Virgin Birth of Our Redeemer

By Joseph Smith III

Manger scene by Nancy Harlacher
This manger scene in the stable at Bethlehem was painted especially for Vision #48 by Nancy Harlacher.

We learn with regret that there is now and then an elder who believes and teaches against the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Christ.

The scriptural statement is the accepted faith of the Church, and he who teaches to the contrary does not express the voice of the Church.

That a man's faith cannot be coerced by any human power we are willing to admit; but all well-disciplined minds will agree to the principle that he who is a representative of a people, must not present as the doctrine of that people that which he knows is disapprobated by them.

It is true that every man has the right to hold personal views and belief upon all subjects connected with time and eternity; but no man has a right, while essaying to represent the faith of a people, to present as their doctrine what he knows to be only his own private views, and not held by that people.

Joseph Smith III
Joseph Smith III, Prophet of the RLDS Church, 1860–1914

To hold that the scriptural relation of the immaculate conception of Jesus is untrue is to accept Him as less than Christ. We can have no confidence for our salvation in one simply mortal in His conception and life; for it is not given to man to "redeem his fellowmen, or to give a ransom for his brother." The fact of His immaculate conception is necessary to the validity of His claim as the Son of God, and this claim is essential to the existence and truthfulness of the plan of salvation, and the redemption of the body from the grave to honor and glory; destroys Christ's Sonship and the entire Gospel fabric fades into the mists of infidelity.

Our confidence in Christ is not dependent upon the antiquity of the doctrine of His Sonship alone; but the tenor of the Scriptures both old and new, as well as the revelations of God of modern date, seem to bear the declaration that Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of God."

If He was the son of Joseph, begotten of the will of the flesh, then every claim to divinity and every argument based thereon for the salvation of the human family is futile, and we have no hope for anything revealed in the Bible.

We believe in the immaculate conception of Christ, and we understand this to be the faith of the Church; and we would hereby advise those who hold licenses to represent the Church that they are not authorized to present a doctrine to the people as a part of the faith of the Church that is not so recognized.

No elder is at liberty to present his private views, held in antagonism to the body (if any such there be) as the faith of the Church. The terms of the compact are, they shall teach the things which are given in the Scriptures, according to the Church covenants and commandments. The Spirit will not lead a man to disregard the Church articles; nor will it lead him to teach personal views and speculative theories as the doctrine of the Church.

Much of the teaching which has characterized the preaching of some who have attempted to reconcile the genealogy given of Jesus, has been of a vain and intangible kind; and it has been assumed by each, that his way of accounting for any difficulty was the only one which could be successfully maintained. The conclusion is based upon the idea that there could be nothing existing unless its existence was satisfactorily explained. For our own part we are willing to concede that we know of several things which exist as facts or truths, for the existence of which we have no reason to give satisfactory to us or to others. This does not in any wise interfere with their existence.

That Jesus is the Christ may be revealed; but how He is, or how He became the Son of God, may not be within our power to demonstrate satisfactorily to all, however well developed and fortified our theory may seem to be to ourselves. To attempt then to throw doubt upon the Scripture relation, upon the hypothesis that He may be more easily proved to be the Son of God by human reasoning and philosophy, is to us a very doubtful and destructive policy; while we by no means would attempt to stifle or prevent theorizing or reasoning.

(True Latter Day Saints' Herald [Plano, Illinois, June 1 , 1870]: 336–337)

"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" (Book of Mormon, Alma 5:19).