Saturday, April 02, 2005

Some People are Not Overly Blessed with Attention to Details

I had a blast on Saturday at the opening day of the April 2005 General Conference. After the 2nd session I was verbally accosted by a fellow who is apparently incapable of understanding the fine details of LDS doctrine. Let's review what it takes for something to be "Official" LDS doctrine. First, it needs to be a revelation through the LDS Church President (D&C 28:2; D&C 42:11). Then it needs to be presented to the Church for "common consent".

Also official explanations of doctrine may be released under official First Presidency letterhead. Specific, binding revelation is presented to the entire Church. So I am pretty sensitive to being orthodox in my LDS beliefs. D&C 19:31 "And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost."

One of the undefined, though widely discussed, LDS beliefs is whether God had sex with the Virgin Mary. I personally don't really care. But...there are certainly statements by leaders of the Church, even some of the presidents of the Church, which may be interpreted on their face as suggesting, IN THEIR OPINION, God had sex with the Virgin Mary. But that is the whole point. It is simply their speculative opinion. Such a doctrine is not codified in any LDS scripture, anywhere. It has never been presented as the LDS doctrine in any official channel which defines doctrine. That channel belongs exclusively to the living President of the LDS Church while acting in the role of President, Prophet, Seer and Revelator. That statement does not exist.

Indeed, we have a very clear statement by Harold B. Lee from 1969 speaking directly upon this subject:

Teachers should not speculate on the manner of Christ's birth. We are very much concerned that some of our Church teachers seem to be obsessed of the idea of teaching doctrine which cannot be substantiated and making comments beyond what the Lord has actually said.

You asked about the birth of the Savior. Never have I talked about sexual intercourse between Deity and the mother of the Savior. If teachers were wise in speaking of this matter about which the Lord has said but very little, they would rest their discussion on this subject with merely the words which are recorded on this subject in Luke 1:34-35: "Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 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."

Remember that the being who was brought about by [Mary's] conception was a divine personage. We need not question His method to accomplish His purposes. Perhaps we would do well to remember the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Let the Lord rest His case with this declaration and wait until He sees fit to tell us more. (

President Lee was 18 years old in 1917 when President Smith would have made the comment quoted in the 1972 FHE manual. He was president of the Twelve or the entire Church when it was published. Is it reasonable to think in light of his 1969 comment he would select a quotation which he felt directly and unquestionably taught that God had sex with Mary? Or maybe the comment really does just mean that through a process which is not explicitly explained in the quote, but instead focuses on clearly stating the physical sonship of Christ to the Father? My explanation is actually much more logical, especially in light of the changes in statements by Elder Bruce R. McConkie.

In the 1966 edition of Mormon Doctrine, the last edition which is reprinted, Elder Bruce R. McConkie makes a statement about the conception of Jesus which could be seen as indicating God had sex with Mary. But in his final statement on the subject before his death in 1985, in his book "A New Witness for the Articles of Faith", he wrote this:

"The mortal Jesus, as a man among men, had both a father and a mother. God was his Father, and Mary was his mother. He was begotten by a Holy Man, by that God whose name is Man of Holiness; and he was conceived in the womb of a mortal woman. Mary, a virgin of Nazareth in Galilee, was "the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh." (1 Nephi 11:18.) She was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost; "she was carried away in the Spirit" (1 Nephi 11:19); she conceived "by the power of the Holy Ghost," and she brought forth a son, "even the Son of God" (Alma 7:10). That Son, who is called Christ, is the Only Begotten, the only offspring of the Father born into mortality. As a man, as God's only Son, his only mortal Son, he overcame the world." Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 1985, Deseret Book, Chapter 9, pg 74:

This description is far less dogmatic, clearly not requiring a sexual relationship. Do you think the statement by Harold B. Lee may have had some impact? No speculation, just a careful restatement of scriptural references.

Clear statements by earlier leaders of the Church are often blunt in explaining God the Father was the father of the flesh of Christ. Those statements invariably arise at a time early in Church history, when the concept of God creating the body of Christ in any way other than sexually may have been beyond comprehension. The fact of such statements is nevertheless irrelavent, since such statements are the opinions of the Church leaders, and not accepted or established doctrine.

So if the good evangelical brother who took two hours to repeatedly call me a liar is reading my website, show up with some real proof next time, and put your 1972 Family Home Evening manual away. Then maybe stop trying to define LDS doctrine the way you want it, and instead read the actual, official statements of the Church. Joseph F. Smith in 1917 speaking unofficially does not count, even in a 1972 FHE manual. It was an illustration, and composed of his opinion. In an official comment in 1912, President Smith is far less emphatic about the need for a sexual relationship. That statement read:

It was our Father in Heaven who begat the spirit of him who was "the Firstborn" of all the spirits that come to this earth, and who was, also his Father by the Virgin Mary, making him "the only begotten in the flesh." Read Luke 1:26-35. Where is Jesus called "the only begotten of the Holy Ghost?" He is always singled out as "the only begotten of the Father." (John 1:14; 3:16, 18, &c) The Holy Ghost came upon Mary, and her conception was under that influence, even of the spirit of life; our Father in Heaven was the Father of the Son of Mary, to whom the Savior prayed, as did our earthly father Adam.

That was an official statement by the First Presidency, signed by the entire presidency, in 1912. Definitely does not require God to have had sexual intercourse with Mary. But feel free to keep quoting from the personal opinions of Church leaders commenting outside their capacity as prophets. It just proves again who is really seeking to be sincere. Why don't you write the Church and ask them directly if it is the doctrine of the Church to say God had sex with Mary, and if it is their understanding that the 1972 FHE manual is the definite articulation of that doctrine? That would be too easy. You would get an answer you wouldn't like.

On to Sunday. This will be a blast.

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