I gave this talk church In December 1996
My name is Joseph, son of Heli, of the house of David. In my day I was thought to be the Father of Christ. I am best known today as the husband of Mary. You usually remember my name every year at Christmas. However, who I am, what I did, and what I know is mostly forgotten now. I am glad to have the chance to speak to you today, and bear my testimony about Jesus Christ.
You know from the scriptures that I was the rightful King of Israel (Matt 1:1-17) Had Israel followed the prophets and been righteous, they might have revered me as they did King David. My father taught me that the Savior would be my descendent. God had so promised David (see Psalms 132:11-18). In my youth I listened to people teach that the time was drawing close for the Savior to be born.
I always tried to be a kind, righteous man, worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I was very troubled when I learned that Mary was with child. She was so pure, and such a good person (1Nephi 11:19). I loved her very much, and her pregnancy disturbed me very much. I could hardly imagine how such a thing could happen. I spent many hours pondering what I should do.
I almost broke off our engagement. I could have done this at a public ceremony, telling everyone why I was doing it. Under the Mosaic law she would have been stoned. However, because I loved her, I did not want to humiliate her.
Instead, I had just about decided to privately break our engagement when an angel appeared unto me. I bear witness that I heard his voice. He told me, by the power of God, that the child carried by Mary was the Son of God (Matt 1:19-25). I knew it was the truth. Jesus of Nazareth was not my child. He was not Jesus son of Joseph.
The journey to Bethlehem was long and very tiring for Mary. Many people passed us by every day. They could travel faster than we could. I worried about her all the way. Finally we arrived, but of course all the inns were full. I was humiliated to bring my wife to the stable. I worked to clean the stable, and make it acceptable. But, I could not help feeling a failure in my duties to provide as a husband, and earthly father. I, the rightful King of Israel, could provide nothing better than a stable for my queen and Prince (Luke 1:1-7).
Although I felt inadequate at times, I understood my responsibility to care for and protect the child. I was willing to sacrifice to take the child to Egypt. I was grateful that the Lord would send an angel to warn and instruct me (Matt 2:13-23).
Jesus was a typical boy in many ways. He grew, played, learned, and had experiences just like every other child. My close relative John the Baptist recorded that Jesus grew “grace for grace” (D&C 93:12). You could see nothing different about him just by looking at him (Isaiah 53:2). He was typical in so many ways that many of our friends and neighbors in Nazareth did not recognize anything unusual about him. When he returned to Nazareth many years later many said “Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22) They thought him just another of my children.
However, Jesus was not a typical boy in many ways. He was able to speak about almost anything intelligently. He did not need a teacher. Matthew recorded
. . . that Jesus grew up with his brethren, and waxed strong, and waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come. And he served under his father, and he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him. (JST Matthew 3:24-26)
There was a spirit which he had, even as a babe, that the righteous could feel. I was in the temple as Anna and Simeon were touched by it and they bore testimony that he was the Messiah (Luke 2:. The shepherds and wise men which came also felt it. Our family was aware from incidents that Jesus had very special spiritual powers (See Jesus the Christ, p. 145). He spent a lot of time observing nature, walking by himself and thinking. He studied the scriptures and obeyed every aspect of the Mosaic Law.
In The Temple
He was aware of his calling in life from a very early are. We took him to the temple for passover when he turned twelve. Mary and I were worried when we could not find him among the caravan returning home. When we found him in the temple Mary gently reprimanded Jesus, saying: “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father [meaning me] and I have sought thee sorrowing.” (Luke 2:48)
Even though we both knew who his true father was we treated him like our child. I acted like a father in every way to the boy. The Jesus, even at the age of twelve, knew the truth of the matter for he answered: “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49)
Death and Spirit World
Many since my time have speculated that I died before Jesus suffering on the cross (See BD Joseph). Some have suggested my absences as the reason for Jesus’ concern about Mary. That is why he asked John to care for her after his own death.
Perhaps it was important for him to be recognized as the King of Israel. I had to die before his reign could begin. Perhaps it was important for me to bear my testimony of the world beyond.
You see, I was in the spirit world when his spirit left his body that Friday afternoon. I was there has he entered the spirit world. I listened to him teach us in the spirit world those three days. I was thrilled with his teachings, his presence, his glory. I was one commissioned to teach the truth to the unbelieving, and given power under his hands to be a missionary. I was with him those three days in paradise. (D&C 138)
I also saw him leave the spirit world that beautiful Sabbath morning. He told us where he was going. He told us his spirit would enter his body, and that he would be resurrected.
I witness to you that I was there when he was born. I know, like no other man knows, that he was not my son, he is the Son of God. I watched him grow up. I know, like no other man, that he lived a sinless, perfect life. I know that he died, for I saw his ministry among the dead. I watched him teach the truth in the spirit world. I watched him leave that world. I know he is not now among the dead. He does not reside with the spirits, for he is risen. He is alive. He lives. I know this.
Perhaps this is what Joseph would say if he were here today. We cannot know for certain now. We can, however, know for ourselves the things he knew. I am a witness, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the only perfect man, and that he lives.