Have They Been Denying It for Generations?
Mormons believe that the Bible is untrue as it relates to the virgin birth of Jesus. They believe that God the Father came down (in a physical body) and had sex with Mary to conceive Jesus. The problem here, of course, is that an act of physical intercourse then denies Mary’s virgin status at the time of Jesus’ birth. In addition to this, the idea that God the Father conceived Jesus in a physical (natural) way, defies the clear teaching of the Bible.
The Prophets Deny the Virgin Birth
Mormons today will sometimes deny that their church or prophets ever taught that Heavenly Father (with a physical body) had sex with Mary, but the recorded history and statements of the prophets are undeniably clear on this matter:
‘The Being whom we call Father was the Father of the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he was also his Father pertaining to the flesh.’ (Journal of Discourses, Brigham Young, 7:286, October 9, 1859)
‘l believe the Father came down from heaven, as the Apostles said he did, and begat the Savior of the World; for He is the Only Begotten of the Father which could not have been if the Father did not actually beget him in person’. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 1 page 238)
‘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.’ (Brigham Young, Journal Of Discourses, 8:115)
‘What a learned idea! 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.’ (Brigham Young, Journal Of Discourses, 1:51)
“[Jesus] was begotten of the Father, and he was born of the virgin Mary as my mother bore me and as my father begot me and as you begot your children.” (Brigham Young, July 14, 1861, in Eldon J. Watson, ed., Brigham Young Addresses: 1860-1864 (SLC: Elden J. Watson, 1980), vol. 4, reprinted in Eugene E. Campbell, ed., The Essential Brigham Young (SLC: Signature Books, 1992, p. 137)
‘In relation to the way in which I look upon the works of God and his creatures, I will say that I was naturally begotten; so was my father, and also my Savior Jesus Christ. According to the Scriptures, he is the first begotten of his father in the flesh, and there was nothing unnatural about it.’ (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of discourses, 8:211)
‘The birth of the savior was a natural occurrence unattended with any degree of mysticism, and the Father God was the literal parent of Jesus in the flesh as well as in the spirit.’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, Religious Truths Defined, p.44)
‘You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers you all know that don’t you? You cannot deny it. 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. The Christian denominations believe that Christ was begotten not of God but of the spirit that overshadowed his mother. This is nonsense. Why will not the world receive the truth? Why will they not believe the Father when he says that Jesus Christ is His only begotten Son? Why will they try to explain this truth away and make mystery of it?’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, Message of the First Presidency, 4:329)
‘I want the little folks [children] to hear what I am going to tell you. I am going to tell you a simple truth, yet it is one of the greatest truths and one of the most simple facts ever revealed to the children of men. You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers – you all know that don’t you? You cannot deny it. 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…Now my little friends, I will repeat again in words as simple as I can, and you ask your parents about it, that God, the Eternal Father, is literally the father of Jesus Christ.’ (Joseph F. Smith, Box Elder Stake Conference Dec 20, 1914 as quoted in Brigham City Box Elder News, 28 Jan, 1915, pp.1-2.) (Family Home Evening [Manual], Personal Commitment, copyright 1972 by Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pages 125-126).
‘It is very plain if men will comprehend, firstly, the fact, that God is the Father of man, spiritually, and that God is the Father of Jesus Christ, both temporally and spiritually, and that Jesus Christ is nothing more nor less than the Son of God, begotten of His Father, as absolutely, and as truly as any child was begotten of his earthly father. You don’t need to mince the matter.’ (Joseph F. Smith, Latter-Day Saints Follow Teachings of the Savior, Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, [1838-1918], Vol. 2, p.557)
The Prophets Aren’t the Only Ones
This doctrine was taught by the early prophets, and later apostles and church leaders clearly understood their teaching. Because these statements absolutely agree and exclude the supernatural work of God in the insemination of Mary, reducing it to a natural action in the flesh, dozens of later thinkers on the topic began to comment on the new theology:
‘Jesus Christ is the child of Mary and God the Father, not in violation of natural law, but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof.” (James Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 81).
‘Christ was Begotten by an immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers’ (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pg.547).
‘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.’ (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 742)
‘As far as this life is concerned, [Jesus] was born of Mary and of Elohim; he came here as an offspring of that Holy Man who is literally our Father in heaven. He was born in mortality in the literal and full sense as the Son of God. He is the Son of his Father in the same sense that all mortals are the sons and daughters of their fathers’ (Bruce R. McConkie, Mortal Messiah 1:330).
‘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.’ (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p.67-68, LDS Collectors Library ’97 CD-ROM)
‘One of the great questions that I have referred to that the world is concerned about, and is in confusion over, is as to whether or not his was a virgin birth, a birth wherein divine power interceded. Joseph Smith made it perfectly clear that Jesus Christ told the absolute truth, as did those who testify concerning him, the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, wherein he is declared to be the very Son of God. And if God the Eternal Father is not the real Father of Jesus Christ, then are we in confusion; then is he not in reality the Son of God. But we declare that he is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. Mary told the story most beautifully when she said that an angel of the Lord came to her and told her that she had found favor in the sight of God, and had come to be worthy of the fulfilment of the promises heretofore made, to become the virgin mother of the Redeemer of the world. She afterwards, referring to the event, said: ‘God hath done wonderful things unto me.’ ‘And the Holy Ghost came upon her,’ is the story, ‘and she came into the presence of the highest.’ No man or woman can live in mortality and survive the presence of the Highest except by the sustaining power of the Holy Ghost. So it came upon her to prepare her for admittance into the divine presence, and the power of the Highest, who is the Father, was present, and overshadowed her, and the holy Child that was born of her was called the Son of God.’ (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, p.472 – p.473)
‘The fleshly body of Jesus required a Mother as well as a Father. Therefore, the Father and Mother of Jesus, according to the flesh, must have been associated together in the capacity of Husband and Wife; hence the Virgin Mary must have been, for the time being, the lawful wife of God the Father: we use the term lawful Wife, because it would be blasphemous in the highest degree to say that He overshadowed her or begat the Saviour unlawfully.’ (Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 158)
‘We believe absolutely that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, begotten of God, the first-born in the spirit and the only begotten in the flesh; that He is the Son of God just as much as you and I are the sons of our Fathers.’ (Heber J. Grant, ‘Analysis of the Articles of Faith,’ Millennial Star, 5 Jan. 1922, p. 2)
‘…he (Jesus) was able to make payment because he lived a sinless life and because he was actually, literally, biologically the Son of God in the flesh.’ (Messages for Exaltation, For the Sunday Schools of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Doctrine Class, published by the Deseret Sunday School Union, printed by Deseret News Press, 1967, pages 378-379)
How Do Mormons Explain All This?
Christians, understand that the word “virgin” is applied to physical (and natural) sexual purity. A woman is no longer a virgin once she has had sexual intercourse with a human male. It doesn’t matter if the male is very young or very old. It doesn’t matter if the male is of another race. It doesn’t matter what size or shape the male may be. Once the sexual act has occurred, regardless of the nature of the male involved, (as long as he has a physical body), it can safely be said that the woman involved is no longer a virgin. That basic understanding of virginity crosses all cultures, and any rational person (Christian or otherwise) would certainly agree with this definition.
But in order to reconcile the statements of past prophets and scholars, Mormons have had to redefine the definition of the word “virgin”. Mormons feel that they can still use the phrase ‘virgin birth’ because they define God as an IMMORTAL being who had sex with Mary, not a mere mortal man. And this is exactly what Bruce McConkie meant when he said:
‘For our present purposes, suffice it to say that our Lord was born of a virgin, which is fitting and proper, and also natural, since the Father of the Child was an immortal Being’ (Bruce McConkie, The Promised Messiah, pg. 466).
In other words, if Joseph had sex with Mary she would not have been a virgin, but since God had sex with Mary, she remains a virgin. By ‘virgin birth’, Mormons mean that no mortal human had sex with Mary, but since God had sex with Mary, and He is immortal, she remains a virgin!
Mormons Deny the Scriptures
Of course, this doctrine defies logic and it also defies the teaching of the Bible, which tells us that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. First, any physical sexual interaction with Mary violates her virginity. That is inherent within the definition “virgin” as it is understood in history and in over 1800 years of Christian thought preceding the Mormon Church. If Mormons are going to claim that Heavenly Father visited Mary with a Human body and fathered Jesus in the same way that mortal humans father children, then they are going to have to live with the consequence of this teaching. Mary will no longer be a virgin.
Secondly, Christians have no problem with the idea that the Holy Ghost, not God the Father, conceived Jesus in a miraculous manner. Christians believe in ONE God, a triune God, with three distinct personalities in ONE Godhead. In this understanding of the nature of God, Jesus can be conceived by the Holy Spirit and still be the son of God (the Father). But to the Mormon, who believes that the Holy Spirit is a separate God altogether, Jesus cannot be the son of the Holy Spirit and still be the son of God the Father. For this reason, and based on the heresy of polytheism, Mormons are forced to deny the scriptures:
‘There are two basic elements in the Gospel view of sexuality as I interpret it from the scriptures. The first is that sex is good–that sexuality, far from being the antithesis of spirituality, is actually an attribute of God…. In the light of their understanding that God is a procreating personage of flesh and bone, latter-day prophets have made it clear that despite what it says in Matthew 1:20, the Holy Ghost was not the father of Jesus…. The Savior was fathered by a personage of flesh and bone, and was literally what Nephi said he was, ‘Son of the Eternal Father’ (Carlfred B. Broderick, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn, 1967, pp.100-101).
‘They tell us the Book of Mormon states that Jesus was begotten 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. 1:18)
‘Christ Not Begotten of Holy Ghost …Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God!’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, 1:18).
‘When the Virgin Mary conceived the Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost…’ (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1:50-51)
‘Now Remember from this time forth, and forever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. I will repeat a little anecdote. I was in conversation with a certain learned professor upon this subject when I replied to this idea – ‘If the son was begotten y the Holy Ghost, it would be very dangerous to baptize and confirm females and give the Holy Ghost o them, lest he should beget children to be palmed off on the Elders by the people, bringing the Elders into great difficulties.’…But what do the people in Christendom, with the Bible in their hands, know but this subject? Comparatively nothing.’ (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1:50-51)
‘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 fathered 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!’ (Ezra Taft Benson, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, p. 725, 1992; The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 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. (Ezra Taft Benson, Come Unto Christ, p. 4.)
There are Some Biblical Problems
If God the Father did engage in sexual relations with Mary, if Jesus is the product of a “natural” act between an immortal man and mortal woman, if Jesus was conceived in the same manner that you and I were conceived, then we have several contradictions in the scriptures.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
Why did Mary say “l know not a man”? Did Mary tell a lie? Mary understood the reality of her own virginity. To the very end she declared that her pregnancy was the result of the miraculous overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, not the result of a sex act with a man (even if that man is the immortal God in a human body)!
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
How could Mary have had sex with God when the scriptures declare that ”No one has ever seen God at any time” and ”No -one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father” (John 6:46)?
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
These passages say that the Holy Ghost came upon Mary, and as a result she conceived our Lord Jesus Christ. The only conclusion reasonably possible is that this was a miraculous event, not a physical one. These two verses are a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. Interestingly, the Book of Mormon teaches the same idea as in the above two verses:
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.
So Where Did the Heresy Begin?
Let’s take a look at a proof text that Mormons commonly use to prove that Jesus is the literal, biological, natural and physical son of God the Father:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…
Mormons read this term ‘only begotten Son’ to mean the Son was begotten physically and biologically. He was fathered; he was procreated. The mistake here is that the Greek word ‘monogenes’ (translated ‘only begotten’) does not mean this at all. If John had used the word, ‘gennao’, Mormons might have a legitimate argument. But it was not used. The Complete Biblical Library says it this way:
In the Fourth Century, a heresy known as Arianism mistakenly saw ‘monogenes’ as a derivation related to the word ‘gennao’, which means ‘to beget, to generate, or to give birth.’ This inappropriate connection was used to support the false doctrine that Jesus was created by God and was not eternal with Him. However, the context of John’s Gospel makes it clear that monogenes is emphasizing the unique relationship between God the Son and God the Father, and not the physical birth of Jesus. Nowhere does the Bible teach that Jesus is a created being. On the contrary, the Scriptures reveal Jesus Christ to be the Second Person of the Trinity, coeternal with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. ‘For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily’ (Colossians 2:9). Jesus was with God [as God] in eternity past. In addition, as the ‘only-begotten’ of the Father, Jesus is not simply unique, He is the One who was with God from the beginning, the pre-existent, eternal Son (John 1:2; 8:58; 17:5,24). He did not become the ‘Son’ of God at the Incarnation; He is the Son from eternity and remains so forever. This truth is a divine mystery which John did not attempt to fully explain. (Strong 3439, Bauer 527, Moulton-Milligan; 416-17, Kittel, 4:737-41, Liddell-Scott 1144; Colin Brown 2:723-25; ‘The New Testament Greek-English Dictionary’ 2948-3664, Complete Bible Library, Springfield, MO, p. 219)
One Heresy Always Leads to Another
It’s interesting to note that the virgin birth is not denied by Joseph Smith in the earliest writings of the church, but is denied by many prophets and scholars who followed him. It is yet another example of the heretical domino effect. Why was this new theology that denies the virgin birth, and demands that it is God the Father that inseminates Mary rather than the Holy Spirit who miraculously conceives the savior, ever invented in the first place?
Perhaps it is simply the natural outcome of polytheism. If we deny that our God is ONE and that he is a triune God; if we are so bold as to believe that the Holy Spirit and God the Father are two separate Gods entirely, then we have to explain how the scriptures could tell us that the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus while also calling Jesus the “son of God (the Father)” and not the ‘son of the Holy Spirit’! One heresy (polytheism) led necessarily to another (the denial of the virgin birth). Sadly, scripture warned us that this sort of thing would happen:
2 Peter 2:1
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.