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"He Was a Carpenter’s Son"—What We Know about Joseph

By Mormon.org
Joseph bringing Mary to Bethlehem on a donkey

Actions That Speak Volumes

In the case of Joseph, the husband of Mary, we have very few words that tell us about his life, though what we do have speaks volumes about his faith and character. Joseph is first mentioned in the New Testament in the first chapters of Matthew and again briefly in the early chapters of Luke. All of Joseph’s actions that we know of display a faith in God; a humble, obedient nature; and an unfailing loyalty to Mary and the Christ child.

A Just Man

Mary was espoused to Joseph at the time she conceived the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. In Matthew we learn that Mary told Joseph of her experience and condition. Have you ever wondered how that conversation went? What was the nature of their relationship? Was it difficult for Mary to tell Joseph, and was it difficult for him to hear? According to the time and customs, Joseph had the right to have Mary punished and even put to death by public stoning. We get a telling first glimpse of his character when we read that he, “being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.”

His actions depict a compassionate, thoughtful man who was not reactive in nature. He took time to himself to think about her words and their situation. As he did, he received his own visit from the angel in a dream, who confirmed to him the truthfulness of Mary’s words, 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.”

He Was Obedient

Joseph obediently took Mary unto himself and accepted the role of protecting her and the unborn Son of God. After the Savior was born, Joseph saw to it that traditions were kept and that instructions from the angel were followed. The Christ child was circumcised after eight days, was named “Jesus” as the angel had instructed, and was presented to the Lord in the temple.

During this special visit to the temple, Joseph and Mary received yet another confirmation of the divinity of the child in their care. An elderly man named Simeon and then an elderly woman named Anna both separately confirmed that the child was to be the Savior of mankind. After conversing with these two wise, devoted individuals in the temple, Joseph and Mary “marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.”

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A short time later, we again see evidence of Joseph’s obedient nature when he followed instructions he was given in a dream. An angel told him that in order to protect the Christ child from the wicked King Herod, he must take Mary and the baby and flee to Egypt, which he did, fulfilling a prophecy in the process. Later, after the threat to young Jesus had passed, Joseph received instructions that it was safe to return to the land of Israel. They settled in Nazareth, fulfilling yet another prophecy that the Savior would be called a “Nazarene.”

Our last known mention of Joseph in the New Testament was when Jesus was found teaching learned men at the temple in Jerusalem at the age of 12 years. Joseph and Mary mistakenly believed Jesus to be with their group traveling home from Jerusalem. When night fell and they realized He was not with them, they returned to Jerusalem. Joseph was at Mary’s side as they searched for three days, finally finding Him in the temple. The scriptures say that when Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, they were “amazed,” and Mary asked Him, “Why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”

Jesus answered His mother, saying: “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my father’s business?” Joseph and Mary did not understand Jesus’s words at the time.

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Because this is the last mention of Joseph in the New Testament, it is believed that he passed away before Jesus began His ministry, but Joseph’s loyal example lives on for all of us to ponder on and learn from.