John 'grew, waxed strong in spirit'

During the priesthood session of the April 1980 general conference, President Thomas S. Monson, now second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of John the Baptist - forerunner of Jesus Christ.

"Long years ago and distant miles away . . . a marvelous miracle occurred," said President Monson. "The setting was bleak, the time one of tumult. In these, the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zacharias and his wife, Elisabeth. They were . . . righteous before God.' (Luke 1:6.) However, long years of yearning had returned no reward - Zacharias and Elisabeth remained childless."Then came that day of days ever to be remembered. There appeared to Zacharias the angel Gabriel, who proclaimed:Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. He shall be great in the sight of the Lord.' (Luke 1:13-15.)

"Elisabeth did conceive. In due time a son was born, and according to the angel's instruction he was named John.

"As with the Master, Jesus Christ, so with the servant, John - precious little is recorded of their years of youth. A single sentence contains all that we know of John's history for a space of thirty years - the entire period which elapsed between his birth and his walk into the wilderness to commence his public ministry: `The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.' (Luke 1:80.)

"His dress was that of the old prophets - a garment woven of camel's hair. His food was such as the desert afforded - locusts and wild honey. His message was brief. He preached faith, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the bestowal of the Holy Ghost by an authority greater than that possessed by himself. (See John 1:20; Matt. 3:11.)

"Then there transpired the climatic scene of John's mission - the baptism of Christ. Jesus came down from Galilee expressly `to be baptized' by John." (See Matt. 3:13-16.)

President Monson quoted the Savior's statement about John: "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist." (Matt. 11:11.)

President Monson referred to John's death, which was brought about by "a king's weakness and a woman's fury." (See Matt. 14:3-10.)

The scriptures state that disciples buried John's body. (Matt. 14:12.) President Monson said, "The tomb in which his body was placed could not contain that body. Nor could the act of murder still that voice. To the world we declare that at Harmony, Pennsylvania, on 15 May 1829, an angel, `who announced himself as John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament' (D&C 13, section heading), came as a resurrected personage to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. . . . The Aaronic Priesthood was restored to the earth.

"Thanks to that memorable event, I was given the privilege to bear the Aaronic Priesthood, as have millions of young men in these latter days," said President Monson."


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Information compiled by Gerry Avant

Sources: April and October 1980 general conference reports.

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