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Beliefs of the LDS Church

Jesus' paternity, conception, & birthday

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The virgin birth and the Book of Mormon:

The beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints generally parallel those of other conservative Protestants concerning Mary, the mother of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ). They believe that she was a virgin at the time she conceived Yeshua.

Mormons consider the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and two other documents to be divinely inspired and authoritative. Together, they form the "Standard Works." The Book of Mormon contains a passage in Alma 7:10 that parallels similar passages in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. They describe Yeshua's conception by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary:

Alma 7:10: "And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God."

Alma does not state that Mary conceived by any physical activity of God, but "by the power" of the Holy Ghost.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke state that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, whereas the Book of Mormon states that the birth occurred in Jerusalem. The distance between the two is only six miles, so the three documents may be harmonized by interpreting Jerusalem in the Book of Mormon to be the Jerusalem area.

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Alternative teachings by some Mormon leaders:

Some Mormons have taught that God the Father, and not the Holy Spirit, is the Father of Yeshua.

bulletBrigham Young (1801-1877) was a successor to Joseph Smith, the founder of the church.

He delivered a sermon in 1852 which stated, in part:

"When the Virgin Mary conceive the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family....

Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven. Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation." 1

He delivered a speech in 1860 which said, in part:

"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-was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." 2
bulletProphet Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) was the 6th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He wrote:
bullet"Christ is not the Son of the Holy Ghost, but of the Father." Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, Page 18-20.
bullet"...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...God the Eternal Father is literally the father of Jesus Christ." Box Elder Stake Conference, 1914-DEC-20, as quoted in Brigham City Box Elder News, 1915-JAN-28, Page 1 & 2.
bulletPresident Ezra Taft Benson, 13th President of the Church (1899-1994) stated:
"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." 3
bulletElder Bruce R. McConkie, Ordained Apostle and sustained to the Twelve, (1915-1985) said:
bullet"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." Mormon Doctrine, (1979) Page 742.
bullet"Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers." Mormon Doctrine, (1979) Page 546. 4
bulletAccording to author Michael Davis: "This is the standard LDS guide to church doctrine, found in nearly every active Mormon household." 5

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What the LDS Church believes:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that God "has a body that looks like ours..." 6 This teaching deviates from the beliefs of essentially all other Christian denominations, who believe that God is a spirit.

From this belief that God has a body of flesh and bone, some Mormons have inferred from statements by respected leaders of the church that God came to Earth, and actually engaged in sexual activity with Mary in order to impregnate her. Some conservative Christian counter-cult groups state, incorrectly, that God the Father's literal paternity of Yeshua remains the current official teaching of the LDS. In fact:

bulletIt was never an official declared church belief, in spite of statements by the founder of the LDS Church and other leaders.
bulletIt has not been stressed at the local level in recent years.
bulletIt is no longer widely believed in the Church.
bulletRelatively few contemporary Mormons, including missionaries, are aware that this was once a widely held belief.

Many counter cult groups believe that all statements by Joseph Smith and other church presidents are binding on the church and reflect current church doctrine. In reality, there are many beliefs expressed by early LDS leaders that have been abandoned and are no longer recognized by the present-day church. Some, in fact, have never accepted as valid. More information.

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The date of Yeshua's (Jesus;) birth:

Many Christians believe that Yeshua was actually born on December 25. Some suggest that he was born in the year 1 BCE.

Many religious historians, liberals, etc. suggest that the birth occurred circa 4 to 7 BCE, possibly in the Spring, but more likely in the Fall.

Some Mormon leaders suggest that Jesus was born on APR-06, which is the precise month and day on which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was founded in 1830, (The church celebrated its 175 anniversary recently, on 2005-APR-06.)

James E. Talmage (1862-1955), a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, was commissioned by Church president Joseph F Smith to write a biography of the life of Yeshua called: "The Life of Christ." It is still in circulation almost a century later. He wrote:

"As to the season of the year in which Christ was born, there is among the learned as great a diversity of opinion as that relating to the year itself. It is claimed by many Biblical scholars that December 25th, the day celebrated in Christendom as Christmas, cannot be the correct date. We believe April 6th to be the birthday of Jesus Christ as indicated in a revelation of the present dispensation already cited in which that day is made without qualification the completion of the one thousand eight hundred and thirtieth year since the coming of the Lord in the flesh. This acceptance is admittedly based on faith in modern revelation, and in no wise is set forth as the result of chronological research or analysis. We believe that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, April 6, 1 B.C." 7

Elder Neil A Maxwell (1855?-1933) who served as an Apostle in the Church, concurred with this date in his book "But for a Small Moment:"

"Significantly, Joseph [Smith] was finally released from Liberty Jail, with a subsequent escape en route, on April 6, 1839 -- both the Savior's and his church's birthday." 8

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References used:

  1. Brigham Young, sermon, "Self-government - mysteries - recreation and amusements, not in themselves sinful - tithing - Adam, our Father and our God," 1852, Journal of Discourses, Volume 1, pages 50 & 51, at: http://journals.mormonfundamentalism.org/
  2. Brigham Young, "Character of God and Christ - providences of God - self-government &c." 1860, Journal of Discourses, Volume 8, Page 114, at: http://journals.mormonfundamentalism.org/.
  3. "President Benson's teachings about Christ," at: http://www.mormons.org/
  4. Bruce R. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine," Barnes & Noble, (1966). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  5. Michael Davis, "Mormon literature & notable Mormon leaders," at: http://wri.leaderu.com/
  6. "What do you believe about God?," LDS, at: http://www.mormon.org/
  7. James Talmage, "Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission," Deseret Book Co., (1982), Page 104. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  8. Neal A. Maxwell, "But for a Small Moment," Bookcraft, (1986), Page 18. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

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Copyright 2005 & 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2005-MAR-08
Latest update: 2007-SEP-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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