Elisabeth was a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. She was of the priestly family of Aaron. Her husband was Zacharias and they had no children until they were elderly, when John the Baptist was born to them.
Zacharias and Elisabeth were both very righteous. Zacharias was working in the temple, where he held the priest’s office and was responsible for the burning of the incense. While many people were praying outside during the time of incense, an angel appeared to him, telling him that his wife was to have a son and they were to name him John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:14-17).
Zacharias asked how he could know this was true, since he and Elisabeth were elderly. The angel identified himself as Gabriel, but since he had not believed the angel, his sign would be that he could not speak until the prophecy had been fulfilled.
Six months into Elisabeth’s pregnancy, the angel appeared to Mary to tell her of her own miraculous conception. He told her that her cousin Elisabeth was also pregnant, despite having been barren, and that with God, nothing is impossible. Mary went to visit Elisabeth and when she greet Elisabeth, Elisabeth’s baby leaped in the womb for joy. Mary stayed with Elisabeth for three months.
When Elisabeth’s baby was born, the family came for the circumcision and named the baby after his father, but Mary said it was to be named John. They protested that this was not a family name and asked Zacharias what to name it. He asked for writing paper and agreed the baby was to be named John. When this happened, he was able to speak again.
*This article was adapted from the LDS Bible Dictionary and Every Person in the New Testament by Lynn F. Price (Horizon Publishers, , 25-26).