Do Mormons Believe in the Immaculate Conception?
In Catholicism the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s own conception and not to her conception of Jesus. Catholics believe that from her conception in her mother’s womb, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was free from original sin. Original sin may be taken to mean: (1) the sin that Adam committed; (2) a consequence of this first sin resulting in the hereditary stain with which man is born on account of his origin or descent from Adam. From the earliest times the latter sense of the word was more common, as used by St. Augustine in his statement, “the deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin.” In other words, the doctrine of original sin holds that Adam’s sinful choice in the Garden of Eden was made on behalf of all his descendents, and it is that sinful choice or transgression that led to a hereditary sin incurred at conception by every human being which can only be removed by the sacraments of the church such as baptism. It should also be noted at this juncture that the doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding the conception of Christ is referred to as the doctrine of the virgin birth. Catholics, as well as most of the Christian world believe that Christ was born of a virgin.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints neither accept the doctrine of original sin nor the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Instead, according to the second Article of Faith, Latter-day Saints believe that “men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” They further believe that the Atonement of Jesus Christ redeems all, including Mary, from the responsibility for Adam’s transgression.
In the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ) , in Moroni 8:8 are recorded these words:
Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.
In modern day revelation, in the Doctrine and Covenants, are recorded these words in section 93, verse 38, “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.” Latter-day Saints believe that Mary was not sinless. They believe that the only sinless person who has ever lived on the earth is Jesus Christ Himself. The additional scriptures available to Latter-day Saints confirm the biblical account that Mary was a virgin who possessed great physical as well as spiritual beauty, and that she was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost. There are; however, no scriptural references to her childhood or upbringing.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a different view of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, than does the Catholic Church. Latter-day Saints believe that man existed before birth in a pre-mortal, heavenly existence with Heavenly Father. In that realm, which Latter-day Saints call the “first estate,” or “pre-existence,” 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 of this truth to Abraham, as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price in Abraham 3:22-23:
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.
Latter-day Saints 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. Mormons 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 also manifested in works of music and art. Mormons, however, pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ and do not direct their prayers to Mary, the Mother of Christ.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also believe that all infants enter the world unaccountable for any parental, personal, or environmentally imputed sin, yet all inherit death that was introduced into the world as a result of Adam’s transgression. (Therefore, there is no need for infant baptism, as babes are born in innocence.) They further believe and teach that Christ’s Atonement universally breaks the bonds of physical death, and conditionally heals the spiritual death (separation from God, a stoppage in one’s progress to become more like God) caused by personal transgressions. Based upon this premise, Latter-day Saints believe that the need to assert Mary’s Immaculate Conception as part of their theology is not needed to guarantee Christ’s sinless nature.
Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, all people live in a fallen condition, separated from God and subject to physical death. However, we are not accountable for Adam’s transgression in the Garden of Eden, or what is referred to by some as the “original sin.” Through the Atonement, the Savior paid the price for the transgression in the Garden of Eden. In Moses 6:53 are recorded these words,
“And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said: why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam: behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden.”
The Savior has given us the assurance of resurrection and the promise that, based on our faithfulness, we can return to dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father forever.