The story of the birth of the Savior has many practical applications for young people. As we examine the narrative, we find principles which teach us many life lessons.
At the very beginning of the events surrounding the miraculous birth of the Savior, we read the following:
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, 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… For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word (Luke 1:26-38).
From another perspective we read Joseph’s reaction to the news that Mary will be the mother of the Son of God: Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, 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 thous shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife (Matthew 1:18-24).
We can only imagine how Joseph and Mary must have felt as they went through this experience. From all outward appearances, they must have looked guilty of sin – being with child prior to their marriage. Joseph, learning that Mary was with child, seems to have suspended rendering harsh judgment as he considered his options. It would appear that he looked to make the best of what to him was a horrible situation.
We may well suppose that Mary told Joseph of her condition; that she then went to Elisabeth; that Joseph struggled with his problem for nearly three months, being fully tested; that Gabriel brought the word; that Joseph sent word to Mary of his conversion; that she returned again in haste and joy; that immediately the second part of the marriage ceremony was performed (Mortal Messiah, volume 1, p. 333).
This is an important principle that young people can relate with. Oftentimes we face situations where we do not have all the facts. We may have to make a decision based on limited information. It is likely that Joseph prayed to know what he should do in this situation. A key principle in this narrative is that we should withhold making judgments until we gather enough information.
Elder Oaks has said much on this topic. He said, “A fourth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment of a person is that we should, if possible, refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Judge Not and Judging, BYU Speeches, BYU, March 1, 1998).
Joseph knew that Mary was a good person. Mary had a good reputation as one who was virtuous and true. She had to be in order that Heavenly Father would have her be the special one to bring forth His Only Begotten Son. Joseph, knowing that Mary was good, suspended making a snap judgment, and waited upon the Lord. This attitude applies in so many areas of our lives. When was the last time you had the urge to react to a situation and your reaction was the wrong response? When did you withhold making judgment, only to find out later that there was critical information you did not have? Like Joseph, sometimes we have to struggle for months with something before the light comes and we see things as they really are. Sometimes the struggle can last our entire lives.
Mary: An Example of Womanhood
Mary is a model for how young women can approach life. From the Luke account we read that she was “highly favoured” of the Lord (Luke 1:28). From verse 34 we read that she is tender, chaste and delicate. Mary was completely virtuous. In verse 38 she states, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” What an example of a virtuous young woman. In the world today, where young women are given false messages about what it means to be important, or how to find happiness, Mary teaches us that true happiness comes from a state of being in favor with the Lord. Alma stated that Mary was “a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel”…(Alma 7:10) may the young women of the Church follow this model in their lives! Mary’s example stands diametrically opposed to the models of womanhood that are held up by the world in which we live. This distinction is worth spending the time to notice as we go through the New Testament. The New Testament reminds us of what we should be and what we can become.
This story also stresses the importance of revelation in our lives. Joseph knew that Mary was one who was honest and true. Yet he struggled for months on what he should do. As to the true nature of Mary’s situation, Mary knew, her cousin Elizabeth knew, Zacharias knew. Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated:
They all gained their testimonies by revelation, and Joseph must now learn for himself in the same way. As we have seen, there is no way for anyone—neither Joseph, nor Mary, nor any living soul—to know and declare the generation of the Son of God, except by the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Joseph must learn by powers beyond those exercised by mortal men that Mary’s child was God’s Son. (Mortal Messiah, volume 1, p.332)
And so it is with us. We must come to know that Jesus is who He says He is by the same ways as those in ancient times. It is through the tender whisperings of the Spirit that we can know what the world cannot know. It is through this same spirit that we come to know of the Restoration of the gospel and living prophets today. The fact that this truth is taught in the beginning of the New Testament is not a coincidence: it is central to the message of the gospel. Jesus Christ stands revealed or forever remains unknown.