Conception of Jesus

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"We believe that our spiritual conception was sexual just as we believe that Christ's mortal conception was." -Robert A. Rees [1]

"As startling and offensive as it sounds, Mormon leaders have consistently taught that Jesus Christ was physically begotten by God the Father, who they teach possesses a physical body." [2] This stems from the Mormon teachings that all spirit is really a finer matter, that the Holy Spirit did not beget Jesus (contra the Bible), and that Christ's status of "only-begotten" refers to his real lineage from the Father and Mary. It is commonly supported by appealing to excerpts from Bruce McConkie, Orson Pratt, James E. Talmage, Joseph F. Smith, Ezra Taft Benson, Henry D. Taylor, and especially Brigham Young.

"Orthodox intellectuals seem to share mainline Christian sensitivities in ways that Saints from earlier generations did not. For example, some orthodox intellectuals, like Mormonism's evangelical critics, appear scandalized by the idea that God the Father had sexual intercourse with Mary the mother of Jesus. They therefore distance themselves from earlier LDS teachings to this effect, insisting that those teachings are not doctrinally binding and that the Saints' official beliefs about the virgin birth and Jesus's divine Sonship are entirely in accordance with the Bible." - John-Charles Duffy[1]


[edit] Examples of the teaching

For example, Brigham Young said that,

"The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood--was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." (Journal of Discourses, volume 8, p. 115)

He also taught:

"When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost... Now, remember from this time forth, and for ever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, pp. 50, 51)

Ezra Taft Benson taught:

"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." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg.7; cf. Come unto Christ, p. 4)

Orson Pratt taught:

"[God] had a lawful right to overshadow the Virgin Mary in the capacity of a husband, and beget a Son , may be that ... He intended after the resurrection to again take her as one of his own wives to raise up immortal spirits (bear his children) in eternity." ('The Seer, p. 158)

The 1985 edition of Gospel Principles teaches:

"Thus, God the Father became the literal father of Jesus Christ. Jesus was born of a mortal mother and an immortal father." (p.57)

Family Home Evenings (1972), by the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says the following in pp. 125-126 to "help you and your children understand that Jesus is God's Only Begotten Son." [3]:


In this manual Joseph F. Smith is quoted under the heading, "A MODERN PROPHET'S ANSWER":

"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... We must come down to the simple fact that God Almighty was the Father of His Son Jesus Christ. Mary, the virgin girl, who had never known mortal man, was his mother. God by her begot His son Jesus Christ. And he was born into the world with power and intelligence like that of his Father."

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
"Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of man, and that man was God! They tell us the Book of Mormon states that Jesus was begotten [conceived] of the Holy Ghost. I challenge that statement. The Book of Mormon teaches no such thing! Neither does the Bible." Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, pp. 18,19
James E. Talmage taught:
"[our Heavenly Father beget [conceived] Jesus of a virgin] not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof" (Jesus the Christ, p. 81).
Bruce McConkie taught:
"Some words scarcely need definition… Two such words are father and son. Their meaning is known to all, and to define them is but to repeat them. Thus: A son is a son is a son, and a father is a father is a father. I am the son of my father and the father of my sons. They are my sons because they were begotten by me, were conceived by their mother, and came forth from her womb to breathe the breath of mortal life, to dwell for a time and a season among other mortal men. And so it is with the Eternal Father and the mortal birth of the Eternal Son. The Father is a Father is a Father; he is not a spirit essence or nothingness to which the name Father is figuratively applied. And the Son is a Son is a Son; he is not some transient emanation from a divine essence, but a literal, living offspring of an actual Father. God is the Father; Christ is the Son. The one begat the other. Mary provided the womb from which the Spirit Jehovah came forth, tabernacled in clay, as all men are, to dwell among his fellow spirits whose births were brought to pass in like manner. There is no need to spiritualize away the plain meaning of the scriptures. There is nothing figurative or hidden or beyond comprehension in our Lord's coming into mortality. He is the Son of God in the same sense and way that we are the sons of mortal fathers. It is just that simple. Christ was born of Mary. He is the Son of God-the Only Begotten of the Father" (The Promised Messiah, pg. 468).
"And so, in the final analysis it is the faithful saints, those who have testimonies of the truth and divinity of this great latter-day work, who declare our Lord's generation to the world. Their testimony is that Mary's son is God's Son; that he was conceived and begotten in the normal way; that he took upon himself mortality by the natural birth processes; that he inherited the power of mortality from his mother and the power of immortality from his Father-in consequence of all of which he was able to work out the infinite and eternal atonement" (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, p. 473).
"These name-titles all signify that our Lord is the only Son of the Father in the flesh. Each of the words is to be understood literally. Only means only; Begotten means begotten; and Son means son. Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers." (Mormon Doctrine, 1979, pages 546-47)
"God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy Man, an immortal Personage. 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, for he is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says." (Ibid., page 742)
A 1916 first presidency doctrinal statement reads:
"God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title “Elohim,” is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and of the spirits of the human race... Jesus Christ is the Son of Elohim both as spiritual and bodily offspring; that is to say, Elohim is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh... "[2]

[edit] The doctrine today

Whether the conception of Jesus physically took place can be categorized as a disputed doctrine. Modern Mormons either take the position of, "it's possible, I don't know", or deny that it was taught, and/or deny the possibility of anything other than a genuine virgin birth. The majority of Mormons vaguely believe that Heavenly Father somehow used his physical strength to develop the unborn child, and never underwent sexual intercourse of any kind with Mary.

[edit] "We don't know and we shouldn't care"

"Teachers should not speculate on the manner of Christ's birth. We are very much concerned that some of our Church teachers seem to be obsessed of the idea of teaching doctrine which cannot be substantiated and making comments beyond what the Lord has actually said. You asked about the birth of the Savior. Never have I talked about sexual intercourse between Deity and the mother of the Savior." -Elder Harold B. Lee [4]

Robert Millet, a contemporary Mormon theologian, furthers this idea,

"While Latter-day Saints clearly believe that Jesus is the Son of God the Father, there is no authoritative doctrinal statement within Mormonism that explains how the conception of Jesus was accomplished," (Millet, Another Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, p. 74)

Mormon blogger Bob Vukich expresses his apathy over the issue, a sentiment which many Mormons share:

"I don't really care, one way or the other. Honestly, God can do no wrong, and since I believe Jesus was His only begotten son in the Flesh, the mechanics are irrelevant to me. OK, that being said, the Church does not have an official position on the mechanics." [5]

[edit] "It was never taught"

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[edit] Other quotes

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. John-Charles Duffy, "Defending the Kingdom: Rethinking the Faith: How Apologetics is Reshaping Mormon Orthodoxy". Sunstone, May 2004, 22-55. Available online here:
  2. Republished in the April 2002 Ensign
  3. Available online:

[edit] External links

[edit] Non-Mormon

[edit] Mormon

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