zacharias showed shock and disbelief at first upon hearing these words the angel took away his ability to speak until the angelic words had been fulfilled.

Although it is true that Zacharias was cursed with the loss of speech until John should be born because of his disbelief at the words of Gabriel, this should not take away from the righteousness of this man.  After fulfilling his duties in the temple he returned home to his wife where he shared the news to her, and they continued living worthily to raise the prophet John.

The day came when King Herod issued an edict, or decree, to kill all young boys in an attempt to rid the land of the young Jesus.  The young John was only six months older than Jesus and was also one of the age to be killed, under this decree.  At this troubling time we learn of the last righteous deed performed by the faithful Zacharias.  Joseph Smith explained:

"When Herod's edict went forth to destroy the young children...Zacharias caused his [John's] mother to take him into the mountains, where he was raised on locusts and wild honey.  When his father refused to disclose his hiding place, and being the officiating high priest at the Temple that year, was slain by Herod's order, between the porch and the altar" (Teachings of Joseph Smith, Section 5, p.261).


Elisabeth, mother of John, and Mary, mother of Jesus, were cousins.  At the time the angel told Mary she'd be the mother of Christ he also told her "thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son" (Luke 1:36).  After the visit of the angel Mary traveled to Juda, where Elisabeth and Zacharias lived, to visit her cousin.  In the account kept by Luke it is written that John "shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15).  Exactly that was shown at the time Mary visited Elisabeth.  The records says:

"And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke 1:41).

When the mother of Christ entered the room and spake, John, in his mother's womb, was filled with the Holy Ghost and leaped.  At this moment Elisabeth was also filled with the Holy Ghost and declared, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb" (Luke 1:42).  Through those few words we can see that Elisabeth was still a righteous woman and kept the commandments of God.  We know through scripture that the Holy Ghost does not dwell with unholy people, and she received the Holy Ghost.  In addition to receiving the Holy Ghost she praised God.

When she delivered her baby and the family gathered together, all of her family tried to tell her to name the boy after his father, as was custom at the time to name the child after a family member.  Although eight months after her husband was visited by Gabriel and told to name the child John, she had not forgotten or strayed from his words.  She informed the family that his name was John.

While John was only 1-2 years old Elisabeth was asked by her husband to take young John into the mountains, to avoid the evil decree of King Herod.  From that time until the ministry of John Elisabeth raised him in the wilderness.


As was talked about earlier, John was filled with the Spirit of the Lord from an early age, even from his mother's womb.  In the wilderness he was raised by his mother in the ways of God, and fed off of locusts and honey.  He lived this way until the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when he was about thirty years old (Luke 3:1,23).  In that year John was informed of God to begin his preaching unto the people.  As was prophesied by the prophets before him, he led the way for Christ to come.  He taught repentance and baptism, and baptized all who were ready for the ordinance.  This he did until the baptism of Jesus.

After Christ was baptized by John, the prophet had fulfilled his earthly calling of preparing the way of and baptizing the Lord.

Resources and Further Reading:

Birth of the Messiah - Maxwell Institute
The Book of Luke - Holy Bible
Zechariah (Priest) - Wikipedia

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