Like a Virgin

Avatar-BiVThis post is a response to Aaron Shafovaloff over at Mormon Coffee. If you go to enjoy the lights on Temple Square, you are likely to see him striking up gospel conversations.

From viewing Aaron’s video of himself witnessing at Temple Square I’m getting the feeling that he wants us to believe that if something is miraculous, it has to be completely incomprehensible. But he doesn’t realize that concept doesn’t appeal to us. Mormons are likely to say that God does not defy law, but he works through physical laws, a fundamental principle of the universe. This in no way impedes our awe or sense of the wonder of Christmastime or the birth of the Savior.

A primary purpose of Joseph Smith’s vision in the grove was to reveal an embodied God. This conception of Deity has been vital to our doctrine from the early days of the Church to this day. Thomas S. Monson taught:

“This loving God who introduced his crucified and resurrected Son was not a God lacking in body, parts, or passions ­­ the God of a man-­made philosophy. Rather, God our Father has ears with which to hear our prayers. He has eyes with which to see our actions. He has a mouth with which to speak to us. He has a heart with which to feel compassion and love. He is real. He is living. We are his children made in his image. We look like him and he looks like us.” (Conference Report, April 1966, p.63)

But  if we believe in an embodied God, we have to think about what this might imply, including  the mechanics of how Mary was impregnated.  Aaron and other Christian evangelicals are bothered that LDS leaders have taught that the seed of our Father in Heaven produced Jesus Christ in a literal, physical fashion. The Bible teaches that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost, but the Book of Mormon clarifies that this was done by the power of the Holy Ghost, after the manner of the flesh.

There is no doubt that the idea of physical relations between God and Mary has been clearly advocated in the Church by such authorities as Brigham Young [1], Orson Pratt [2], Heber C. Kimball [3], Joseph F. Smith, [4], Joseph Fielding Smith [5], James E. Talmage [6], Melvin J. Ballard [7], J. Reuben Clark [8], Bruce R. McConkie [9], and Ezra Taft Benson [10]. Mormons believe that Christ was literally the Son of God in the flesh, and he was conceived in a natural, physical way according to eternal law. In explaining this, the aforementioned leaders gave their views on how it was accomplished. Despite this, many members do not agree, are unaware of the idea, or prefer not to discuss it. It is certainly understandable that some feel it is a sacred subject. Some feel that it is merely speculation which does not affect the LDS doctrinal position on the nature of Christ. Others find it distasteful because it conjures up issues of celestial polygamy or spiritual incest. There are those who would like to skirt the issue by postulating that Mary may have been impregnated by some means such as artificial insemination. But I see no reason, if God has a body and parts, that he would not use his parts.

Several contemporary Mormon writers are willing to accept the conception of Christ through a physical relationship. Kevin Barney finds the idea appealing:

“I presume the mortal Jesus had 46 chromosomes, and that 23 came from Mary, but where did the other 23 come from? As a Mormon, I’m not big on the idea that they were created ex nihilo for this specific purpose. I like being able to say that Jesus really did have a father, not in a metaphorical sense only (the language of begetting in the creeds doesn’t mean literal begetting), but in a physical sense. He really was the Son of God.”

For those of us who are willing to entertain the notion of a physical conception, how do we explain the “Virgin Birth” spoken of in the scriptures? There are several possibilities.

1. The word in the Bible translated as “virgin” actually means “young woman.”

An introduction to this controversy can be found here. Having studied the linguistics carefully, I believe there is merit to the argument that the Hebrew word “almah” in Isaiah 7:14 (Behold, a virgin shall conceive) was used for “young woman” and not specifically “virgin.” The word used in the New Testament passages to describe Mary as a virgin, “parthenos,” can also mean young woman (damsel), as in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), when it refers to Dinah after she was raped. This explanation fits with the teachings of Church leaders that God the Father was the literal father of Jesus according to the flesh.

This argument is weakened by the fact that Mary is referred to as a virgin five times in 1 Nephi and once in Alma. Since we do not have the original language version of the Book of Mormon to refer to, we must take the English as it stands.

Additionally, General Authorities have insisted that our beliefs are consistent with Mary being a virgin. Therefore, some have conjectured:

2. Mary was a virgin because she did not have relations with a man, but with a God.

“One of the great questions that I have referred to that the world is concerned about, and is in confusion over, is as to whether or not his was a virgin birth, a birth wherein divine power interceded.” (Melvin J. Ballard)

Our Lord is the only mortal person ever born to a virgin because he is the only person who ever had an immortal Father. (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 18­20.) “For our present purposes, suffice it to say that our Lord was born of a virgin, which is fitting and proper, and also natural, since the Father of the Child was an immortal Being” (BRM, The Promised Messiah, pg. 466).

Although God has a physical body, the reasoning goes, it was glorified and perfected. Since the Being who impregnated Mary had a Divine nature, she was not changed in the way she would have been had she had intercourse with an earthly, fallen man with a human nature.

NOW, We’ve discussed the fun, speculative stuff, let’s get to the IMPORTANT, ESSENTIAL stuff:

  • Who does the Bible say is the father of the incarnate Jesus (God), and how was it accomplished? (by the power of the Holy Ghost) (Luke 1:35) Do Mormon teachings fit with this statement?
  • (This is the big one in my opinion): If we concede the Evangelical teachings on how one obtains salvation, how does knowing whether or not God actually had sex with Mary pertain?

***
So, Aaron, what’s holding Evangelical Christians back from singing Christmas carols with us on Temple Square? Why is our commemoration of Jesus’ birth less valuable than yours if we believe that sexual intercourse is divine? What better way could there be to create a being who is fully human and fully God?

________________________________________

[1]”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, v. 8, p. 115).

[2] “There is no doubt that the Holy Ghost came upon Mary to sanctify her, and make her holy, and prepare her to endure the glorious presence of “the Highest’, that when ‘He’ should ‘overshadow’ her she might conceive, being filled with the Holy Ghost; hence the angel said, as recorded in Matthew, ‘That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost;’ that is, the Holy Ghost gave her strength to abide in the presence of the Father without being consumed, but it was the personage of the Father who begat the body of Jesus; and for this reason Jesus is called ‘the Only Begotten of the Father;’ that is, the only one in this world whose fleshly body was begotten by the Father…The fleshly body of Jesus required a Mother as well as a Father. Therefore, the Father and Mother of Jesus, according to the flesh, must have been associated together in the capacity of Husband and Wife; hence the Virgin Mary must have been, for the time being, the lawful wife of God the Father..” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, page 158)

[3] “I will say that I was naturally begotten; so was my father, and also my Savior Jesus Christ. According to the Scriptures, he is the first begotten of his father in the flesh, and there was nothing unnatural about it. (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 8:211)

[4] “I want the little folks [children] to hear what I am going to tell you. I am going to tell you a simple truth, yet it is one of the greatest truths and one of the most simple facts ever revealed to the children of men. You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers – you all know that don’t you? You cannot deny it. 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…Now my little friends, I will repeat again in words as simple as I can, and you ask your parents about it, that God, the Eternal Father, is literally the father of Jesus Christ.” (Joseph F. Smith, Box Elder Stake Conference Dec 20, 1914 as quoted in Brigham City Box Elder News, 28 Jan, 1915, pp.1-2. see also Family Home Evening [Manual], copyright 1972 by Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pages 125-126).

[5]”The birth of the Savior was a natural occurrence unattended with any degree of mysticism, and the Father God was the literal parent of Jesus in the flesh as well as in the spirit,” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Religious Truths Defined, p. 44)

[6] “The only instance of offspring from woman dissociated from mortal fatherhood is the birth of Jesus the Christ, who was the earthly Son of a mortal mother, begotten by an immortal Father. He is the Only Begotten of the Eternal Father in the flesh, and was born of woman.” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Ch.5, p.43)

[7] “No man or woman can live in mortality and survive the presence of the Highest except by the sustaining power of the Holy Ghost. So it came upon her [Mary] to prepare her for admittance into the divine presence, and the power of the Highest, who is the Father, was present, and overshadowed her, and the holy Child that was born of her was called the Son of God. Men who deny this, or who think that it degrades our Father, have no true conception of the sacredness of the most marvelous power with which God has endowed mortal men—the power of creation. Even though that power may be abused and may become a mere harp of pleasure to the wicked, nevertheless it is the most sacred and holy and divine function with which God has endowed man. Made holy, it is retained by the Father of us all, and in his exercise of that great and marvelous creative power and function, he did not debase himself, degrade himself, nor debauch his daughter. Thus Christ became the literal Son of a divine Father, and no one else was worthy to be his father.” (Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard, p. 167)

[8] “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.” In His nature would be combined the powers of Godhood with the capacity and possibilities of mortality; and this through the ordinary operation of the fundamental law of heredity, declared of God, demonstrated by science, and admitted by philosophy, that living beings shall propagate — after their kind.” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Behold the Lamb of God, p.356)

[9] “These name-titles all signify that our Lord is the only Son of the Father in the flesh. Each of the words is to be understood literally. Only means only, begotten means begotten, and Son means son. Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in He same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 546)

[10] “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. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg.7)

Comments

comments

86 comments for “Like a Virgin

  1. Rico
    December 10, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Aside from the title being great (a little nod to one of my other favourite bloggers) this is a thought-provoking post.

    A few years ago I relished these speculations regarding Jesus’ conception (and by implication Adam and Eve) as being unique mormon (deep) doctrine. Now i do find them some what distasteful. The reason I find it distasteful is for the same reason you cite it is possible, because of the sacredness of sexuality in Mormon thought. This in some ways seems to cheapen it. I have heard that it raises major issues regarding celestial marriage practices, like polyandry and polygamy (or even adultery).

    The incest argument does not bother me because I believe we are not God’s literal offspring in the spirit, we are his adopted children. It seems like this discussion needs a few ‘new cool thang guys’ to get into the philosophical implications either way.

    I am torn between a celestial sexuality and a sexuality which is for this life only. This would under-gird my approach to this topic because at the end of the day we just do not know.

  2. December 10, 2009 at 7:29 am

    “Only begotten” sure reads one way. Though there are two camps in LDS thought, for what it is worth.

  3. adam e.
    December 10, 2009 at 7:48 am

    I don’t believe God had physical intercourse with Mary, so I believe Mary was a literal virgin, in that she had not had sex with anyone. I believe there is not support for the idea in the scriptures, and that those you cited above were speculating, rather than describing revelation on the subject.

    As to how Jesus is the son of Heavenly Father rather than the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost could provide the chromosomes corresponding to Heavenly Father’s genes. I guess this is the “artificial insemination” theory you mention.

    BiV said: “But I see no reason, if God has a body and parts, that he would not use his parts”
    God has feet, but doesn’t need to walk. God has a stomach, but doesn’t need to eat. etc. etc. I believe that God can use his physical body to perform physical tasks when necessary (such as to teach us, appear to us, etc.), but when it is not necessary, He does not do so. He has a body because it is who he is, not because He needs it to perform physical functions. In this case, God may not use his physical body to impregnate Mary if He knew it would not serve a constructive purpose to do so, and that Mary may be impregnated by Him by other means.

  4. Ben
    December 10, 2009 at 8:01 am

    My problem with this teaching is that it seems to have its roots in two problematic things.

    1) a counter-response to non-LDS preaching of Jesus being created by the Holy Ghost. In that sense, it would be like the LDS counter-response to grace for a while, in which the doctrinal reaction is disproportionate to the stimulus. (See Millett’s story here, for example.)

    2) a misunderstanding of “begotten”, which is both a textual and cultural issue. Textual because of the difference between monogennetes and monogenetes (if i remember the Greek correctly.) Cultural because one can be begotten in the Bible without being sexual, such as in 2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2:7.

    Moreover, I think E. McConkie equivocates in your #2 above. It’s a poor argument.

  5. December 10, 2009 at 9:59 am

    I have no issue with our leadership speculating, there opinions are motivated by the desire to affirm the Jesus is literally the Son of God the Father, this is only an issue because of a fundamental belief the the God Head is comprised of Three separate personages.

    Too many issues are brought to the table if we are to believe that God the Father had sexual intercourse with Mary: Scriptural, Philosophical, and Physiological (the thought of it makes me feel icky worse than thoughts of my parents having sex).

    My sister feel pregnant due to artificial insemination***, The baby is no less the literal child of it’s father.

    ***Artificial Insemination was not a real concept in the times of the early leadership (the 1st test tube baby was born in 1978)

  6. December 10, 2009 at 10:31 am

    re: Artificial insemination
    (Apologies to those who think this is too sacred a topic to discuss)

    If you believe it was the actual semen of God the Father that got Mary pregnant, why is that somehow less “icky” than the sex act? Is this not the beautiful, wondrous, God-ordained way that was made for us to bring children into the world? What makes us shrink from considering that God might use it himself? If it is the same thing that makes us not want to think of our parents having sex, then that is just cultural conditioning, isn’t it?

    It’s one thing to say that this permutation of the Virgin Birth is not scriptural. We can debate that. But when it comes to the sex part, I think the evangelicals are just playing on our left-over Victorian sensibilities.

  7. Rico
    December 10, 2009 at 10:40 am

    #6 – I agree that our disgust toward this issue is the extent to which we see God as the Same or radically Other. I see something wonderful in the view that sex is sacred but I cannot really put together how all this fits in together in an celestial perspective.

    I think the first problem I have with this issue is how we frame the divine sonship. I believe Christ condescended, in that he choose to empty himself of his power and glory in coming down to earth. I am not convinced that this required God to have intercourse with Mary to bring about. Christ’s ability to die could have been inherited from the DNA of his mother but I think that it was a choice that he made. I think when we link that ability with a part divine-part human DNA argument we are shaky ground.

    Moreover, if we follow Ostler’s argument about God’s condescension then the sex act was not necessary for conception. As Ostler has the most coherent view of God available (that i currently know of) I think it is worth considering this did not happen.

    Thus coupling this with the problems I raised earlier about polyandry and polygamy I think I am in the not happening camp.

  8. December 10, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Rico, I think you would not be alone. In his post title, Aaron asks: “Celebrate Christmas by Rejecting Mormon Leaders Who Have Rejected the Virgin Birth.” I think that has already been done in a widespread way, as the majority of Mormons will explain the above quotations as being “merely speculation.”

    Can you summarize (or give a link to) Ostler’s argument about God’s condescension for me and any of our readers who might not be familiar with it, and explain why it precludes the sex act? THX.

  9. December 10, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I am truly indifferent on the issue. Since definite statements are not in scripture about the mechanics of the creation of the body of Jesus, any “logic” applied to speculation of those mechanics runs headlong into the “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways, your ways” epistemological barrier.

    During the last presidential campaign, LDS public affairs said the Church takes no position on the method for creating the body of Jesus. Harold B. Lee admonished members to stop speculating on the subject of the sexual nature of the birth of Christ because it is purely speculative.

    My personal opinion is I accept the scriptures at their word. Mary was a virgin most pure. Jesus was a man. How 23 chromosomes from his Father wound up in his DNA is not stated, other than by the power of the Spirit. E. McConkie also said in his 1985 “The Mortal Messiah”, “[Jesus]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,”…”

    Finally, I think the phrase “after the manner of the flesh” is clearly pointing to Mary’s role as the physical role of creating the body of Jesus, not to the involvement of the Father.

    After saying all that, I really don’t care what the eventual revealed answer will be. That trumps all guessing.

  10. SteveS
    December 10, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Sorry for the long comment.

    There are other theories out there, drawing upon different concepts of Christ as God’s son. One is that Jesus was not the literal, physical seed of the God of the universe, but was rather adopted as God’s son at the moment of his baptism. I confess that to me, this seems more rational than a miraculous ex nihilo pregnancy, or one that involved insemination of Mary through supernatural means (God’s sperm floating up into Mary’s uterus or whatever), or of a Deity actually coming down to do the deed with a woman that is not His wife. In this scenario of Christ’s spiritual adoption as God’s son, Mary gets pregnant just like any other woman, either by Joseph, or possibly by someone else (there is a tradition that believes that a Roman soldier named Pantera impregnated Mary, either consensually or by force, depending on who’s telling the story).

    Remember, the Gospels were stories written with a purpose to convince people that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, and the Son of God. They weren’t objective accounts of historical events, but collections of stories passed down orally from believer to believer until Mark wrote his version some 30-40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. We don’t know how much exposure Mark had with Jesus, but we can be pretty sure he wasn’t there to witness the birth and early life of the Savior, and certainly not every event of Jesus’ mortal ministry. Almost certainly these stories were embellished in multiple retellings before being committed to papyrus or vellum. With regard to Jesus’ birth, Mark ignores it completely, beginning the story with John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism. It is Matthew and Luke that make the story of Jesus’ birth a pivotal evidence of His divinity, insisting upon a virgin birth (which echoes Isaiah’s prophecy 600 years previous) that invested Jesus with power over life and death that no mere mortal could have. For these two, Jesus wouldn’t have been able to be the sacrifice without blemish who could take away the sins of the world without being at least half-God, or God-made-flesh.

    For me, however, if it is incomprehensible how Jesus wrought the atonement and resurrection as the literal Son of God (see many of GBH’s sermons about Jesus where he states over and over something to the effect of “I don’t know how the atonement works…”), why is it any more incomprehensible for a man born like any other to be adopted as God’s son and still accomplish the atonement and resurrection? If Mormons do not understand how the atonement was accomplished, why do we insist that it had to be accomplished by a man with God as his literal father?

  11. Ben
    December 10, 2009 at 10:58 am

    BIV, given that it runs against the scriptures, can you give any reason why this teaching should *not* be classified as speculation?

  12. December 10, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Bob (#9), Thanks for your comment. First of all, I agree with your interpretation of 1 Ne 11:18 about the manner of the flesh, but linked to it because these words have been used in some of the GA statements.

    I think you bring up a very good point about the Church’s public position. Because of this–because we are taught to be indifferent, I think evangelicals who try to use this point to effect deconversion of Mormons will be less than successful.

  13. December 10, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Steve (#10), “Why do we insist …”
    I think the reason why we continue to discuss this, and why we are unable to resist the speculation that Bob mentioned (and which HBL told us not to do) is precisely because of our fascination with and conviction that the miraculous can be accomplished through natural and understandable means. GBH may have said that he doesn’t understand how the Atonement works, but that doesn’t stop me from being enthralled by the speculations of the NCT guys.

  14. December 10, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Ben (#11) This post was my effort to explain why I DON’T think the theory necessarily “runs against” the scriptures. Apparently, neither did Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, Heber C. Kimball, Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, James E. Talmage, Melvin J. Ballard, J. Reuben Clark, Bruce R. McConkie, and Ezra Taft Benson.

    (odd as it might seem that I am in the company of BRM and ETB.)

  15. December 10, 2009 at 11:22 am

    It’s one thing to say that this permutation of the Virgin Birth is not scriptural. We can debate that. But when it comes to the sex part, I think the evangelicals are just playing on our left-over Victorian sensibilities.

    It seems to me that many arguments against a literal sex act boil down to “Sex is dirty. God is not dirty. Therefore God did not have sex.”

  16. December 10, 2009 at 11:30 am

    The real reason God did not have sex with Mary: LDS leaders have regularly taught that God has a body of flesh and bone but not blood. Celestial bodies do not have blood. An erection is caused by the penis filling up with blood.

    No blood = no erection = no sex. God is flaccid.

    Therefore, God did not have sex with Mary.

    QED.

    • Cinderella
      February 12, 2016 at 8:15 am

      THANK YOU, really. Even the thought of it makes me sick. And…in order for a man og flesh and bone to physically ejaculate into a woman he MUST be sexually aroused. Therefore, God was committing adultery , polygamy if He was married to Mary somehow or incest if Mary is His daughter. She was His spirit daughter created by himself and her Heavenly Mother. Virgin birth.

  17. December 10, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Hey! Get thee back to the hermit cave, Ms. Thread-Jack Meyers.

  18. December 10, 2009 at 11:37 am

    And also, I have to protest the theological implications of Jack’s comment. Does being a God really mean no more sex? How much would that suck? “Congratulations, welcome to heaven, this is a sex-free zone.” I would be like, wow, just damn me now. Maybe I need to start sinning more.

    I expect that a wise and all-powerful God has some solution worked out. No blood in Heavenly bodies? No problem – just use ichor! 🙂

  19. December 10, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “Our Father in heaven and our Savior and all those who have passed through the resurrection have physical bodies of flesh and bones, but their bodies are quickened by spirit and not by blood, hence they are spiritual bodies and not blood bodies. The immortal body is quickened by spirit, but the mortal body is quickened by blood… . Now when Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he was not subject to death. There was no blood in his body and he could have remained there forever. This is true of all other creations.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 76-77).

    I won’t speculate TOO MUCH on the implications of THAT… other than to say… no more Viagra!

  20. Martin
    December 10, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I certainly don’t think the idea of God having sexual intercourse with Mary is contrary to scripture. If you get too hung up on definitions (such as “virgin”) rather than overall concepts (eg., Mary gave birth without having sex with a man), you’re going to find the scriptures contradicting each other constantly. I think most Christians (and perhaps Mormons) insist that Mary was a virgin because
    1) sex implies lust, lust is bad, God isn’t bad;
    2) sex outside of marriage is bad, God isn’t bad;
    3) sex involves bodily yuckiness, God isn’t yucky (eg., no problem with the resurrected Christ eating and drinking with the disciples, but visiting the outhouse afterwards?… Unh-unh).

    Rationally, none of the three truly hold up. The HG tends to purify and sanctify our feelings; God gets to decide when sex is okay (or murder for that matter); and Jesus wasn’t faint-hearted when it came to yuckiness (disciples sticking their hands in his side and all that), so why would God be?

    Rather, I tend to reject the idea of God having sex with Mary because I can see no advantage of doing it that way. Why not just wave His hand and be done? What good would it have done Mary? Would it seem more or less miraculous to her? Would it have affected her relationship with Joseph? No. An event like that would be too much like the story of Greek gods seducing mortal women.

  21. hawkgrrrl
    December 10, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I have a couple different thoughts on this topic. No real conclusions, just some observations:
    1 – Alma 7:10. “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.” IMO, this makes it sound like Holy Ghost = cosmic fertility doctor.
    2 – viriginity was determined by the presence of a hymen. If the impregnation was using standard parts, that would probably not have happened.
    3 – there’s some reason to believe that the virgin birth was not original to the story of Jesus in the NT, that it was a later addition to bolster Christianity’s ascendancy as a religion; however, the BOM agrees with the story of a virgin birth and of Christ’s divine origins. Hard to say what was original and what was not. Certainly proclaiming Jesus was divine is more authoritative than proclaiming he was the son of who-knows-who with an unwed teen mother. Of course, maybe the slurs against his parentage were backlash against the rising popularity of the religion. These chicken & egg arguments get circular.

  22. Jeff Spector
    December 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I was never quite sure why a virgin birth was so important for faiths that do not worship Mary. And as BIV pointed out the translations are a bit confused on the issue of whether Mary was an actual virgin or just a young woman. The real important issue is WHO HE is, not HOW He is. If we argue about the how, we forget it is our responsibility to be like Him. And most of us were not conceived in a mysterious way.

  23. December 10, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    The real reason God did not have sex with Mary: LDS leaders have regularly taught that God has a body of flesh and bone but not blood. Celestial bodies do not have blood. An erection is caused by the penis filling up with blood.

    Perhaps the expression “boner” has a more literal meaning among Celestial beings?

    (Can I say “boner” here?)

  24. December 10, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I think we are starting to play into the hands of those who think this subject is too sacred to be discussed…

  25. Aaron S
    December 10, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    BiV, I appreciate your blog response.

    A question for you: Do you think Greek behind “virgin” in the context of Luke 1:26-38 is meant merely to refer to a “young woman”, and not also to a woman who has not yet participated in physical intercourse?

    Your point on the indifference fostered in Mormonism on this issue is noted. That indifference is to the traditional Christian worldview not acceptable. Neither is indifference over whether God the Father sinned, etc. Mormons have often noted that evangelicals shouldn’t believe that merely getting the right doctrine is sufficient to get right with God. That’s exactly what I’m arguing for here. Not only am I called to believe in the right basic doctrines that God has revealed, I’m called to care about them in my heart. Shrugging my shoulders over whether Jesus rose from the dead, or whether God has ever sinned, or whether the atonement can cover sins, or whether Jesus was really born of a virgin—all of that reflects a dangerously calloused heart.

    Grace and peace in the Messiah, born of a παρθένος,

    Aaron

  26. brjones
    December 10, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    #23 – This was outstanding. (sorry BIV)

  27. December 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Aaron, I will take some time and reply to your question. In the meantime, I have a question for you (we have discussed this a little before). Do you think the link in my post fairly represents what a Christian must do to obtain salvation?

    Simply believe on Him as the one who bore your sin, died in your place, was buried, and whom God resurrected. His resurrection powerfully assures that the believer can claim everlasting life when Jesus is received as Savior.

    If it is, why does it matter to you that some Mormon leaders might define the Virgin Birth of Jesus a little bit differently than you do?

  28. MoHoHawaii
    December 10, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    I suppose we could sequence His DNA. Would it show the same echoes of evolutionary biology as every one else’s? Would we see the same evidence of prehistoric viruses as is seen in the rest of the human genome? Would we still see the atypical genetic homogeneity that resulted from the population bottleneck of the Late Pleistocene when homo sapiens almost died out? What about the vestigal sequences from our pre-mammalian past?

    (Brain explodes from cognitive dissonance.)

  29. Thomas
    December 10, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    #25 — To paraphrase the grizzled old sergeant in Ron Maxwell’s “Gettysburg,” I am Thomas — and I damn all sectarians.

    “Mormons have often noted that evangelicals shouldn’t believe that merely getting the right doctrine is sufficient to get right with God. That’s exactly what I’m arguing for here.”

    Sectarianism is the irrational belief that what one believes about matters for which there is insufficient evidence for an informed decision determines one’s standing before a just God. As much as evangelicals and Elder Holland may try to argue that their favored articles of sectarian faith are self-evident, it simply isn’t so.

    It is not a sign of a “dangerously calloused heart” to decline to make articles of saving faith out of things that can only be perceived through a glass darkly, but rather of a fair and conscientious mind. By all means, have faith in God. Believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. But make allowance for your own fallibility, and be careful of the error of assigning greater certainty than the (traditional Christian) virtue of prudence permits.

  30. brjones
    December 10, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I never cared for this “doctrine” because I simply find it disgusting. Disgusting not from the perspective that sex involving god is disgusting, but disgusting from the perspective that that god coming down and having sex with someone who doesn’t seem to have had all that much say in the matter and who wasn’t his wife and who was, by the way, betrothed to someone else, is disgusting. Am I saying that Mary didn’t consent? No. I’m saying that she was essentially given a directive by an angel that she should be prepared for god to show up at her house and she should be ready to give him sex when he gets there. If, as some GAs seem to have suggested, she was, in fact, his wife “for a time”, then what really makes him any better than the BYU students who used to go to Vegas to get married and have sex and then have their marriage annulled? And even if they were temporarily married, is it wrong for me to be disturbed that god was bird-dogging someone else’s fiance? She had already chosen her husband and it wasn’t god. If this is really how god operates, then why do we get so upset about way the FLDS handle marriage? Are we really celebrating this kind of behavior?

    This seems like yet another religious example of “here is my unbending and unyielding commandment that shall never be broken, except when I want to break it or command someone else to break it or maybe if one of my prophets decides to break it.”

  31. Aaron S
    December 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    BiV, I don’t think it’s accurate to say they define it a “little bit differently”, since the idea of God having sexual intercourse with Mary isn’t merely a nuance, but is diametrically opposed to the traditional Christian definition.

    I think the quote you give on what it takes to get right with God is accurate, but I think it is full of hidden assumptions and context—things that are more naturally understood in the evangelical context. If I redefined, as some do for example, “resurrected” to merely mean that he has resurrected non-bodily in our hearts, in a sort of spiritually inspirational way, it would not constitute saving faith even though I could find a way to rhetorically agree with the above statement.

    Another issue here is that I (and most conservative evangelicals) define faith as having volitional, emotional, and intellectual components. A faith that signs off on the death/burial/resurrection but is emotionally aloof to it and totally unwilling to obey God is not a saving faith, etc. The virgin birth issue is to traditional Christians a basic, core issue. Since it is such a basic Christian doctrine, an unwillingness to believe it or a rejection of what God has revealed on it reflects a non-saving faith.

    Saving faith is never comprehensively perfect, and similarly the repentance that necessarily accompanies saving faith is always a weak and incomplete, but as traditional Christians we do have our boundaries. Otherwise everything is up for grabs.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  32. Rigel Hawthorne
    December 10, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    I tend to agree with Martin in #20. Even Brigham Young’s comments about Jesus being created the same way that every other human is created could be re-interpreted as involving the union of genetic material. I know that is probably not how he intended them to be interpreted, but just think of the reproductive technology we have now, which will likely be considered primitive in 100 years. So, with a much higher level of technical ability available to God…as Martin asked…why not wave His hand and be done.

    I do find it offensive that anti-Mormon film-makers have dumbed this issue down to an animated vignette with God knocking on Mary’s door and raising His eyebrows with accompanying narrative that presents creation though sexual intercourse as a standard doctrine.

  33. December 10, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    brjones,

    The sex part has never bothered me. In fact, I always considered the pro-sex attitude found in the idea to be a positive for the church.

    Nor have the marriage/adultery aspects ever bothered me. I’d always assumed that the scenario had Heavenly Father and Mary sealed to one another, with Joseph as husband for time only. But even if that were not so, marriages in Mary’s culture were not based on romance but on familial arrangements anyway. I think that without the aspect of breaking up a romance, the scenario becomes a little different.

    OTOH, there is an aspect of, well, almost of child molestation to the scenario. It would have been very close to impossible for Mary to say, “No.” There is such an imbalance in power and knowledge and so on that it’s hard to see how her consent could have been truly informed or her will truly free.

  34. December 10, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    This is a tremendously interesting conversation. Aaron, I see where you are coming from with your “core issues,” but I personally would define the necessity of baptism as a “core issue,” and I know that not all traditional Christian churches agree on this. Yet you don’t point the finger and call them “non-Christian” and try to evangelize them out of their churches. So Thomas (#29) makes an excellent point. What is the sincere seeker of truth to do, when so many issues make sense to people in different ways?

  35. Thomas
    December 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    #31:

    “A faith that signs off on the death/burial/resurrection but is emotionally aloof to it and totally unwilling to obey God is not a saving faith, etc. The virgin birth issue is to traditional Christians a basic, core issue. Since it is such a basic Christian doctrine, an unwillingness to believe it or a rejection of what God has revealed on it reflects a non-saving faith.”

    Someone with more time than I have right now may count the instances of question-begging in that paragraph.

  36. December 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Kuri, (#33) says:

    OTOH, there is an aspect of, well, almost of child molestation to the scenario. It would have been very close to impossible for Mary to say, “No.” There is such an imbalance in power and knowledge and so on that it’s hard to see how her consent could have been truly informed or her will truly free.

    Feminists might wonder, then, why it was OK for Heavenly Father to subjugate her body as the vessel through which his child would be born, without truly informed consent or free will.

  37. Aaron S
    December 10, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    BiV, the “non-Christian” label has more directly to do with issues of identity and boundary maintenance. But I have a high view of the importance of both, and their impact on evangelism. I want non-Christians (theologically and spiritually speaking) who think they’re Christians to know and feel their need of becoming Christian.

    Whether one uses the “Christian” label or the “one true Church” label, all the the religions in question here use boundary language.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  38. hawkgrrrl
    December 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    “Feminists might wonder, then, why it was OK for Heavenly Father to subjugate her body as the vessel through which his child would be born, without truly informed consent or free will.” Of course, the notion that one must be 18+ years old to consent is a relatively recent invention. For thousands of years the age of “consent” would have been puberty. Also, “consent” would generally be granted by the father of the bride to the groom who was purchasing her.

  39. December 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    The chromosome sequencing comment is tongue in cheek, but the topic does raise the conceptually interesting question: Who gave Jesus his Y chromosome? And what did that Y chromosome have in it?

  40. December 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    by the way, Aaronshaf, don’t miss my latest post at T&S, which demonstrates what you may have suspected all along — that Mormons really don’t like Jesus.

    (In a certain manner of speaking, that is.)

    Enjoy! 🙂

  41. brjones
    December 10, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    #36 – Frankly I think we should all wonder this.

    #38 – This is a valid point, Hawk, but to my mind age isn’t the best indicator of lack of consent. An angel purportedly came to Mary and told her how it was going to go down. What exactly was she supposed to say to this directive from the angel, much less to god when he showed up to actually perform the act. The power dynamics involved in this situation are incredibly disturbing to me, from top to bottom.

  42. December 10, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I’m with Brjones on this. There is no way that God could have had sex with Mary that doesn’t sound like rape to me.

    Anyhow, sex is nothing but a mechanism to deliver genetic material. If Jesus absolutely must have 23 chromosomes that match God’s then I’m perfectly alright believing that the Holy Ghost used some of the biological building blocks already within Mary to create what needed to be there.

  43. December 10, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Of course, the notion that one must be 18+ years old to consent is a relatively recent invention. For thousands of years the age of “consent” would have been puberty. Also, “consent” would generally be granted by the father of the bride to the groom who was purchasing her.

    In this case I think we’re talking about “consent” not as used in modern law, but in a psychological sense. The question isn’t whether Mary would have been legally fit to consent to sexual intercourse with God, but whether she would have been mentally fit. Did she have the ability to say “Yes” or “No” of her own free decision based on an informed choice? And with God being so far superior to her, would his having intercourse with her not be like an adult having sex with a child or with an adult with diminished mental capacity? Or, despite the differences, did she have “enough” capacity so that the differences didn’t matter? Those are some of the issues that I think the scenario raises.

  44. Rigel Hawthorne
    December 10, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    RE: “I was never quite sure why a virgin birth was so important”

    There is a scriptural explanation for the importance that I read about at the website gracethrufaith.com. I’m not a scriptorian, and the accuracy of the interpretation is debatable.

    It goes back, according to the author of the post, to Jeremiah 22:28-30 where a divine curse is allegedly put on the royal line due to generations of wicked kings of the house of Israel. The final legitimate king, Jehoichin, reigned only 3 months in 598 BC. “Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.”

    The problem is that David had a divine promise that someone in his family would reign in Israel forever. Joseph was a descendent of David through Solomon, which had been the kingly but eventually cursed line. Mary was a descendent of David through Solomon’s brother Nathan.

    Jesus was in the royal succession through Joseph but escaped the curse since he wasn’t Joseph’s biological son. But He was a biological descendant of David’s through his mother and therefore of the “house and lineage of David.” (There is a bit more to the explanation about property rites for women who had no male siblings that provides further support to this.)

    So, if you take this scriptural argument for what it claims to be, then it demonstrates that the importance of virgin birth is that God has bound himself to His own laws and that He keeps His word.

  45. December 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    “If you believe it was the actual semen of God the Father that got Mary pregnant, why is that somehow less “icky” than the sex act?”

    “It seems to me that many arguments against a literal sex act boil down to “Sex is dirty. God is not dirty. Therefore God did not have sex.”

    The points have already been made: but I will list my concerns, My issue is not that Sex is Dirty

    1: Mary had no memory of the act after the event, (sounds like Ruthie’s to me)
    2: Evidence indicates Mary was between the age of 13 – 14
    3: The whole dynamics of influence and power
    4: Mary was engaged to Joseph
    5: According to Mormon teaching God is already married
    6: The BOM teaches Mary was a Virgin, (Joseph was assured no man has touched her)

    There might be other things that make it “icky” to me but those are the ones that come to mind.

    I believe Christ is the literal son of God, but he did not groom & rape Mary, cheat on his Wife and lie to Joseph

  46. Martin
    December 10, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Aaron #31

    “The virgin birth issue is to traditional Christians a basic, core issue. Since it is such a basic Christian doctrine, an unwillingness to believe it or a rejection of what God has revealed on it reflects a non-saving faith.”

    I’d agree Mormons would generally depart from this. Accepting Christ as God’s Son (you might add the word “literal” here) would be considered a “saving faith” in Mormonism, but the virgin birth is probably thought of more as a sign of His divinity, not an actual part of it. That’s the reason Mormons could even entertain the idea of God having sex with Mary.

    Mormon theology is really big on the corporeal nature of God, and it definitely affects one’s outlook on everything.

  47. December 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    #42, Jesus absolutely must have 23 chromosomes that match God’s then I’m perfectly alright believing that the Holy Ghost used some of the biological building blocks already within Mary to create what needed to be there.

    The mechanism of impregnation isn’t the thorny problem. It is technically possible to synthesize DNA. The real problem is that regardless of mechanism specific nucleotides must be chosen to make up the strands. In every single human who ever lived these nucleotides trace the vagaries and quirks of environment that brought our species from bacteria to biped. Would this rich evolutionary trail also be found in Elohim’s DNA? It must, since Jesus was human. But this is a flat-out contradiction: Elohim’s DNA existed well in advance of the creation of the life on this planet. Why would it contain echoes of random viruses that infected humans 200,000 years ago? It wouldn’t. But Jesus’s DNA must.

    The doctrine of literal, physical parentage (whether using Holy Ghost-assisted artificial insemination or sexual congress) by an entity who somehow bypassed human evolutionary history is the biological equivalent of the sun orbiting the earth. It’s now demonstrably false. That’s the problem.

  48. brjones
    December 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    #47 – Hmm, MoHoHawaii, that sounds suspiciously like science.

  49. Martin
    December 10, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    #47

    I don’t understand the problem. Why couldn’t Jesus have 23 chromosomes that weren’t human? Or 37 for that matter? Mormons are taught Jesus received his mortality from his mother and his divinity from his father, so I don’t think we’d have trouble believing Christ’s DNA wasn’t exactly like ours. If Jesus had offspring, questions would be raised (since his genetics would then be passed on), but since there’s no record of that, it seems the possibilities are wide open. I mean, just because God has a corporeal body doesn’t mean it even uses DNA.

  50. brjones
    December 10, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Aaron – I have a couple of questions. First, although I understand your concerns about this area of mormon “doctrine”, it seems a little odd that this would be such a point of focus, particularly in light of other common mormon beliefs about jesus, such as the idea that jesus was married (perhaps to more than one wife) and had children. Obviously you can be concerned about both. I’m just wondering if the mormon idea of the virgin birth is of particular concern to you, or if it’s just topical because of the christmas season.

    Second, it seems that the crux of your disagreement with this particular mormon belief is based on what you see as scriptural inconsistencies. It didn’t seem like you made a lot of independent arguments against the idea of sexual intercourse between god and mary. Is the very idea offensive to your conceptualization of god or is it just that it’s not supported in the scriptures? There have been a number of other concerns about this idea raised in this thread, and I’m curious as to your feelings about them.

    Thanks.

  51. December 10, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    #49, Of course, if Jesus is NOT human (i.e., had very different blood chemistry and nonhuman DNA), all bets are off.

    That’s a pretty big revision of doctrine, though, and the science types don’t find it very convincing either.

    I guess a good way to look at this is by comparing DNA to the fossil record. Before we understood that layers of rock corresponded to the passage of time, it was pretty easy to imagine that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. Everyone was a young earth creationist.

    It turns out that like the fossil record, DNA has evidence of history. Just like geological sediment, DNA contains rich layers of information about what happened in the past. Before we knew about DNA, the question of what history was in Elohim’s DNA did need answering. Now it does, and the answers lead to incredible contradictions.

    There still are young earth creationists who deny the fossil record. There are even a few flat earthers out there. Similarly, some people might discard what DNA has to say. You can always use extra-natural explanations to contradict this kind of evidence. However, this takes an ever increasing level of effort and, if the past is any guide, ends up being on the wrong side of history.

  52. December 10, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    MoHoHawaii,

    When I was a believer, I probably would have said that maybe human evolution was directed to a sufficient extent to ensure genetic compatibility with the already existing species of Gods/humans. So, while Jesus’ Y chromosome might be unique in this world, it would still be human. Or, looking at the problem somewhat less naturalistically, I might have said that God could do anything to his DNA he wants, so he could change it to human DNA (or close enough to get the job done) if he wanted to. Anyway, if one accepts the existence of a more or less all-powerful God, I don’t see coming up with the proper DNA for a human Y chromosome as a big problem.

  53. Rigel Hawthorne
    December 10, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Re: “In every single human who ever lived these nucleotides trace the vagaries and quirks of environment that brought our species from bacteria to biped.”

    Thinking of the Wrath of Khan “genesis device” which would turn a desolate planet into a garden of Eden, a reverse genesis device or “de-genesis device” would be the technology needed to convert celestial genetic material into genetic material subject to temporal effects and mortal afflictions.

  54. Aaron S
    December 10, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    brjones, you’ll usually find me harping on the issue of Mormons being open to the idea that God was once a sinner (hence the God Never Sinned project). But like you said, it’s the Christmas season, so it seemed apropos.

    In my blog post I didn’t make much of an argument against the idea of God having sex with Mary. Historically I’ve had a very hard time getting Mormons to even agree that this was taught by Mormon leaders, or that the belief is at all extant today in Mormon culture. I was VERY surprised by the number of Mormons today who have come out defending it. My blog post was primarily intended to get people to think about the fact that it’s still an issue.

    I oppose the idea of God having sex with Mary because I don’t believe God is a man. This is distinct from the belief that Jesus became a man by adding a human nature to himself. In other words, the divine and human natures are distinct. Divine nature doesn’t have DNA. It doesn’t have weight or shape either. You can’t fit deity in a box. In Mormonim as I understand it, you can literally fit the deity of God in a box.

    The other issue of course is that the New Testament is more than sufficiently clear that Mary was a virgin in the sense of not having yet had sexual relations.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  55. MoHoHawaii
    December 10, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    #51, I don’t see coming up with the proper DNA … as a big problem.

    You underestimate the tremendous amount of information that DNA contains.

    It’s analogous to the idea of God engineering all the layers of sedimentary rock 6,000 years ago in order to fool us into thinking that the earth is billions of years old as a test of faith.

    Similarly, an all-powerful God could manufacture a DNA sequence that contained all of the various historical detritus that litters everyone else’s DNA, but why would He do this any more than He would fake millions of years of sedimentary rock layers?

    But, I admit, in matters of faith, all things are possible, even those that are not. We’ve been at this since the time of Galileo. There’s no reason to stop now. 🙂

  56. Rigel Hawthorne
    December 10, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    “all-powerful God could manufacture a DNA sequence that contained all of the various historical detritus that litters everyone else’s DNA, but why would He do this any more than He would fake millions of years of sedimentary rock layers?”

    Apparently that’s what Aaron is saying over at Mormon Coffee:

    “God doesn’t need to use eternally pre-existing materials to make something. He doesn’t take a scoop out of a cosmic sandbox out of necessity. If there are any cosmic sandboxes of chaotic matter, he created them.”

    Let me think this through with this alternate theology:

    God creates genetic material that is not literally His own because, as Aaron says,
    “God is a unique species unto himself.” He creates genes that give Jesus his hair color, complexion, stature, eye color, and facial structure, and ingrained talents that please Him, but are not any physical reflection of Him. They are not literally “inherited.” Jesus’ mortal tabernacle probably favor’s his mother, but if some DNA is created without pre-existing materials, potentially all of it is, and Mary is potentially a true surrogate.

  57. MoHoHawaii
    December 10, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    #56, God creates genetic material that is not literally His own….

    If the traits are engineered, not inherited in the normal sense of the word, you have something like Catholic idea of virgin birth. The manufactured DNA could even match Joseph’s and that wouldn’t contradict the divine origins of Jesus. (Which specific nucleotides were chosen would be up to God.) It certainly solves the problems raised by Elohim’s DNA, but I don’t particularly see how it fits with LDS tradition.

  58. mormoninvestigator
    December 10, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Aaron,

    As someone who was raised Evangelical I am all too familiar with the techniques Evangelicals use in missionary outreach – I suppose the same techniques are used to varying degrees in all religions that actively seek converts. Here’s the problem.

    First, the sinner is pointed to the signposts on the “Romans road”, then as he(she) follows the signs on the road he (she) comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ – defined differently in varying degrees depending upon denominational assumptions or context. Second, (unless you’re a raging Calvinist i.e. perserverance or eternal security) you must live a life that externally exemplifies that internal spiritual reality called saving faith. Part of this internal faith is to accept as authentic the “doctrines” of Christianity i.e. the five fundamentals (Inerrancy of the Scriptures, The virgin birth and the deity of Jesus, substitutionary atonement by God’s grace and through human faith, bodily resurrection of Jesus, The authenticity of Christ’s miracles or in the case of dispensationalists his pre-millennial second coming) though one could argue scripturally that Paul limited the essentials to faith in Christ’s death and ressurection that is both a verbal proclaimation and an internal heartfelt reality.

    The LDS pattern of Faith in Jesus Christ, repentance (a turning from sin) baptism (John 3:5 – born of water and spirit) and a keeping of the commandments of Christ are with a few differences (baptismal understanding being on of them) very similiar to that to which Evangelicals adhere. There is nothing in scripture that tells us we will be judged on belief, and this is where Evangelicals fall short in theological thinking – every passage of the NT that speaks of judgement speaks only of works of good or evil – while belief might be the impetus of said actions it is not the core of the judgement or those who profess Christ (including evangelicals) would bot be told “not all who say Lord, Lord will enter into the kingdom” – the virgin birth and it’s detail are not a “saving” doctrine – neither is Jesus’ life as to whether he was single or married etc…the ressurection (which you mentioned above) is different because Paul says without the ressurection our faith is in vain – (that’s something to think about as well, the atonement would be meaningless without the ressurection of Jesus Christ to an immortal body of flesh and bones…a ressurection we are told we will partake of in scripture, why is that type of life th goal?) so you cannot compare the two and decide that they are equally essential….I am just rambling now, sorry

  59. December 10, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Similarly, an all-powerful God could manufacture a DNA sequence that contained all of the various historical detritus that litters everyone else’s DNA, but why would He do this any more than He would fake millions of years of sedimentary rock layers?

    Well, he might do it because otherwise creating a God-human hybrid who could save humans from their sins would be impossible. Or, he might have directed billions of years of human evolution to ensure that human DNA matched his own closely enough that hybridization is possible. Given the whole omnipotence thing, no biggie in either case, it seems to me.

  60. MoHoHawaii
    December 10, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Just to follow up… if you want to understand the impact of viruses on human DNA and why this is analogous to the fossil record, see here for a nice blog post by a biologist. She explains it clearly.

  61. December 10, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    MoHoHawaii, but if the DNA was manufactured from Mary’s, so that Jesus was begotten by the action of the Holy Ghost on her, then the compatibility isn’t a problem. I’ve never been that happy with the literalists (which is why I pointed out that there were two camps), while the transformative encounter alternative seems to by-pass the issues.

    Interesting notes though.

  62. MoHoHawaii
    December 10, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    #61, if DNA was manufactured … then the compatibility isn’t a problem

    Maybe there’s a misunderstanding– I agree with this point. It is more or less what I said in #57.

    With synthesized DNA, any combination of nucleotides could be chosen as long as it resulted in human DNA, with all of its weirdness and echoes of ancient viral infections intact. (Otherwise, Mary’s immune system would have prepared for war.) A pattern could have been selected that appeared to be a combination of Mary and Joseph according to Mendelian principles, and it would still be a miraculous, extra-natural birth. This still seems far fetched, but at least it doesn’t cause contradictions like the idea that Elohim’s and Mary’s union was of the regular conjugal sort.

    The problem is that LDS doctrine is very specific about the literal, biological descent of Jesus from Elohim. We’re not virgin birthers. HG-synthesized DNA won’t pass correlation. 🙂

  63. December 11, 2009 at 7:22 am

    “HG-synthesized DNA won’t pass correlation” — I’m not sure why not.

    I’ll have to do the analysis on why a resurrected person’s dna shouldn’t be that different from what it was before. So that status change is not what it takes to make someone divine and mortal.

  64. MoHoHawaii
    December 11, 2009 at 11:39 am

    #63, “HG-synthesized DNA won’t pass correlation” — I’m not sure why not.

    In a nutshell, virgin birth (miraculous quickening) is a doctrine that LDS tradition has repudiated for 170 years. The literal, physical descent of Jesus from a corporeal God is a core idea that differentiates LDS thought from other forms Christianty. Am I mistaken about this?

    Thanks, BIV and everyone else, for indulging me on this thread.

  65. Cowboy
    December 11, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I always found James E. Talmage and Bruce R. Mcconkie at odds on this one. When I believed in the Church I came down on the side of Elder Talmage strictly on the basis of the stature given to Jesus The Christ compared, to Doctrinal Commentary on the New Testament.

    I don’t want to look it up, but I believe Talmages words on the matter where something to the effect of, “The conception of Christ by Mary was not in violation of natural law, but a higher manifestation thereof”. I always took this to mean that Talmage favored the Holy Ghost-fertility agent theory, sort of in a “God’s way’s are higher than man’s way’s” context.

  66. Rigel Hawthorne
    December 11, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    RE: “I’ll have to do the analysis on why a resurrected person’s dna shouldn’t be that different from what it was before”

    If dna is thought of the way MoHoHawaii describes, it is a temporal record of humanity. If God exists outside of time, and time is only measured unto men (Alma 40:8) then it seems dna could be based in mortality and not exist in the state of resurrected beings. The alternate would be that it would become highly purified in a resurrected being.

    If there are no celestial gametes or if they are not compatible for fertilization with mortal gametes, then celestial bioengineering of a gamete that reproduces an earthly form of God’s celestial dna may have preceded Mary’s overshadowing. That line of thinking would lead back to the Holy Ghost-fertility agent theory.

  67. December 11, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Cowboy:
    Talmage’s quote above includes these words:

    “Mary’s son is God’s Son; that he was conceived and begotten in the normal way; that he took upon himself mortality by the natural birth processes; that he inherited the power of mortality from his mother and the power of immortality from his Father…”

    It was J. Reuben Clark, also quoted above, who talked about the “higher manifestation.” Read the entire quote, wherein he also speaks of this being done through an ordinary operation of the law by which God ordained that human beings should propagate.

    “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.” In His nature would be combined the powers of Godhood with the capacity and possibilities of mortality; and this through the ordinary operation of the fundamental law of heredity, declared of God, demonstrated by science, and admitted by philosophy, that living beings shall propagate — after their kind.

    I can’t see that this in in odds with Bruce R. McConkie’s statements.

  68. Cowboy
    December 11, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    BIV:

    That is interesting. I cannot find the reference in Jesus the Christ (ch.5, pg.43) that mentions that the Jesus was concieved in the natural way. It should be noted that Reuben J. Clark was quoting Talmage in Jesus the Christ (pg 77 in my book, chapter 7 under the topic – Gabriels Annunciation of John and Jesus). There Talmage states that Jesus was begotten of God, not in violation with natural law, but a higher manfiestation thereof.

  69. Rigel Hawthorne
    December 11, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I really like the idea of the Son of God having the attributes of his Father by heredity. It seems much more personal to me than the idea that a Son is created by a God of a different species. That doesn’t seem to be truly a Son at all; a creation, but not truly a son. However Jesus was begotten, I have faith that, like everything else God does, it was beautiful and glorious.

  70. December 11, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Ummmmm….everyone here DOES know that:

    The Buddha was born of a virgin

    Krishna was born of the virgin Devaki

    Dionysus was born of the virgin Semele

    Frigga was impregnated by the All-Father Odin and bore Balder, the healer and savior of mankind

    The Mother Earth Goddess immaculately conceived and birthed the Sun (Son?)

    And many of these offspring were considered saviors and died as martyrs, only to be resurrected.

    Or is it true what Joseph Campbell says… “Mythology is what we call someone else’s religion.”?

    Thoughts?

  71. December 11, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    I think that I’ve always been fond of a God who could get a little busy.

  72. December 11, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Gee, I think we all know why Ulysseus wants to become a God. Sorry. Continue with the myth–er, debate about God’s sperm etc.

  73. mormoninvestigator
    December 11, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    #70 according to LDS faith at least from what I have read and seen…the gospel of Jesus Christ has been taught since the beginning of humanity (in the book of Moses 5:5-8 “And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.”) Therefore it is understood in this context that His (Christ’s) virgin birth and Divine origin were also taught from the beginning to different men and women throughout the ages who no doubt passed on this gospel to their offspring. Through the years it (the gospel) became perverted,or watered down or changed or ended up in a state of apostasy altogether and that pervertion (or watering down) could (would) explain the similiarities of the various stories surrounding the world religions and pagan traditions that you cited with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    A little truth in this case the way the Only Begotten in flesh was to come into the world made it into some Greek mythology, some far eastern religions and some tribal religious histories….but the fulness of the truth is that the the human conception and birth of the One whose origins are of old is the source material for the traditions that appear in various cultures or religion down through the years.

    Outside of LDS thought is the traditional Christian understanding grealty influence by men such as Origen and Augustine that all those pre-Christ pagan virgin birth stories were crafted by the Devil beforehand to sway people from believing in the uniqueness of Jesus’ birth and rather to get people to dismiss the story as myth because of the other stories that predate Jesus…

    I think I prefer what I perceive as the LDS position

  74. mormoninvestigator
    December 11, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    sorry it’s late (perversion not pervertion… 😉

  75. December 12, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Cowboy, thanks for the corrections. The “conceived in the natural way” quote was actually McConkie. And after reading the second quote (Talmage quoted by J. Reuben Clark) over a few more times I actually changed my mind and I agree with you.

    I’ve fixed the quote by Talmage found in Chapter 5 of Jesus the Christ. It reads:

    “The only instance of offspring from woman dissociated from mortal fatherhood is the birth of Jesus the Christ, who was the earthly Son of a mortal mother, begotten by an immortal Father. He is the Only Begotten of the Eternal Father in the flesh, and was born of woman.”

    IMO that’s probably vague enough to fit what you are saying.

  76. December 12, 2009 at 1:31 am

    #73 Mormon Investigator–that is a beautiful response.

  77. Cowboy
    December 12, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    BIV:

    That’s funny, it sounds like we’ve both dones circles on this one. Yesterday I did a google search of the long sentence suggesting that Jesus was born in the “natural way”, and got about 7 hits. Out of the seven, I could only find the quote in one website (it was probablly there in the others, but they contained way to many quotes to sift through). In the place I found the quote, it provided the same reference you did, Jesus the Christ chapter 5, pg. 43. Because of the inconsistency of page numbers with JtC, I read the entire chapter and still couldn’t find it, but I figured I must have just skipped over it, and gave up. I remembered Bruce R. McConkie saying something to that effect in Doctrinal Commentary on the Newt Testament, I had this debate twice before with friends, but didn’t want to dig up my copy (we moved about a year ago, and I still have a lot of books in boxes).

    Suffice it to say, based on our exchange from yesterday I had determined that I must have been in error all of these regarding Elder Talmage. On the one hand, referring to the conception as a “higher manifestation” of natural law, isn’t exactly spelling out artificial insemination. At the same time, does make it clear that the method was above our mortal means. At the same time, suggesting that it occured in the natural way, does seem to almost spell it out. If Elder Talmage had said both, then I clearly am wrong. So, in order to reconcile this in my mind, are we certain that Elder Talmage did not say this? As I mentioned, I have found one other source that listed the reference you have, is it possible that Elder McConkie was just quoting Elder Talmage?

  78. December 17, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    With apologies to BiV, I’m pretty sure some people will find this amusing. (Others will probably find it offensive, but remember, I’m just the messenger.)

  79. December 17, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks, Kuri. Just one more thing to make Aaron rip his shirt.

  80. a Mormon who disagrees
    May 31, 2011 at 3:28 am

    Are you serious? 

    Mary was a virgin, and that means no sex, not with God, not with man, not with anything that would break her hymen.

    The Jews were very serious about women being virgins when they got married.  If Mary had not been a virgin, either Joseph had to say he had deflowered her, or she would have been stoned at the gate of the city.

    There is no record of her having a problem with passing her “test” so she was found to be a virgin by the usual test.

    As a Mormon, let me say that since we can create a virgin birth now with artificial insemination, I don’t think it would be too hard for god to have Mary carry his biological child without having sex with her, everything else in your “evidence” is your interpretation.

  81. Dbaeder
    September 11, 2011 at 12:01 am

    You stated, “The Bible teaches that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost, but the Book of Mormon clarifies that this was done by the power of the Holy Ghost, after the manner of the flesh.”

    But you failed to cite a passage from the Book of Mormon.  Where in the Book of Mormon is this clarified?

  82. Dbaeder
    September 11, 2011 at 12:01 am

    You stated, “The Bible teaches that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost, but the Book of Mormon clarifies that this was done by the power of the Holy Ghost, after the manner of the flesh.”

    But you failed to cite a passage from the Book of Mormon.  Where in the Book of Mormon is this clarified?

  83. Proslogos
    June 2, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Bad research. You said: ” Having studied the
    linguistics carefully, ” Really? “Carefully”?

    Although in Hebrew the term עַלְמָה (alma) can mean “young
    girl,” however, where in all 7 references of the term in the OT does alma refer to one that is not a virgin?
    Answer: Nowhere.

    Further,
    and more importantly, you are in error when you say: “’parthenos,’ can also mean young woman.” Really?
    Where? In point of face, the term has a *limited lexical meaning* (unlike alma) to one who has never had sex—namely,
    a virgin (cf. BDAG, Thayer). In every NT example (used 15 times), the term only
    means “virgin.”    

    That
    is why you provide not one NT example (in any trans.) where the term means anything
    other than a virgin. Also, the LXX at Isa. 7:14 translates alma as parthenos—“virgin.”

    Thus,
    if you really did study “linguistics carefully,” you would not make
    these fundamental mistakes in lexical evaluations.

     

    Dr.
    Edward Dalcour (www.christiandefense.org)  

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