John the Baptist

The prophet Isaiah spoke of a prophet who would prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ:

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Isaiah 40:3

After studying the brass plates, which contained the writings of Isaiah, and while living in the wilderness himself, the prophet Lehi testified to his family of the things he had learned about this prophet:

And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—

Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.

And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.

And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.

1 Nephi 10:7-10

Lehi’s son Nephi subsequently learned more about this prophet after praying to understand the words of his father:

And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.

1 Nephi 11:27

As I’ve written before, being baptized is an act of humility and trust. The Savior’s willingness to participate in this ordinance signifies His own willingness to submit to His Father. (See 2 Nephi 31:4-7.) How fitting, then, that Jesus would choose to be baptized by a man who also demonstrated extraordinary humility.

John the Baptist was not afraid to identify sinful behavior and call on people to repent. (See Luke 3:7-14.) But when people speculated that he might be the Messiah, he clarified that the Messiah was far greater than he. Using the metaphor which had been foreseen by Lehi, he said, “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose” (Luke 3:16). He repeatedly pointed his followers toward Jesus. (See John 1:29-37, Luke 7:19-23.) When some of them commented on Jesus’s growing popularity, John replied, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

When he appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on May 15, 1829, John the Baptist demonstrated that same humility. Twice, he called them his “fellow servants.” He explained that he operated under the direction of Peter, James, and John. He identified the limitations of the authority he was giving them, and explained that they would be given additional power subsequently. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:69-72, endnote.) Even as a resurrected being in a cloud of light, John was an example of meekness.

Jesus identified John as the messenger prophesied by Malachi to prepare the way for Him, and then gave John this high praise: “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:27-28). When He visited the American continent, Jesus quoted that prophecy to the people at the temple in Bountiful. (See Malachi 3:1, 3 Nephi 24:1.)

Bishop Gérald Caussé pointed out that John’s humility enabled him to understand his role and to fulfill it well:

John the Baptist was given one of the most noble missions to ever exist: “to prepare the way of the Lord,” to baptize Him with water, and to make ready a people to receive Him. This “just … and … holy [man],” who had been ordained to the lesser priesthood, was perfectly aware of both the importance and the limits of his mission and his authority.

People flocked to John to hear him and be baptized by him. He was honored and revered in his own right as a man of God. But when Jesus appeared, John humbly deferred to One greater than himself.

Prepare the Way,” General Conference, April 2017

Today, I will strive to follow the example of John the Baptist. I will strive to be both conscientious and meek, to recognize both the importance and the limits of the work God has given me to do. I will testify of the saving power of Jesus Christ and strive to lead people to Him.

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