"And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
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, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb" (D&C 84:26-27).
God raised up John the Baptist for a specific mission. He was Elias (JST Matt. 17:10-14). He made straight the way of the Lord (Mark 1:3). He preached repentance, and baptized in the river Jordan (Mark 1:4-5). He baptized the Lord (Mark 1:9). He was present on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses, the full account of which we have not yet received (Mark 9:4; D&C 63:21). Christ said that, except for himself, there was no greater prophet born among women than John (Luke 7:28).
"The lesser priesthood" was to continue with the children of Israel "until John." This the Lord did in his wrath. The church in the meridian of time made claims to priesthood, but John, independent of the church had authority. The lesser priesthood continued with the church, was bestowed upon men by the church, and was the authority by which they administered the ordinances and the temple rites.
When Christ questioned the chief priests and elders about John's authority, they didn't know how to answer (Matt. 21:23-27). They hadn't given him his authority. They falsely believed priesthood could not exist independent of their church, independent of their hands, and independent of their consent. But God had given authority to John. He held the priesthood independent of the church.
How is it that the only legal administrator in the affairs of the kingdom then upon the earth, received not his authority from those presiding in the church? God is not confined to work within an order we presume to subject him to. The Lord accomplishes his work in spite of men's efforts to bind him. He established the kingdom of God through John. The Jews of the church, including those in the chief seats, had to obey John's instructions or be damned. Joseph Smith taught:
"Whenever there has been a righteous man on earth unto whom God revealed His word and gave power and authority to administer in His name, and where there is a priest of God - a minister who has power and authority from God to administer in the ordinances of the gospel and officiate in the priesthood of God, there is the kingdom of God" (HC 5:256).
"What constitutes the kingdom of God? Where there is a prophet, a priest, or a righteous man unto whom God gives His oracles, there is the kingdom of God; and where the oracles of God are not, there the kingdom of God is not" (ibid, p. 257).
"All the prophets had the Melchizedek priesthood and were ordained by God himself" (TPJS, p. 180-81). Do you suppose Joseph Smith would include John, the greatest prophet in this statement? Was John the only prophet for whom this was not true?
The reason John declined to give the Holy Ghost was because it was not his mission as Elias. His mission was to prepare the way before the Lord. He understood that he must decrease, but the Lord must increase (John 3:30). The Lord brought more, but John prepared the way. John was a mighty prophet, and had the holy priesthood by "anointing" and the "decree of heaven" (HC 5:261). He chose to work within the bounds the Lord had set, never stepping in front of the Lord.