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.
[I'm leaving comments on, but shall swiftly and emphatically delete any crude comments. Please keep your disagreement reverent. ]