The Testimony of St. John
The more one reads the Gospel of John, the more one is impressed with how different this record is from the synoptic gospels. You can almost imagine John, the last surviving apostle, reviewing the records of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and then concluding that there were many precious morsels left out. This romantic notion-that John was trying to fill in precious gaps in the scriptural history-is not just speculation. Robert L. Millet wrote:
"One ancient tradition states that after Mark and Luke had published their Gospels, John 'admitted them, giving his testimony to their truth.' John, however, recognizing the fact that 'the other three evangelists only wrote the deeds of our Lord for one year after the imprisonment of John the Baptist,' set out to fill in those historical gaps of the synoptic Gospels. 'John, it is said, being entreated to undertake it, wrote the account of the time not recorded by the former evangelists, and the deeds done by our Savior, which they have passed by.' It is reasonable to suppose that John collected and drew upon available sources beyond his own personal records (such as the record of John the Baptist). If indeed John's Gospel was written last, it may well be-in those few areas where his Gospel follows the course of the synoptics-that he would have been acquainted with, had before him, and thus utilized in a discerning manner details from the other three Gospels." (Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 21.)
Consider what a great tragedy it would have been if John had not written his gospel. We would be missing: Christ turning the water into wine (Jn. 2), the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus (Jn. 3), the passage 'For God so loved the world' (Jn 3:16), the Bread of Life sermon (Jn. 6), the story of the adulterous woman (Jn. 8), the passage 'other sheep I have, which are not of this fold' (Jn. 10:16), the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11), the washing of the apostles' feet (Jn. 13), precious doctrines taught during the last supper (Jn. 13-16), the intercessory prayer (Jn. 17), and the conversation of the resurrected Lord with Peter and John (Jn. 21). Furthermore, the tone, style, and content of John's writings are unique and truly sublime.
"In the first four lines we sense already a quality unique to the Gospel of John. It is the same Savior that we knew in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but now we see him in a new light, with new dimensions of greatness and godhood unfolding before our understanding. This is not just the Messiah of the Jews; this is 'the light' of the whole world, the creator of 'all things.' He 'was with God.' He 'was God.' But he was a God who 'was made flesh and dwelt among us' (John 1:14), and so was known to men-to some only at a distance, to some secondhand. But to a few he was known closely, intimately. And it is the voice of one of those intimates that speaks to us in this Gospel. John, the beloved apostle, had not only heard the words of the living Lord, he had 'leaned on his breast at supper.' (John 21:20.) He not only knew the teachings of Jesus, he knew, in a way we can hardly appreciate, the stirrings of that divine heart. It is the profound depths of that heart and the infinite heights of that divine glory that John presents for us in his Gospel.
"No other single piece fuses so remarkably the mortal and the immortal, the finite and the infinite: a draught of water from a well becomes a metaphor for the living water of the gospel; the bread to feed five thousand becomes a lesser symbol for the more significant bread of life after partaking of which there will be no hunger. The sheep and their shepherd, the vine and its branches, the very stuff of human existence is shown to have meaning and significance far beyond what our own dull senses have suggested." (Neal E. Lambert and Richard H. Cracroft, "The Powerful Voices of the Gospels," New Era, Jan. 1973, 42)
Gordon B. Hinckley
"I like to read the Gospel of John. Over sixty years ago my missionary companion and I started reading the Gospel of John which begins with that great opening statement, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' Our reading of the Gospel of John did something to me. And I still love to read the Gospel of John.
'For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life' (John 3:16).
'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid' (John 14:27).
"Those are great and marvelous statements that I learned to love in the Gospel of John. We need to do more reading in the scriptures and more dwelling on the Lord Jesus Christ." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 279.)
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word
The first three verses of John 1 contain vast eternal truths in remarkably few words. If all who professed belief in Jesus Christ only understood these three verses, they would understand who he really was and who he really is. They would understand the true nature of the Godhead, the reality of Christ's pre-mortal existence, the reality of his pre-mortal Divinity, and his role as Creator. Underscoring these concepts, George F. Richards said, "How men who do not understand the principle of pre-existence can understand the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man I cannot comprehend." (Conference Report, April 1933, Afternoon Meeting 46.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"[These verses] teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he was in the beginning with the Father, and by him the world was created, and all things were made (organized) by him.
"Our learned enemies of the Gospel and the divine mission of Jesus Christ, in their overwhelming conceit, will not have it so. They have rejected Jesus Christ as the Son of God. They have rejected him as the Redeemer of the world and the Savior of men. They have denied his Godhood and his resurrection, while they condescendingly permit him to be a merciful and moral teacher of mankind. In fact they think they have learned through their study of science that God could not possibly be an exalted man. He could not be the Father of Jesus Christ in the literal sense as being the Father of his body, for to them God is a force, an influence, a mystery which no man can solve. They have universally ridiculed the idea that there can be an Eternal Father, who could create man in his own image, in the likeness of his body, for their god has no body, he is too great, too mighty, to be confined in a body limited to the dimensions of a man." (Man, His Origin and Destiny [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 61.)
B. H. Roberts
"In the eastern states of late, there has arisen a great controversy about this very subject-viz, is Jesus Deity? A very noted rector in the diocese of New York, Dr. Grant, in January, in one of his Sunday services, announced that 'Jesus was not Deity,' but man. His bishop, Bishop William T. Manning, immediately took him to task...In his reply to his bishop, he merely said that he did not know of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and believed that the historical gospels that best set forth his life, did not attribute to him Deity ship...the ministry was about equally divided on the subject, This agitation that thus arose, extended throughout all the country, not only among Christians but the Jews also have participated in it. And the discovery is made, and it is safe to make the statement, that not more than one-half of those who bear the name 'Christian' do really believe in Jesus Christ as Deity. I am very sure that it is the general mental attitude toward the Christ, that he is merely the 'prophet teacher of Nazareth,' and not at all God." (Conference Report, April 1923, Second Day-Morning Session 64.)
John 1:3 All things were made by him
The creation of this earth is but a beginning to the things which Elohim created through his Son. Jehovah created more than just this earth, this sun, and this moon. He created 'worlds without number.' 'And by the word of my power have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth. And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them' (Moses 1:32-33)
Elder Melvin J. Ballard
"In other words, that Jesus Christ, under the direction of His Father, was the organizer and builder of this world; that out of the elements that existed in space, He, the great Master, compounded, produced and materialized this substantial world upon which you and I live; that we are indebted to Him, and to our Father in heaven, for this life that we are enjoying, the bodies that we have, the beautiful world that we inhabit. We sometimes wonder where our heaven will be, that is, the people of the world wonder. We Latter-day Saints have no reason to doubt where our heaven will be, for the Lord has made known to us, that this splendid world that has been provided for us will ultimately be redeemed, having obeyed the laws of its being, and become celestialized, the home of celestial beings; so that if we shall ever come into heaven, or heavenly conditions, it will be, ultimately, upon this redeemed world. Jesus Christ has been the organizer and the builder of it, possessed with power to do all that." (Conference Report, April 1914, Overflow Meeting.)
Gordon B. Hinckley
"When I think of the Savior, I think of the words of Matthew, Mark, and Luke but particularly the words of John:
'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men' (John 1:1-4).
"Here is something spoken of more than a babe in a manger; here is declared the Creator of all that is good and beautiful. I have looked at majestic mountains rising against a blue sky and thought of Jesus, the Creator of heaven and earth. I have stood on a spit of sand in the Pacific and watched the dawn rise like thunder-a ball of gold surrounded by clouds of pink and white and purple-and thought of Jesus, the Word by whom all things were made and without whom was not anything made that was made. I have seen a beautiful child-many of them-bright-eyed, innocent, clean, and trusting, and marveled at the majesty and miracle of creation. What then shall you do with Jesus that is called Christ?
"This earth is his creation. When we make it ugly, we offend him." ("God So Loved the World," New Era, Apr. 1983, 48)
John 1:5 the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not
And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth through disobedience.' (DC 93:31-39)
Elder Erastus Snow
"The wicked comprehend not the things of God; they cannot know them, for they are spiritually discerned. 'The things of God,' says the Apostle Paul, 'knoweth no man only by the Spirit of God;' or, in other words, carnal man knows not the things of God, neither can he understand them. The unbelieving world cannot see as the Saints see; they walk in darkness, but the Saints are the children of light, even as many as keep sacred their covenants with God. The wicked love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. This was true of the first century of the Christian era, when the Savior uttered it; it is true today. As the light shone in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not, so might the same be said today. We are called to be the children of light. Blessed are they who continue in the light, for the day of the Lord will not overtake them as a thief in the night; but woe unto them that depart from, or reject that light that shines in the midst of the darkness, for the day cometh, and that speedily, when they will be overtaken as by a whirlwind. The command of the Lord to the Saints is to watch, for we know not the day nor the hour when the Son of man shall come." (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 20: 373 - 374.)
Ezra Taft Benson
"I testify that Christ is the light to all mankind. He has pointed, marked out, and lighted the way. Sadly, many individuals and nations have extinguished that light and have attempted to supplant His gospel with coercion and the sword. But even to those who reject Him, He is 'the light which shineth in the darkness' (John 1:5)." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 20.)
Howard W. Hunter
"The message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that there is but one guiding hand in the universe, only one truly infallible light, one unfailing beacon to the world. That light is Jesus Christ, the light and life of the world, the light which one Book of Mormon prophet described as 'a light that is endless, that can never be darkened' (Mosiah 16:9).
"As we search for the shore of safety and peace, whether we be individual women and men, families, communities, or nations, Christ is the only beacon on which we can ultimately rely." (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 42.)
John 1:9 the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world
Joseph F. Smith
"It is not the Holy Ghost who in person lighteth every man who is born into the world, but it is the light of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, which proceeds from the source of intelligence, which permeates all nature, which lighteth every man and fills the immensity of space. You may call it the Spirit of God, you may call it the influence of God's intelligence, you may call it the substance of his power, no matter what it is called, it is the spirit of intelligence that permeates the universe and gives to the spirits of men understanding, just as Job has said. (Job 32:8; Doc. and Cov. 88:3-13.)" (Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 61.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"...the light of Christ is present in us mortals if we will respond to its illuminations (John 1:9; D&C 84:46).
"In her introduction to Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maude Montgomery writes: 'It has always seemed to me, ever since early childhood, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never draw it quite aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond-only a glimpse-but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile.'
"But despite our innate longings for the ideally good and beautiful, it is so easy to be caught up instead in the cares and things of the world. This is done to our cost, however, for passivity toward things spiritual will move us toward that low-grade 'joy in [our] works for a season' (3 Nephi 27:11). The combination of life and the light of Christ is designed to help us discern between the real thing and all the clever counterfeits and sparkling substitutes." (Not My Will, But Thine [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998], 9-10.)
Howard W. Hunter
"We believe there is a spiritual influence that emanates from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space (see D&C 88:12). All men share an inheritance of divine light. God operates among his children in all nations, and those who seek God are entitled to further light and knowledge, regardless of their race, nationality, or cultural traditions.
"Elder Orson F. Whitney, in a conference address, explained that many great religious leaders were inspired. He said: '[God] is using not only his covenant people, but other peoples as well, to consummate a work, stupendous, magnificent, and altogether too arduous for this little handful of Saints to accomplish by and of themselves.
"All down the ages men bearing the authority of the Holy Priesthood-patriarchs, prophets, apostles and others, have officiated in the name of the Lord, doing the things that he required of them; and outside the pale of their activities other good and great men, not bearing the Priesthood, but possessing profundity of thought, great wisdom, and a desire to uplift their fellows, have been sent by the Almighty into many nations, to give them, not the fulness of the Gospel, but that portion of truth that they were able to receive and wisely use.' (In Conference Report, April 1921, pp. 32-33.)" (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 102.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Now, do you think that these discoveries and inventions by Marconi, by Edison, by Bell, by Stephenson and by the other inventors and discoverers without naming them, have come just because these men have been sitting down and concentrating their minds upon these matters and have discovered them through their thought or accidentally? Not in the least, but the Spirit of the Lord, the Light of Christ, has been back of it, and has been impelling them to do these very things; and why? Because the time is here; it is ripe. We are ready for these discoveries, these inventions, and they all have a bearing upon the restoration of the gospel and preparation for the time which is yet future, but which is shortly to come, when Christ shall reign on the earth, and for a thousand years peace shall be established. That is what it is all for.
"Now, a man like Edison may say, 'I do not believe in a supreme being.' I do not know whether he does or not; some of these men do not. However, the Lord in his great mercy, overlooks that and uses the man because he is adapted to a certain work, and he, through his Spirit, can inspire this man to do this great work, and so he goes ahead and does it, all for the establishment of the kingdom of God." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 1: 180-181.)
John 1:12 as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God
All the inhabitants of the earth are the spiritual offspring of a Heavenly Father and Mother. When born into mortality, each of us receives a set of mortal parents. But the world, through the fall of Adam, has separated us from God. We have become, thereby, carnal, sensual, and devilish (Mosiah 16:3). Through this separation, we have, in effect, died a spiritual death (the first, spiritual death). In order to come alive to the things of the Spirit, we must be born again, not according to the flesh as Nicodemus thought, but according to the Spirit.
This spiritual rebirth is not without parentage. The Lord, Jesus Christ, becomes the Father of our Spirits. 'Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters' (Ether 3:14). King Benjamin taught his people as follows, 'now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters' (Mosiah 5:7). Joseph Fielding Smith has said, "The Son of God has a perfect right to call us his children, spiritually begotten, and we have a perfect right to look on him as our Father who spiritually begot us." (Conference Reports, Oct. 1962, p. 21)
One example of Christ's great love for us is that he wants all of his children to receive the same inheritance that he does. This occurs when those who have been born again 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ' (2 Ne. 31:20), endure to the end, and receive all the necessary ordinances of the Priesthood. Then, Christ's children become sons and daughters of Elohim. This is what John is speaking of when he says that Christ gave them 'power to become the sons of God'. It means that they were faithful enough to be considered a true and favored son; they were qualified to receive an inheritance from the Father. This great inheritance was spoken of by Paul, 'For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God...And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together' (Rom 8:17). 'Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God-Wherefore, all things are theirs whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ's, and Christ is God's' (DC 76:58-59).
Bruce R. McConkie
"Celestial marriage standing alone does not transform them into sons of God and make them joint-heirs with Christ, but it opens the door to this greatest of all blessings; and if those involved keep their covenants, they are assured of receiving the promised inheritance. Through Christ and his atoning sacrifice they 'are begotten sons and daughters unto God' (DC 76:24) meaning the Father. 'And all those who are begotten through me,' Christ says, 'are partakers' of his glory. (D. & C. 93:22.)" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 474.)
John 1:14 the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us
"But according to the scriptures, Jesus was not only divine, he was also fully and genuinely human: 'The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.' (John 1:14.) 'Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.' (Heb. 2:17-18; italics added.)
"A remarkable doctrine is taught here. The same Jesus Christ who is God the Son is also one of us. He was human in every respect ('in all things')-right down to being tempted like other human beings. And because he personally has been tempted, Christ can understand what temptation is. From his own personal experience of the human condition, he understands what we are dealing with here, and he can empathize with us and help us overcome temptation just as he overcame it." (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992], 112.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Can we, even in the depths of disease, tell Him anything at all about suffering? In ways we cannot comprehend, our sicknesses and infirmities were borne by Him even before they were borne by us. The very weight of our combined sins caused Him to descend below all. We have never been, nor will we be, in depths such as He has known. Thus His atonement made perfect His empathy and His mercy and His capacity to succor us, for which we can be everlastingly grateful as He tutors us in our trials. There was no ram in the thicket at Calvary to spare Him." (Even As I Am [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 117.)
John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time
Orson F. Whitney
"One of our 'Mormon' boys out on a mission was confronted with this question. He had just been preaching that the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith, when a voice rang out: 'No man hath seen God at any time,' The boy had his wits about him. 'Of course not,' said he, 'God is a business man-you can't see him at any time; you have to make a special appointment with him.' (Laughter.) He answered a fool according to his folly, but that of course is not the explanation." (Conference Report, October 1924, First Day-Morning Session 22.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Question: How, as the Church claims, could Joseph Smith see God when the Bible clearly states in St. John 1:18, 'No man hath seen God at any time,' and in Exodus 33:20, 'Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live?'
Answer: You quote from Exodus 33:20, 'And he said, thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.' Yet in the same chapter, Verse 11, it reads thus: 'And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.'
"It is to be hoped that you are aware that the Bible has come down to us through many translations and that it has been copied many times...Therefore we find errors and contradictions in the Bible.
"There are too many passages which declare very definitely that God did appear, 'face to face,' with his ancient servants. Therefore, passages which declare that no man has seen him, must be in error. For instance, the passage in John 1:18, to which you refer, is likely due to the fact that a translator in more recent years did not believe that God was a Personage and therefore could not be seen. This notion has come down to us since the introduction of the Athanasian Creed in 325 A.D. The Prophet Joseph Smith has given us a correction of this passage as follows:
And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son, for except it is through him no man can be saved. (John 1:19, Inspired Version. Compare John 1:18, King James Version.)
"Again in 1 John 4:12, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the following correction:
No man hath seen God at any time, except them who believe. If we love one and other, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfect in us. (Compare 1 John 4:12, King James Version.)
"Now let us consider other verses from John's Gospel, and Authorized Version:
Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. (John 6:45-46.)
"If we were not aware of the fact that mistranslations exist, it would appear that our Savior contradicted himself. The latter verse (John 6:46) does not harmonize with John 1:18.
"We read that Abraham talked with God face to face, and he also talked with Enoch and others. (Genesis 5:24; 17:1-9; Moses 1:1-2; 6:43.) The modern world, however, will have none of it and have rejected the living God for one who cannot be seen or heard." (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 2: 161-163.)
"The Prophet Joseph Smith's understanding of the true meaning of these scriptures was made plain in a revelation received by him from the Lord at Hiram, Ohio, in November 1831: 'For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God.' (D&C 67:11.)
"This doctrine was further clarified in the visions of Moses as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith:
But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him. (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:11.)
"It is thus plain that man can only see God when 'quickened by the Spirit of God.' This is apparently what John had in mind in the following statement:
(A Marvelous Work and a Wonder [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950], 20-21.)
John 1:19 this is the record of John
How confusing it is that John the Revelator is quoting John the Baptist without a clearer explanation! He says, 'this is the record of John,' but he means "this is the record of John the Baptist." This conclusion is made from a careful reading of DC 93:1-18. At least the first 34 verses of John 1 are taken from the writings of John the Baptist-a record which we have only in part. The promise is, however, that the rest of 'John's record is hereafter to be revealed' (DC 93:6).
Bruce R. McConkie
"From latter-day revelation we learn that the material in the forepart of the gospel of John (the Apostle, Revelator, and Beloved Disciple) was written originally by John the Baptist. By revelation the Lord restored to Joseph Smith part of what John the Baptist had written and promised to reveal the balance when men became sufficiently faithful to warrant receiving it...Even without revelation, however, it should be evident that John the Baptist had something to do with the recording of events in the forepart of John's gospel, for some of the occurrences include his conversations with the Jews and a record of what he saw when our Lord was baptized-all of which matters would have been unknown to John the Apostle whose ministry began somewhat later than that of the Baptist's. There is little doubt but that the Beloved Disciple had before him the Baptist's account when he wrote his gospel. The latter John either copied or paraphrased what the earlier prophet of the same name had written. The only other possibility is that the Lord revealed to the gospel author the words that had been recorded by the earlier messenger who prepared the way before him." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 71.)
John 1:21 Art thou Elias?
When the priests ask John whether he is Elias, they could be asking one of three things: Are you the prophet Elijah (Elias is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Elijah)? Are you Elias the restorer? Or are you Elias the preparer? As the record stands, John denied that he was Elias, but Joseph Smith emphatically taught that John the Baptist was an Elias who came to prepare the way for the Savior. Therefore, we are not surprised that the Joseph Smith Translation clarifies this passage as follows:
"...my ordination [to the Aaronic Priesthood] was a preparatory work, or a going before, which was the spirit of Elias; for the spirit of Elias was a going before to prepare the way for the greater, which was the case with John the Baptist. He came crying through the wilderness, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.' And they were informed, if they could receive it, it was the spirit of Elias; and John was very particular to tell the people, he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
"He told the people that his mission was to preach repentance and baptize with water; but it was He that should come after him that should baptize with fire and the Holy Ghost.
"If he had been an impostor, he might have gone to work beyond his bounds, and undertook to have performed ordinances which did not belong to that office and calling, under the spirit of Elias.
"The spirit of Elias is to prepare the way for a greater revelation of God, which is the Priesthood of Elias, or the Priesthood that Aaron was ordained unto. And when God sends a man into the world to prepare for a greater work, holding the keys of the power of Elias, it was called the doctrine of Elias, even from the early ages of the world." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 335.)
John 1:27 He it is...whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose
James E. Talmage
"...this was the way by which the Baptist declared his inferiority to the Mightier One, who was to succeed and supersede him; and a more effective illustration would be difficult to frame. To loosen the shoe latchet or sandal thong, or to carry the shoes of another, 'was a menial office betokening great inferiority on the part of the person performing it.' (Smith's Dict. of the Bible.) A passage in the Talmud (Tract. Kidduschin xxii: 2) requires a disciple to do for his teacher whatever a servant might be required to do for his master, except the loosing of his sandal thong. Some teachers urged that a disciple should carry his humility even to the extreme of carrying his master's shoes. The humility of the Baptist, in view of the widespread interest his call aroused, is impressive." (Jesus the Christ, 128)
John 1:29 Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world
If only those who had heard this saying would have understood it! The Jews were looking for a Messiah to deliver them politically, but John makes reference to the Messiah as 'the Lamb of God.' The obvious reference is to the sacrificial lamb of the Passover and Temple ceremonies. In both instances the lamb was killed, and his blood represented protection or redemption from sin. The very phrase, 'Lamb of God,' foreshadowed a Messiah who was to be sacrificed for sin, not glorified with military victory.
Bruce R. McConkie
"Great numbers of lambs had already been offered on the altars of Israel, all in similitude of the great offering that was to be, that of the Lamb of God. And with reference to every proper sacrifice offered during the whole Mosaic period, these words from the mouth of Jehovah himself applied: 'For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.' (Leviticus 17:11.)
"And as with all the types and shadows, so with the great event toward which they pointed-the blood of the Lamb would atone for the sins of the faithful. 'There can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world,' Amulek reasoned. 'Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.' This, of course, is precisely what did take place. Why was it thus? Because, as Amulek expounded, 'this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.' (Alma 34:12-14.)" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 112)
John 1:32 I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him
Joseph Smith said that if you could gaze into heaven for 5 minutes, you could learn more about the subject than by reading everything that has ever been written about it. (History of the Church, 6: 50.) John the Baptist had just such an experience. DC 93 gives us a hint as to what he was privileged to see:
John 1:33 he that sent me to baptize with water
Bruce R. McConkie
"What concerns us above all else as to the coming of John...is that he came with power and authority. He first received his errand from the Lord. His was no ordinary message, and he was no unauthorized witness. He was called of God and sent by him, and he represented Deity in the words that he spoke and the baptisms he performed...Luke says: 'The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.' Later John is to say: 'He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me,' such and such things. (John 1:33.) Who sent him we do not know. We do know that 'he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood [meaning, when he was eight years of age], and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power [note it well, not to the Aaronic Priesthood, but] 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.' (D&C 84:24.)" (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 1: 384.)
John 1:37 two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus
These two disciples lived in Galilee. Like Jesus, they had traveled over 60 miles to 'Bethabara beyond Jordan' (see map 11, 1999 edition of Bible maps). We are told that one of the disciples was Andrew. We infer that the other disciple was John the Beloved. From this record, we may correctly conclude that Andrew, Peter, and John the Beloved were disciples of John the Baptist. This interaction probably occurred the day after Christ's baptism and represents the first recorded interaction between Christ and any of his apostles. It's remarkably how quickly these two disciples turn from John to follow the Master because not all of John's disciples made the switch (see Matt 11:2-6).
David O. McKay
"One of the two disciples who heard this testimony is named; he was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. (See ibid., 1:40.) The other is not named. Indeed throughout the entire book, which, undoubtedly, was written by John himself, the name of John, son of Zebedee, is never once written. In the account of the Last Supper, we read of a 'disciple whom Jesus loved,' who sat so near the Lord that his head could rest on Jesus' bosom.
"These two instances, and others that might be named, indicate to us a prominent trait in John's character; viz., an unassumed modesty that won him the respect and love of all who knew him." (Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953], 238.)
John 1:41 He first findeth his own brother Simon...And he brought him to Jesus
We often think of Peter and Andrew receiving their call from Jesus as they were fishing on the sea of Galilee (Matt. 4:18-22), but this record shows the first meeting of Peter and Jesus. Andrew, Peter, and John believed immediately but they were not called to be apostles immediately. They would return from their excursion to see the Baptist to their home of Galilee where they would resume their occupation of fishing. Then when they saw the Master come to them and say, 'follow me,' they already knew who he was, they already believed he was the Messiah, and 'they straightway left their nets, and followed him' (Matt 4:19-20).
"John, the son of Zebedee, apparently went to his home in Galilee after hearing Jesus. He perhaps discussed with his family the experience. He was convincing enough that when the Savior passed by sometime later and called to them while they were mending their nets, not only John but also his brother James responded to the call: 'They immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.' (Matt. 4:22.)" (H. Dean Garrett, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, ed. by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 228.)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Now, Jesus' ministry lasted three and a half years and Peter was with him virtually all that time. Initially, apparently, he did not spend his full time at it; he went off with his partners James and John into the fishing enterprise that they ran...when the time came for the call of the Twelve and for him to come and devote his full time to the ministry, Jesus met him and his two partners on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and said: 'Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men' (Mark 1:17)." (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998], 129.)
John 1:41 We have found the Messias
David O. McKay
"Accepting the invitation of Jesus to go with Him to the place where He stayed, these two men remained with Him, listening to His words all the rest of the day. When they left, they believed that Jesus was the King of Israel, the Savior of the world. Thus they became, in that day the first two, beside John the Baptist, to believe in Jesus.
"Whenever we have anything which is really good, we always desire to share it with one we love. It was so with these two brothers. They no sooner felt the divine influence that radiated from the Savior than they were filled with a desire to bring those whom they loved under that same influence." (Ancient Apostles [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964], 13.)
John 1:43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee
John doesn't record Christ's Temptation in the wilderness. Immediately after his baptism and meeting of Peter, Andrew, and John, he returned to his Galilean home, 'And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan' (Lu. 4:1). He may well have met Philip and Nathaniel and turned water into wine (Jn. 2) before he 'was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil' (Lu. 4:1-2).
John 1:46 Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?
Thomas S. Monson
"'And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.' (John 1:45-46.)
"Shall we, too, join Nathanael? Come and see.
"Could Nazareth be so honored? Nazareth, the most disregarded valley in a despised province of a conquered land?
"Nazareth, just eighty miles from Jerusalem, was situated on the main trade route which ran from Damascus through the Galilean cities to the Mediterranean coast at Acre. This, however, was not to be the village's claim to fame. Nor was its glory to be found in the beauty of its environs. Nazareth was the scene of more lasting events and profound consequence than routes of trade or landscapes of beauty.
"...From Nazareth came he who made blind men see, lame beggars walk-even the dead to live. He set before us an example to emulate. He lived the perfect life. He taught the glad tidings which changed the world. Let us examine more closely and individually these epochal events, that we may know for ourselves if any good thing came out of Nazareth." (Pathways to Perfection [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973], 210-211.)
Marvin J. Ashton
"Today some are sowing seeds on stony places because they, too, doubt the authority of those who give counsel and direction. There is a tendency on the part of some to ignore, criticize, or rebel because they cannot accept the human delivery system. Some will not accept Jesus Christ as the savior because they are waiting for a Prince of Peace to come who is not quite as human as Jesus of Nazareth. Questions such as, 'Is not this the carpenter's son?' 'Is not this the one born in a manger?' 'Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?' (John 1:46)-these are evidences of the weaknesses of men who are unwilling to accept the human qualities of those who are called and raise up to give direction and counsel.
"We, too, should not be deceived by doubters who would use the same tactics by planting thorns to destroy the harvest. How can we avoid crop failure in this area of concern? By not allowing our roots to be withered away by winds and storms of questions such as these: 'Is not this the one who was raised in Arizona?' 'Is not this the one who came from Canada?' 'Is not this the one who was born in Mexico?' 'Go to our new bishop for counsel? Is not he the one who lives just up the street?'" (Ye are My Friends, 65-66 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the New Testament: The Four Gospels, by Pinegar, Bassett, and Earl, p. 183-184)
John 1:47 Nathaniel is the Apostle Bartholomew
James E. Talmage
"The reasons for assuming that Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person are these: Bartholomew is named in each of the three synoptic Gospels as an apostle, but Nathanael is not mentioned. Nathanael is named twice in John's Gospel, and Bartholomew not at all; Bartholomew and Philip, or Nathanael and Philip, are mentioned together." (Jesus the Christ, 213)
John 1:47 behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile
Joseph B. Wirthlin
"Clearly, Jesus had chosen these witnesses, for he said, 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.' (John 15:16.) These twelve were common men from various walks of life. The Savior selected them because he could see far beyond their earthly appearance and look into their hearts, recognizing their potential.
"...In latter-day scriptures, we read that the Lord called Edward Partridge to be bishop for the Church because of his pure heart, 'for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile.' (D&C 41:11.) In another revelation the Lord said, 'My servant George Miller is without guile; he may be trusted because of the integrity of his heart; and for the love which he has to my testimony I, the Lord, love him.' (D&C 124:20.)
"These passages of scripture help me understand what the Lord could see in Nathanael, Edward Partridge, and George Miller, and give me some insight into what he expects of the Saints. I believe the Savior was seeking purity of soul in those he called to be his twelve apostles. When he spoke of being without guile, he referred to something far deeper than outward appearance. He was reaching into the soul, to the very heart of righteousness. He was touching the key to goodness and to the Christlike life.
"To be without guile is to be pure in heart, an essential virtue of those who would be counted among true followers of Christ. He taught in the Sermon on the Mount: 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.' (Matthew 5:8; see also 3 Nephi 12:8.) He revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that Zion is the pure in heart (see D&C 97:21), and that a house is to be built in Zion in which the pure in heart shall see God (see D&C 97:10-16).
"If we are without guile, we are honest, true, and righteous. These are all attributes of Deity and are required of the Saints. Those who are honest are fair and truthful in their speech, straightforward in their dealings, free of deceit, and above stealing, misrepresentation, or any other fraudulent action. Honesty is of God; dishonesty of the devil, who was a liar from the beginning. Righteousness means living a life that is in harmony with the laws, principles, and ordinances of the gospel." (Finding Peace in Our Lives [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 180-181.)
John 1:51 Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man
This incredible prophecy probably has reference to the temple-like experience of the disciples when he appeared to them on a mountain in Galilee (see Matt 28:16). This experience was likely similar to the teachings of the resurrected Lord to the Nephites:
'...they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.' (3 Ne. 17:24)
Bruce R. McConkie
"The import, glory, and grandeur of this Galilean meeting could not have been impressed more strongly upon [the disciples]. Nor can we doubt that the word went out-repetitiously-to all who were invited and that elaborate preparations were made. This was to be no small and insignificant thing; many of them had already seen the Risen Lord, but all that had gone before was but a shadow and a foretaste of what was to be." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 4: 294.)