Anciently, news of the Savior’s birth was a glad tiding declared by many—God had sent His Son to redeem the world. “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles” declares Jesus to be “the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world” (Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2000, 2–3). In this lesson, students will come to know why it was critical that Jesus be born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father.
Robert E. Wells, “Our Message to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 65–66.
Suggestions for Teaching
“Only Begotten of the Father”
Begin class by showing the video “The Nativity” (2:59). (Download and preview the video before class.)
After the video, ask:
What aspects of the Savior’s birth are important to you and why?
Tell students that in this lesson they will discuss an aspect of Jesus Christ’s birth that is critical to our understanding of the Savior’s ability to fulfill His role in the Father’s plan.
Invite a student to read Matthew 1:18–19 aloud, and ask the class to visualize the situation these verses describe. (Note: Visualizing is a scripture study skill that can help make a scripture account more vivid and real.) Then ask students how they might feel if they found themselves in a situation similar to Joseph’s. Ask students to read Matthew 1:20–24 silently and identify why Joseph decided not to “put [Mary] away privily” (verse 19), meaning to privately have his betrothal to Mary annulled. (Note: Defining difficult words and phrases helps students understand the scriptures. For these verses, you might use the following explanations: (1) the name Jesus [Yeshua in Aramaic] means “Jehovah is salvation” or “Jehovah saves”; (2) the scripture referred to in Matthew 1:22–23 is Isaiah 7:14; and (3) the name Emmanuel means “God with us.”)
Invite a student to read Luke 1:26–30 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what this passage teaches about Mary. Ask students to explain what they find. Then ask a student to read Luke 1:31–35 aloud while the class follows along. Ask:
How do these verses confirm who the Father of Jesus is?
Draw the following diagram on the board:
Ask a member of the class the following questions:
What is a physical trait you inherited from your father? What is a physical trait you inherited from your mother?
Add the student’s response to the diagram on the board (see the accompanying example):
Erase the previous diagram and draw the following on the board:
Display the following statement by Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:
“That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof; … In His nature would be combined the powers of Godhood with the capacity and possibilities of mortality; and this through the ordinary operation of the fundamental law of heredity, declared of God, demonstrated by science, and admitted by philosophy, that living beings shall propagate—after their kind. The Child Jesus was to inherit the physical, mental, and spiritual traits, tendencies, and powers that characterized His parents—one immortal and glorified—God, the other human—woman” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 81).
What important traits did the Savior inherit from each of His parents?
As students respond, list on the board under “Mary” the traits Jesus Christ inherited from His mother (such as mortality—the ability to suffer pain and to die physically). List under “Heavenly Father” the traits Jesus inherited from His Father (such as the powers of Godhood—immortality or the power to live forever; see John 10:17–18).
Then invite a student to read Mosiah 3:7–8 aloud. Ask:
Why did the Savior need the powers of both mortality and immortality to complete the Atonement? (As students respond, make sure they understand the following truth: As the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ was able to perform the Atoning sacrifice, which required Him to endure more than a mortal person could, and thereby fulfill His role in the Father’s plan. In addition, because Jesus had power over death, He had the capacity to rise from the dead. Make sure students understand that if Jesus Christ had been born of two mortal parents, He could not have overcome death or endured the infinite pain and suffering of the Atonement. If He were born of two immortal parents, He would not have been subject to physical suffering and death.)
To further emphasize this critical doctrine, provide each student with a copy of the following statement by Elder Robert E. Wells of the Seventy, and give them time to read and ponder it:
“The divine Sonship of Jesus Christ … is central to understanding the entire plan of salvation. He is the First Begotten Son of the Father in the premortal existence and the Only Begotten Son of the Father on earth. God the Eternal Father is the literal parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and of His other spirit children. …
“The ‘divine Sonship’ also refers to the designation ‘Only Begotten Son in the flesh.’ … This title signifies that Jesus’ physical body was the offspring of a mortal mother and of an immortal Eternal Father, which verity is crucial to the Atonement, a supreme act that could not have been accomplished by an ordinary man. Christ had power to lay down His life and power to take it again because He had inherited immortality from His Heavenly Father. From Mary, His mother, Christ inherited mortality, or the power to die.
“This infinite atonement of Christ and Christ’s divine Sonship go together hand in hand to form the single most important doctrine of all Christianity” (“Our Message to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 65).
Conclude this portion of the lesson by asking the following questions:
How does recognizing the attributes Jesus inherited from Mary help you to trust and have faith in the Savior?
How does recognizing the attributes Jesus inherited from Heavenly Father help you to trust and have faith in the Savior?
Nephi saw the condescension of God
Tell students that we read in the Book of Mormon that Nephi saw a vision wherein he learned about the parentage of Jesus Christ. We can learn additional truths from his vision. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 11:13–21. Ask the rest of the class to follow along and identify important doctrines taught in this passage. Explain that, in this context, the word condescend means to descend from a higher to a lower state or condition or to assume a lesser status.
Who did Nephi learn would be the parents of Jesus Christ? (Students should identify the following doctrine: God, the Eternal Father, and Mary are the parents of the mortal Jesus Christ.)
As you consider the lessons in this course so far, why would the birth of Jesus Christ be considered part of His condescension?
Display the following statement by Brother Tad R. Callister, Sunday School general president, and ask a student to read it aloud:
“God the Son traded his heavenly home with all its celestial adornments for a mortal abode with all its primitive trappings. He, ‘the King of heaven’ (Alma 5:50), ‘the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth’ (Mosiah 3:5), left a throne to inherit a manger. He exchanged the dominion of a god for the dependence of a babe. … It was a trade of unparalleled dimension. … The great Jehovah, creator of worlds without number, infinite in virtue and power, made his entry into this world in swaddling clothes and a manger” (The Infinite Atonement , 64).
To help students understand how the mortal birth of Jesus Christ was also part of the condescension of God the Father, read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The condescension of God (meaning the Father) consists in the fact that though he is an exalted, perfected, glorified Personage, he became the personal and literal Father of a mortal Offspring born of mortal woman” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 155).
Conclude by asking students what thoughts and feelings they have for the Savior as they consider His condescension and the miraculous nature of His birth. Ask if any of them would like to share their testimony of the Savior as a conclusion to today’s class.