LDS theology presents God the Father as an exalted man with body parts. This view has been the center of Mormon teaching. Church founder Joseph Smith taught:
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. . . .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. . . . (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345; emphasis added).
This teaching is clearly declared in the Mormon scripture: Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22:
The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s. . . .
However, Smith changed his doctrine later in life. He stated out teaching the converse (see my article: The Early Teaching of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon Contradict Present- day LDS Theology).
The biblical teaching that God IS spirit is completely rejected in Mormondom. LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie states:
False creeds teach that God is a spirit essence that fills the immensity of space and is every where and nowhere in particular present. In a vain attempt to support this doctrine, formulated by councils in the early days of the great apostasy, it is common for apologists to point to the statement in the King James Bible which says, “God is spirit.” (John 4:24). The fact is that this passage is mistranslated; instead, the correct statement, quoted in context reads:
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. For unto such hath God promise his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth (Inspired Version,1 John 4:25-26)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 318; emphasis added).
The Bible strongly disagrees with Mormon theology on this essential point. Unequivocally God reveals to us, in Scripture, as to His nature: God is an invisible spirit that is not man.
Jesus referring to God the Father says:
No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John1:18; emphasis added)2
The Apostle Paul writing by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, informs us:
He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible [aoratou] God, the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15; NASB; emphasis added)
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, [aorato] the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen (1 Tim. 1:17; emphasis added)
God is Spirit, not a man with flesh and bones
Jesus Christ, who is the final authority, specifically and ontologically3 defines the Father in John 4:24:
God is spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth (emphasis added; see also endnote # 1).
Then Jesus defines what a spirit is NOT:
But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit… And he [Jesus] said unto them… Behold my hands and feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have (Luke 24:37-39; emphasis added).
If, as the Mormons teach, God has a body of flesh and bone, it would necessarily follow then, He could not be omni-present (i.e., everywhere at the same time). Scripture however is quite clear as to the omni-presence of God.
But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built! (2 Ch. 6:18; emphasis added).
Am a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secrete places that I shall not see him? Saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD (Jer. 23: 23, 24; emphasis added).
Interestingly the Book of Mormon teaches that God is spirit: Alma 31:15 says:
Holy, Holy God… we believe thou art holy and thou wast a spirit, and thou art a spirit, and thou will be a spirit forever (see The Early Teaching of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon Contradict Present- day LDS Theology).
Also in Alma 18:26, 28 says that, “God is a “Great Spirit.” In fact you will find not one statement in the Book of Mormon that says that God is an exalted man with body parts. As mentioned, Joseph Smith changed his theology later in life.
The god of Mormonism is not the one true God of the Bible. God plainly tell us:
For I am God, and not man: the Holy One in the midst of thee. . . . (Hos. 11:9; cf. Num. 23:19; emphasis added).
To try and prove their unbiblical position Mormons point to all the Old Testament passages that speak of God having body parts. Example: In Exodus we read that, “The LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as man speaketh unto his friend.” And how Moses saw the back of the LORD. Also, we read of the ear, hand, eye, feet, etc., of the LORD.
However, God used metaphors or anthropomorphisms to describe His activity in human terms so we could understand. Literary metaphors (or more technically; anthropomorphisms) were extremely common in the Old Testament. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young did not understand the art and science of biblical interpretation. If they were to stay at all logically consistent in their literal interpretations, they would be forced to admit: God is a big bird:
He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge (Ps. 91:4)
Or, God is actual fire (Duet. 4:24); Jesus is a loaf of bread (John 6:35); Jesus is a gate with hinges (John10:9) and the list goes on.
Dealing with Exodus 33:11 we read, Moses saw the LORD “face to face” The phrase “face to face” in Hebrew is used as a metaphor to describe the personal, intimate, friend to friend encounter of Moses and the LORD. This was not a physical image being described.
The Hebrew word for “back” in this context could easily be interpreted as the after-effects of the glory of the LORD, which passed by. This would fit the contextual meaning, since the Bible clearly teaches that God is invisible and lives in an unapproachable light whom no one has ever seen, or can see him (cf. John1:18; Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 John 4:12). Thus, the term “back” is not to be taken literally as we can plainly see.
We worship God in spirit and truth, on His terms how He revealed Himself to us.
1, With no formal education in the field of biblical language, the unlearned Joseph Smith made his own version of the Bible. It was called The Inspired Version of the Bible. The Inspired Version contains numerous alterations to what the text actually says (cf. authoritative translations/recognized Bibles). The rendering: “For unto such hath God promise his Spirit” is not found in any Greek manuscript! As with the Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible: The New World Translation, Joseph Smith changed the text to force his own theology into the text. The literal reading of John 4:24 is: “God is spirit” ( pneuma ho theos). The word “spirit” ( pneuma) is an anarthrous predicate nominative that comes before the subject (lit: “spirit the God” ), hence grammatically, “spirit” cannot be translated indefinite: “a spirit,.” but rather qualitative: “spirit,” denoting as to the quality of God- namely as to His nature: He is spirit, thus the text does not read: has a spirit but is spirit. Mormons typically confuse possession with identity due to their unacquaintedness of Greek grammar.
Another example: John 1:19 (v. 18 in most translations) of Joseph Smith’s translation states: “No man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the son; For except it is through him no man can be saved” (emphasis added). Compare this with John 1:18, “No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” There is not one Greek manuscript in existence that would support Joseph Smith’s alterations of the Bible. The common response by most Mormon missionaries is that Joseph Smith had never finished his translation, however Smith wrote a letter, dated July 2, 1833 at Kirtland, Ohio, wherein he states, “this day finished the translating of the Scriptures. . . .” (History of the Church, 1:368; see also, 324). Smith began his translation in 1831.
2, Mormons will argue that John. 1:18 (see above) is mistranslated, because since Jesus is God (in LDS: one God of many) people did indeed see Jesus, see above reference to John. 1:18. However the context is clear in John 1:18: Jesus reveals the Father hence it is the Father that no one has seen or can see (cf. Col. 1:15; 1 John 4:12). Jesus took on another nature- the nature of man, that is, at the the Incarnation (cf. John 1:14; Phil. 2:6-8).
3 The “nature” or “being” of something.