In our Gospel Doctrine class last Sunday our teacher posed an interesting question. She asked us if Gabriel smiting Zacharias so that he was deaf and dumb seemed a bit harsh and why it was done. (Note that Luke 1:20 only says ’thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak’ but in verse 62 his family make signs to him indicating that he couldn’t hear).
There are a number of possible reasons:
- Zacharias may have doubted Gabriel’s message
- He seems to have asked for a sign (‘Whereby shall I know this?’)
- It was a witness to the people at the temple that something miraculous had occurred
- It was a witness to his family when he was healed on insisting on John’s name.
It seems to me at least possible that there is a further reason. Zacharias was individually a righteous priest but the priesthood in general had become corrupt. The authority of the old priesthood was about to be swept away and a higher priesthood was to come about through Jesus Christ whose forerunner Zacharias’ promised son was to be.
Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“This miraculously-born son of Zacharias was the last legal administrator of the old dispensation, the first of the new; he was the last of the old prophets, the first of the new. With him ended the old law, and with him began the new era of promise. He is the one man who stood, literally, at the crossroads of history; with him the past died and the future was born.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:113)
Further, D&C 84:26-27 says:
And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up…’
I suggest that the striking deaf and dumb of Zacharias could symbolise that the old dispensation was to be replaced by a new one ushered in by John and that the priests of the old dispensation, who Zacharias represented in the temple that day, would no longer hear the word of the Lord or be His voice on the earth.
John the Baptist
In Luke 7:28 Jesus says:
‘For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.’
What did Jesus mean by this?
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained the meaning of Jesus’ words:
“How is it that John was considered one of the greatest prophets? His miracles could not have constituted his greatness.
“First. He was entrusted with a divine mission of preparing the way before the face of the Lord. Whoever had such a trust committed to him before or since? No man.
“Secondly. He was entrusted with the important mission, and it was required at his hands, to baptize the Son of Man. Whoever had the honor of doing that? Whoever had so great a privilege and glory? Whoever led the Son of God into the waters of baptism, and had the privilege of beholding the Holy Ghost descend in the form of a dove, or rather in the sign of the dove, in witness of that administration? …
“Thirdly. John, at that time, was the only legal administrator in the affairs of the kingdom there was then on the earth, and holding the keys of power. The Jews had to obey his instructions or be damned, by their own law; and Christ Himself fulfilled all righteousness in becoming obedient to the law which he had given to Moses on the mount, and thereby magnified it and made it honorable, instead of destroying it. … These three reasons constitute him the greatest prophet born of a woman.
“Second question:—How was the least in the kingdom of heaven greater than he?
“In reply I asked—Whom did Jesus have reference to as being the least? Jesus was looked upon as having the least claim in God’s kingdom, and [seemingly] was least entitled to their credulity as a prophet; as though He had said—‘He that is considered the least among you is greater than John—that is I myself.’” (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 275–76.)
Temptation in the wilderness
“[When Jesus came] up … out of the water: … the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God [the Holy Ghost] descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’
Jesus then went into the wilderness; Lucifer came tempting Him. Jesus deflected each temptation with scripture.
“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone.”
“It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
“It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
Think on it carefully. When facing Perdition himself, the Lord drew upon scriptures for protection. (Elder Boyd K Packer, April 2000)