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The Mormon View of God the Father

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The Mormon View of God the Father

The Bottom-Line Guide to Mormonism, Part 3
Robert M. Bowman Jr.

What exactly do Mormons believe about God the Father? That varies from one individual to the next. So, it is not our purpose here to tell Mormons what they believe or to pretend to know what every Mormon believes, but simply to compare what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches with what the Bible teaches.

Essentially, Mormon doctrine is whatever the LDS Church leaders currently teach. Officially, the Church’s doctrine derives from its four Standard Works. These include the Bible (as corrected by Joseph Smith), the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants (D&C, a collection of revelations, almost all of them delivered by Joseph Smith), and Pearl of Great Price (an assorted collection of short books, all stemming from Joseph Smith). A publication articulating the LDS Church’s current teachings is a doctrinal manual called Gospel Principles, published by the Church’s curriculum department. In what follows, parenthetical numbers are page numbers from the current print edition of Gospel Principles.

Biblical God the Father

LDS God the Father

Has always been God

Became God

Is and always will be the only God

Not the only God

Does not have a body

Has a body of flesh and bones

Is omnipresent (present everywhere at once)

Is not omnipresent

Can dwell in the human heart

Cannot dwell in the human heart

Has no heavenly “wife” or consort

Has a wife, our heavenly Mother

Mormonism worships God the Father and acknowledges that he is all-powerful and all-knowing (9). However, he has not always been God. As Joseph Smith put it, God “was once a man like us…. God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did.” In the same sermon, Joseph Smith explained that becoming a God is a process like climbing a ladder, in which one goes up step by step until reaching the top. According to Gospel Principles, “This is the way our Heavenly Father became God” (305). Even now, say Mormons, God has a tangible body of flesh and bones, though unlike our bodies it is perfect and glorified.

Yet, according to the Bible, God did not become God but has always been God (Ps. 90:2; 93:2; 102:24; Is. 43:13; Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Tim. 1:17). This is a crucial difference between Mormonism and historic Christianity. In Mormonism, since God was a non-divine being who was able to become God, it is possible for us mortal human beings one day also to become Gods. In orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, it is not possible for anyone to become a God: one either is God eternally, or one can never be God. Furthermore, there is and always will be only one God. “Before me there was no God formed, and there will be none after me” (Is. 43:10). If you will, the position has been filled. Thus, Mormonism and orthodox Christianity disagree fundamentally on the goal of human existence as well as on the nature of God.

It is not possible, biblically or logically, for a being to grow or progress to the point of having all power and all knowledge. For example, any being that must acquire knowledge can never catch up on all he has missed and become all-knowing. As the King James Version puts it, God’s ways are “past finding out” (Rom. 11:33). If you don’t already know it all, you never will! There is an infinite, qualitative difference between creatures who know by a process of learning and the Creator who simply knows all things.

The LDS belief that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones also disagrees with the teaching of the Bible. God is by nature not flesh but transcendent spirit; he is not limited to any location (Is. 31:3; John4:20-24). The universe cannot contain God (1 Kings8:27; Is. 66:1; Acts7:48-49). At the same time, God is present everywhere (Ps. 139:7-10; Acts17:28) and fills all things (Jer. 23:23-24). Although the Bible does describe God in physical language, such language is clearly figurative. For example, the Bible says that heaven is God’s “throne” and the earth is his “footstool” (Is. 66:1; Matt. 5:34-35; Acts 7:49). No one (I hope) thinks that God is a being tens of thousands of miles tall, with his feet propped up on the earth!

It is true that Jesus, who is God, is also a man with a physical body. However, in Mormonism, the Father was a man who became God. In the Bible, the Son, Jesus Christ, was eternally God and yet became a man (John 1:1, 14; Phil. 2:6-7). Orthodox Christians do not object to the idea of God taking a physical body if he so chooses. They object to the idea of God as a physical being who worked his way up to Godhood.

The LDS belief that God is by nature a physical being is at odds with the belief that God is omnipresent as traditionally defined. Mormonism teaches that God is able to affect reality away from his physical presence by “the light of truth…which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” (D&C 88:6-12). Since Mormonism denies that the Father and the Son are omnipresent, it also denies that either of these divine persons can dwell within human beings: “the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false” (D&C 130:3). Only the Holy Ghost, who does not have a physical body, can dwell in a person’s heart: “Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” (130:22). Yet the “old sectarian notion” that Christ dwells in the hearts of believers is articulated in the New Testament: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Eph. 3:17).

Consistent with its teaching that God is an exalted Man, Mormonism teaches that God the Father has a wife, whom Mormons call “heavenly Mother.” Together, Heavenly Father and Mother are “our heavenly parents” (Gospel Principles, 11, 13-15, 17, 19, 27, 28). The Bible, of course, does not speak of a Heavenly Mother. For that matter, neither do any of the LDS scriptures. Yet the logic of the LDS doctrinal system—that God the Father was once a man and became exalted to Godhood, that God still has an immortal body of flesh and bones, and that God the Father is the literal father of all human and angelic spirits—led the LDS Church to infer the existence of a heavenly Mother. Lacking any biblical or LDS scriptural evidence for her existence, some Mormons actually appeal to recent archaeological discoveries that show that some idol-worshiping Israelites in the Old Testament era worshiped a goddess figure alongside Yahweh. This illustrates just how far Mormonism is from biblical theology: it is, by their own reasoning, in some respects closer to the beliefs of idol worshippers condemned in the Bible than the beliefs of the biblical writers themselves. Regretfully, one can only conclude that the God of the LDS Church is not the God of the Bible.