The Sexual Generation of Jesus

In the May 7th issue of The Christian Post, there is an article entitled “What Religious Beliefs are Shaping American Christians Today?” I noticed the following in that article:

“The journal features an article written by Cky Carrigan, national interfaith evangelism missionary with the North American Mission Board and visiting professor of missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. on the theology of Mormonism, one of the nation’s fastest-growing religious groups.

Carrigan’s article focuses on the Christology of Mormonism, which includes the atonement and the belief that Jesus Christ was born as the result of sexual intercourse between Elohim and Mary.”

[As an aside, I’ve actually met and talked with Cky (pronounced like the Greek conjunction “kai”). He attended a FAIR Conference once in an admirable attempt to get his facts straight about what Mormons believe; several of us spent about two hours after dinner one night trying to help him avoid misrepresentations in his thesis.]

Anyway, what I want to focus on in this post is “the belief that Jesus Christ was born as the result of sexual intercourse between Elohim and Mary.”

Critics of the Church of course love this scandalous nugget (some conflating it with the Adam-God Doctrine to have Adam having sexual intercourse with Mary). It is a commonplace in anti-Mormon literature and websites. And since on its face it appears blasphemous, we have a tendency to recoil from it, to be (overly?) defensive about it, and increasingly to reject it. My usual tack when asked about it is to point out that the idea is not now and never was doctrine; it was a speculation. It is not binding on anyone, and in fact my impression is that it has become very much a minority view in the Church, and that most Mormons do not accept this characterization of the physical generation of the mortal Jesus.

I will confess, however, that I actually like this idea. Maybe it is because I have a streak of old fashioned Mormonism somewhere inside me. But I find it appealing on several levels. First, there is a certain naturalism to the idea. 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 litera begetting), but in a physical sense. He really was the Son of God.

I also find it fascinating that people see this idea as being so totally offensive. To me, that speaks not only to our radically different conception of God and man as being of the same species, our literalist notion of divine paternalism and our radical materialism, but also to our Puritan heritage. If it is so disgusting to suggest God sired a son by sexual intercourse, why, I wonder, did God ordain that to be the natural method by which we conceive our own children? Is that just some sort of a cosmic joke? Does God sit in yonder heavens and look down on his creatures and laugh at their disgusting and dirty and ridiculous actions? Isn’t it possible that, if God ordained sexual intercourse as the means by which we create children, that it is divinely appointed and not disgusting or dirty at all?

I freely concede that the old fashioned Mormon speculators didn’t think all the way through this idea, and there are theological loose ends, to be sure. But I am curious: does anyone else here kind of like this old notion, or is it Mormon materialism run amuck?

And whatever your opinions on the speculation itself, do you agree with me that it is a dying idea in Mormon thought, and that in another generation or two it will be completely dead?

90 comments for “The Sexual Generation of Jesus

  1. I’ve always thought Jesus was conceived using AI. (Half Mary, half God, no sexual intercourse — God doesn’t have sex with his children.) Given that I’ve never seen someone claim that God had sex with Mary except in anti-Mormon literature, I don’t believe it is a view widely held among Mormons.

  2. The reason I try to avoid thinking much about this is because it smacks of adultery. I assume Heavenly Father is married, and I sure want that marriage to be monogamous. The idea that God had sexual relations with Mary seems to support the idea that polygamy is eternal–which again, I really don’t want it to be.

    I am surprised you think only a minority of the church believes Christ was literally fathered by God. I have always perceived this as the view of the majority.

  3. Is it possible that God the father was married to Mary? This would the nulify the adultery objection.

  4. Matt- that angle was also speculatively covered. At least Brigham Young and Orson Pratt (usually theological opponents) opined that Mary was the legal spouse of the Father, and perhaps married to Joseph for time only.

    I also don’t think this is widely held among members of the Church.

  5. The problem with the Arial Font is that AI, written with an uppercase “i” looks just the same as Al, written with a lower case “L”. That left me wondering, for just a moment, who the hell this “AL” fellow was that Matt brought up.

    I can see the next wave of Mormon bashers attacking us not for believing that God fathered Jesus just as we mortal men father our children, but that some guy named AL was the surrogate father.

  6. It’s certainly dying. And, it seems to me, that most members of the church disbelieve it.
    Robert Millet mentioned it in a paper recently, affirming that the church had no position on the matter.

  7. Kevin,

    I’ve heard this idea kicked around. I believe it’s in the Journal of Discourses, as well as Mormon Doctrine, and it might be in Jesus the Christ.

    As McConkie’s influence wanes, perhaps this idea will wane with it.

  8. Then there’s always the question of what kind of permanent or impermanent role Joseph plays in Mary’s life. Obviously they had children together after Jesus was born. If God the Father is married to Mary, then is Joseph’s marriage to Mary solely temporal?

    Luke 1:35
    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.

    The image of a woman being overshadowed could possibly be sexual. I don’t know anything though about the Greek word that is being translated here. Anyone?

  9. The problem with “unofficial” statements like McConkie’s or Talmage’s is that they often _are_ given official weight by members. It’s easy for us to dismiss Mormon Doctrine as 50% truth and 50% speculation, and we can point out in our lawyerly way that it’s not “Official Doctrine.”

    Still, it’s an easy-to-digest, smartly-packaged work from a source brimming with spiritual credibility, purporting to address all sorts of doctrinal issues that have never been officially discussed. And many parts of it are recaps of official doctrine.

    And so the speculative portion serves as a great gap-filler for many members. It was widely spread and achieved great currency as the standard gap-filler, and for many members, it still holds that space. And that result is completely understandable.

    Perhaps as alternative gap-fillers become more prominent (FARMS? Sunstone? T & S?), the obvious flaws in McConkie’s gap-filling will fall by the wayside. But the alternative sources are certain to introduce errors of their own.

  10. I found the verse that gives away the fact that Mary and Joseph had quite a large family, in addition to raising Jesus:

    Mark 6:3
    Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

    So Joseph and Mary had at least 4 sons and undetermined number of daughters. This kind of reminds me of Lehi and Sariah … many named sons and unnamed daughters.

  11. By the way, Kevin, you write:

    “I presume the mortal Jesus had 46 chromosomes.”

    Why is that? Just because it sounds right? Is there any reason that a being who could defy all laws of physics and nature at will (see walking on water, resurrection, fasting 40 days) couldn’t also get by with 23 chromosomes, if he so chose? Or 15? Or 211? Or even none at all?

  12. Kaimi–

    I think it has to do with the way we conceptualize the fact that we are created in our Father’s image.

  13. Lisa and Kaimi,

    I think that “God was literally the father of Jesus,” but that doesn’t mean I think God and Mary had sexual intercourse. I always understood Talmage and McConkie to use such phrases to clarify that Jesus was not the son of Joseph; he was, literally, the Son of God. To my knowledge neither Talmage nor McConkie insisted that Christ was conceived by sexual intercourse.

  14. Isn’t there some theory that Mary was actually raped by a Roman soldier? I think this gave rise to some Aryan Nation conclusions about Jesus’s actual racial heritage.

  15. D. Fletcher,

    It would be darkly ironic if the rape theory helped the Aryanization of Jesus, because it was originally promoted by early Jewish historians. (So was a run-of-the-mill premarital affair between Mary and a Roman soldier.)

    Incidentally, the Muslim view of Christ’s conception is that it was truly miraculous, because he had no father at all. This seems similar to idea that A.I. was involved.

  16. Google turned up this reference from McConkie:

    God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy Man, an immortal Personage. And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says. (1 Ne. 11.) (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.742 “Son Of God”

  17. Our current technology allows women to give birth without sexual relations with a male. It’s not a difficult leap to assume Mary and the Father never had sexual intercourse while still allowing God the Father to be the literal Father of Christ

  18. You beat me to it D. Fletcher. I don’t know exactly where it comes from (if it is from Aryan Nation sources or not). But I am of the opinion that something of that sorts is in the realm of possibility. Completely blasphemous, even by Mormon standards, however, I am of the opinion that the scriptures, being written by men, even if they where written under influence of the spirit, where written to be as sensational as possible.

    Besides that, who would believe in a ‘Messiah’ who was begotten as a by product of a rape? Not just today, but 2000 years ago?

  19. Okay, so AI is not AL. I’m also assuming that it is not Artificial Intelligence, which is what I first thought. There’s another one for the anti-Mormons — we think Jesus was half robot!

    It’s got to be artificial insemination then. I don’t particularly like that image either. Why insemination instead of real sex? Is God just skirting around the fact that he isn’t married to Mary? Would we consider it a sin for a couple to engage in artificial insemination if they weren’t married? Where does God go to make the sperm donation? I’m not trying to be blasphemous here, but I think these types of images are bound to come up once we project all of our mortal biology onto God.

    I did hear about the literal siring of Jesus at least once in Seminary and have talked about it with other members casually on rare occassion. Even though it is not official doctine, the facts that members are willing to talk about it and the church does not denounce it as false are telling.

    I personally think the married-to-Mary-or-not question is more problematic than the sex-with-Mary question.

  20. Guy, women may not need a man in the room with them to concieve, but the sperm has to come from somewhere.

  21. I’m going to reserve judgement on the doctrinal merit of the idea, but, like Kevin, I like it. I think it’s because I’ve felt for a while that the Church should should stake out a proud position as a ‘peculiar people,’ and this idea is based upon the physicality of God, doctrine that definitely makes Mormons distinctive. We’re not mainstream Protestants, and shouldn’t be defensive about the sort of stuff – like this, or polygamy, or deification – that distances us from them. Not that we should embrace and apologize for everything Orson Pratt speculated about, but we shouldn’t talk only in whispers about it, when we’re not pretending the Journal of Discourses doesn’t exist at all.

    It might be dead in another couple of decades, and I kind of regret it.

  22. It’s not just adultery, it smacks of incest or molestation or something– a loving Father having sexual intercourse with (/being married to??) his much-beloved daughter. (And we do believe that we are literally his daughters.) Ewwww.

    *That* is the reason I find this idea so offensive, not because I object in principle to God and sex. [edit]

  23. I expect that we’ll be getting a link to this thread in short order from and/or from the Evangelical anti-Mormons who sometimes read this site.

  24. Charlene I agree with you.

    To logically run the course of God having intercourse with Mary but not be in an incestous relationship with his own daughter, we would have to suppose that she is, in fact, the spirit child of another God of another world, which would seperate Mary from the rest of us as a non child of God, but a chosen mate of God. This would play well with the strain of Mariology that is currently working to promote Mary as a co-savior with Christ due to her righteous living.

    I am all for the A.I. theory – God is literally the father of Christ, Mary the literal human mother. Back in the BY days, the idea of artificial insemination, cloning, etc… were not even on the radar, so why would they not think that Christ was born through natural intercourse if he was the literal offspring of God. Chalk up the theological shift to scientific advancement right along with the the limited geography theory.

  25. On the question of whether “overshadow” can have a sexual connotation in Lk. 1:35, it kind of sounds that way to our ears, but that was probably unintended. (Raymond Brown makes a specific argument against any sexual connotation in his _The Birth of the Messiah_, although I don’t recall offhand what the details are.)

    The verb is episkiasei, the third person singular future indicative of the verb episkiazo, which means to cast a shadow on, to envelop in shadow, to over shadow. (The epi compound is a preposition that means upon, over.)

    Thayer, an old Greek lexicon, writes it is used here of “the Holy Ghost exerting creative energy upon the womb of the virgin Mary and impregnating it,” which shows heavy doctrinal presupposition.

    But the word probably is used in imitation of the cloud that marks God’s presence in the OT, as in Exod. 40:34:

    “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”

    and Ps. 91:4:

    “He will shelter you [HEB put a cover over you] with his wings.”

    So the cloud symbolizes the immediate presence of God. (By the way, “the highest” is GR hypsistos, which is the usual GR rendering of HEB elyon, as in el elyon “God Most High.”)

    In secular GR literature, the verb is often used for darkening or obscuring something. The usage in Lk. seems more likely to result from the OT precedents.

    If the historic speculation was that Mary was God’s wife, or one of his wives, why hasn’t that led to a sort of LDS mariology, equating her with Mother in Heaven? Any thoughts?

  26. This is exactly the area where many Muslims would have a major problem accepting Christianity … because from the Muslim perspective Allah (God) is too exalted and does not beget children, spiritually or otherwise. From the Muslim perspective we are God’s creations but not His children.

    So if you ever feel like singing “I Am A Child of God” in front of a group of Muslims, don’t.

  27. The incest thing was what I was thinking of when I said that I didn’t think the historic speculators had thought all the way through this idea.

    But of course, the whole human race is based on incest, if we want to take the Adam and Eve story seriously (as Mormons are wont to do). And the repeopling of the earth by Noah’s family and the peopling of the land by Lehi’s probably involved more consanguinity than most of us would be comfortable with.

    In the patriarchal age of Abraham, endogamy was the norm. Just check out Abraham’s own prosopography; Sarah was his own niece, and similar endogamous relationships can be found throughout his immediate genealogy.

  28. Kevin– Yes, it’s not so much the incest (we’re all spiritual brothers and sisters, for that matter) or even the idea of an endogamous relationship per se, as the idea that in this temporal world at least, it’s wrong to form sexual relationships with those who are dependent upon us and whom we are responsible for, and those who are children/innocent in relation to us.

    Now, of course, one could make the argument that we ought all to be God’s willing and humble servants in lots of different ways that don’t apply to other people (e.g., no mortal should demand perfect obedience from anyone else, and yet God does) and that this concept should also be applicable to this particular question of Mary– and yet it still squicks me out.

  29. I’m pretty vague about this, but in my own family, my great-great grandmother, Rachel Ivins Grant, was sealed to Joseph Smith as a single woman. She later was married for time to Jedediah M. Grant (in polygamy) and she conceived a child by him, Heber J. Grant (Jedediah died when Heber was 8 days old). Rachel raised Heber by herself (she did not live with the other wives of Jedediah).

    I believe Heber was sealed to Joseph Smith.

    Is it possible that Mary’s situation is similar? That God the Father was somehow sealed to this young girl Mary, who then married Joseph and conceived a child, but the child is sealed to El. Just a thought.

  30. Metaphysically and Biologically, it’s kindof goofy. The bulk of our DNA is the result of our fallen state (blood, immunity, metabolism, etc.). I imagine that God does not have DNA, but that if he did, it would not be the fallen DNA of our current existence. So if he does not have the DNA of fallen indaviduals, why would he procreate like them. Like I said, goofy.

  31. That was about as clear as mud (my previous post). I meant to say, Rachel Ivins was married to Joseph Smith after his death, along with a lot of other single women, in a great big polygamous eternal marriage. Then she married Jed Grant and had Heber. This is why Heber is sealed to Joseph Smith, not J. Grant.


  32. Many above this post have referenced Talmage & McConkie as sources for the sealing of Mary to God and the “coupling” of the two to conceive a Son. Pres. Joseph F. Smith also held this view and taught it to primary children (I’ll pull up the reference when I get home).

    McConkie’s son Joseph Fielding McConkie taught this in a BYU New Testament class in 1997 and asserted his position that Mary remained a virgin because she had not had “relations” with MORTAL man.

    Just FYI.

  33. I was informed about this on my mission, as most mysteries are, with the scriptural reference being: 1 Nephi 11
    16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension• of God?

    17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

    18 And he said unto me: Behold, the avirgin• whom thou seest is the mother• of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

    I beleive that this is what Bruce R. is referring to in his Mormon Doctrine entry. (after the manner of the flesh)

  34. Guy, women may not need a man in the room with them to concieve, but the sperm has to come from somewhere.

    Well, no, not necessarily. Parthenogenesis. Frogs and sea urchins do it all the time. You really only need 23 chromosomes. Diploidy is a luxury.

    Of course that does leave the question of where the “Y” chromosome came from. Assuming Jesus had one. But maybe he (she?) didn’t? A transgendered Messiah — wouldn’t that throw a wrench into all the speculation about priesthood and the patriarchal order?

  35. Mark S.#36 raises a correlative point. Those who have held to this view have tended to use some sort of an equivocation to defend the virginal conception of Jesus. Personally, I don’t care for these equivocations, and I think that if this is the way it happened, then the conception was not virginal.

  36. I understood our doctrine to say that Jesus is literally the Son of God. I also thought Mary was a virgin when she gave birth.
    So, my vote’s for AI (artificial insemination)….and look at us now, Star Trek isn’t too far off. We’ve got communicates and tricorders and everything. What’s a little beaming things here and there.

  37. I am also much more comfortable with the idea of some sort of artificial insemination – we know God created the cosmos, so presumably he can spontaneously create a few chromosomes… In my mind, one of the problems with a physical conception is that this would make God genetically Jewish.

  38. An interesting, if completely unproductive and irrelevent, discussion.

    Nevertheless, here are two more cents…

    The idea about the chromosomes of Jesus reminded me that Jesus is in the express image of his Father. I don’t know about exalted chromosomes, but this sort of suggests to me that Jesus was a clone of the Father.

    I am not persuaded by arguments for natural procreation. I recognize that our current social discomfort with the idea is unjustified, but overcoming the restrictions of modern sexual mores does not imply that natural procreation occurred. “Overshadow” does not have any sexual connotation for me. I see no reason why natural procreation should be the assumption for McConkie or us, simply because he (or earlier brethren) could not conceive (no pun intended) of another method.

    My feeling is that Jesus had 46 chromosomes. The power of the Priesthood somehow initiated a spontaneous conception, wherein the Savior’s zygote began to grow. I don’t see that any divine sperm would have been required. From that point on, the Savior developed into an embryo, an infant, a child, and then a man. Mary was the chosen vessel of the Lord, but was a participant in an incredible miracle, and NOT Heavenly Mother incarnate. Mary and Joseph are likely sealed for all Eternity, with their natural progeny, but Jesus stands at the head of this patriarchal chain, not as an internal link.

  39. *clarify*

    the patriarchal chain extending back to Adam and Eve and which we are all a part of. The head of that chain is the Savior (not Adam), and His head is the Father.

  40. One difficulty with the “clone” suggestion is that it flies in the face of the “He inherited mortality from His mother” argument.

    Put me in the “this is a mystery, which for good reasons God has remained silent on” camp. But, if you ran DNA tests on Jesus, Mary and the Father, I think you’d prove both maternity and paternity.

  41. I’m sorry, but wasn’t Jesus supposed to be born of a virgin? If she’d had sex with God, it may have been pure and lovely, but she wouldn’t have been a virgin. Personally, I think Jesus’ chromosome count is a non-issue. He is, after all, a God. I find the whole DNA thing sort of irrelevant.

    Just an aside to Hanna (42)–I don’t think Judaism is a genetic thing, but even if it were, what’s the problem?

  42. A Chromosomal Argument with Strings Attached
    In order to support the doctrine that Jesus is literally the Son of God, however, some (Stephen Robinson comes to mind) have argued that Jesus had 46 chromosomes–23 from each parent. I used to think this was a pretty persuasive argument, but now I’m…

  43. Consider this another vote for the AI theory. The notion of God having sex with Mary is off-putting for me. Sure the marriage thing is a way to remove the ‘eew’ factor, but I’m not totally mollified by it.
    I also believe that Jesus had 46 chromosomes, mainly because he was mortal (he did die, after all). Maybe God just uses all of his DNA (or doesn’t have the corrupted parts, or whatnot).
    In any event, I think that the AI theory of Jesus’ parentage could actually be a popular folk doctrine in the LDS church. After all, we do accept the notion that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God, the only begotten. We aren’t big on ex nihlo (though God could have designed 23 chromosomes and did the AI bit), and those scientifically minded in the church are sure to speculate on the nature of the transmission . . .

    But it is important to remember that this is speculation only. Let’s not be wedded to it.

  44. Is it possible that our insistence that Mary be a virgin is a holdover from Catholic doctrine retained in the Reformation and brought into LDS thought? The Hebrew almah — translated “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 and quoted by Matthew (1:23) — doesn’t require sexual inexperience, simply age and marriage-worthiness (setting aside the issue of Matthew’s misreading of Isaiah 7).

    Just a thought for others who know more on this subject to flesh out or throw down.

  45. So far, the comments are consistent with my expectations: that the sexual generation theory is very much a minority view in the Church today, and is dying. It is interesting to see the strong support expressed for an A.I. alternative.

    Although the sexual idea is dying, it’s not dead yet. A friend of mine took a poll in his older-skewing ward in Ogden, and everyone he talked to thought that of course Jesus was sexually generated. So there are pockets of old-timers on the Wasatch front where the idea still lives.

  46. “If it is so disgusting to suggest God sired a son by sexual intercourse, why, I wonder, did God ordain that to be the natural method by which we conceive our own children? Is that just some sort of a cosmic joke? Does God sit in yonder heavens and look down on his creatures and laugh at their disgusting and dirty and ridiculous actions?”

    I think he may very well have a joke at our expense. I do not think that natural processes down on earth have a near parallel in the Celestial world. I have not yet participated in the sex act myself but many of my friends (Mormons and non-mos alike) have commented that sexual intercourse does at times seem very animalistic…..and at other times quite funny. While human union is a beautiful thing, I am not sure it is the means that are necessarily heavenly. Yes God did ordain sex as the natural method for us to conceive our children but he also ordained it as the means for many mammals. And anyone who has seen, let’s say canines copulating, knows it can be pretty laughable.

    I do think the pleasures of sex will continue into eternity, I just am unsure if they will continue in the same form. Because if sex stays the same, then a natural follow-up would be to say that conception and pregnancy and the birthing process will also be similar. Yikes. I cannot think of a less appealing view of Heaven then to be eternally pregnant and giving birth to billions on spirit children in the painful way we do it here on earth. Thus I figure there must be ways of both impregnating and giving birth in the spirit world and God employed that heavenly method with Mary.

    In summation: sex in Heaven is like sex on earth in the way that eating in Heaven is like eating in a Chinese super buffet on earth.

  47. Recall that Mary is only stated to be a virgin at the time the angel appears to her in Luke 1:34, not afterwards.
    There’s no statement that she is still a virgin when Jesus is born.

    Further, any argument against that Mary was still a virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth that draws on Isaiah 7:14 or 1 Nephi 11:13 are severely weakened by the fact that the Hebrew in isa 7:14 means “young woman,” (not “non-sexual woman”) and that “virgin” in English can also carry both meanings.

  48. Kaimi,

    Just to make this thread even more likely to attract unwanted attention, how about I throw another log on the fire? I can see how Jesus could have any number of chromosomes, but how many would his children have?

  49. I do not think this subject is disgusting, but I think it is disrespectful to our Father in Heaven. Some things do not really matter to our salvation and this is one.

  50. I think a discussion such as this does real damage. Note this from Teachings of Harold B. Lee (p. 14):

    “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 (Isa. 9:19): “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.”

  51. In reference to #36 above:

    The Box Elder News, Thursday, January 28, 1915
    President Joseph F. Smith Address (Sunday morning)
    “Now, my little friends, I will repeat again in words as simple as I can, and you talk to your parents about it, that God, the Eternal Father is literally the father of Jesus Christ.

    “Mary was married to Joseph for time. No man could take her for eternity because she belonged to the Father of her divine Son. In the revelation that has come thru Joseph Smith, we learn that it is the eternal purpose of God that man and woman should be joined together by the power of God here on earth for time and eternity.”

  52. The doctrine that God the Father *knew* Mary to concieve Jesus contradicts the Scriptures and is based upon nothing more than speculation. If you look through the Journal of Discourse accounts of B. Young and O. Pratt commenting on the subject, they are reasoning that the only way a person can be concieved is by the natural means of copulation. It is simply that they cannot imagine any other way, which is preposterous, especially since Adam was created from scratch, if one reads the Genesis account literally, which they most certainly did. As for the Scriptures, they emphatically state that Mary was a virgin (of the variety that did not know a man, not the young woman variety, cf. Luke 1:34) and that the conception of Jesus was by the Holy Spirit with the Father’s authority, and thats it, cf. Luke 1:35, 1 Nephi 11:19. All of the contortions people try to go through to make it OK for premarital copulation are simply nonsense. McConkie propegated Young’s opinion because he was devoted to him, overly devoted.

    This is one of this false doctrines that really need to go away. Very few people in the Church forward this doctrine. But, thanks to Mormon Doctrine, it just wont go away.

  53. Kurt,

    Talk about complicating things. You probably don’t want to bring both Adam and Brigham Young into this. You especially don’t want to say that BY thought that Adam was created from scratch.

  54. To respond to Rebecca (#47): what I meant by my comment (#42) was that if Heavenly Father is literally, physically, chromosomally the father of Jesus, then using our understanding of genetics it makes it seem like God is Jewish (because Jesus seems to have been Jewish in appearance). The problem being that I don’t think God has any race. I think he is a glorified, exalted being. Note: I used the term “Jewish” not in terms of religion but in terms of the race because at that time, as far as I know, the Jewish religion was largely practiced by an intermarrying population of Jews as a race -but I am not sure of the terminology, and I could be wrong.

  55. “(because Jesus seems to have been Jewish in appearance)”

    Well if the “Testaments” movie playing in temple square is any indication of Jesus’ appearance, he apparently looks like a Swede. And the word is is that the First Presidency scoured the list of available actors for the part to find the one they felt most resembled him and settled on the Aryan fellow. (Actually they liked the appearance of the actor chosen but b/c he was foreign and did not have the voice of Christ,the English speaking voice of Christ, down, the voice was dubbed in).

    When I saw Testaments the Swede’s appearance rather bothered me and I asked my BYU religion professor what was up. His answer? “Well, only half of Christ’s chromosomes are from Mary.”

  56. so i found some of the sources for the origin of this doctrine:

    “When the time came that His first-born, the Saviour, should come into the world and take a tabernacle, the Father came Himself and favoured that spirit with a tabernacle instead of letting any other man do it. The Saviour was begotten by the Father of His spirit, by the same Being who is the Father of our spirits.”
    Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p. 218.

    “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. 8, p. 115.

    Apostle Orson Pratt taught,
    “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.God having created all men and women, had the most perfect right to do with His own creation, according to His holy will and pleasure: He had a lawful right to overshadow the Virgin Mary in the capacity of a husband, and beget a Son, although she was espoused to another; for the law which He gave to govern men and women was not intended to govern Himself, or to prescribe rules for His own conduct. It was also lawful in Him, after having thus dealt with Mary, to give her to Joseph her espoused husband. Whether God the Father gave Mary to Joseph for time only, or for time and eternity, we are not informed. Inasmuch as God was the first husband to her, it may be that He only gave her to be the wife of Joseph while in this mortal state, and that He intended after the resurrection to again take her as one of His own wives to raise up immortal spirits in eternity.”
    The Seer, p. 158.

  57. I wouldn’t want anyone speculating on my life in this way. I think a zone of privacy around the most sacred of beings is perfectly necessary and reasonable. The scriptures put a zone of privacy around most of the years of Jesus’s mortal life, don’t they? And not just because it was probably pretty normal. It’s because it doesn’t belong to us, can’t help us, isn’t necessary to us for our salvation.

    I don’t even want to read this discussion, and the reason is the same reason I find gossip so distasteful, or celebrity-stalking, or any kind of peeping-Tomism. This is where academics ought to pull their noses back out of religion. If we needed to know, we would be told or the answer would be where we could find it.

    Just MHO.

  58. This is a very interesting discussion, and I’m not sure I have any meaningful arguments to add to what has already been said, but I will share my impressions.

    I think to say that this is something not to be discussed when the several early church leaders quoted here spoke of this subject so openly and unabashedly is a little silly. I also think that when it comes to the many teachings of Brigham Young that now seem quaint, preposterous, or unscriptural to us, there will be more than a few suprises once all truth is revealed. Not that I unequivocally except everything Brigham Young ever said, but the modern Mormon’s aversion to the more bizarre teachings of BY, especially to the point of avoiding all discussion of them, is extremely unhealthy. To say that BY’s doctrines are false because they contradict the common understanding of the Bible is to ultimately say that the prophets, seers and revelators are not empowered to interepret scripture in radically new ways. (Joseph Smith never did that. Especially not in the King Follet discourse.) At most Brigham Young boldly opened the scriptures to a more correct (though radical) understanding. At the very least, if he was wrong about everything he ever speculated on, he was merely following in the footsteps of Joseph Smith as he best knew how. Furthermore, the radical ideas being discussed here are symptomatic of the climate that encouraged debate and speculation in early Mormonism, which is now tragically lost. The openness of the early church and aversion to stale religion as embodied by creeds (Articles of Faith or “doctrine,” of you like) is what attracted many 19th century “seekers.” (IMHO) Many modern “seekers” may be put off by the Mormons’ obsession with “the program of the Church,” curricula and manuals. That Brigham Young’s teachings on the generation of Christ were never “doctrine,” is, to me, practically moot. I allow that it’s not totally unimportant, but I think everybody here took that for granted before it was pointed out. Just because it was never doctrine does not make it untrue, and doctrines can be changed, discarded or added as revelation is received. To condemn theological discussion and debate (which were so highly prized in early Mormonism) as “speculation,” “opinion,” or (my favorite knee-jerk response to any unwelcome discussion) “semantics” is Mormon stupidity at its worst. I understand that those who say such things see themselves as protectors of the faith, but a historical or theological interest in the teachings of BY is surely no sin (or if it is, teach me to walk. . .).

    The ball’s in your court, thought police. . .

  59. I’m sorry you are offended. I don’t think I’d be reluctant to discuss this in the temple itself. Some things are too sacred for the internet which is about as much “in the world” as you can get and still avoid sin. I think the only genuine thought police here are the blog owners, whose authority on their sites are absolute, yet who don’t use too heavy a hand.

  60. Why must we know the answer to everything? There is so much we DO know, and the search for further light and understanding is a laudable one. But there is much in the scriptures and in the doctrine which I do not wholly comprehend, and about which it is fairly useless to speculate.

    To quote Emerson: “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” And to paraphrase: All I do understand teaches me to trust the Creator for all I do not understand.

  61. If Robin Williams should ever come up dry, stumped, with nothing to say … and he happens to seek inspiration from the Bloggernacle, I would commend comment #53 to him in its entirety.

  62. Someone wrote earlier that Jesus was a being who could defy all physical laws. God does not defy law. He is bound by physical laws and that is a fundamental principle of the universe. Cleon Skousen has a talk out about the Atonement that beautifully lays out how this all works. God understands all laws and obviously there are many that we don’t know about and cannot comprehend. How does Moroni appear suddenly in the bedroom of Joseph Smith, for example? By following a law we don’t understand. How does he defy gravity? How do these beings suddenly appear. Joseph Smith commented on travel in heaven being done by thought. Skousen talks about two types of intelligence. That which acts and that which is acted upon (2 Ne 2:14) Water turns to wine as the proper priesthood authority commands that it be done and the intelligence attached to the matter rearranges itselft. Can anyone really explain how you get entirely difference substances by rearranging atoms and molecules? 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen give you water, but add 1 more oxygen and you get hydrogen peroxide, a poison, dissinfectanct, ext. I’ve always been amazed at how this all works.

    Moses puts his hand into his cloak, pulls it out and it is leprous. He puts it in again and it is made whole. A simple rearranging of the atoms and molecules by the attached intelligence.

    Elijah commands that a drought come forth and the heavens dry up. How can anything respond to a priesthood command unless it has some sort of intelligence attached.

    You don’t have to agree with everything that Skousen has written, as I know he has pushed the bounds at times, but scripturally he makes for a compelling case in this talk on the Atonment as it is all from the Scriptures. He explains how Apostle Widstoe (a renown scientist) was his mission president in England and sent him on a 7 year journey to discover the meaning behind the atonement.

    So the story behind Mary and Jesus makes sense when one looks at the fact that there are laws that need to be obeyed, even by God. Things don’t just magically happen. The Book of Mormon (Alma 42:23) mentions a condition where God could cease to be. That is probably very blasphemous to some other religions, as is our claim that man can become like God. God is God because He not only understand all the laws of the universe but He obeys them.

    I have tried to discuss this principel with Baptist friends when they have asked how we dare to think that we can ever approach being like God. They like to view Him as an unapproachable being who is out there and so on.

    I can really see why some churches don’t consider us as Christian’s as our concept of God and Christ is so radically different than their concept.

  63. #71:

    Not to threadjack, but if God is subject to Law and is only God as long as He obeys Law, then Law is actually more powerful than God. Hence, God is not omnipotent, for He is subject to Law. If God is below Law, then is Law preexistent and Eternal? Is Law actually God? Perish the thought. I prefer to believe that God is the great Lawgiver–Law is subject to God, not the other way around. Of course, his could just turn into a chicken and egg argument–God came to be God by obeying the Law that was given by His God (King Follett, etc.)…

  64. Why wouldn’t God have DNA? Aren’t we taught that as we are, God once was? Seems to me one of the defining doctrines of Mormonism is that God is a man with a human body. And therefore, using the body for sexual intercourse to produce his only begotten son doesn’t seem like such a stretch.

  65. Miquayla, I confess my reasoning powers might have been slightly messed up earlier by the fact that my sleep-addled mind was awakened at 4:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep. For some reason that comment (#53) seemed to me to be a great example of why this thread is a little messed up — particularly in the eyes of many who are not LDS. Besides dealing with the question of whether God might have sex, the comment deliberately conjures the image of canines mating and ends with this summation:

    “… sex in Heaven is like sex on earth in the way that eating in Heaven is like eating in a Chinese super buffet on earth.”

    That last line just seemed SO bizarre to me at the time. And when re-reading the comment with that sort of attitude in mind, the whole thing seemed really strange. Again, maybe I just needed more sleep or something.

    I know that due to our doctrinal beliefs and theology we sometimes feel that we HAVE to end up in God’s bedroom. After all, it is a practical matter. God has a physical body. He had a Son. The Son had a mother. Being human means that we feel obligated to connect those dots. So these questions become inescapable in some ways. And I’ve engaged in some of the speculation myself before and in this thread. But at a certain point I end up drawing the conclusion that we need to attenuate practicality and replace it with reverence.

  66. Amen, Steve (65). Brigham Young said (to paraphrase) that the Church embraced all truth in heaven and earth, and in hell, if there be any truth there. If the Church is true, then there is no truth in it that we need to fear. The temple, for example, might shake peoples’ comfort zones a bit, but it’s supposed to teach. Attendees should try to understand it, and it’s a shame if being uncomfortable leads one to stop attending. I suspect most of us know someone in that category; at least I do.

    I dislike the “it’s not necessary for our salvation” line, perhaps because it implies willful ignorance and complacency to me (I’m not accusing anyone here; those who have expressed discomfort have a variety of reasons. Just giving my impression about the phrase).

  67. I’m not offended Sheri Lynn. It’s just that to say that we should never (or very seldom) discuss what BY and others taught openly in stake and general conferences, solemn assemblies and before the veil of the temple comes off sounding very presumptuous. It’s too bad all of us enlightened 21st century Mormons weren’t there to tell Orson Pratt, Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith what they should talk about.

  68. charlene and Gilgamesh,

    I don’t see that as a necessary conclusion; we could just as rightly claim that we are performing incest by marrying each other, as direct brothers and sisters. I think there needs to be more to it than what you are thinking.

  69. Consider the following comment:
    “The notion of God having sex with Mary is off-putting for me.”

    It looks as though there are far too many personal pronouns being used in the discussion of this “mysterious” topic. Wee need to realize that it doesn’t matter one way or the other how we feel about or if we are comfortable with those things that our Heavenly Father does. Aside from that is the fact that we don’t know in any detail what happened (neither is it important for us to know).

    These are the same reactions I have seen time and again to other teachings of the Restored Church. Whether or not any of these theories taught by past Church leaders and purported by some to be widely held in the Church turn out to be the truth we should prepare ourselves to humbly accept the truth when and if it is revealed to us.

    Again, Isa 9:19:
    “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.”

  70. Brigham Young probably didn’t give talks on this topic where any Gentile could hear.

  71. As a followup to my previous post and as a response to objections to the “it’s not necessary for our salvation” line (as Matt Bowman put it in #75) I submit the following as my position on the subject of knowledge of mysteries.

    If one seeks to know any mystery and does so righteously one will at some point be granted access to the knowledge one seeks. The mystery is no longer a mystery to that individual. However, the Father, it seems, only trusts his mysteries to those who are prepared for them. One prerequisite seems to be an ability to keep things to oneself. We all have the ability to know these things, but certain things are to be taught by the Spirit and once learned not communicated to others thereby allowing everyone who is prepared to learn by that same process, namely, by the Spirit.

  72. Brigham Young probably didn’t give talks on this topic where any Gentile could hear.

    How else did that lovely 9 April 1952 sermon get such wide distribution.

  73. Are you trying to imply that, Shawn, that BY did not have an “ability to keep things to oneself?” Surely what you say applies to much of personal revelation, but not to matters of common knowledge in the public domain taught on several occasions by church authorities. Not agreeing is one thing. Stopping the discussion, well. . . you ARE free not to read this. And Sheri Lynn, let me know about all those Gentiles who won’t be joining the church because they’ve read this thread. (As if this thread is so much more far gone than alot of other stuff on T&S)

  74. I feel about this thread about the same way I felt when I saw an elder in my previous ward working in his front yard wearing jeans and his garment top. I guess it was a hot day. Who am I to judge anybody for what they feel is sacred or not sacred, I guess.

    I will not read or post on this thread again. I think my opinion is clear and obviously it’s making some people defensive.

  75. Heather O., I posted something similar to this over at Jeffrey’s site. Anyway, to address your question:

    It seems that our theology requires that Jesus had a purely human genome. Why else would he come to mortality. He had to be “human” to be able to succor his people (a la Alma 7).

    As too the genetics of God:We believe that God has no blood. We can infer that he does not need oxygen. From there we can reasonably assert that he has no immune system, heart, lungs, pancreas, etc. We can basically say that God does not have a protein based physiology or in other words, he does not have DNA as we concieve of it.

    Then if go for 19th century Utah theology’s take on where celestial beings are hanging out (in giant balls of fussion), it is obvious that God does not have a protein based physiology (and hence no DNA).

  76. Eric Soderlund,

    You really should read the talk first. Even if you disagree with it I think it is very interesting and worth your time. I believe that:
    Is either the talk that was intended or very similar to it. The idea isn’t so much about physical laws as it is about matter having agency and respecting God because it knows that He is righteous. Therefore it will obey Him. If he were no longer righteous it would not obey him. I would go on but this is off topic.

  77. I believe that the idea that Jesus was born of natural sexual intercourse between the Father and Mary is widespread in the Church, and will not die away any time soon. Both my wife and I are converts to the Church, she from a Roman Catholic background, and me from a Baptist background; and we both believe that sexual procreation is the way that Gods “organize” or father new tabernacles or bodies for spirits. Where did we get this idea? I’m not sure, but it must be ingrained in the culture or we wouldn’t have picked it up.

    So what is wrong with sexual intercourse? What better way could there be to make a person?

  78. Not to flog a dead-and-somewhat-blasphemous horse, but I *finally* understand what bothers me so much about this! Usually when we talk about God, we envision him as the limit of a parent (or other caretaker/loving figure) as the goodness and maturity and wisdom of the parent relative to the child becomes very very large (goes to infinity). God asks for certain things from us that would not be acceptable for mortals to ask because of this. For example, in my example in #32, it would not (normally) be acceptable for a parent of adult children to ask them to obey him/her in all things without hesitation. A parent of toddlers, on the other hand, has a *much* better justification for requiring a strict standard of obedience, even when the child may not understand why. And the limit of this sequence is God, who can ask anything from us (e.g. Abraham).

    Now, sexual activity between parent (or other loving figure) and child becomes much *less* acceptable to us as the relative goodness/maturity/wisdom of the parent gets larger. So we might reasonably think that in this limit, we would not expect such from God as regards Mary. This is what bothers me.

    Now, it is certainly also true that the the limit of f(x) as x->b does not HAVE to be the same as f(b), and similarly God may be different from the infinite limit of what we can imagine with our puny finite brains. It’s just that as a physicist I don’t like discontinuities :)

  79. First, I believe the current edition of Mormon Doctrine has retracted the “sexual intercourse” idea. I may be wrong and as always, open to correction.

    Second, matrimony between the Father and Mary seems absurd. I think that the Father would no sooner marry His daughter than I would mine.

    Third, adultery is less the concern, incest is the best description, and a violation of God’s own law.

    Fourth, the only doctrine taught in the Church is that Mary was moved upon by the Holy Spirit, and conceived a child. God, with powers we yet do not know, has no doubt the power of some heavenly artificial insemenation.

  80. I think this topic for Latter-day Saints often serves as a kind of Rorschach test, allowing us to project our own thoughts, discomforts, wishes, and understandings regarding sexual intimacy. It’s revealing and reflects the extent to which we Latter-day Saint Christians (unnecessarily) retain a negative, inherently sinful view of sexuality that has been carefully crafted, maintained, and exploited by Christianity at least since Augustine.

    Would it be too bold to say that the negative sexual baggage that we hold on to with our other Christian brothers and sisters is a part of the apostasy that we are unwilling to let go of?

    With an emphasis on the embodiment of God, and a firm belief in the importance of physical (material) resurrection, the Restoration invites us to jettison such baggage and unflinchingly affirm the godliness of sexuality. Of course the context of sexual expression is crucial (something important enough to God that he allows us to participate in covenant making concerning this thing); but in its most fundamental form, shouldn’t we teach that sexuality and sexual expression is holy and pure, preparing us for a life with God? It seems to me that the abhorrence (or anything similar to it) of understanding God as, in some sense, sexual is unbecoming of Mormon Christians.

    Thanks, Kevin, for daring to broach the topic.

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