The birth of Jesus Christ was a miraculous event and the turning point of human history. Mormons believe in the Christmas story, as do other Christians, that Jesus was born in a Bethlehem stable, the Son of God and His mortal mother, Mary. Mormonism differs from Catholicism, in that Mormons do not believe in an “immaculate conception.” This belief holds that Mary was sinless. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the only sinless person ever to have lived on the earth. However, Mormons, believing in a pre-mortal life before life on earth, believe Mary was highly favored even before she was born, chosen in the pre-mortal life and fore-ordained to her calling on earth. As the mother of Our Lord, she must be one of Heavenly Father’s most stellar spirit-children.
Mary was the espoused wife of Joseph at the time of the Condescension of God. Condescension means the lowering of oneself voluntarily. Elder Bruce R. McConkie states “The condescension of God (meaning the Father) consists in the fact that … he became the personal and literal Father of a mortal Offspring born of mortal woman.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 155).
The fact that Jesus Christ had both heavenly and mortal characteristics meant that he could fulfill his mission as Savior of the World. Elder McConkie further explains, “And the condescension of God (meaning the Son) consists in the fact that … he [Jesus Christ] submitted to all the trials of mortality, suffering ‘temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death’ (Mosiah 3:5–8), finally being put to death . . .” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 155). That Jesus Christ was human, meant that He could die; that Jesus Christ was God, meant that He could take up His life again.
Nephi, a prophet of ancient America who contributed to The Book of Mormon, wrote of a vision of Mary and the birth of Jesus revealed to him by an angel:
And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
And he said unto me: Behold the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” (1 Nephi 11: 17-21)
The Book of Mormon teaches that all prophets from the time of Adam have testified of the coming of the Savior. Mormons believe that clear, unmistakable prophecies regarding Christ were originally part of the Old Testament. Prophecies are still to be found there, but they are somewhat obscure.
The Book of Mormon prophets taught of and looked forward to the birth of Jesus Christ. The people lived according to the Law of Moses, but understood the atonement and were bapized in the name of Christ who should come. Five years before Jesus’ birth, a prophet named Samuel, who lived in the Americas, was called by God to prepare the people for the birth of Jesus Christ. He warned them to repent and believe in the Savior. Samuel explained that certain things would happen that would tell them that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem. The night before Jesus was born there would be great lights in the sky. They would be so bright that during the night there would be no darkness. At night it would be as light as if it were daytime.
“And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.
And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.
And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.
And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall believe on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life.” (Helaman 14:5)
The star signaling the Savior’s birth was seen in the Americas as well as in Jerusalem. The Savior had been born. Even though the inhabitants on the American continent were unable to go see the child, they knew his birth was important to them.
The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that Christ was born in the spring, at the beginning of April, which fits the biblical account. The Church was organized on April 6th, which would have been the date of Christ’s birth according to our calendar. That Christ was born at the Passover season confirms the image that He is the paschal lamb. (See 1 Corinthians 5:7.)
Childhood of Jesus Christ
Very little is known of Jesus Christ’s early years, until he left home to begin his mortal ministry. In the New Testament it is recorded by the apostle Luke that, guided by the Father, Jesus grew and prepared in his youth for his ministry. Luke 2:40 states: “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.”
It is recorded in the same chapter of Luke that every year Joseph and Mary and other faithful Jews celebrated the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem. Their son Jesus accompanied them at the age of 12 (Luke 2:41–42). It probably was His thirteenth birthday, the age of bar mitzvah, when Jewish boys begin to read from and expound upon the scriptures, that Christ began to teach in the temple (Luke 2:43–45). It is written that “all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47). When asked what he was doing, Jesus answered, “I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49), referring to the spiritual work of Heavenly Father.
It is understood that as a youth, Jesus was an obedient son to Mary and Joseph. Luke 2:51 states that he “was subject unto them,” even though he was the Son of God. Also Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Otherwise stated, he developed intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.
During His mortal life and before His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ taught the gospel to all who would hear Him within His commanded jurisdiction. The Lord had sent Him to teach the Jews. Jesus healed the sick and performed other miracles, and organized His church on the earth. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life that all mankind may look to as an example.
The Sermon on the Mount, a gospel lesson Jesus gave to a multitude of people, is recorded in Matthew 5 and serves as an example of Jesus’ desire to teach His gospel to all.
Records of the miracles the Savior performed are scattered throughout the New Testament. Specifically in Matthew 14:14 it reads, “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them and he healed their sick.”
Jesus Christ also organized His church. Matthew 3:14 states, “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” The calling of these twelve disciples was an integral part of the organization of Christ’s church, which was necessary for Him to complete his final act as Savior of the world, the Atonement. This great sacrifice included the taking upon Himself all the sins and sorrows of mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, and later, the crucifixion and death of His mortal body on the cross at Calvary.
Death of Christ
Scholars are beginning to realize that Christ was crucified on Thursday afternoon (though this is not a proclaimed doctrine of the Church), so that He did fullfil the “sign of Jonah,” who was in the belly of the “Great Fish” for three days and three nights.
As recorded in the Book of Mormon, there were huge storms and earthquakes at the time of Christ’s crucifixion that lasted three hours and cause extreme destruction and caused the more wicked of the people to perish. Afterwards, while Christ was in the tomb, there were three full days of “thick darkness.” The voice of Christ was heard just before He appeared, and the darkness dispersed:
And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
During the three days Christ’s body was in the tomb, Christ’s spirit was instructing the spirits of the deceased in the Spirit World. This was seen in vision by Prophet Joseph F. Smith, and recorded in Doctrine and Covenants, section 138.