The Virgin Birth According to LDS Leaders

By Sandra Tanner

(Extract from 41 Unique Teachings of the LDS Church, pp. 27-30)

Heavenly Father, as a resurrected physical being, literally had intercourse with Mary to procreate Jesus as his son in the flesh. While this is not directly stated in current LDS manuals, it would be the logical conclusion after reading their doctrinal material.

The 2010 manual Doctrines of the Gospel quotes LDS Apostle James E. Talmage to establish that Jesus is literally the son of God the Eternal Father:

“That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof; and the offspring from that association of supreme sanctity, celestial Sireship, and pure though mortal maternity, was of right to be called the ‘Son of the Highest.’”  [James E. Talmage, as quoted in Doctrines of the Gospel, p. 9.]

The manual goes on to quote President Heber J. Grant to emphasize the literalness of Jesus’ paternity:

“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, as quoted in Doctrines of the Gospel, p. 9.]

Ezra Taft Benson, the thirteenth president of the LDS Church, wrote that Jesus’ mortal body was literally “sired” by God:

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.  [Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Bookcraft, 1988, p. 7.]

When BYU professor Stephen E. Robinson was asked about the Mormon view of Jesus’ literal paternity he responded:

The official doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is the literal offspring of God. He’s got 46 chromosomes, 23 came from Mary, 23 came from God the Eternal Father.  [Stephen E. Robinson, interview in The Mormon Puzzle, DVD, North American Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, 1997.]

Brigham Young preached:

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, vol. 11, p. 268.]

The 1972 LDS Family Home Evening Manual quoted past LDS President Joseph F. Smith regarding the literal paternity of Jesus by Heavenly Father:

“You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers—. . . 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 manual continues:

An Illustration and Discussion to Help Further Answer Jenny’s Question:

At this point, discuss in your own words how Jesus was the only begotten Son of God. You might do this by using the following illustration on a chalkboard or piece of paper.

Illustration from p. 125 of the 1972 Family Home Evening Manual.

All boys and girls have a mother and father on earth. Your mother and father, of course, are mother and I. Jesus is the only person ever born on this earth that is different. Jesus had a mother on earth. What was her name? (Mary.) But who was his real father? (Heavenly Father.) So you see, Jesus is the only person who had our Heavenly Father as the father of his body.  [Family Home Evening Manual, LDS Church, 1972, pp. 125-126.]

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains Jesus’ paternity in these words:

The fact of Jesus’ being the literal Son of God in the flesh is crucial to the atonement, . . . For Latter-day Saints, the paternity of Jesus is not obscure. He was the literal, biological son of an immortal, tangible Father and Mary, a mortal woman (see virgin birth). Jesus is the only person born who deserves the title “the Only Begotten Son of God” . . . He was not the son of the Holy Ghost; it was only through the Holy Ghost that the power of the Highest overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35; 1 Ne. 11:19). [Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 2, p. 729]

From these LDS quotes and their own illustration it is clear that they are teaching a literal union between God and Mary, the same as occurs when any earthly couple procreate children.

However, the Bible declares that Mary was a virgin and that her conception was a miracle.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 1:18)

Luke 1:26-35 has a similar account.

God sent the angel Gabriel . . . to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

“ . . . You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. . . .”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”