"The angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee named Nazaeth to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph… And the angel 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" (Luke 1:26,27,35).
These scriptures are very familiar to nearly all Christians, but what exactly do they tell us? To many Christians it simply means that Mary was told that she would give birth to a baby boy who would grow to be the Savior of the world. But in order for a baby to be born it first must be conceived. That is, a female egg has to be fertilized by a male and then allowed to grow for nine months in the womb of the mother before coming forth into the world.
The scriptures tell us that Mary was "a virgin," which, by definition, means "one who has not experienced sexual intercourse" (Webster's University Dictionary). If that is so, then how did one of her eggs become fertilized so that a living, growing baby was created within her womb?
Most Christians don't even think about this question. They simply accept as fact that Mary was a virgin and somehow miraculously had a baby. However, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that God is the literal Father of Jesus Christ. What that clearly implies is that Jesus had the genes of His mortal mother, Mary and the genes of His Divine Father, God. It is therefore assumed by critics of the LDS church that we believe God had physical intercourse with Mary in order to fertilize her egg. Understandably, this seems like a blasphemous statement! And, indeed, members of the LDS faith feel the same way. Then exactly how did Mary conceive the baby who would become known as Jesus?
The Bible explains the process in these words: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee." But what exactly does that mean? How did the Holy Ghost come upon her and what happened when He did? And what is this "power" that overshadowed her, and what exactly does it mean to "overshadow" her? The scripture tells us that this power belonged to "the Highest," but exactly who or what is "the Highest?"
The fact of the matter is we don't know the answer to these questions because God has not revealed the mechanics of that process. But there is absolutely no doubt that God is in reality the literal Father of Jesus. Jesus was conceived by God and then was born by the same natural process that all men are. That is, in the beginning His physical body began as a microscopic, fertilized egg, which divided and multiplied as it grew, just as what happens with all other humans. Nine months later He came forth with a human, physical body from the womb of an earthly mother, just as all babies do. In other words, there was nothing about the physical body of Jesus that made Him different than anyone else.
Being a male child, Jesus would have had both an X and a Y chromosome in His genes. Since women have only X chromosomes, that means the physical body of Jesus had to have received His Y chromosome from His Father. It is at this point that Christians begin to balk. Although they readily admit that Jesus was fully human and that there was nothing different about his body than ours, yet they recoil at the idea that He had to have received His Y chromosomes from a male. Therefore, without any scriptural basis to support their beliefs, they imagine that Jesus must have somehow magically been born with Y chromosomes without there being a male involved. They argue that if God can create the entire universe out of nothing, and He could make Adam from the dust of the earth and Eve from the rib of a man, then why couldn't He provide Jesus with the proper genes without the need for a male partner?
Although this sounds like a valid argument, there is only one problem with it. Jesus is called "the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18), and "the only begotten of the Father" (John 1:14). The word "beget" means "to father a child." The physical body of Jesus was not created from nothing, nor was it made from another object such as dust or a bone. The Bible clearly and unambiguously declares that Jesus was fathered. Moreover, it clearly and unambiguously states the He is the only person who was begotten (i.e., fathered) by God. That is what the Bible means when it says that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. There is no other meaning possible.
When Jesus was twelve years old He was accidentally left behind at the temple in Jerusalem by his earthly parents. When they finally realized this, they hurried back to find Him. "And his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father [Joseph] and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:48,49). Jesus did not recognize Joseph as His father. Instead, throughout His mortal life, Jesus constantly referred to God as "my Father" and repeatedly taught that He had been sent to earth by His Father in heaven. Although He also taught that God was our Father as well, God did not beget us, but He did beget Jesus. Hence, Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father.
The question then becomes, how was Jesus fathered? In other words, how did God fertilize Mary's egg in such a way that God then became the literal Father of Jesus?
Critics of the LDS church point to statements made by church leaders such as Brigham Young who once said, "The birth of the Savior 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." (Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 115). The critics interpret these words to mean that the conception of Jesus "was the result of natural action." Since the natural way for man to father a child is through sexual intercourse, these critics claim that we teach that God had sex with Mary.
But this is not what Brigham Young or any other LDS leader has ever taught. A careful reading of his words will clearly show that he was talking about the natural process of birth, not conception. Read again what Brigham Young said. "The birth of the Savior was as natural as are the births of our children; it (referring to the birth, not the conception) was the result of natural action."
The Bible tells us "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth unto Judea, unto the city of David to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was that while they were there the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger" (Luke 2:4-7).
Mary carried her firstborn child for nine months in her womb as all mothers do. By that time she was "great with child," which is a poetic way of saying that the child within her had grown quite large as happens with all women who are in their ninth month of pregnancy. While she was in Bethlehem, she "delivered" her child. And how did she do that? By the same natural process through which all women give birth. When her child came forth into the world, he needed to be wrapped in clothing to be kept warn, just like all other babies do. He needed sleep, just like all other babies, and he needed food just like all other babies. Jesus was born by the same natural process that all of us go through. The LDS church readily admits that the conception of Mary was a supernatural occurrence, but they, along with nearly all other Christian faiths, maintain that the remaining process of birth was completely natural.
There are some who will say, "But how else could God beget Jesus if it was not through sexual intercourse?" Today over twenty thousand women a year become pregnant and have a baby without having sexual contact with a man. The means by which this happens is known as "in vitro fertilization." This is a method whereby an egg is extracted from a female's body and then a man's sperm is combined with the woman's egg (oocyte) in a laboratory dish, where fertilization occurs. The resulting embryo is then transferred to the uterus to develop naturally. If man, with his limited knowledge and crude tools, can accomplish non-sexual conception, certainly God can achieve the same results using far superior methods.
It is said that all God has to do is merely speak the word and whatever He wants done is instantly accomplished. Therefore, it is argued that all God had to do was simply give the command and Mary suddenly became pregnant, with her newly conceived child having all the necessary genes and chromosomes properly supplied. To many, the conception of Jesus is no more complicated than that. However, that is not what the Bible says happened in this instance. If all God had to do was say the word then why did the Holy Ghost have to come upon Mary, and why did the power of the Highest have to overshadow her? Obviously, there was some reason why God did that in order for Jesus to be conceived. And, in fact, the way this event is worded in the Bible almost gives the impression that it is describing some sort of a medical procedure.
Exactly how this event took place no one really knows, and the LDS church has never tried to explain it. What the LDS faith does teach is that in some way unknown to us Jesus became the literal offspring of his mortal mother, Mary, and His divine father, God. Furthermore, they teach that Jesus is the only person ever born of a woman who was begotten this way.
But Jesus wasn't the only son of God. The apostle Paul wrote, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). That means all Christians are also the sons of God. Paul verified this when he wrote, "Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Gal. 4:7). "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Heb. 12:7). The apostle John wrote, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1).
If Jesus is a son of God and we, as believers in Christ, are also sons of God, then that makes us all brothers and sisters to one another and to Christ. And indeed, what we see in the scriptures is that the early saints did refer to each other as "brother" or "brethren," when speaking of more than one (1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; 2:13; Philip 2:25; Col 4:7,9; 1 Pet. 5:12 ), and "sisters" (Rom. 16:1; 1Cor. 7:15; 9:5; James 2:15; 2 John 1:13). Furthermore, Jesus taught that when we pray we are to do so to "our Father which art in heaven" (Matt. 6:6,9). When Mary saw the resurrected Jesus at the tomb He said to her, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17). If Jesus called God His Father, and He taught that God is also our Father, that can only mean Jesus is our brother. And, in fact, He as much said so when He told Mary, "but go to my brethren."
However, it is understood by all that Paul is speaking of this family relationship in a spiritual sense rather than in a literal, biological sense. In fact, Paul told the saints, "but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15). "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph. 2:19). In other words, when we accept Christ's atonement we then become adopted into the family of God. Therefore, we become, in effect, step-children to God and step-brothers and sisters to Jesus.
But there are other scriptures that cannot be explained this way. The Bible tells us that Adam was also the son of God (Luke 3:38). Clearly, this is not meant in a spiritual sense. Then why is Adam referred to this way? The Bible also tells us of an incident when "there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them" (Job 1:6). Who were these "sons of God?" Most Christian commentators are in agreement that it was the angels. Furthermore, in this story we read that "Satan came also among them." The implication is that he was one of these sons. In fact, Lucifer, who was known as the "son of the morning" (Isaiah14:12) was a fallen angel. That clearly implies that before he fell from God's grace (taking with him one third of the angles - Rev. 12:4), Lucifer was one of God's holy "sons." Since angels are spirit beings, the fact that the Bible refers to them as "sons of God" seems to indicate they have a family relationship with God. Therefore, if angels all have the same Father, then it follows that they too are brothers and sisters to each other, thereby making Satan one of their brothers.
However, Christians believe that angels are created beings, not begotten, therefore they contend that these creatures are not "children" of God in the true sense of the word. Yet Paul wrote, "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?" (Heb. 12:9). Paul clearly and deliberately makes a connection between earthly, physical fathers and God, who is, in like manner, a Father of spirit beings. But who are these spirits that Paul says God is their Father? One prominent Christian commentator wrote, "Our earthly fathers are but the fathers of our flesh, but God is the Father of our spirits. Our fathers on earth were instrumental in the production of our bodies, which are… a proper tabernacle for the soul to dwell in… [if] we owe reverence and affection to those who were instrumental in their procreation; but then we must own much more to him who is the Father of our spirits. Our souls are not of a material substance… they are the immediate offspring of God, who, after he had formed the body of man out of the earth, breathed into him a vital spirit, and so he became a living soul" (Matthew Henry's Commentary).
The Bible tells us, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Eccl. 12:7). All Christian commentators acknowledge that "the dust" refers to our physical body, and "the spirit" refers to man's spirit that dwells within him. If that is so, then how can our spirit "return unto God" unless if first came from Him?
As cited before, Jesus taught that God is our Father. However, it should be noted that He didn't say God would become our Father if or when we accepted Him. Instead, He definitively declared that God is our Father who lives in heaven. The obvious implication is that Jesus meant this in a universal way, rather than in a spiritual sense as Paul used the term or in a biological sense meaning our physical bodies. If our spirits came from God to inhabit our earthly bodies and will return unto God when our bodies perish, then it is consistent with the scriptures for Jesus to say that God is the Father of everyone's spirit.
Regardless of whether we interpret these verses in a literal or figurative sense, the clear teaching of the Bible is that God is the Father of all spirits, which includes angels, devils, and humans. Since Jesus has always been the Son of God from the very beginning that means man, angels and devils have the same Father as Jesus does. That makes all of us related to one another in one sense or another. If we all have the same Father, then that automatically means we are brothers and sisters to each another. And the same is true even in families that have adopted children.
Just like in any family, there are some children who are the apple of their parent's eye and are their pride and joy. But, there are other children who turn out to be the "black sheep" of the family. If, let's say, a family had two sons and one of them became a great preacher of righteousness and the other became a great evil criminal, that doesn't mean they are no longer related as brothers to each other, no matter how much they might hate one another or wish they weren't related. In the same way, if Jesus is the Son of God and Satan is also a son of God, just because one is exalted to sit on the right hand of God and the other is cast into outer darkness doesn't mean they aren't brothers. Nor does it degrade Jesus to say that He has the same Father as Satan no more than it exalts Satan to claim that God is his Father. In the same way, because we say that Jesus is our brother doesn't make us His equal nor does it diminish His glory if He calls us His brethren.
Satan once was a glorious angel and, as such, enjoyed a spiritual closeness with God. But, because he chose to rebel against God's authority, he forfeited the spiritual bond that he once had with his Father. In the same way, each of us have become spiritually separated from God, our Father in heaven, because of the choices we make. Yet, God still loved us so much that He sent His Son to earth to reconcile us to Him. But because Jesus was no ordinary Son, when He came to earth, He had no ordinary Father. While we may all be the sons of God in more than one sense, Jesus is the only person who can say He was truly begotten of God