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MORMONS AND THE VIRGIN BIRTH

I thought Christmas time would be a good time to talk about the birth of Christ. A common allegation of anti-Mormons is that the LDS Church teaches that God the Father has sexual relations with Mary, and thus deny the virgin birth. This is another issue that is often used to insist that Mormons are not true Christians, and that we believe in a "different" Jesus. The Institute for Religious Research claims that the LDS Church teaches that Jesus was “conceived physically through intercourse between Heavenly Father and the virgin Mary.”[1] Several others have made this claim.

This accusation is absolutely false. Though Mormons do affirm that Jesus Christ is the literal, physical offspring of God the Father, Mormons do not believe that there was any kind of sexual intimacy between Mary and God. When Fox News posed this question to the LDS Church, they responded that, “The Church does not claim to know how Jesus was conceived but believes the Bible and Book of Mormon references to Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary.”[2] President Ezra Taft Benson noted that, “His mortal mother, Mary, was called a virgin, both before and after she gave birth.”[3] Even Bruce R. McConkie (whose commonly quoted by anti-Mormons on this issue) said, “Modernistic teachings denying the virgin birth are utterly and completely apostate and false.”[4] More importantly, the Book of Mormon identifies Mary as a virgin (see 1 Nephi 11:13-20; Alma 7:10)

To try and “prove” that Mormons reject the virgin birth, critics use several quotes from previous LDS prophets and apostles. I am not aware of any of these statements that explicitly say God had sex with Mary. There are two common themes in these statements: (a) that the birth of Christ was according the natural laws by which all children are born into the world, and (b) that Jesus was the literal Son of the Father, in the same sense in which we are children of our mortal fathers.

Consider the following examples, which are some of the quotes typically used by anti-Mormons:

“The birth of the Savior was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood -- begotten of his Father, as we were by our fathers.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8, pg. 115)

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The Body in which he performed His ministry in the flesh was sired by the same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost.” (President Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg 7)

“He is the Son of God in the same sense and way we are the sons of mortal fathers. It is just that simple.” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, pg 468)

As I explained, we can see that none of these actually say that God had sex with Mary. They do, however, have the at least one of the two common themes I mentioned. They explain that Christ’s birth was natural, and that his sonship was as literal as ours is to our parents. Now, to be clear, I can see how these statements can be taken to mean “sex.” However, intercourse is not required for these conditions to be true. The LDS Church put a lot of emphasis on the belief that Jesus was the literal Son of God, and many members no doubt speculated about how this was possible. In an effort to understand such a concept with their finite understanding, they may have come to believe that God the Father had intercourse with Mary. However, this was not necessarily the case.[5]

Believing that the conception of Christ was not against natural law did not inherently mean that Christ was conceived by sexual means, at least not for the Latter-day Saint of the early period (or today). In the minds of Mormons from the nineteenth and early twentieth century (and many even today), all of the miracles of the Bible occurred in harmony with natural laws. Elder James E. Talmage wrote that, “Miracles cannot be in contravention of natural law, but are wrought through the operation of laws not universally or commonly recognized.”[6] This includes miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea by Moses, Jesus turning water into wine, walking on water, and feeding thousands with only a few loaves of bread, and many more.

Obviously, how all of these things might happen in accordance with natural law is beyond our finite comprehension. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Virgin Birth was viewed no differently. It was understood as having taken place within the confines of natural law; though it defied all explanation of how such could be the case. Today, however, we live in a time when modern science has shed some extra light on the matter. Through methods such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, a woman can now conceive a child without the aid of sexual intercourse, and give birth to a son who is the literal offspring of a father. None of this occurs at the defiance of natural laws, but we – through our greater understanding of the natural laws in action – are able to manipulate these laws to achieve the desired result. Surely, if human scientist can figure out how to impregnate a woman with the literal seed of a man without sex, then the all-knowing and all-powerful God could have, by his own methods, done the same thing thousands of years ago.

---------------------------------------------

Notes:

1. Institute for Religious Research, Is Mormonism Christian? A Comparison of Mormonism and Historic Christianity (1999), pt. 3, “Are Jesus and Satan Brothers?”

2. Fox News, “21 Questions Answered About the Mormon Faith,” (December 18, 2007)

3. President Ezra Taft Benson, “Joy in Christ,” Ensign (March 1986), pg. 3

4. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966), pg. 822

5. Given the additional quotes I provided from Benson and McConkie, which insist on the Virgin Birth, it seems clear that at least those two did not believe that intercourse was necessary for their statements about Christ's literal sonship to be true. 

6. James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981), pg. 148

Comments

  1. So it's somehow more palatable to you that God artificially inseminated Mary than had sex with her? Frankly, both ideas are a bit weird. Not virgin weird, but weird all the same.

    Also, doesn't the church discourage artificial insemination? Ha ha.

    And for there record, there are a couple of quote from Brigham Young and Orson Pratt that strongly suggest sex and the means of insemination. But that's neither here nor there. This is an interesting subject, but one of very little consequence.

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  2. I have had to struggle with many different religious issues in my life, but this has never been one of them. God, the Father, created the entire universe, is it that big of a deal that he created a fetus in a womb?

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  3. I believe we were all set to come forth once both Adam and Eve were created as living souls. They had all the genitic material for us to come forth as living souls. Eve must have had the genetic material within the confines of her living soul to bring forth Jesus as the Son of God. That genetic material had to have been passed down to Mary to give forth the virgin birth. So if "artificial", Jesus was prepared to be the "firstborn" from the beginning.

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  4. Jon, I don't know that I would say it is necessarily "more" palatable to believe that God "artificially inseminated" Mary than had sex, only that it IS palatable to accept that Jesus was (a) born of a virgin,(b)the literal son of God, and (c) conceived in accordance to natural law. And my reason for believe that it is possible is simply because WE (and mankind) can do it, so given my perspective on God, it only makes sense that God can. God's actual method is not likely to be be the same as man's, but the result (a child produced asexually that is the literal offspring of both a man and a women)is what matters.

    As far as if the Church discourages artificial insemination, I honestly do not know. What I do know is my cousin, who is happily in a temple marriage and active in the church, convinced either by artificial insemination or in vitro (not completely sure which, though I think it was in vitro) and ended up having quintuplets! She has since been featured over and over in Church literature (and has also been featured in non-LDS media, on TLC and such), and to my knowledge her membership has never been jeopardized. What does this prove? pretty much nothing, but it's all I got. The short answer is I don't know.

    AS far statements from Young and Pratt that "strongly suggest" sex, I don't doubt it. I know Pratt talked some silly non-sense about God marrying Mary (which I would say "strongly suggests" intercourse), but I reject that idea. Like I said, I do not doubt that some 19th century Mormons, in trying to understand how Christ could be God's literal son, came to believe that God had sex with Mary. However, they stopped short of actually saying so explicitly, indicating a hesitance to preach such a doctrine. That, too me, indicates that perhaps (though they may have THOUGHT it) they we not sure of that idea, and didn't profess to revelation on the matter. My point is that for LDS's today, we don't have to struggle with that question because we know (thanks to modern science) that it is possible for a virgin to conceive and give birth to a son who has a literal father without violating natural law (though it could be said to be "through the operation of laws not universally or commonly recognized" as Talmage puts it).

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  5. In Christianity, one of the truths we understand is this, throughout the Old Testament, their is a foreshadowing of a coming King. A king who will save their people from their sins, a king unlike any other, for this king will have an everlasting kingdom. In fact, Jesus Christ fulfilled all prophecies from the Old Testament foretold about Him.

    These prophecies include but are not limited to:

    The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem
    The Messiah would be born of a virgin
    The Messiah would be a descendent of King David
    The Messiah would be rejected
    The Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah
    The Messiah would be preceded by a messenger
    The Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey
    The Messiah would be betrayed by a friend
    The Messiah would have His hands and feet pierced
    The Messiah would have his garments gambled over by casting lots
    The Messiah would not have any bones broken
    The Messiah would be ressurected
    The Messiah would ascend to the Father

    These fulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament are proofs that Jesus was and is who He claimed to be, the Son of God. In fact, if you look at what the probability of one man fulfilling just 8 of the prophecies surrounding Jesus of Nazareth, you get a number 1 in 10 to the 17th power.
    That is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000

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    Replies
    1. The Book of Mormon says Jesus was born in Jersalem not Bethleham

      Delete
    2. That is an issue for a different post. I am simply addressing the matter of Mary's virginity.

      Nonetheless, that has been more than adequately addressed by Mormon scholars, who have responding with solid evidence from the ancient world showing that Bethleham was apart of the land of Jerusalem in ancient times. Thus, it is no different than when I say I grew up in Salt Lake, when I actually grew up in South Jordan (a suburb in the greater Salt Lake area).

      Delete
  6. This shows how carefully the birth, life, and death of Christ was orchestrated by God, and how amazingly accurate His word has been kept, a great defense to those who claim His Holy Word has been corrupted.
    Truly it is incomprehensible that our God loves us so much, He would send His Son to die on this earth for our redemption.

    However, what if Jesus did not fulfill all of these prophecies? What If Jesus failed to be born of a virgin? Would He still be Messiah? Truly His life would have been amazing, but would would He still be the promised Messiah from the Old Testament?

    The answer is simple, absolutely not. If Jesus did not fulfill every prophecy written of Him, then we are still waiting for our Messiah. Otherwise, God is a liar, for it was He who moved the prophets of old to write the prophetic signs to watch for, and the specific prophecies surround the birth, life, and death of Jesus.

    So when we see Mormon doctrinal teachings such as this, we need to understand that the Mormon concept of God is completely contrary to the Biblical teaching, and they have put their faith in a false God:

    "Now, remember from this time forth, and forever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 51).

    “And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events,...Christ is the Son of Man, meaning that his Father (the Eternal God!) is a Holy Man.” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 742

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  7. "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father!" President Ezra Taft Benson, Come Unto Christ, p. 4

    "Now we are told in scriptures that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, now for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father ... Jesus is the only person who had our Heavenly Father as the father of his body." Prophet Joseph F. Smith, Family Home Evening Manual, 1972, pp.125,126

    "The man Joseph, the husband of Mary, did not, that we know of, have more than one wife, but Mary the wife of Joseph had another husband." Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 11:268

    Now obviously as we read through these teachings, we see a myriad of problems, but for this post we will stick to the virgin birth. If these doctrines are real, than Jesus can in no way be the Messiah, and is disqualified from being the Son of God. Not only this, we are left with a Jesus who is a product of incest, and adultery on the part of both Mary and God, who would then be a sinner, and again, not God. So what does the Bible teach us regarding the conception of Mary?

    Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

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  8. Luke 1:35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most... High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

    Matthew 1:22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet

    Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

    As Norman Geisler said, "The spiritual danger of believing a lie is even more serious - it has eternal consequences! To die while believing in the Jesus of ... Mormonism is to die believing in a counterfeit Jesus who preaches a counterfeit gospel which yields a counterfeit salvation (which, in fact, is no salvation at all).
    For the Mormon to believe that Jesus was not born of a virgin, but through a sexual relationship between God the Father and Mary is to believe in a counterfeit Jesus, who is not the foretold Son of God, and who preaches a counterfeit Gospel, which finally, yields a countefeit salvation.

    I pray you will take some time to search through the Bible regarding the miraculous birth of Jesus, and why the Mormon concept of the virgin birth is a lie with eternal consequences if it is believed!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jamie,

    While I appreciate you taking the time to visit my blog and comment, my argument has apparently gone over your head. In fact, your argument is a perfect example to what my argument is responding to. None of the quotes you used explicitly says that God and Mary had intercourse. It is NOT LDS doctrine that God and Mary had intercourse. The BoM teaches that Mary was virgin both BEFORE and AFTER the birth of Christ. Yes, we believe that Christ is the literal son of God, but as I argue in my posting, THAT DOES NOT REQUIRE US TO BELIEVE GOD HAD SEX WITH MARY.

    Please, read my posting carefully and consider my arguements. Then, if you disagree, you are welcome to offer a rebuttal; but to just restate the stock and trade anti-Mormon argument which I just refuted does nothing to contribute to the discussion or enhance our understanding.

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  10. Blaine and Weston,

    I appreciate your comments.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Let me start by saying that I have been raised a "Mormon" since birth. I have never once heard the Church teach (and I have gone to Church virtually every Sunday for 30 years) that Mary was not a virgin. I have never once heard it insinuated, let alone stated clearly, that Heavenly Father had sex with Mary.

    MY THEORY (not professing this to be "Mormon" doctrine or belief)
    Using Luke 1:35 from Jaime Pellew, "Luke 1:35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most... High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."

    The Holy Spirit carried one of God's sperms and placed it inside Mary and it fertilized one of her eggs. That fits the Biblical teaching. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and the power of the Most High came in the form of His sperm.

    On a similar note, how many of you know people who have either had their tubes tied or had a vasectomy, yet somehow years later they conceive a child? I know at least two people who fit this category. How was that baby conceived? How does a couple have "unprotected sex" for years, and then out of the blue conceived a child? I find it hard to believe that there wasn't some heavenly intervention making that happen.

    Jon-to your question about artifical insemination. It is 100% irrelevant what the Church/Heavenly Father expects/requires/teaches (or however you want to put it) from us, and the method used by Heavenly Father to impregnate Mary.

    The biggest problem about human beings is that when we grow up and leave our parents house, and we think we can live just like our parents. We have entered the realm of adulthood and are on an equal plane as our parents. The same cannot be said about us and our Heavenly parents.

    While we don't have to follow our parents' rules in our own house, we still inhabit God's earth and we are still subject to God's laws. If he gives a law through his prophet to not artifically inseminate, then we cannot do it. But that does not preclude Him from doing it.

    God has a perfect knowledge and understading of what is right and wrong, and when and how certain things can/should be done. Take for example the commandment: Thou shalt not kill. It is wrong for me to kill my neighbor. However, God "kills" people every day.

    It is absolute foolishness for us, mere mortals, to expect the perfect, immortal God of the universe to be subject to the same laws that we are.

    If He doesn't want us to artifically inseminate each other, even IF He artifically inseminated Mary, that is fine.

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  12. Thanks for your thoughts, Scott. Your theory on how it all worked is pretty similar to my own thoughts on it. It is consistent with what we know about the issue.

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  13. Funny. I never cared about this issue one way or the other, but I was taught at a fireside by my bishop that god had sex with Mary. This was... about eight years or so ago. So it is still being taught some places as doctrine.

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  14. lifeofdi,

    Please take this in the way it is intended. Church doctrine is not determined by opinions offered at firesides. Neal is correct. Although some may have speculated as to the means of Christ's conception, they have done so using their own reasoning, and nothing has ever been claimed to have been revealed on the topic, other than the status of Christ's mother before his birth and after was that of a virgin.

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  15. It is absolutely impossible that Heavenly Father could have married or had relations with Mary. For plural marriage is not & never has been, a true principle.

    Joseph Smith constantly preached against polygamy his whole life. He warned the Saints not to fall for the rumors & hearsay going around about him preaching or practicing it secretly. He warned them not to trust or listen to anyone, even a prophet or apostle, who might come preaching or practicing polygamy or plural marriage.

    Joseph and Christ & ancient Prophets taught that polygamy in any form or in any instance, was a most vile & abusive adulterous abomination & whoredom. Thus God would cease to be God if he had relations with Mary or married her.

    It is only fallen leaders & wicked men who liked & lived the whoredom of polygamy & who tried to get others to believe that Heavenly Father, Christ & Joseph Smith lived polygamy. It is all false, designed to try to justify their vile & abusive adultery against women.

    The scriptures are very clear, Mary was a 'virgin' when she conceived & when she gave birth, because no man had ever had relations with her yet. She conceived in some other manner that preserved her vows & faithfulness to Joseph & Heavenly Father's vows & faithfulness to our Heavenly Mother, who is his one & only love & Queen & wife.

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  16. Thank you for your blog. I've been an on again off again investigator for years, unable to really get around some of the more perplexing issues surrounding some church teachings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad that my blog has been helpful to you. If there are any specific questions you have about the Church and its teachings, please let me know, I would be happy help you in anyway I can. I do this for people like you, more than anyone else.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Delete

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