The doctrine of God presented in the Book of Mormon and Smith's early revelations is a peculiar blend of trinitarian and unitarian modes of thought. While the members of the Godhead are often spoken of in traditionally trinitarian terms, the Son is described not as a distinct personage but as an emanation or manifestation of the Father. Mosiah described Christ as "the God, the father of all thing" (Mosiah 7:27); Zeezrom asked the prophet Amulek, "Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth" (Alma 11:38-39); Christ revealed himself to the brother of Jared as "the Father and the Son" (Ether 3:14); and Abinadi said in Mosiah 15:1-4,
I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in the flesh he shall he called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son--The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son--And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.(1)
This identification of the Father and Son made any anthropomorphic or tritheistic conception of the divine nature impossible, necessitating instead a monistic and decidedly spiritual view of God's person. The Father is often described in the Book of Mormon as a "Great Spirit" (Alma 22:9-11) who created man "after the body of my spirit" (Ether 3:16), and early Mormon theologians classified God as a "personage of spirit."(2)
By 1835 the Mormon doctrine of God had undergone considerable alteration. While the Father was still conceived as a spiritual being, Christ had become independent of the Father. Their unity was one of mind or purpose, "which mind is the Holy Spirit."(3) The Spirit, whose individuality had been consistently assumed in the Book of Mormon, was metamorphosed into an impersonal "it," leaving only two actual personages in the Godhead. The Lectures on Faith, an early Mormon catechism, asked, "How many personages are there in the Godhead?," to which the faithful Mormon was supposed to respond, "Two: the Father and the Son."(4)
The following year Smith began attending classes in Biblical Hebrew. During a seven week course of instruction he learned that the word "Elohim," one of the Hebrew words for God, was in the plural form. From this Smith concluded that Elohim ought always to be translated "Gods," even in those passages where the grammar and context make such a translation absurd.(5) Thus was planted a seed which would eventually culminate in his famous doctrine of multiple gods.
Smith, however, exercised great caution in preaching the plurality of gods to his primarily monotheistic congregation. In 1839, while incarcerated in Liberty jail on a charge of treason, he promised that a time would come "in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods..." (Doctrine and Covenants 121:28). Although this same communication hinted darkly of the "Eternal God of all other gods,"(6) it was not until the early 1840's that Smith publically announced his belief in polytheism. "In all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity," he declared with something less than disarming candor, "it has been the plurality of gods. It has been preached by the Elders for fifteen years."(7)
Mormonism's evolution from an originally monotheistic faith to one of radical polytheism is most clearly expressed in a small but significant collection of Mormon scripture known as the Pearl of Great Price. In June, 1830, Smith began writing his "Book of Moses," a revised account of the Genesis creation narrative. Instead of applying the simple "and God said" to the successive steps of creation, Smith emphasized the singleness of God with "and I, God, said" (a phrase he repeated some seventy times). Later, in 1842, Smith again published a rewritten account of the creation story in the "Book of Abraham." This time, however, Smith translated "and God said" with "and they (the Gods) said." Mormons are thus left with two equally authoritative but radically contradictory accounts of creation.
Mormon efforts to derive polytheism from the Bible have proven singularly unsuccessful, and for understandable reasons. The authors of the Bible were surrounded by a polytheism nearly as rank as that proclaimed by Mormonism. The idea of monotheism was continually in danger of being lost amid this confusing tangle of gods and goddesses, and the Bible is uncompromising in its denial of there being more gods than one. Isaiah was especially emphatic in his proclamation of God's absolute unity.
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. I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour...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...Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any...I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me...That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else...there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else (43:10-11; 44:6, 8; 45:5-6, 21-22).
One passage often quoted in support of a plurality of deities is 1 Cor. 8:4-6,
As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
Mormons claim that the parenthetical clause, "as there be gods many, and lords many," is a clear admission that there exist more gods than one.
A closer reading of 1 Cor. 8:5 readily reveals its true meaning. The theme of 1 Cor. 8 is whether or not a Christian can eat meat that has been offered to an idol. Paul, in answer to this question, says, "an idol is nothing in the world," by which he means that such beings as Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus do not actually exist, and that in reality "there is none other God but one" (heis: "one only"). Having thus established the unity of God, Paul proceeded to set its truth beyond dispute by means of an extended explanation. He first assumes, at least hypothetically, that those beings whom the heathen call gods (legomenoi theoi: "so-called gods") actually exist, be they the major gods of Olympus or the minor gods of earth. He next states the premise upon which this assumption rests, "as there be gods many, and lords many." This parenthetical clause concedes to the legomenoi theoi some degree of real existence, and at the same time introduces the word "lords" for the purpose of contrast with the one God and one Lord of vs. 6. Paul is here saying that even if we assume that the reputed gods of paganism actually exist (as indeed they do, although not in the sense imagined by the heathen), they are irrelevant to the Christian, for there is actually "but one God, the Father, of whom are all things,...and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things." This contrast beings into sharp focus the nothingness of the "gods many, and lords many" when compared with the absolute reality of the one God and one Lord. It emphasizes, furthermore, that the Christian Godhead, the originative source of "all things," is also the source of those powers whom the heathen ignorantly worship as gods. This fact, in T. S. Evans' words,
undeifies all the gods many, for so far from being "gods by nature" or having a share in creation, they must have been themselves created, as parts of the universe, and therefore not meet objects of worship....This fact dethrones from a share in the supreme dominion all the lords many, and reduces them to subordinate and accountable powers.(8)
Just who these "powers" are is revealed in chapter 10 of the same epistle. The question had been asked if sacrifices made to idols were offered to actual deities. Paul answered, "But I say, the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils" (vs. 20). Paul here teaches that the idols worshipped by the heathen are in fact "visible symbols of invisible demons,"(9) and that those who participate in their worship are actually paying homage to Satan. If Paul was advocating a plurality of gods in 1 Cor. 8:5, as Mormons claim, then he here teaches that those same gods are actually demons.
Joseph Smith attempted to avoid this conclusion by offering a counter "explanation."
Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many; and that makes a plurality of Gods, in spite of the whims of all men...You know and I testify that Paul had no allusion to the heathen gods. I have it from God, and get over it if you can. I have a witness of the Holy Ghost, and a testimony that Paul had no allusion to the heathen gods in the text.(10)
This manner of exposition, while doubtless impressive to Smith's devoted followers, displays an abysmal misunderstanding of the office of the Spirit in Biblical interpretation. Alexander Carson's remark is especially penetrating:
No man has a right to say, as some are in the habit of saying, The Spirit tells me that such or such is the meaning of such a passage. How is he assured that it is the Holy Spirit, and that it is not a spirit of delusion, except from the evidence that the interpretation is the legitimate meaning of the words?(11)
A second argument designed to show a plurality of gods is derived from those scriptural passages which speak of the "God of gods and Lord of lords," "the Lord God of gods," and "our Lord is above all gods." While it is true that the Bible does apply "god" and "lord" to beings other than the true God, such terms are always used for either purely comparative purposes(12) or for idols who are "gods" only in human estimation. Ps. 96:4-5 records, "For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols (elilim, "things of naught")."(13)
Smith's evolving doctrine of God did not end in simple polytheism. In April of 1844, before thousands of his followers, Smith discoursed on the origin of God. "God himself was once as we are now," he announced, "and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!"(14) This self-made god once passed through all the vicissitudes, temptations, and sins that we presently experience, and has achieved his present status through sheer effort and hard work. He has risen "step by step in the scale of progress, in the school of advancement; has moved forward and overcome, until He has arrived at the point where He now is."(15)
The idea that God was once a man is thoroughly unbiblical. Such a doctrine presupposes the mutability of God, a characteristic which the Bible ascribes only to false gods. Malachi recorded, "For I am the Lord, I change not" (3:6); James described God as "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (1:17); and the Psalmist described God as "from everlasting to everlasting, thou art" (90:2), meaning that God has not "come into being" but forever is. To claim that God changes or "progresses" is to "change the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man" (Rom. 1:23).
In addition to being Biblically repugnant, the notion of God's mutability is flatly contradicted by Smith's earlier statements concerning the changelessness of God. The Book of Mormon characterizes God as "unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity" (Moroni 8:18; cf. Mormon 9:9, 19);(16) Smith's early revelations described God as "the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same today as yesterday, and forever" (Doctrine and aovenants 35:1; cf. 3:2); and the Lectures on Faith declare that God "changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same yesterday to-day and forever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation."(17) Smith's flagrant disregard for consistency makes one wonder whether he even bothered to read his own revelations.
If God is simply an exalted man, it logically follows that he possesses a tangible, physical form. "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also" (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22). It is noteworthy that Smith did not include "blood" in his description of God's person. Orson Pratt later theorized that God's body is sustained not by blood but by a spiritual fluid derived from his consumption of "celestial vegetables and fruits." This fluid "...circulating in the veins and arteries of the celestial male and female, preserves their tabernacles from decay and death."(18)
Whatever may be said of God's gastronomical habits or circulatory peculiarities, the notion of his corporeality is Biblically groundless. Jesus' statement in Jn. 4:24--"God is a spirit"--necessarily removes any attribute of materiality from the divine nature, "for a spirit hath not flesh and bones" (Lk. 24:39). It is because of God's essential spirituality that scripture describes him as "incorruptible, invisible" (1 Tim. 1:17; cf. Rom. 1:20, Col. 1:15), and as "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim. 6:16).
Mormons often try to minimize the obvious import of Jn. 4:24 by referring to those texts which classify God as light or love. These passages, they maintain, are like Jn. 4:24 in that they should not be interpreted apart from God's other characteristics, such as his corporeality. Light, love, and spirituality, however, are not mutually exclusive attributes, whereas corporeality and spirituality are. Such an argument, furthermore, ignores the context in which Jesus' statement occurs. The theme of Jn. 4:20-24 concerns the proper place and manner in which God should be worshiped. The Samaritan woman argues that God must be worshiped at Gerizim, the mount at whose base she and Jesus were standing. Jesus answers that the hour has now arrived when God will be worshiped at neither Gerizim nor Jerusalem, but in spirit and reality. The reason for this change is because God does not require physical residences or symbolical worship, for "God is Spirit." The thrust of the entire context, as Marcus Dods has written, "indicates that God is not corporeal, and therefore needs no temple."(19)
A standard argument used to prove God's corporeality are the theophanies or God-appearances of the Old Testament. To conclude from these, however, that God has a body is to ignore the larger context in which they occur. Jacob, after having wrestled all night with a mysterious stranger, exclaimed, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Gen. ~2:30); yet Hosea informs us that this same manifestation of God was actually an angel (12:4; cf. Gen. 48:16). The statement of Ex. 33:9, 11, "the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle...And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face," similarly refers to the Angel of God, not to God as he exists in himself. This explanation is shown to be correct by Ex. 14:19, where we learn that it was the Angel of God who proceeded Israel in the theophanic cloud. These and other Old Testament passages which represent God as visible refer not to his actual being (as Mormons imagine) but to the person of his accredited representative.
Mormons display a radical inconsistency whenever they attempt to derive a corporeal God from the Old Testament theophanies. Every passage in which God is said to appear in human form is used as a demonstration of his tangibility,. yet official Mormon doctrine teaches that the God of the Old Testament record was Jesus Christ. If the God who revealed himself to Adam, Abraham, and Moses was indeed the pre-existent Christ, then those passages which represent him as physical cannot be understood in any other than a metaphorical sense. Jesus Christ did not possess a body until his incarnation.
Two other passages frequently cited as evidence for God's physical nature are Col. 1:15 and Phil. 2:6, where Christ is described as the "image of the invisible God" and as "in the form of God." The use of the words "image" and "form," Mormons contend, proves that God possesses some kind of physical organism, since Christ, the image of God, obviously had a body. Such a conception is totally unrelated to the meaning of either text. As used in Col. 1:15, "image" stands in contrast with "invisible," meaning that Christ is the visible manifestation of he who is otherwise invisible. The context suggests, furthermore, that the emphatic predicate "invisible" is used absolutely. This would imply that God is not simply imperceptible to men generally, but that his invisibility is an eternal and essential quality of the divine nature.(20) The similar expression from Phil. 2:6, where Christ is described as "being in the form of God," is likewise incompatible with the notion of an anthropomorphic God. As is clear from the surrounding context, vs. 6 refers to Christ's pre-mortal existence, a fact which discounts the possibility that "form" here refers to physical likeness.
The anthropomorphisms of the Old Testament provide yet another argument for God's corporeality. All of those passages which ascribe bodily parts to God, however, are purely figurative. The Old Testament abounds with poetical imagery of every kind, especially metaphor and personification. Heaven and earth, death and destruction are said to have ears, the mountains and sea have eyes, the deep has hands and a voice, and the morning has wings. Metaphorical usage in also found in those passages which speak of God having bodily parts. The same inspired writer who ascribes eyes, arms, and 1egs to God also tells us he has wings and feathers, "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust" (Ps. 91:4; cf. 17:8; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7). These passages, if interpreted literally, would result in a deity more nearly resembling the fabled harpy than the invisible God of scripture. The Old Testament itself forbids us to look upon such anthropomorphic expressions as being literal descriptions of God's person. We read in 1 Kings 8:27 that the heavens themselves cannot contain God, and Isa. 66:1 records that heaven is God's throne and the earth his footstool. These expressions of God's omnipresence are thoroughly incompatible with the idea of his being circumscribed by a physical organism.
A final argument for God's corporeality is based on Gen. 1:26, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." Mormons interpret the word "image" as pertaining to God's physical organism. In Smith's Book of Moses we read, "In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them" (6:9).
By way of refutation, it should first be observed that it is antecedently improbable that the author of Genesis viewed God's image in man as exclusively physical. God is represented in the Old Testament as free from all spatial limitations and hence incorporeal; he is not restricted to any specific locale but is equally present at all places and at all times (Ps. l39:7-l0; Jer. 23:24). It should further be noted that Gen. 1:26 concerns itself more with the purpose than with the nature of the divine image, the purpose being defined as man's dominion over the realm of nature. This clearly indicates that man's body does not form the content of the divine image, for man exercises dominion over the earth not by virtue of his physical prowess but by his self-conscious determination and superior reasoning faculties.
Although the Old Testament never defines exactly what is meant by man being created in God's likeness, the New Testament clearly teaches that the divine image consists primarily in man's mental and spiritual endowments. Paul wrote, "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:23-24). And again: "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:9-10). Paul here teaches that the original image of God in man was mental and moral in nature, and that in Christ the believer is enabled to gradually recapture that image. The believer is transformed "from glory to glory" (2 Cor. 3:18) until the divine image marred in Adam is restored in Christ.(21)
Mormons try to avoid this interpretation by referring to Gen. 5:1, 3, "This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;...And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and he called his name Seth." The parallelism between these two verses, Mormons argue, demonstrate that God's image in man is primarily physical. As Seth was begotten in the physical image and likeness of Adam, so Adam was created in the physical image of God.
As we have already seen, however, it is unlikely that the "image" of Gen. 1:26 refers to Adam's physical form, since the purpose of the divine likeness stated there does not concern man's physical nature. Bearing this in mind, the phrase of 5:3 is most naturally interpreted as meaning that the mental and moral qualities originally bestowed upon man were transmitted to his descendants, making them no less than Adam partakers of the same divine qualities. This would indicate that the spiritual attributes of the divine nature were not wholly obliterated by the fall but were instead transmitted to Adam's progency.
Another possible interpretation regards Gen. 5:1, 3 as a summary statement of man's condition before and after the fall, contrasting his original purity with his present depravity. The statement of vs. 1, in the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him," clearly refers to Adam's original creation, when God judged him as "very good." But Adam sinned, and thus incurred the wrath of a just and righteous God. The world changed from a paradisaical state to one of misery and sin, of anger, envy, guilt, hatred, lying, selfishness, and murder (Gen. 4). The statement of vs. 3, "And Adam...begat a son in his own likeness, after his image," thus places the reader in the immediate present of man's sinfulness, and stands in contrast to the original innocence recalled by vs. 1. Adam was created in the image of God's righteousness; Seth was born in Adam's sinful likeness.
Less amenable to exegetical correction (and hence much more popular among Mormons) is the argument for God's corporeality based on the personal experience of Joseph Smith. In narrating the events of his early youth, Smith spoke of a great religious revival that swept his neighborhood in 1820. Smith, then a young boy of 14, was extremely confused by the tumult created by the rivaling sects; and, realizing they could not all be right, decided to take his problem to the Lord in prayer. He retired to a grove not far from his father's house and there offered up the sincere desires of his heart. Suddenly there appeared above him two glorious personages, each exactly resembling the other and both arrayed in dazzling light. One of these personages addressed Smith by name and said, pointing to the other, "This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!"(22) Mormons contend that Smith's experience proved once and for all that God the Father and his Son are distinct personages, and that each possesses a physical body.
Even if Smith's story were better authenticated than it in fact is, it cannot by itself prove that God and Christ are two distinct and physical personages. A vision, even if it be one of the majesty described by Smith, cannot be true if it teaches doctrines contrary to those attested by scripture, for to be authentic a vision must not contradict the already established word of God. The reason for this is that there exist deceiving as well as revealing spirits, some of which are capable of appearing in all the radiance and effulgence of a messenger sent directly from heaven. If such a spirit proclaim a gospel different from that contained in the Bible, then that message is false and those who believe it damned, "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14; cf. Gal. 1:8; 2 Thess. 2:9, 15). Mormons therefore cannot escape their Biblical responsibility by appealing to the visions and revelations of their founder, as if these somehow excused Smith from conforming himself to the standard recognized as binding by all true prophets since Moses. The Mormon contention, to be valid, must be based solidly on scripture, otherwise Smith belongs to that company of prophets who "prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart" (Jer. 14:14).
Though the ultimate standard by which Smith's first vision must be judged is the Bible, there exists much evidence that the vision itself is a fabrication, created deliberately for the purpose of supporting Smith's developing idea of God. Smith's official version, summarized above, was only the last in a series of attempts to formalize the story, none of which identify his heavenly visitors as God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. The earliest account, composed sometime in 1832, states that there was only one divine messenger and identifies him as Christ; the second account, dictated in November of 1835, stated that it was two nameless "personages" who appeared to Smith; and the third account, delivered only five days later, spoke of the appearance of these personages as a "visitation of angels."(23) Besides giving conflicting accounts of the number and identity of his heavenly visitors, Smith also displayed equal confusion regarding the time of the vision and the circumstances attending it, sometimes placing it in one year, sometimes another. Such confusions and inconsistencies are unlikely in a story which, if true, could not have failed to indelibly impress itself upon the youthful prophet. If, however, the story were less than true, perhaps improvised by Smith to give his mission a supernatural sanction which it otherwise lacked, then such inconsistencies are simply the natural product of an imagination uncluttered by facts.(24)
The evolution of Smith's first vision coincides almost exactly with his evolving concept of God. The God of the Book of Mormon could obviously not appear as two persons, as he lacked not only a body but was identified with Jesus Christ. We accordingly find the earliest accounts of the first vision referring only to Christ or an angel, not to the multiple gods of later Mormon theology. By 1838, however, the year Smith wrote his final version of the first vision story, he had decided that the Father and Son possessed separate, tangible bodies, so he again revised his story to make it consistent with his newly acquired theology. In this context, revelation is hardly distinguishable from lying.
Click here for V: Jesus Christ
1. The first edition of the Book of Mormon is even more emphatic in its profession of Patripassianism, the view that Christ and God are the same person. In 1 Nephi 11:18 Mary is called "the mother of God," in vs. 21 Jesus is hailed as "the Eternal Father!," in vs. 32 he is described as the "Everlasting God," and in 13:40 he is again called the "Eternal Father." These passages, however, were all changed in later editions by inserting "the Son of" into the text.
2. Doctrine and Covenants (Kirtland, Ohio; F. G. Williams & Co., 1835), 53. The "Lectures on Faith," from which the above citation was taken, were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in 1921.
4. Ibid., 55.
5. Smith was either unaware or chose to disregard the fact that "Elohim" is almost always joined with singular verbs or adjectives except when used of deities other than the God of Israel. Its plural form denotes a plentitude of majesty within the divine being, and probably originated "from the usage of emphasizing the importance of one god by seeming to concentrate within Him the being of all the gods." James Hastings (ed.), Dictionary of the Bible, rev. ed. by Frederick C. Grant and H. H. Rowley (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963), 334. This is its evident meaning in the Tell-Amarna tablets, where Pharaoh is addressed as "my lord, my gods and the sun." The author obviously did not regard Pharaoh as a plurality of beings, but rather as embracing all deity within his person.
6. When printed in the Church newspaper Times and Seasons for May of 1840, Smith deleted the two phrases concerning a plurality of gods. He evidently felt that his congregation was not yet ready for such "strong" doctrine.
7. Smith, History of the Church 6:474.
8. T. S. Evans, "Commentary on First Corinthians11' in F. C. Cook (ed.), Speaker's Commentary on the New Testament, 4 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, l878-l88l), 3:297.
9. M. F. Unger, Biblical Demonology (Wheaton, Ill.: Scripture Press, 1952), 59.
10. Smith, History of the Church 6:475.
11. Alexander Carson, Examination of the Principles of Biblical Interpretation, 23, cit. Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, rev. ed. (Boston: W. A. Wilde Company, 1956), x-xi.
12. Ex. 7:1 speaks of Moses as being a "god" to Pharaoh: that is, a god in Pharaoh's estimation.
13. The Septuagint translators chose to render elilim in this passage as "devils," a belief also reflected in the New Testament.
14. Smith, History of the Church 6:305.
15. Young, Journal of Discourses, 1:123.
16. Sidney B. Sperry of Brigham Young University
has argued that such passages apply to God
only "after he became the God of the universe (or universes) to which we belong," and that the
authors of the Book of Mormon, despite their clear statements to the contrary, actually "knew
that God had become such ages ago." The Problems of the Book of Mormon (Salt
Bookcraft, Inc., 1964), 216. This manner of reasoning, aside from begging the very question at
issue, provides an excellent example of the Mormon tendency to replace exposition with
imposition. The Book of Mormon nowhere intimates that its alleged authors were aware of God's
changing character; on the contrary, they expressly assert that if God changed "he would cease to
be God" (Mormon 9:19). They further state that God is "unchangeable from all
eternity" (Moroni 8:18). Had they been aware of God's mutability, they could hardly have used
language better calculated to express the very opposite of that conviction.
17.Doctrine and Covenants (1835), 38; cf. 12, 39-40.
18. Orson Pratt, The Seer 1 (March 1853):37.
19. Marcus Dods, "The Gospel According to John," in W. Robertson Nicoll (ed.), The Expositor's Greek Testament, 5 vols. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1893-1910), l:728. The idea of God's spirituality is also intimated in the Old Testament. The myriad prohibitions against worshiping any material likeness of God, for instance, clearly infer that God has no body, "for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb" (Deut. 4:15). Even more perspicuous is the statement of Isa. 31:3, "Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit." Here the parallelism, in A. B. Davidson's words, "shows that man is to God as flesh to spirit; that as man is a corporeal being, so God is spiritual." The Theology of the Old Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1904), 83.
20. This is even more clearly expressed in 1 Tim. 1:17, where invisibility is classified among the absolute qualities of God.
21. It should further be observed that Paul's representation of the divine image as capable of increasing and decreasing is fatal to any view which would limit the image to man's physical organism. The divine image, if confined to the body, is static rather than mobile.
22. Smith, History of the Church 1:5.
23. H. Michael Marquardt (ed.), Joseph Smith's 1832-34 Diary (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Co., 1979), 7; H. Michael Marquardt (ed.), Joseph Smith's 1835-36 Diary (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Oc., 1979), 10, 14.
24. The questionable character of Joseph Smith's first vision is further demonstrated in Wesley P. Walters, New Light on Mormon Origins from the Palmyra (N.Y.) Revival (La Mesa, California: Utah Christian Tract Society, 1967). Rev. Walters argues that while a vision, by its very nature, is incapable of either proof or disproof, a revival is quite another matter, especially one of the magnitude described by Smith. Walters offers conclusive evidence, however, that there was no revival in the Palmyra area during the years 1819-1823, and that the only revival corresponding to Smith's story did not occur until the fall of 1824. This fact casts more than a shadow of doubt upon the integrity of Smith's entire account, for it drastically alters the chronological scheme of the first vision. It necessitates moving Smith's vision from 1820 to 1825, it involves changing the date of his second vision, it makes Smith 19 instead of 14 when the vision occurred, and it reduces his visits to the Hill Cumorah from four to one. Either Joseph Smith had an uncommonly poor memory, or he altered the story with the passing years, changing dates, transforming angels into gods, and otherwise embellishing his tale until it bore little resemblance to its original form.