The birth of Jesus Christ is a miraculous and central event in all human history. Jesus Christ was born to Mary and Joseph in the city of Bethlehem, in Judea. 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 on Earth 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)
Nephi, a prophet who kept his record in The Book of Mormon, wrote of a vision of Mary and the birth of Jesus. Nephi was guided through his vision 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)
Since the beginning, God promised to send to earth his Son, who would be the Savior of the world.
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
On the night of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, an angel appeared to shepherds in nearby fields to tell them the important news of the Birth.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:8-11).
Also, in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the prophets talked about and looked forward to the birth of Jesus Christ. 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. He warned them to repent and believe in the Savior. Samuel explained that certain things would happen that would tell them that Jesus Christ 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.
In the New Testament the apostle Matthew recorded that wise men from the east also visited Jesus and gave him gifts.
Herod, the current king of Judea appointed by the Romans, felt threatened by the birth of the King of the Jews and ordered the death of all children two years old and younger who reside in Bethlehem and its surrounding areas. Herod was troubled after hearing the news of Christ’s birth because according to prophecy, Jesus would rule Israel (see Matthew 2:2, Matthew 2:6).
Shortly after the birth of Jesus Christ, and because of these conflicts with Herod and the government, an angel of the Lord directed Joseph to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus and later to return to Israel with them.
The circumstances of Jesus Christ’s birth were humble. Luke 2:7 reads: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” These circumstances can be seen as a foreshadowing of Christ’s mortal ministry and atoning sacrifice. On Earth He was not a popular public figure, but rather was rebuked by many men. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. Much of the world didn’t believe He was the Savior of all mankind. And yet, He was the “lamb of God,” the ultimate sacrifice for mankind. As such, it was fitting that He should be born in a stable.
The holiday of Christmas is celebrated all over the world in late December (with Greek Orthodox Christmas celebrated in January). But Christ was not born in December. Through revelation, Joseph Smith was informed by the Lord that the birth of Christ was the equivalent of April 6th, according to calendars currently used. Thus, Christ was not only the lamb of God, but the paschal lamb, born at Passover. Paul calls Christ the Passover who was slain for us (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Childhood of Jesus Christ
Very little is known of Jesus’ 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 when he reached the age of 12 (Luke 2:41–42).
After the Passover celebration, Mary and Joseph had begun their journey back to Nazareth when they realized that Jesus was not with them (Luke 2:43–45). They found him in the Jewish temple, counseling with the leaders there. 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, 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 is 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 of all the sins of mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, and later, the crucifixion and death of His mortal body on the cross at Calvary.
After His crucifixion and resurrection, Christ visited branches of Israelites who had been separated from those in the Holy Land, namely, Josephites and Judahites who were living in the Americas, and the ten lost tribes. The account of these visits is recorded in the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi.