Our Readers Write


John—The Beloved or the Baptist?

In the article on John the Baptist in the September issue, Robert Matthews says on page 79 that “in addition to bearing a spoken testimony of Jesus, John the Baptist also prepared a written record which is referred to in D&C 93:6–18. We are informed that ‘the fulness of John’s record’ is still to be revealed.” What evidence is there that this reference is referring to John the Baptist rather than to John the apostle?

Norman Davis Yankton, South Dakota

The author responds: Since both men named John are mentioned in the passage, it is a little confusing. However, it appears that the apostle John had the record of John the Baptist before him at the time he composed the gospel account and copied or paraphrased material from it. The form in which we have received it is from John the apostle, and therefore reference is made to him in the explanatory introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 93. But this does not prevent John the Baptist from having first recorded the important and significant events that transpired in connection with his baptism of Jesus, and then later the Beloved Disciple using the Baptist’s record in the beginning of the Gospel account.

This is the view taken by three of the leading doctrinal scholars of the Church. In the heading to chapter six of The Mediation and the Atonement, President John Taylor refers to the “Record of John the Baptist.” The subsequent discussion in that chapter uses the material from Doctrine and Covenants 93:6–18. [D&C 93:6–18]

A similar notation relating to the “Record of John the Baptist” is likewise found in the table of contents for chapter six of The Mediation and Atonement. I have checked the original edition and all subsequent printings of this book, and they all contain these same references and statements to the record of John the Baptist.

On Sunday, May 18, 1873, Elder Orson Pratt discussed this matter in the Ogden Tabernacle:

“Not only the records of the ancient inhabitants of this land are to come forth, but the records of those who slept on the eastern hemisphere. The records of John, him who baptized the Lamb of God, are yet to be revealed. We are informed in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, page 245 [section 93 in current editions], that the fullness of the record of John, is to be revealed to the Latter-day Saints.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 58.)

And Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written:

“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. (D&C 93:6–18.) …

“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.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 1 [Bookcraft, 1966], pp. 70–71.)

Robert J. Matthews

Use of the Ensign

I would like to share a very special moment in my life that involved the Ensign. I was recently converted to the Church while studying in Germany. The night before I was to fly home to the United States, I sat alone preparing to return to a family I loved in a strange new way. I grew increasingly discouraged and apprehensive as I tried to determine how to explain my conversion to my realistic, practical-minded family and friends.

As I repacked my mementos from my stay in Europe, I came across the few copies of the Ensign I had read and saved; and I realized then that the Ensign could play an important part in helping me solve my problem. Now, for the past two months, this magazine has served as a guide in helping me to better understand gospel principles and the organization of the Church.

Vivian Swepston Charlotte, North Carolina

We are writing a brief note of appreciation for the Ensign. Could we make a suggestion? If any families do not intend keeping their copies, please give them to neighbors, friends, or donate them to hospitals and libraries. We know from experience that many people find Church magazines of great interest. Many will read them and many seeds will be sown.

Elders Aston and Wright New South Wales, Australia

Historical Vignettes

I read with interest “An Evening of Historical Vignettes” in the October issue, and I especially enjoyed the “Handcart Company.” While I realize that this vignette is fictionalized, I must comment on certain inaccuracies that reflect on my family line.

The story of Jane Ollorton McPherson indicated that her brother James died at Devil’s Gate. Actually James was not with the handcart company at all. He died in England in 1834; some twenty-two years before the trek to Zion.

The author also indicates that John and Alice Ollorton and their daughter Alice died near the Platte River bridge and that their youngest daughter, Sarah, died on arrival in Salt Lake City. Actually, John lived about four weeks after the disastrous crossing of the Platte River (I am not sure where the “bridge” fits in) and died at the Sweetwater River. Alice died eight days later at Sandy Creek.

The author overlooks more than a month of bitter cold and intense suffering in this time span on the part of these good Saints. It was actually Alice, the older daughter, not Sarah, the younger, who died on the arrival in Salt Lake City. The author is in error here because both Jane and Sarah survived the ordeal, not just Jane. Sarah Ollorton Eatough died December 20, 1903, in Mercur, Utah. As one of her great-grandchildren, I am living evidence that she did not die as a result of the handcart episode.

Norman L. Eatough San Luis Obispo, California