If I were to ask you, “Out of all the Prophets either in modern days, or ancient, who is the greatest? Who is your favorite?” I’m sure I would hear shouts of “Nephi!” or “Noah!” or “Moses!” But would you have ever thought to shout out the name of John the Baptist? Certainly, all Prophets do the will of the Lord. They spread the Gospel in the dispensation that they cover. We hear the stories of Helaman, or of the great sermons of King Benjamin. But why don’t we hear much about John the Baptist?
Preparing the Way
The reason we don’t hear much about John the Baptist is simply because the information that we have on John is rather limited. In the Christmas story in Luke, we learn briefly about his parents, his birth, and his relationship to Christ. Fast-forward thirty years later, we learn about John briefly preaching in the wilderness, baptizing in the river Jordan, and then his death (he was beheaded — See Matt. 14:1-12). In Luke 7:28, Jesus tells us that “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.”
John’s mission was short and simple, with the majority of his focus built around preaching and baptizing. But John’s effects go much farther than that. John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah who was to come. From the Bible texts, we find that John’s purpose during his life was to prepare the way before Christ, baptize the Messiah, and then to acclaim the divine role of Christ (John 1).
In D&C 84:27-28, we read:
…among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb. For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power.
His Acts Foretold
John’s ministry was foretold by a hand-full of Prophets long before his existence. It was foretold by prophets Lehi (1 Nephi 10:7-10), Nephi (1 Nephi 11:27, 2 Nephi 31:4), and even Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3). Even an angel was sent to announce to Elizabeth and Zacharias the birth of their son (Luke 1:5-44). It’s plain to see that John was no ordinary man.
A little bit more recently, in our day, John returned to earth as a resurrected being. On May 15, 1829, John conferred the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
It’s easy to see that the works and actions of John the Baptist had to come before Christ’s work could be accomplished. John created the foundation on which the Gospel of the Restoration could be restored and preached to all the world. The next time you think about the “great prophets,” be sure to include John in there.