January: John 1
As a mom of twelve children, my children, even as adults, like to feel that they are their “favorite child.” But I am always very careful to make sure that none of my children feels like I love one more than another. When one child asks me, “Do you love me the most?” I answer, “Yes, I love you the most! I love each one of you the most.” Each one of my children and grandchildren is precious to me. A common phrase we use when saying goodbye to each other is, “Love you more!” And the return phrase is, “Love you the moistest!”
John referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:36). An example of the kind of love John must have had for others, especially women, was illustrated when the Savior, while on the cross, gave charge to John of his own widowed mother, Mary. Jesus had great confidence in the loving care Mary would receive at John’s hands. Also, John’s epistles are full of love. When I read 1 John, Chapter 4, I like to underline all the times John used the word “love.” In many verses, he averaged about two times a verse. That’s a lot of love!
Yet, John had another side to his personality. Jesus also called John and his brother, James, “sons of thunder” or Boanerges. As an example, when Jesus and his apostles were traveling, they sent messengers to find a place to rest and eat, but the Samaritan village refused to let them enter. When James and John saw that they had done this, they said, “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” (Luke 9:54) But Jesus rebuked their hasty call for destruction reminding them, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:55-56).
Mark also told a story that gives us a glimpse into John’s personality. He and his brother asked the Savior if they could sit on His right hand and left hand when Jesus was in His glory. (Mark 10:35-40) Jesus warned John and James that they did not know what they were asking. He questioned their ability to handle the trials that would come into their lives. James and John answered strongly: “We can!” The Savior then told them that this glorious designation was not His to give. Instead, it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. “And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.” (Mark 10:40) The other disciples were not happy about James and John’s request.
John obviously changed his thoughts and feelings towards the unrepentant. John’s testimony of the Savior gave him a vision of helping all mankind to come unto Christ. He exemplified a lifelong, eternal commitment to the people of this world. In latter-day revelation, John’s mission is further explained. On the Susquehanna River, Peter, James, and John would visit Joseph Smith to restore the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 128:20).
In Doctrine and Covenants Section 7, the Savior asked John, “what desirest thou?” John answered: “Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee.” (D&C 7:2). Peter had a different desire – to come speedily to the Savior’s kingdom. Peter was worried that his request was not as worthy as John’s request. The Lord taught Peter and John that they were both blessed for their righteous desires. John was blessed to tarry on earth until the Lord comes in His glory. John will prophesy to the nations of the earth, and He will minister to the heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth.
John’s Book of Revelation describing the Second Coming and the events preparing for that great day were described in the Book of Mormon during Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life. Nephi was told that an apostle of the Lord would be the one to record this vision, even though Nephi himself would be given the same vision of these future events. The angel who was guiding Nephi said: “And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb [meaning John] shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see. But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.” (1 Nephi 14:24-25) We are blessed to have John’s words in the Book of Revelation.
John is a poetic and prophetic writer. Reading the first five verses of John’s testimony of the Savior, John used beautiful words to describe the relationship between the Word of the gospel, the Savior, our Creator, and the Light of the world. When reading the King James Version, I love the words, but the Spirit needs to help me understand the meaning because John’s description is confusing. Luckily, I can read the Joseph Smith translation of John 1 and gain further clarification of his beautiful words.
In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made. In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in the world, and the world perceiveth it not. (John 1:1-5 JST)
Jesus Christ is the true light. He is the light that we must seek and as we do, we can reflect His light to those around us. Pres. Nelson shared with us this vision of the light within us in the past Christmas message: “As we commemorate the birth of Him who is the Light of the World, new light is kindled in each of us.” Then, our Prophet gave us a specific challenge to lift others daily. He said “there is no better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ than by lifting, loving, and serving others. The world needs the Light of Jesus Christ, and the world needs your light.”1
The light that we can share is our testimony that Jesus is our Savior, the Redeemer, and Creator of the world.
John the Baptist witnessed through the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus was the Lamb of God. (John 1:39) John the Beloved was there with Andrew as disciples of John the Baptist when they heard this declaration. These two men immediately followed Jesus – I mean physically followed Him down the street. Jesus turned and asked them “What seek ye?” (John 1:38). Personally, I was surprised by John and Andrew’s answer, “Where dwellest thou?” (John:38). Jesus famously answered: “Come and see.” Then, they saw where he lived and spent the rest of the day with Jesus. As missionaries, we can do the same. We can invite people to our homes and “come and see” how we live and what we believe.
After this personal experience with the Savior, John and Andrew told their closest friends that they had found the Messiah. Each of these apostles showed such great faith in leaving all they had to follow their Savior. Once these early apostles found Him, they stayed strong in their testimony – most of them to their deaths. Pres. Boyd K. Packer described that the mission of the Twelve was to go to all the world “for the word Apostle means ‘one [who is] sent forth.’ … The Twelve Apostles ‘are called to be … special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world.’ Each carries that certain witness that Jesus is the Christ.2
Just before Pres. Nelson was called to be the Prophet, he gave a General Conference talk on how we, as members of the Church, should uphold and sustain the Prophet and leaders of the Church as if their words came from the Lord (because they do): “Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities. Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us.”3 He further testified that the Church today has been organized by the Lord Himself.
John is an example to me of repentance and change – a man full of passion who loved people enough to sacrifice his life to serve others. Once he recognized the Savior as the Lamb of God, he served and followed Him unerringly. He knew the Word, he loved the Word, and he followed the Word.