THUS SAYETH THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATIONS
If we assume that a publication copyrighted by the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be logically called “official,” we find a number of statements concerning the literal paternity of Christ in “official” documents written over the last thirty years. For example, from the Family Home Evenings booklet of 1972 we read:
We must come down to the simple fact that God Almighty was the Father of His Son Jesus Christ. Mary, the virgin girl, who had never known mortal man, was his mother. God by her begot his Son Jesus Christ, and he was born into the world with power and intelligence like that of His Father. . . . 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. (Joseph F. Smith, Box Elder Stake Conference Dec. 20, 1914 as quoted in Brigham City Box Elder News, 28 Jan. 1915, pp. 1-2).
Following this statement the booklet shows an almost stick-figure male identified as “Daddy,” and another figure, female, identified as “Mommy.” There is a plus between them, with lines leading down to a child figure, marked “You.” Right below this we have the following diagram that has “Our Heavenly Father” where “Daddy” was, “Mary” where “Mommy” was, and “Jesus” where “You” was. If such a graphic, meant to be used to explain LDS doctrine to children, is not enough to convince a person of the meaning of this teaching, nothing will be. Remember, this is in an “official” publication. But this is certainly not the only place we can find it. The work, Messages for Exaltation: Eternal Insights from the Book of Mormon, said:
Christ has power over death. Since the Fall of Adam, every person born on earth has had within him the seeds of death. Christ was no exception. He inherited the ability to die from mortal mother, Mary. But he also inherited the ability to live forever from his immortal Father. This power over death was entirely dependent upon Christ’s being the literal Son of God. From his immortal, glorified Father he inherited power over death. Thus with a mortal mother and an immortal Father, the sinless Christ could decide for himself whether to live or die. The choice was his. Milton R. Hunter expressed this power in these words: He, Jesus Christ, being literally the Only Begotten Son of God, was endowed with a double portion of divine attributes. He received a comparable proportion of divinity in the spirit world that we received through being spirit children of God, and He was also the offspring of the Eternal Father in mortality-thus He possessed a double portion of God’s power.
This is exactly in line with the Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, Religion 231 and 232 (Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 1986, p. 22, which states:
C. Only Jesus Christ possessed the qualifications and attributes necessary to perform an infinite atonement. 1. As the Only Begotten Son of God, the Savior inherited the capacity to suffer for the sins of all the children of God.
The above referenced Messages for Exaltation also said:
He was willing to make payment because of his great love for mankind, and he was able to make payment because he lived a sinless life and because he was actually, literally, biologically the Son of God in the flesh. Thus he had the power to atone for the spiritual and physical deaths introduced by the Fall of Adam and Eve.
Is there not an obvious consistency through all these citations, going all the way back through Talmage to Brigham Young? There certainly is. And this consistency follows through to the modern Encyclopedia of Mormonism as well. For example,
For Latter-day Saints, the paternity of Jesus is not obscure. He was the literal, biological son of an immortal, tangible Father and Mary, a mortal woman (see Virgin Birth). Jesus is the only person born who deserves the title “the Only Begotten Son of God” (John 3:16; Benson, p. 3; see Jesus Christ: Only Begotten in the Flesh). He was not the son of the Holy Ghost; it was only through the Holy Ghost that the power of the Highest overshadowed Mary.
Likewise, we also read:
Ancient and modern scriptures use the title Only Begotten to emphasize the divine nature of Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints recognize Jesus as literally the Only Begotten Son of God the Father in the flesh. . . . This title signifies that Jesus’ physical body was the offspring of a mortal mother and of the eternal Father. . . . It is LDS doctrine that Jesus Christ is the child of Mary and God the Father, “not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof” (JC, p. 81).
Note the line, “It is LDS doctrine that Jesus Christ is the child of Mary and God the Father.” Is this LDS writer trying to “misrepresent” Mormonism? Is he an “eccentric”? And are Chrisitans to be accused of attacking a straw man when they object to this teaching? No, not at all. This is LDS doctrine, pure and simple, as one last citation shows:
The fact of Jesus’ being the literal Son of God in the flesh is crucial to the Atonement, which could not have been accomplished by an ordinary man. . . . To complete the Atonement by physical death and resurrection, it was necessary that Jesus be able to lay down his physical body and also be able to take it up again. He could do this only because he had life in himself, which he inherited from God his Father. . . .Christ inherited the ability to die from his mortal mother and the power to resurrect himself from his immortal Father. Dying was for him a voluntary, deliberate act for mankind, made possible only because he was the Only Begotten of the Father.
It is not always easy to determine the teachings of the LDS faith. However, if one uses the resources that are available, the task is quite possible. And when it comes to the physical, literal parentage of Jesus Christ, the consistent teaching of the General Authorities of the LDS faith is without question. If LDS apologists like Daniel Peterson, Stephen Ricks, and Stephen Robinson, wish to identify this teaching as merely a matter of speculation, they are certainly free to do so (though at the cost of consistency). I certainly would not wish to be pressed into defending a doctrine such as this one! To call it “blasphemous” is to understate the issue. We should not forget, however, the words of Bruce R. McConkie, written to BYU professor Eugene England:
It is not in your province to set in order the Church or to determine what its doctrines shall be. . . . This means, among other things, that it is my province to teach to the Church what the doctrine is. You do not have a divine commission to correct me or any of the Brethren. The Lord does not operate that way. If I lead the Church astray, that is my responsibility, but the fact still remains that I am the one appointed with all the rest involved so to do. The appointment is not given to the faculty at Brigham Young University or to any of the members of the Church.
But it strikes me that it would be rather easy for these men to disprove the doctrine: cite a consistent denial of the alleged “misrepresentation” on the part of critics of the LDS faith from the very same sources I have used. The simple fact is, they can’t, since no such denial exists.
The moral of the story is just this: there are good and bad apologetic works in the Christian community, and there are good and bad apologetic works in the LDS community, too. Normally, the bad Christian books come from those who simply don’t do their homework. In the case of Mormonism, however, it is hard to say that leading LDS scholars didn’t do their homework. Some other force seems to be in operation here.