Merry Christmas from Bruce McConkie?

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The back of this “Christmas card” has a note from Kevin Barney of FAIR:

“My usual tack when asked about it is to point out that the idea is not now and never was doctrine; it was a speculation… I will confess, however, that I actually like this idea. Maybe it is because I have a streak of old fashioned Mormonism somewhere inside me. But I find it appealing on several levels. First, there is a certain naturalism to the idea. I presume the mortal Jesus had 46 chromosomes, and that 23 came from Mary, but where did the other 23 come from? As a Mormon, I’m not big on the idea that they were created ex nihilo for this specific purpose. I like being able to say that Jesus really did have a father, not in a metaphorical sense only (the language of begetting in the creeds doesn’t mean litera begetting), but in a physical sense. He really was the Son of God.

I also find it fascinating that people see this idea as being so totally offensive. To me, that speaks not only to our radically different conception of God and man as being of the same species, our literalist notion of divine paternalism and our radical materialism, but also to our Puritan heritage. If it is so disgusting to suggest God sired a son by sexual intercourse, why, I wonder, did God ordain that to be the natural method by which we conceive our own children? Is that just some sort of a cosmic joke? Does God sit in yonder heavens and look down on his creatures and laugh at their disgusting and dirty and ridiculous actions? Isn’t it possible that, if God ordained sexual intercourse as the means by which we create children, that it is divinely appointed and not disgusting or dirty at all?

I freely concede that the old fashioned Mormon speculators didn’t think all the way through this idea, and there are theological loose ends, to be sure. But I am curious: does anyone else here kind of like this old notion, or is it Mormon materialism run amuck?”

The Mormon apologist goes on to write:

[T]he sexual generation theory is very much a minority view in the Church today, and is dying… Although the sexual idea is dying, it’s not dead yet. A friend of mine took a poll in his older-skewing ward in Ogden, and everyone he talked to thought that of course Jesus was sexually generated. So there are pockets of old-timers on the Wasatch front where the idea still lives.

Update: Since this is such a notorious topic for hedgings and red herrings, I will tightly regulate the conversation. To keep the conversation on topic, it will not be about what constitutes “official doctrine” in Mormonism. Save that discussion for a future post dedicated to the particular topic.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think the idea of the sexual generation of Jesus is revolting to Christians, but not revolting to some Mormons?
  • Did Kevin Barney, in the above quotes, implicitly affirm that some past LDS leaders have taught of the sexual generation of Jesus, nevertheless calling it speculation? Why do you think he doesn’t just respond with, “It was never taught, even in the manner of speculation”?
  • Why do you think Mormons are divided amongst themselves over whether past LDS leaders taught of the sexual generation of Jesus?
  • Why do you think Mormons are more willing to argue with evangelical Christians over this issue than they are amongst themselves? Does the Mormon worldview foster a shrug of indifference over the belief of some that Jesus was (at least possibly) sexually generated?
  • What evidence is there, if any, that Young or Talmage or McConkie were speaking in a merely speculative manner on this subject? Where did they ever qualify their words with something that would indicate it was mere speculative guesswork and not assertive truth-claims (note: I said “assertive truth-claims”, not “official doctrines”)?
  • If “it” was speculation, what is “it”?
  • If you are Mormon, are you willing to unequivocally and publicly admit that Young, Pratt, Talmage, or McConkie taught of the sexual generation of Jesus Christ between God the Father and his spirit-daughter Mary?
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7 Responses to Merry Christmas from Bruce McConkie?

  1. falcon says:

    I have to admit, that when I read this I wanted to grab the author by the throat and shake him. What a calm, reasoned presentation he made of something that is, I don’t know, pick a word that means something like “disgusting”. See, if the guy sounded like a wild eyed fanatic with eyes the size of saucers, and bushy hair it would be easy to dismiss him as a nut. But the sin here is not only the concept, but the way it’s presented. I’ve wathched people accept ideas (religious, political etc.) that were totally off the wall, just by the manner in which they (ideas) were presented. Sometimes it’s quiet confidence that seduces people and sometimes it’s unfettered gusto and enthusiasm. One thing I know, there is always a certain segment of the population that will buy an idea if it’s reasonably presented and especially if it runs contrary to established thought. The further out the more believable for some folks. All I can say is may God have mercy on his soul.

  2. David says:

    It gets even worse if one thinks about this idea in light of Matt 1:20&21. This would make Mary a polygamist (probably not a problem for 19th century Mormonism). It would also make Jesus the product of an incestuous union. We would have incestuolus sex to look forward to (or it would at least be lawful) after exaltation as this is what Elohim did and we are all striving to be like in him in the most literal sense!

    Also notice that in the older, Ogden ward that was polled this is the dominant view. The Mormons who believe in the virgin birth are the nubies. So much for the idea that Mormons never believed this (I really do appreciate this guys candor). This change I submit was not born out of a careful search of the scriptures or anything like that but rather apologetic necessity.

    [snipped for the sake of modesty]

    Aaron, going after the non-virgin birth on Christmas (and making Mormons stick to the topic at hand)? You are rough. Fish in a barrel man!

  3. dj1989 says:

    I know that I’m just setting myself up for criticism, but this idea isn’t repulsive to me. (Disclaimer – For my own part, I don’t know how the virgin conception happened, or the details involved.) But, there is a bit of “old Mormon” inside of me too, I guess. However it happened, I will willingly except the truth, as soon as the truth is revealed in detail to the world.

    There is one thing that I find “repulsive”, and that is hard-hearted human beings, that are unwilling to consider that their understanding of God is in fact not complete, and that there may in fact be truth in the universe that smacks against their current traditional beliefs.

    But, regarding the topic at hand… I haven’t come to any definitive conclusions.

  4. Arthur Sido says:

    The topic at hand causes revulsion not as much because of the mere idea of a physical act, but the degradation of the person and nature of God. The birth of Jesus was a miracle, precisley because a virgin conceived and gave birth. God delights in doing the impossible to remind men that He is God and we are not (a lesson that ought be remmebered by those seeking godhood)

    It also strikes at the trustworthiness of the Word. If Isaiah prophesied thus: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isa 7:14) then later we are told that Mary was found with child before knowing a man, either the Word is true and she was a virgin, or she was not and it is not.

  5. lautensack says:

    Snipped. I’m trying to avoid taking this conversation in the direction of the topic of what constitutes official doctrine. There will be a future post dedicated to this topic.

    As for the original post I am pretty sure that Christians don’t think that sex is a dirty thing, this one doesn’t for one, frankly it was made to glorify God. That is not why we find such a statement “disgusting” but because it takes God and places Him on our level, glorifying fallen man, making Him the same “species” as us rather than taking a biblical stance on the issue. (Isaiah 43:10) It seems that Keven missed the point, the reason this is so offensive to Christians is theological, not because we have a problem with sex, when in its proper place.

  6. Dennis says:

    I am new to this blog but find it very interesting.

    It seems to me that we can’t let these authorities off so easily as saying it was only speculation and conjecture.

    1 This was not private speculation but public proclamation which took the form of intentionally teaching thousands if not millions of people.

    2 This teaching had the desired affect of forming the beliefs of this multitude of people. (The multitude accepted it as truth).

    3 The teachers had the knowledge that what they were teaching was in direct contradiction to what the Bible says on the subject.

    If this last point is true, they must have believed that they were speaking revealed truth that was more accurate that what was recorded in the Bible. Think about the self-esteem that would require. If we now conclude they were wrong, it seems to me that the entirety of their unique teaching should be called into question.

  7. I attached a set of questions to the original post which will hopefully rein in the conversation.

    The exchange between Hank and I has been deleted. Hank, if you want to participate in this discussion, you must make a reasonable attempt to answer some of the listed questions. Otherwise, you will be suspended for attempting to hijack this conversation with red herrings.

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