It is SO sparse – and I think we romanticize it so much that we tend to forget how precarious her situation was, in multiple ways. Joseph could have had her killed; he could have “put her away” privately; she could have died in childbirth very easily; she apparently had to leave her home and spend her “growing months” with her cousin, Elizabeth – probably to avoid the shame, condemnation and judgment that would have been her lot as people learned she had conceived a child not by her betrothed; ultimately, she had to deal with the conflict between what she originally thought her son would do and be and what he actually did and was not; and, finally, she has to deal still with being adored not for who she was but “merely” for her relationship to someone else – and I don’t think it’s insignificant to point out that she had a life of her own (as a mother to other children, as a wife, perhaps in a vocation of her own, probably as a widow, as a member of a community, etc.) that gets lost completely in our records.
I also think sometimes of the difference between how we view her, with the luxury of looking back on her through eyes of faith regarding her son, and how we view young women in situations like hers in our own lives whose babies we don’t honor in the way we honor her son. The young teenager who is pregnant and whose child might or might not change the world deserves to be treated as Joseph treated Mary, not as those around him probably would have treated and did treat her.
I think of a lot of things when I think of Mary, and there is room in our Mormon theology, I believe, to honor her in ways that are non-traditional and in line with the Gospel taught by her son. So, this Christmas season, I add my own voice to those of numerous Christians throughout time: