Have you ever questioned the LDS belief that God’s “eternal spirit is housed in a tangible body of flesh and bones”? When I was LDS I never questioned this belief—it seemed that the Bible clearly supported it. After the Holy Spirit brought me to faith, I discovered that this doctrine was unique to Mormonism.
The Christian churches I started attending taught things about God’s nature I didn’t understand. To clear up the confusion in my head I dug into scripture. I promised my Savior to test anything I was taught with God’s Word. My hearts desire was to be like the Berean’s, of whom the Apostle Paul testified:
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)
Underlying the LDS belief that God has a body of flesh and bones is the doctrine that God was once a sinful man, subservient to an earlier god. LDS prophet Joseph Smith claimed:
“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—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another” (Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Lesson 32: “To Seal the Testimony”, p. 186)
Searching scripture I quickly discovered that these words were false. Heavenly Father’s prophet—the Prophet Isaiah testified:
“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”
“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” (Isaiah 43:10, 44:6)
Learning that God could never have been a man still didn’t explain to me what God was. I wondered what He looked like. I read all the passages referenced in the LDS Topical Guide about God’s body to see if any had been misinterpreted. To my surprise, they hadn’t. These passages clearly taught that God had the physical characteristics of a man. They attributed God as having a face, mouth, voice, fingers, hands and feet.
Wanting to learn more, I started doing word studies. When I found another passage saying that God had a hand as well as ears, I wondered why this passage hadn’t been listed in the LDS Topical Guide. Reading in context answered my question and led me to a surprising discovery! Not only did God have ears, He had wings and feathers:
“I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech. Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of thy eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings” (Psalm 17:6-8).
“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:1-4)
From this study I learned that while scripture often attributes human characteristics to God, it also uses non-human characteristics to describe Him. Mormons can no more claim that God is a glorified man than someone could say He is an enormous bird. While Jesus taught that God is a spirit, (John 4:24) He is all powerful and can take on any form He chooses.
Scripture often uses word pictures to give us a glimpse of what God is like because He is so unlike humans:
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)
Scripture reveals that our Savior has always been God! He was not (as LDS prophets claim) “the first spirit born to our heavenly parents”—parents who began their lives as spirit children:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14)
Jesus took on human flesh and became a man “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14-18). Even though He was God, He “took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
In the end, it is not the form of God that matters, it is what He accomplished. Death is a consequence of sin but Jesus had no sins of His own! He died on the cross because He wanted to die—for you. It was His mission: His very purpose for coming to earth was to take our sins upon Himself, as if they were His own:
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Your sins have been covered and forgiven; in exchange, you have been credited with Christ’s righteousness. Believe it and receive it, then trust in Him: “How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.” Psalms 36:7