Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Virgin Mary

Mary's Virginity. Every Christmas season I hear the allegation that Latter-day Saints believe our Father in Heaven had sexual intercourse with Mary. Does the idea make your skin crawl? It should! It is an ugly lie about God, the father of us all.

If it were just rabid anti-Mormons spewing their contagion, I'd just roll my eyes and ignore them. However, early last month my daughter's seminary teacher gave his opinion in support of the hideous blasphemy. I'm not holding it against him. He isn't the only misinformed Mormon I've run into. Several friends and a mission companion also have gotten all hung up on the "begotten in the flesh" phrase.

I've heard it too many times. "We just don't know. It does say 'in the flesh.'" We do too know! The scriptures testify again and again Mary was a virgin.

Our confusion and reliance on worldly knowledge isn't surprising. Even Mary herself asked how such a thing was possible seeing as she "knew not a man." She knew how conception normally worked. The Angel didn't give her a technical explanation; he simply told 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." (Luke 1:26-38 )

Not surprisingly, Joseph initially believed that Mary had conceived her child the usual way. An angel reassured him that Mary was a virgin, faithful to both Joseph and to the Lord. "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." The scriptures then confirm that after their wedding "knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS." (Mathew 1:18-25)

Yes, Mormons do believe that Jesus is literally the only begotten in the flesh. We believe that our Savior was the only child ever born whose X chromosome came from a mortal mother, Mary, and whose Y chromosome came from our immortal Heavenly Father. What a glorious heritage, one that enabled him to atone for our sins and to overcome death for all of us!

Yet . . . there’s still that “in the flesh.” We all learned early in life that sexual intercourse is the way Mr. Y. Sperm usually gets to Ms. X. Egg. The only way? Of course not. Virgins can conceive today through in vitro fertilization or through artificial insemination. Our omnipotent, omniscient Heavenly Father has known the beautiful intricacies of creation from the beginning; He certainly understood reproductive technology at the time of conception.

Mary was a virgin, because she had never known anyone. She was a virgin at Jesus' conception. She was a virgin at Jesus' birth. She fulfilled Isiah's prophecy: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14, emphasis added)

After seeing Mary in a vision, the prophet Nephi describes her. "I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. . . most beautiful and fair above all other virgins." An angel then explains the significance of Nephi's vision, "Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh." Nephi continues to describe his vision, "I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms." (1 Nephi 11:13-20) Notice that Nephi still uses the term virgin to describe Mary holding her firstborn.

Alma also testified of Christ's virgin mother and of his miraculous birth. "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 7:10)

The doctrine is clear. Very few honest seekers of truth remain confused after reading the scriptures, praying and reading the church's very clear statements on the subject. Mary was a virgin. We do not need to squelch our oogie feelings when someone teaches that our Heavenly Father committed incest. The confusion, the I-just-don't-know feeling--all those disconcerting feelings are there to testify to us that we are hearing false doctrine.

Let's not wander into indecent speculation but instead teach the truth. A virgin did indeed conceive and bring forth the son of God, Jesus Christ. Through his atonement, made possible through his divine lineage, we can return to our Father in Heaven pure and clean. The truth is joyous.

Not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
[I'm leaving comments on, but shall swiftly and emphatically delete any crude comments. Please keep your disagreement reverent. ]


Annette Lyon said...

Thank you! I ran into this for the first time in a BofM class at BYU of all things (taught by an idiot grad student). The entire concept was repulsive to me--God the Father cannot violate His own laws, or He'd cease to be God.

Through science, we have ways in today's society for a virgin to give birth--I'm sure God has something even more effective.

It makes me livid to hear that a SEMINARY teacher is teaching this crap. Ugh.

Jami said...

I'm not livid, but the truth needs to be taught. Especially to my kids.

SWIRL said...

Beautiful post and beautiful clarification.

I had heard that too- I think by my MTC instructor... !?! crazy no!

just wanted to pop in and thank you for the luv at CTD.
Thanks for your sweet support!

Heidi Ashworth said...

I have heard so much for both sides of this and I will be the first to say that I haven't studied it out for myself--it just doesn't matter that much to me--the truth is the truth whatever it is. However, just to play devil's advocate, we can't put too much weight on the definition of one word, in this case "virgin". We know that through the translation process of the bible many words were given incorrect meanings. Also, through time, the meanings of words have changed. For example, "celibate" has come to mean "not indulging in intercourse" when it really means to "be unmarried" (which, at one time, might have been one and the same assuming no one indulged in pre or extra marital sex). The word virgin COULD have meant the same thing we know it to mean now to the person writing the text at the time. Or, it could have meant untouched as we know it now as well as "unmarried". It could have been one word with two meanings as many of our English words have/do today. I used to be in a ward with a man of Jewish decent (and previous religion) and he gave us many insights as to why a scripture means something a bit different than nimrods like me assumed because we don't understand Jewish syntax, words and traditions. I bring this up b/c this applies to many scriptures throughout all our scriptural texts. So, in short, I agree that this could have happened any way that HE wanted it to happen but I don't know if we can KNOW what happened hinged on the word "virgin". The main thing is that it happened and Christ was born and yay for us!

Jami said...

I disagree Heidi. I think we can't put too much emphasis on the word "virgin."

If she wasn't a virgin there are really only two options. Joseph is Jesus' physical father, or Heavenly Father had sex with Mary. Option one doesn't fit Christ's only begotten status. Option two flies in the face of all that we know of God, his perfection, the fact that he is the father of our souls.

Ask anyone who has experienced incest. It is a bad thing, even more so because the victim trusts and loves the abuser.

Jami said...

I will agree though that "Christ was born and yay for us!"

Heidi Ashworth said...

I totally respect your opinion, I do! I am not saying you are wrong. However, we know murder and stealing is wrong and yet--Nephi. We know that adultery is wrong and yet--Joseph, Brigham. etc. I know absolutely nothing about incest but I doubt Mary would have seen it that way (IF--I am implying IF). I just know that His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts and that it has absolutely nothing to do with my walk in life, either way. I have heard people I respect be on both sides of this arguement and I figure that I can't totally discount it--but I don't have to fully embrace it either. It just doesn't matter except, perhaps, to those who have strong feelings based on their earthly experiences (i.e. victimes of incest). For that I have a ton of compassion and sympathy. Love you!

The Crash Test Dummy said...

OMGOSH! I think I lurve you.

I learned about the affair while at a Young Single Adult camp in up state New York. I was 21 and I was so horrified I couldn't stop cursing.

I am so happy to read this.

Oh, you beautiful doll. You great big beautiful doll. Let me put my arms around you. I could never live without you.

Sorry, just singing.

Thanks for clearing that up.


Shellie said...

Jami I saw in my reader you had published this and then took it down. I'm glad you put it back up so I could read the whole thing. I totally agree with you and I never knew that people even thought that or taught that. But it was good to learn about for knowledge and sharing that with others as well.

Jami said...

Swirl, thank you. (Off subject, I LOVE your boys reading site!)

Heidi, I'm right. I appreciate your willingness to potentially accept my correctness on this matter.

Crash, I heard about it from anti-Mormons first and then was horrified to see some members bought into the lie. Glad you love me. I love you too.

Shellie, I didn't really put it up. It was a boo-boo. I thought I pressed "save now" while one of the kids was flipping out and the next thing I knew the post had posted. It was still rough last night and I hadn't finished the conclusion, so I took it down as fast as I could. Not fast enough for the google readers though. :)

Melanie J said...

Sing it, sister!

Nat~Nat said...


Still working on the follower thing.

Jami said...

Ya click the button. It's not hard, girl! Just click. :)

valjohnjennings said...

Simply stated, the Virgin Mary gave birth to the Son of God, the Father. It was a beautiful, holy, and wonderful thing. Christ came to bear witness of the Father and the Holy Ghost bears witness of the Father and the Son. John the Baptist was born of normal means, but his role was also forshadowed and the Holy Ghost witnessed of his role and calling. See A Happy New Year to everyone!

Jami said...

VVJ, I agree with you as far as you go, but must add that as beautiful, holy and wonderful as Christ's conception/birth was, it did not include sexual intercourse.

Let's not simplify so much that we leave out a really major point. Why would Matthew, Luke, Nephi, Alma, and Isaiah all point out that Mary was a virgin if it wasn't important?

Alison Wonderland said...

I've never heard this, interesting. Mostly I can't see what difference it makes.

As far as the whole incest thing goes that's ridiculous, what they're talking about it physical sex, God is not the father of out physical bodies therefore not incest. (Never mind that if it was we'd all be guilty of incest as we're all brothers and sisters.)

But I don't think there really was any sex. (I'd ike to know how He did do it though, just for curiosity's sake.)

Jami said...


I don't know how he did it: I just know how he didn't. I'm sure it will all be clear at some point.

I am LoW said...

Unless it is in the seminary manual, or the church magazine's, or on, it shouldn't be taught.

And I totally 100% agree with you!

Papa D said...

Wonderful post, Jami. Simply wonderful.

"Our confusion and reliance on worldly knowledge isn't surprising."

Amen, Sister!

It's like the assumption that our post-mortal lives will include sexual relations as we currently experience them. We simply have NO revelation regarding this, so I choose to believe there is a reason for the silence. Also, removing sex as we understand it now from the eternities makes MANY other things easier to reconcile and accept.

Jami said...

Thank you LoW.

Amen, Brother D! Excellent point.

Kellie said...

That's a great post! I'd never put a lot of thought into it, but what you say makes a lot of sense. I'm not sure how it would be incest, though.

Jami said...

Hi Kellie. Welcome. What a post to be your first experience with my blog. I'm only this adamant sometimes.

I won't go to the mat on the word incest, but it does seem to be the closest word I know to describe the reason I think the thought is disgusting.

Kellie said...

Never mind. I get it.