Mary and Elisabeth Topic of MOA Lecture
As part of the ongoing Museum of Art lecture series on the life of Christ, S. Kent Brown, director of FARMS, addressed the topic "The Birth of the Savior" on January 17. Drawing from Luke 1 and 2 and studies on life among ancient Jews, he focused on Mary and Elisabeth, whose lives are only faintly sketched in the scriptures.
Emphasizing the importance of foreordination, Brown began by reviewing scriptural prophecies about Mary. He noted that Book of Mormon prophecy offers more details about her than Bible prophecy does, such as her hometown and even her name. Although Elisabeth appears more indirectly in scriptural prophecy, her positive influence on her son is discernible in the prophecies about John the Baptist. For example, that her son was filled with the Holy Ghost from birth implies that Elisabeth was a person of holy ways and habits, Brown said.
Brown then sketched what family life in rural Nazareth may have been like, and he described Jewish traditions of betrothal and marriage that probably affected Mary, Joseph, and Elisabeth. Though from different tribes, Elisabeth (of Levi) and Mary (of Judah) were emotionally close enough for Mary to journey 100 miles for an extended stay with her cousin. Brown observed that the cousins must have had a common relative who married outside the tribe and that, though rare, such marriages did take place in ancient Israel. Their homes were settings where Mary and Elisabeth underwent some of their most sacred experiences, including John's birth, Elisabeth's prophecy of the Savior, Zacharias's recovery of his speech, and the angel Gabriel's annunciation to Mary.
According to Brown, Luke 1 and 2 are stories of beginnings: the beginning of fulfilled prayers for Zacharias and Elisabeth, the beginning of Mary's experiences as the mother of the Savior, and the beginning of the miracles that heralded the Messiah's birth. Though little is known of their lives, Mary and Elisabeth influenced not only the spiritual development of their sons but also, through them, the lives of all who would follow Jesus Christ.
The lectures will continue on Wednesday nights through April 11, with most speakers drawn from BYU’s Religious Education faculty. Upcoming Insights reports will cover the presentations by two Maxwell Institute scholars: John W. Welch ("The Five Faces of the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount," 17 January) and Andrew C. Skinner ("Crucifixion and Resurrection," 21 March).