The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (SMOTJ) is the American branch of the Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (OSMTH), the Knights Templar worldwide.
The Priory of St. John the Baptist was created by the autonomous Grand Priory of the United States of America (GPUSA) for the following purposes:
- To continue the tradition of the orders of the Crusades, in particular that of the "Poor Knights of the Temple" established in 1128 AD;
- To combat in a new crusade modern paganism and oppose the symptoms of decadence in our age;
- To defend in an ecumenical spirit the common faith of all who believe in one God, and to affect a union of Christianity to fight intolerance and to help in the reassertion of the spirit of chivalry;
- To preserve and perpetuate the traditions and customs of one of the oldest international military organizations in the world, which was founded in the holy city of Jerusalem between 1118 and 1128 AD; and
- To protect and teach the Christian religion, and to aid the needy, lame, blind and afflicted.
St. John the Baptist
John was the son of Zechariah, a priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, and Elizabeth, a kinswoman of Mary who visited her. He was probably born at Ain-Karim southwest of Jerusalem after the angel Gabriel had told Zechariah that his wife would bear a child even though she was an old woman.
He lived as a hermit in the desert of Judea until about AD 27. When he was thirty, John began to preach on the banks of the Jordan against the evils of the times, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and announcing that "the kingdom of heaven has come near."
He attracted large crowds, and when Jesus came to him, John recognized him as the Messiah and baptized him, saying, "It is I who need baptism from you, and do you come to me?" When Jesus left to preach in Galilee, John continued preaching in the Jordan valley.
Fearful of John's great power with the people, Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Perea and Galilee, had him arrested and imprisoned at Machaerus Fortress on the Dead Sea after John denounced his adulterous and incestuous marriage with Herodias, wife of his half brother Philip. John was beheaded at the request of Salome, daughter of Herodias, who asked for his head at the instigation of her mother.
John inspired many of his own disciples, among them Andrew and John, to follow Jesus when he said, "Look, here is the Lamb of God." John was also consistent in his focus on Jesus, saying "he must increase, but I must decrease."
St. John the Baptist is presented in the gospels as the last of the Old Testament prophets and the precursor of the Messiah. His feast day is June 24 and his beheading is commemorated on August 29.