This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by Scott. H. Partridge. To download the PDF and read the full text of this review, follow the link below.
Certainly Latter-day Saint doctrine regarding the nature of God differs from that of traditional Christians, whether Protestants, Catholics, or Orthodox. The Nicene Creed states, “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty . . . and in one Lord Jesus Christ . . . being of one substance with the Father.” From this flows the idea that God is omnipresent and omniscient, that he has no body and exists everywhere simultaneously. In contrast, Mormon doctrine has traditionally held that “the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost . . . is a personage of Spirit” (D&C 130:22), and “each occupies space and is and can be in but one place at one time, but each has power and influence that is everywhere present.”3 So Mormons and traditional Christians, and especially Mormons and Evangelicals, have long been at an impasse over the proper understanding on the nature of God, both sides marshaling proofs, tests, and scholarship to bolster their case.
For Latter-day Saints, the conclusion reached by Kugel that, according to the ancient scriptures, God was a personage with a body who could only be in one place at one time—but who had the power to know what was happening throughout all of creation—fits in nicely with the restored gospel. When a young Joseph Smith had his First Vision in the Sacred Grove, he wiped the slate clean and learned more about the nature of the Godhead than had been devised in seventeen centuries of reasoning and discussion.