Sunday, November 04, 2012

The natural conception of Jesus

The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In this post, I want to give some of the reasons for my belief that Jesus is literally the Son of God. It is my understanding that He was conceived by his mortal mother according to natural law — the same natural law by which my wife conceived our nine children — and that God the Father is His earthly father, just as much as I am the father of my children. My faith in the Lord Jesus Christ includes unqualified acceptance of His divine paternal lineage.

According to natural law

In his book Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage wrote: “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.’” (As quoted in Doctrines of the Gospel, Religion 430-31, 2004.)

Talmage wrote Jesus the Christ on assignment from Joseph F. Smith's First Presidency and the completed manuscript was approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. The book was published in 1915 by the Church. The copy I bought in 1966, was part of a missionary reference set. It names Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, and David O. McKay as successive copyright owners. Even today, the book is published by the Church as a reference for full-time missionaries.

Details not yet revealed

The Savior's mortal conception ranks among the most sacred and private events in the history of earth. I accept what is published about it by today's apostles and prophets. Details beyond that are, I feel, none of my business.

In a recent Ensign article, Quentin L. Cook notes that "nonbelievers find it hard to accept ... the Savior’s virgin birth and Resurrection. They view these events with ... skepticism." (Ensign, April 2009.) He also warns that "obsessive focus on things not yet fully revealed, such as how the virgin birth or the Resurrection of the Savior could have occurred,... will not be efficacious or yield spiritual progress." (Ensign, May 2012.)

In my mission we were occasionally asked about the virgin Mary's conception of Jesus. Those of us with a copy of Jesus the Christ had a good answer. And apparently the Church is still happy to have Elder Talmage answer that question for full-time missionaries.

A doctrinal answer

The Teachings of Presidents of the Church series is designed to help Church members answer questions about Church doctrine. The Heber J. Grant volume has this to say about the conception of Jesus:

"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." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant.)

An official answer

In a doctrinal exposition, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve declared that “Jesus Christ is the Son of Elohim both as spiritual and bodily offspring; that is to say, Elohim is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also of the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith; also Ensign, April 2002.)

Fundamental doctrine

Eleven years ago, the Church published these words from Ezra Taft Benson: "The most fundamental doctrine of true Christianity is the divine birth of the child Jesus. It is a doctrine not comprehended by the world, misinterpreted by [many] Christian churches, and even misunderstood by some members of the true Church. The paternity of Jesus Christ is one of the mysteries of godliness. It may only be comprehended by the spiritually minded....

"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. He was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father!" (Ensign, Dec. 2001.)

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