Latter-day revelation shows that John’s preaching and knowledge of the gospel were far more extensive than the King James Version of the Biblecredits him. The Joseph Smith Translation states that John “came into the world for a witness, … to bear record of the gospel through the Son, unto all.” (JST, John 1:7.) He taught personal righteousness, emphasizing repentance, confession, baptism, prayer, fasting, and receiving the Holy Ghost. He discussed brotherly kindness, generosity, honesty, moral virtue, and justice. John likewise spoke of the gathering of Israel, the conversion and adoption of the gentiles into Israel, the second coming of the Messiah, the resurrection of the dead, the keys of the kingdom, the fulness of time, and the Day of Judgment. (See JST, Luke 3:3–11.)
As John grew to maturity, the Holy Ghost prepared the young man’s mind for his ministry. John received the Holy Ghost while he was in his mother’s womb (see D&C 84:27; Luke 1:15), and no one can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelation (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,p. 328). John was “baptized while yet in his childhood,” was set apart for his mission by an angel when he was only eight days old (see D&C 84:28), and later received the full keys of the Aaronic Priesthood, including the keys of the ministering of angels. (See D&C 13.) It follows that he would have received the visitation of angels during these preparatory years.
This was neither a simple task nor an honorary title. There was difficult and dangerous work to be done. The Book of Mormon indicates that priestcrafts and iniquities in Jerusalem at the time of the Savior made that generation the “more wicked part of the world.” (2 Ne. 10:3.) Into this maelstrom John—a mere mortal, yet armed with the Aaronic Priesthood, a divine commission, personal righteousness, the truth of God, and a huge amount of courage—launched his ministry. What he was called to do placed his very life in jeopardy.
John single-handedly challenged the network of apostasy that existed among the leaders of his people. His divine appointment was “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.” (D&C 84:28.)
The circumstances attending this time of exile and test must have been related by Jesus Himself, for of other human witnesses there were none. The recorded narratives deal principally with events marking the close of the forty-day period, but considered in their entirety they place beyond doubt the fact that the season was one of fasting and prayer. Christ's realization that He was the chosen and foreordained Messiah came to Him gradually. As shown by His words to His mother on the occasion of the memorable interview with the doctors in the temple courts, He knew, when but a Boy of twelve years, that in a particular and personal sense He was the Son of God; yet it is evident that a comprehension of the full purport of His earthly mission developed within Him only as He progressed step by step in wisdom. His acknowledgment by the Father, and the continued companionship of the Holy Ghost, opened His soul to the glorious fact of His divinity. He had much to think about, much that demanded prayer and the communion with God that prayer alone could insure. Throughout the period of retirement, he ate not, but chose to fast, that His mortal body might the more completely be subjected to His divine spirit.
The circumstances incident to the miraculous act are instructive to contemplate. The presence of Jesus at the marriage, and His contribution to the successful conduct of the feast, set the seal of His approval upon the matrimonial relationship and upon the propriety of social entertainment. He was neither a recluse nor an ascetic; He moved among men, eating and drinking, as a natural, normal Being.~138. 1 On the occasion of the feast He recognized and heeded the demands of the liberal hospitality of the times, and provided accordingly. He, who but a few days before had revolted at the tempter's suggestion that He provide bread for His impoverished body, now used His power to supply a luxury for others. One effect of the miracle was to confirm the trust of those whose belief in Him as the Messiah was yet young and untried. "His disciples believed on him"; surely they had believed in some measure before, otherwise they would not have followed Him; but their belief was now strengthened and made to approach, if indeed it did not attain, the condition of abiding faith in their Lord. The comparative privacy attending the manifestation is impressive; the moral and spiritual effect was for the few, the inauguration of the Lord's ministry was not to be marked by public display.