This Christmas, you may be wondering, “What do Latter-day Saints believe about Jesus Christ’s parents, Mary and Joseph?” Read on to find out!
When he was still a teenager, Nephi, the first prophet whose writings we have in the Book of Mormon, was given a vision of the Savior. In 1 Nephi 11:14-21 we read of the birth of the Savior, as seen by young Nephi in the vision:
15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!
Latter-day Saints know Jesus is the literal son of both Mary and Heavenly Father. His birth was indeed a divine miracle. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:
“Just as Jesus is literally the Son of Mary, so he is the personal and literal offspring of God the Eternal Father, who himself is an exalted personage having a tangible body of flesh and bones” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:82).
Joseph, a faithful and humble man, was chosen by God to carry out the earthly duties of a father for Jesus: caring for Jesus, teaching Him, and helping Mary to prepare Him for His future mission. He was, essentially, an adoptive father, not the literal, physical father of Jesus.
While there are those who seek to remove the divinity behind the Savior’s birth, we know that to remove the divinity of His birth would also remove the divinity of His life. His mission on earth, to redeem us all, could only be possible if His birth had happened the way the scriptures say they happened—through divine and sacred miracles.
Jesus, like every man who ever lived, must have a father—and that father was God Himself, providing the divinity that made possible the things that Jesus did during His lifetime. While all of us are literal children of God, only Jesus was begotten, with no other father but God. It is because of this, because God was willing to allow His Only Begotten Son to endure the extraordinary trials of the Garden of Gethsemane and the cross, that we can return home and live forever, possibly even in the direct presence of God.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16
This article was originally published in May 2008. Minor changes (and additions) have been made for timeliness and clarity.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.