Mary and Joseph are VIPs in the Christian world and are considered Saints by some Christians. We know that Mary is the mortal mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Joseph is his step-father, but what do we really know about them?
We know that both Mary and Joseph were outstanding youth. Heavenly Father would have chosen the best possible woman to be the mortal mother of His Son and an equally good step-father. Mary and Joseph were first cousins, and both came through the royal lineage of King David. Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “Had Judah been a free and independent nation, ruled by her rightful sovereign, Joseph the carpenter would have been her crowned king; and his lawful successor to the throne would have been Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 82).
Luke tells us that the angel Gabriel appeared to “a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (1:26-27). An espousal was an agreement entered into by a written and legal document. An espousal was more binding than an engagement in our day, but it was not as binding as a marriage.
Since Jewish tradition at the time was for young women to become espoused (engaged) between the ages of 12-14 years, Mary could have been very young when she was chosen to be the mother of the Son of God. She also could have been as old as 15-17 because espoused couples married months and sometimes years after becoming engaged. Joseph was probably one to three years older than Mary, but he was most likely not an old man.
Six hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, a young man living in ancient America saw Mary in a vision. Nephi writes, “And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white…. A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.” Nephi was told that “virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, First Nephi 11:13-18). From this scripture we learn that Mary was beautiful, fair, and white.
In Luke’s nativity story, he tells us that Mary was “highly favored” and “blessed” among women (Luke 1:28). Mary immediately accepted the “calling” to be the mother of the Son of God. After receiving answers to a couple of questions, Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” This response tells us that Mary was spiritually mature and willing to obey God.
What do we know about Joseph? He was obviously a young man in his late teens or early twenties. He had to be young enough to endure the 100 mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then to continue into Egypt.
Matthew tells us that Joseph was a “just man” (1:19). Imagine the shock that Joseph must have felt to learn that his beloved Mary was with child by another man. It must have been a terrible shock, and yet Joseph was “not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily” (1:19).
Remember, adulterers at the time were stoned. Joseph, being the first witness, would probably be required to throw the first stone. The fact that he was willing to end the engagement privately showed that he loved Mary very much. He cared about her more than himself.
As Joseph pondered the situation, an angel appeared to him in a dream. Was it Gabriel? Probably it was, but the scripture does not say. The angel explained the situation to Joseph and told him “fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (1:20).
Joseph must have been very relieved to receive this information. He married Mary as soon as possible and “knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son” (1:24-25). He accepted the position of step-father to the Son of God. He willingly cared for Mary and her Child. He even took them to Egypt to protect them from King Herod and later took them back to Nazareth.
Mary and Joseph deserve our love and respect. We honor them as the mother and step-father of the Son of God, but we do not worship them as we do Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.