Mary, His Mother

    “Mary, His Mother,” Tambuli, Dec. 1991, 7

    Mary, His Mother

    By word and deed, Mary, the mother of Jesus, teaches us some significant virtues of a true disciple.

    Little of Mary’s life is recorded in the scriptures. But what is recorded shows that Mary (1) faithfully obeyed the word of God, (2) expressed joy for God’s blessings, (3) received God’s witness and counsel from his servants, and (4) had a posterity who glorified God. In the life of Mary, we find a pattern of righteousness for all Saints to follow.

    Faithfully Obeying the Word of God

    Many prophets had known of Mary’s vital role in the plan of salvation. Her mission had been recorded throughout ancient scripture. (See Isa. 7:14; 1 Ne. 11:13–20; Mosiah 3:8; Alma 7:10.)

    From the angel Gabriel, who was sent from God to declare glad tidings to her, Mary learned that she was the one to fulfill these ancient prophecies.

    The angelic messenger declared, “Hail, thou virgin, who art highly favored of the Lord. The Lord is with thee, for thou art chosen and blessed among women” (JST, Luke 1:28).

    Following the announcement, Mary had a simple inquiry: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34). Mary’s question was not one of reticence or doubt. She was sincerely curious about how this was to be, for she was an espoused virgin. Before the angel’s visit, Mary had become espoused to Joseph the carpenter. However, this did not mean that she knew him in a husband/wife relationship. According to the Jewish custom, this meant only that Mary and Joseph had participated in an espousal ceremony (also known as a “betrothal” or “making sacred the bride”). It was similar to being engaged to be married.

    To Mary’s question, the angel answered, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

    From this angelic messenger, Mary learned that she was to be the mother of the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. The Child would inherit the physical, mental, and spiritual traits of his parents—one, the glorified God; the other, a worthy, blessed mortal woman.

    After receiving the angel’s message, Mary, in complete obedience, replied, “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). In humbly accepting this opportunity of motherhood, Mary shows the obedience of a true disciple.

    Expressing Joy for God’s Blessing

    When the angel departed from her, Mary left Nazareth, seeking our her cousin, Elisabeth—the one woman who at first meeting would understand and rejoice with her. As the expectant mother of John welcomed the expectant mother of the Savior of humanity, the Holy Ghost filled Elisabeth, her baby leaped in her womb, and she bore witness that Mary would be the mother of the Son of God. Mary openly expressed her joy to Elisabeth, exclaiming:

    “Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

    “For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name” (Luke 1:48–49).

    Mary then acknowledged to Elisabeth that God had also done great things throughout Jewish history. Mary humbly recognized her personal joy that God had been mindful of her. The great God had spoken to her through the angel Gabriel, and, together with Elisabeth, she rejoiced in expectant motherhood. (See Luke 1:26–55.)

    Receiving God’s Witness and Counsel from His Servants

    Following the angel’s salutation, the first recorded witness Mary received was from Elisabeth. Next to receive a witness from God was Mary’s betrothed husband, Joseph. This witness—and attendant counsel—came because of Joseph’s inner conflict about Mary’s pregnancy. While he was thinking on this matter, an angel appeared to him in a dream and declared Mary’s righteousness. The angel said:

    “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

    “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20–21).

    Joseph, as Mary had done before him, heeded the counsel and “did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife” (Matt. 1:24). His noble character exemplifies the virtues of faithful obedience as well as of integrity, for he “knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus” (Matt. 1:25).

    The third recorded witness God sent Mary occurred in Bethlehem. Sometime after the marriage of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth, Caesar Augustus issued a decree “that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1). Each Jew was to register for taxation at his ancestral home, and so Mary and Joseph, who were of the royal house of David, set out for the small pastoral and agricultural town of Bethlehem, about six miles southwest of Jerusalem.

    We do not know how soon the birth occurred after Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, but we do know that “while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

    “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:6–7).

    Soon thereafter, shepherds came to see the newborn infant and became witnesses of the Son of God. These shepherds then became the first Christian missionaries, witnessing to all what they had seen and heard.

    The fourth time the scriptures say Mary received witness and counsel about her chosen Son occurred at the temple in Jerusalem. The Mosaic purification law required women to remain in retirement for forty days after childbirth. (See Lev. 12.) After these forty days, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple.

    At the temple were two witnesses, Simeon and Anna. It had been revealed to Simeon “that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). When he saw Jesus, he took the young baby in his arms and praised the Lord, saying, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

    “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Luke 2:29–30).

    Simeon blessed Jesus’ family, specifically reaffirming to Mary the divine calling of her Son. He also prophesied to Mary of the difficult earthly experiences her Child and she would have: “Yea, a spear shall pierce through him to the wounding of thine own soul also” (JST, Luke 2:35).

    Confirming Simeon’s testimony was Anna, a prophetess. She “gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

    Mary also received a visit from wise men from the East. A star led the wise men to a house where they saw “the young child with Mary his mother, and [they] fell down, and worshiped him” (Matt. 2:11). Their visit was another witness to Mary of her Son’s divine calling.

    We know from these accounts that Mary was ready and willing to listen to God’s witness and counsel from his servants. Each of these servants, in their varying walks of life, assured Mary of her blessed state in the eyes of God. Mary lived so as to be receptive to their messages. Her life was one of faithful, obedient receptivity. She did not ignore counsel, but “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

    Having a Posterity Who Glorified God

    Again and again, the New Testament records Mary’s Son glorifying God, while showing respect to his mother. For example, when Mary sought Jesus in Jerusalem after the feast of the Passover, she found him in the temple. Mary inquired, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing” (Luke 2:48). Mary did not reprimand him, for it appears she knew her Son was not dishonoring her, but rather honoring his divine Father.

    Another example of Jesus manifesting respect for his mother while glorifying God occurred at a marriage feast in Cana, a town neighboring Nazareth. At the feast, in response to his mother’s request, Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine. (See John 2:1–11.) One effect of this miracle was that “his disciples believed on him” (John 2:11).

    Chirst’s mission to glorify his Heavenly Father and extend salvation to each of us did not prevent him from showing his profound love and respect for his mother. Indeed, the scriptures make it clear that even during the agony of his crucifixion at Calvary, he was concerned for his mother’s welfare. John records that “there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother” (John 19:25). When Jesus saw his mother standing by his disciple John, he said, “Woman, behold thy son!

    “Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:26–27).

    The life of Jesus was one of glorifying God. He fulfilled ancient prophecies regarding his ministry, atonement, death, and resurrection. His life is worthy of emulation. His mother, too, is worthy of our acknowledgment for her righteous discipleship.

    • Susan Easton Black is an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University and serves as stake Relief Society president in the Brigham Young University Eleventh Stake.

    Illustration by Del Parson

    Marriage at Cana, by Luca Giordano