Does God have a body of flesh and bones? By Vicky Gilpin

This is what the LDS Church teaches…
‘God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible, — I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form…’ (King Follet Discourse, Joseph Smith, History of the Church, volume 6, p305)

Doctrine and Covenants 130:22, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.”

This is very interesting as it’s not what the Book of Mormon (which is supposedly ‘the most correct book on earth’) teaches…
“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:461.)

The Book of Mormon, concerning Gods nature, says…

 
Alma 22:10 ‘And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great spirit, and he created all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest though this?’
Alma 31:15 ‘Holy, Holy God; we believe that though art God, and we believe that thou art Holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.’

If the Book of Mormon is correct, how could it be that Joseph smith later reviled that God in fact had a body, not only that but he was once as we are now? Alma 31:15, says that God was, is and forever will be a spirit, This reads to me as though it is saying, God has always been a spirit, and always will be a spirit. Gods unchangeable nature is confirmed in Moroni 8:18:

18 For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.

According to Joseph Smiths first vision, he saw not only Jesus but God the Father also.
… ‘When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other–“This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!’…

Not only did he see Jesus and God but he stood there and had a long conversation with them!

Exodus 3:5-6 (KJV)

5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
Moses did not dare to look upon the face of God! The Bible tells us that God is Holy and awesome, that no Human can look upon his face and live, that he dwells in unapproachable light, these are just some of the statements from the Bible that paint the picture.

 
Exodus 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
John 6:46(KJV) 46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

 
But there are accounts of people seeing God in the OT are these contradictions?
Here are two of them…

Exodus 24:9-11 “Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. 11Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

Moses and those with him were allowed to see something of God, weather it is a shared vision or not, the fact that the only real description of what they saw is of His feet and the ground beneath them, suggests that this might be all they saw. Given that God then says in 30:20, ‘man shall not see me and live’ we need to consider this verse within the context of the whole bible.

 
Was this God the Father being seen here? Was it the pre-incarnate Christ? Did God allow the people gathered to see him partially? Or was it simply a vision to denote something of Gods glory to the people gathered?
Numbers. 12:6-8 “He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. 7″Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; 8With him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?”

God says here that he will make himself known to prophets in visions, you could interperate that to say that people will see God fully in a vision, but that’s not what the text actually says, it says that God will make himself known, He could do that in many ways. Verse 8 says that Moses beholds the form of God, and since we are told elsewhere that…

God cannot be seen….

1 Timothy 6:15-16(KJV)  15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

No one can see God and live…..

 
Exodus 33:20(KJV) 20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

Jesus told us that God is a spirit…..

John 4:23-24   But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
We have to conclude that Moses did not see the Father

Interestingly Exodus 33:11 says:  And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle

yet…

20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
If this is the case what was meant by ‘face to face’ in verse 11? Because if Moses could not see Gods face and live, how could he then 9 verses earlier have been speaking with him face to face?

Is this a contradiction? Has the Bible been interpreted incorrectly, as the LDS Church states? One explanation could be that the term ‘Face to face’ is being misunderstood by the readers of today, not understanding Jewish or Hebrew idioms
(IDIOM…Dictionary meaning: NOUN…A group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., It’s rain cats and dogs, I’ve seen the light).

The Hebrew idiom for face to face translates into English as without a mediator. This verse does not imply Moses physically is seeing the face of God but that he was able to communicate with God as a man speaks to his friend (as a true friend would not require a go-between for communication).

Colossians 1:15 says Jesus is the image of the invisible God

What does this mean? How can you be the ‘image of the invisible’? Are we to understand this verse, as many LDS do, that the Father is the same in physical appearance as Jesus? Or should we understand this scripture within the context of the rest of scripture. Where we’ve already seen the father does not have a physical form. When reading this verse in context, there are no contradictions. Jesus portrayed God the Father to us in all that he said and did. That is what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,’ John 14:8-9:

8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

I think I should give Jesus the final word on this…

John 5:37 “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.”
Well there we have it! He should know!

Now you might be thinking, but what about all the times in the bible where we read about Gods strong arm, or his right hand? How can the Bible speak of Gods right hand if he doesn’t have one?

These instances of God explaining himself in a Human way are called anthropomorphism, this is Gods way of communicating to us in terms we can understand. I read an analogy somewhere once, that went something like this…
‘Imagine there is a population of Ants, and you know their ant hill is about to be destroyed, what would be the best way of communicating that to them? Would you shout at them and wave your arms? No they wouldn’t understand! Would you write it on a sign? No they can’t read!

 
No you would become an Ant and speak to them in their own language.

Not a perfect analogy but you get the point, Gods ways are higher than our ways, in order for us to understand him he speaks to us in a way we will understand, using our own language and imagery.

Some other examples of anthropomorphism…

Psalm 33:6(KJV) 6 By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 34:15(KJV) 15 The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.

Psalm 89:10(KJV) 10 Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.

These verses describe God using Human imagery, but then we have verses like…

Psalm 57:1(KJV) Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.

To take the previous verses literally we would also have to take this verse literally! Does God have wings?

Psalm 91:4 (KJV) 4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

With feathers?

Isaiah 66:1 Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

If this verse were to be taken literally then how big is Gods body? He’d have to be pretty big for the earth to be his footstool! If this verse is a true representation of his size God is HUGE! And then Jesus at his side in his Human body would be minute! (Just a thought!)
FAIR (An LDS Apologetics organisation ) http://www.fairlds.org , has looked into this issue, here are some of the verses they use to support their position of God having a body…

Ezekiel 1:26 (KJV) 26 And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.
Ok Ezekiel has a vision of the likeness of a throne, with the likeness of a man upon it. This is only part of Ezekiel’s vision. The vision actually begins on verse 4 and the whole vision contains much imagery, which you wouldn’t tend to interpret literally.
Why then when we get to verse 26 are we to believe that this vision of a likeness of a throne with the likeness of a man upon it is to be taken as literally being God, and therefore take from it that God has a body. I agree that the image of the man on the throne represents either Jesus or God the Father. But does this mean he has a body? Remember God communicates to us in ways we can understand, how else could he portray himself to Ezekiel in an understandable way?

Acts 7:56(KJV)  And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Standing at the right hand of someone, was understood in the Jewish culture to be referring to a position. And it still is in our culture today! This is where we get the phrase. ‘right hand man.’

Psalm 110:1 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

Matthew 20:21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. The Mother of James and John asks for her sons to sit, one on the right hand of Jesus and the other on the left…

Matthew 20:23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
These brothers are not fighting over who gets to stand next to Jesus! These are positions of Authority within the kingdom of God.

Revelation 4:2(KJV) 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

Revelation 4 describes one sitting on the throne. This clearly must be God the Father as later on the Lamb is seen. John saw a vision and in it he was allowed to see a form and to be able to understand this form as representing God the Father.
Revelation 4 states in verse 3 that the person on the throne had the appearance of Jasper and Carnelian and that around the throne was a rainbow with the appearance of an emerald!

The mind boggles trying to imagine this, and if it were a vision of the actual appearance of God the Father then why is this not how Joseph Smith described him?

I look forward to reading your responses

7 thoughts on “Does God have a body of flesh and bones? By Vicky Gilpin”

  1. You really can’t use the Alma 31:15 to prove your point. If you read it in context those who were saying this were zoramites who were apostates from the true church; who denied christ and were living and preaching false doctrines; including what they say in that scripture as they prayed.
    In the Alma 22:10 scripture at this point in time (B.C.) Jesus had not yet come to the earth and obtained a body. Thus, King Lamoni’s references to God as the Great Spirit were not out of harmony with the thinking of Ammon, for to him God was the pre-existent Jesus in spirit form(See Alma 18:26-29).

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    1. HI Joel thanks for the comment, upon reading Alma 31 some more I can see you do have a fair point. The people speaking here are not the lamanites but actually are the Zoramites. Am I right in thinking they are to be some kind of a break off group from the lamanites?

      So while I can accept that this is not in and of itself a reliable statement in that it is a group in error that said it, I still have some observations.

      1, In v9 we see that these Zoramites are in error as you say. 9 But they had fallen into great errors, for they would not observe to keep the commandments of God, and his statutes, according to the law of Moses.

      This seems to say that their errors are according to their understanding of the Laws, not their observation of the Nature of God.

      2, NOWHERE does the Book of Mormon or anyone in it correct them on this point of God being a Spirit, am I right?

      3, This actually reflects Mormon belief of the time very well, in The Lectures on Faith which were in the Doctrine and Covenants from 1835 until 1921 it says:

      “… the Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power, possessing all perfection and fulness, the Son, … a personage of tabernacle …” (Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 Edition, page 53)

      Are you then saying that the Mormon Church of this day was more akin to the Zoramites? In my view when the Book of Mormon was created by Joseph Smith this is what he thought, as reflected in the Lectures on faith. It was not until 1844 when Joseph Smith preached His king Follett Discourse that the idea that God has a body was brought in, hence why we see NOTHING of it in the book of Mormon.

      thanks, talk soon

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      1. 1. If the Zoromites corrupted their understanding of the commandments I don’t see why they could not have also corrupted their understanding of God. But the LDS believe that Jesus was the God of the Old Testament (before he obtained a body) and that he was the one that the Nephites and Lamanites (and zoromites) worshipped. So at the time they said it their claim that God was a spirit was correct. What they were wrong about is that he would be a spirit forever. Later in third Nephi He announces to his prophet that he would be born the next day (3 Nephi 1:13) thus obtaining a body.

        2. There was no need for correction about that because as I said Jesus is the God they worshipped and was a spirit through most of the Book of Mormon until he was born in Bethlehem. Obviously they knew he had obtaind a body after he appeared to them after his resurrection. Where it gets a little confusing is that sometimes Jesus is refered to as the Father of this earth (Alma 11:38-40), because he created it. But that does not mean that Jesus is God the Father; the father of our spirits.

        3. That D&C scripture is definitely talking about God the Father; the father of our spirits. The Father was and always has been a personage of spirit as noted in that scripture. What Joseph smith may have not known until later(when he preached the King Follet discourse) is that God the Father is also a personage of flesh and bone. He always knew that God the father and jesus were two separate individuals (not a trinitarian concept) as evidenced by other things he said in the Lectures. We believe that God imparts knowledge to us and his prophets line upon line over time as he thinks we are ready to receive it (Isaiah 28:10, John 16:12). Even though Joseph Smith saw both God the Father and Jesus he may have assumed that the Father was only a personage of spirit until he learned later that He also had a tangible body.

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      2. Thanks Joel, here’s some quick thoughts.

        1, Interesting, I think this is where the Book of Mormons messiness on the Godhead comes in and thus possibly your misunderstanding of the Trinity in your point 3. (Trinitarians do not believe that the Godhead is one individual, this is a typical Mormon misunderstanding) yet in some places the Book of Mormon seems to say that they are one individual, at least in its earlier version, remember my point here is what was Joseph Smiths thoughts and does early Mormonism prove an evolution in his thinking.

        The original 1830 Book of Mormon says:

        And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Eternal Father! (1830)

        Since being altered.

        And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Son of the Eternal Father! (1 Nephi 11:21)

        Also

        These last records…shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world. (1830)

        These last records…shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world. (1 Nephi 13:40) (Current altered text)

        Finally

        And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.(1830)

        And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God. (1 Nephi 11:18) (Current altered text)

        The Book of Mormon is a messy place to go for anything on the nature of God even today, and it says NOTHING about God having this body of flesh and bone,

        3 Nephi 1:13 says nothing to suggest anything to do with getting a body of flesh and bone.

        13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

        To read the passage literally and on its own merits my argument stands, but lets move on.

        2, That depends on which version of the Book of Mormon you are reading, in Smiths day it appears to me that He was talking about the Father as stated above, whereas today since the alteration I will accept you are talking about the Son of the Eternal Father, however the smoking gun of Joseph Smith and the LDS Churches changing views rather than God really being involved with this is very evident.

        3, So two questions here:

        1, Isn’t the first vision the time when Joseph found out that God had a body of flesh and bone as he appeared before Him with Christ? With this happening in 1820 this was long before the lectures on faith and so Smith should have known that this was not the full case. However I imagine you may know that the 1832 account of the first vision mentions nothing of the Father appearing and so again my view of Smith making it up as he went is safe because at the point of the printing of the lectures on faith he had not come up with this yet so there was no problem. It wasn’t until 1838 that the version you use today as the first vision came into being, 18 years after the supposed event.

        2, If the Father is also a personage of Spirit as well as flesh and bone where is the teachign about Him being a personage of Spirit to be found in modern Mormonism?

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  2. 1. “my point here is what was Joseph Smiths thoughts and does early Mormonism prove an
    evolution in his thinking.”

    It does not prove an evolution in his thinking it only represents the principle of continuing
    revelation as the restored church grew in the begining.
    In regards to the differences between versions of the Doctrine and covenants, there were
    corrections made along the way to better clarify certain important doctrines. Jesus can be
    called the eternal father of this earth because He created it, but to better clarify who the
    scripture was talking about, changes were made in those scriptures to prevent confusion.
    You are right that the Book of Mormon says nothing about the Father having a body of flesh and bone. We have never claimed that it does say that.

    2. “however the smoking gun of Joseph Smith and the LDS Churches changing views rather than God really being involved with this is very evident.”

    Your opinion; not ours.

    3.1 “Isn’t the first vision the time when Joseph found out that God had a body of flesh and bone”

    At the first vision We only know for sure that Joseph Smith discovered that God the Father and
    Jesus Christ were two separate personages that he could see and distinguish as both having
    human form. At that moment he had no proof that the Father he saw had a tangible body of flesh and bone (although he may have suspected such). The issue of the different versions of the first vision have been discussed by many LDS apologists.
    The several variations in the first vision accounts suggest that, in relating his story to
    various individuals at various times, Joseph Smith emphasized different aspects of it and that
    his listeners were each impressed with different things. This, of course, is to be expected,
    for the same thing happens in the re-telling of any story. The only way to keep it from
    changing is to write it only once and then insist that it be read exactly that way each time it
    is to be repeated. Such an effort at censorship would obviously be unrealistic. Joseph
    apparently told his story several times before he released it for publication. People who heard
    it were obviously impressed with different details and perhaps even embellished it a little
    with their own literary devices as they retold or recorded it.
    There is no more “contradiction” among the accounts than one will find in comparing the four
    descriptions of the life of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In each case,
    different aspects of the events were emphasized or highlighted according to the needs of the
    intended audience at the time of the writing. Similarly in Acts 9,22,&26 we find three
    different accounts of Saul’s “first vision”, with discrepancies as to who fell down and whether
    those with Saul saw the light or heard the voice, etc. Yet both Saul’s and Joseph’s visions did
    take place.

    3.2 “If the Father is also a personage of Spirit as well as flesh and bone where is the
    teaching about Him being a personage of Spirit to be found in modern Mormonism?”

    This has been a teaching of the church since Joseph Smith taught about the physical and
    spiritual makeup of the Father. LDS doctrine teaches that all human beings (including the
    Father and Jesus) are souls made of both body and spirit and that our spirits look identical to
    our bodies. This doctrine was taught in the Book of Mormon in Ether 3:6-17
    (http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/ether/3.6-17?lang=eng#5) where the brother of Jared saw the spirit of Jesus Christ and learned that his spirit looks the same as his body would look during his ministry on earth.
    I have been taught this in Sunday School my entire life.
    Our President Gordon B. Hinckley recently said:
    “Of course God is a spirit, and so are you, in the combination of spirit and body that makes of
    you a living being, and so am I. Each of us is a dual being of spiritual entity and physical entity. All know of the reality of death when the body dies, and each of us also knows that the spirit lives on as an individual entity and that at some time, under the divine plan made possible by the sacrifice of the Son of God, there will be a reunion of spirit and body. Jesus’ declaration that God is a spirit no more denies that he has a body than does the statement that I am a spirit while also having a body.” (Ensign March, 1998, http://www.lds.org/liahona/1998/03/the-father-son-and-holy-ghost?lang=eng)

    From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
    “God the Father and God the Son are spirits with physical, resurrected bodies. Latter-day Saints deny the abstract nature of God the Father and affirm that he is a concrete being, that he possesses a physical body, and that he is in space and time.”

    From our Gospel Principles Sunday School manual:
    “Because we are made in His image (see Moses 2:26; 6:9), we know that our bodies are like His body. His eternal spirit is housed in a tangible body of flesh and bones (see D&C 130:22). God’s body, however, is perfected and glorified, with a glory beyond all description.”

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    1. Thanks for that Joel I think both sides have been covered well here and I am not a big fan of going in circles.. Naturally our interpretations of a set of information is very different, I think I have answered sufficiently well why the reference to the God being a Spirit in the book of Mormon is valid (from our perspective) in this post.

      The first vision is a whole other discussion that I think I would like to cover in a blog post sometime so when I do lets go from there, also I think there is much more to be said on these changes in the Book of Mormon, please watch for a full series on the Book of Mormon next year.

      Out of interest where are you from? Are you a brit? Please email me on bobbygilpin@gmail.com if you would rather not say on here.

      I am sure you will agree the most important topic we can discuss is Jesus, I wrote this post a while ago

      http://mormonisminvestigated.co.uk/2012/06/09/a-different-jesus/

      And I am still waiting to have a decent discussion with an LDS person on the back of this, please take a look and please hang around my blog and comment all you like.

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      1. I agree that we have both sufficiently stated our opinions on this. Also not a big fan of going in circles. I usually try to avoid debates on religion because they tend to go nowhere. I live in the US in California. I will check out your other blog on Jesus.
        Thanks
        Joel

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