Who was Mary?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a different view of Mary, the Mother of God, than does the Catholic Church. Latter-day Saints believe that we existed before birth in a pre-mortal, heavenly existence with Heavenly Father. In that realm, which Latter-day Saints call the "first estate," there were noble and great spirits who had distinguished themselves. These were chosen and fore-ordained to specific callings to forward the work of the Lord during their earthly existence. The Lord testified to this truth to Abraham, as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price:
- Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
- And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born (Abraham 3:22-23).
Mormons believe that Mary was foreordained to her calling to be the mother of Christ, and that to have merited that station, she must have been one of the most illustrious spirit children of God—righteous, intelligent, and faithful.
An Immaculate Conception?
Latter-day Saints believe that Mary was not sinless, that the only sinless person who has ever lived on the earth is Christ himself. The additional scriptures available to Latter-day Saints confirm the biblical account that Mary was a virgin who possessed great physical and spiritual beauty, and that she was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost. There are no scriptural references to her childhood or upbringing.
Prophecies Concerning Mary in LDS Scripture
There are prophecies of the virgin-birth in the Book of Mormon. The prophet Nephi wrote of a vision he saw shortly after arriving in the Americas from Jerusalem, nearly 600 years before the Savior's birth:
- And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.
- And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
- And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
- And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
- 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 11:12-21)!
He again prophesied to his people:
- Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign—Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (2 Nephi 17:14).
In around 124 B.C. a Book of Mormon king named Benjamin sought to have his people take upon themselves the name of Christ and look forward to His coming. These people expected that Christ would appear to them after His prophesied resurrection. They lived according to the Law of Moses looking forward to the time it would be fulfilled by Christ. They also lived according to the "Plan of Happiness," or gospel of Christ. King Benjamin said to his people:
- And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.
- And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.
- And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men (Mosiah 3:8-10).
The Book of Mormon prophet Alma said in about 82 B.C:
- 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 (Alma 7:10).
Do Latter-day Saints Revere Mary?
Latter-day Saints have great reverence for Mary and appreciation of her calling among the children of God. They reverence her sacrifice and tell her story, especially on Christmas and Easter. Appreciation for her is manifested in works of music and art. However, Mormons pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ and believe that praying to Mary is out of order in God's plan for his children.