Lesson 27 of the Gospel Doctrines Class covers Alma 30-31. These two chapters talk about how Korithor, an Anti-Christ, spread his false doctrine. One of the false doctrines mentioned is recorded in the prayer of the Zoramites. “Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou was a spirit, and that thou are a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.” (Alma 31:15)
According to Mormonism, this is a false doctrine because it teaches that God the Father doesn’t have a body. “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.” (D&C 130:22) This belief that God had a body is also seen in the couplet coined by one of their past presidents, Lorenzo Snow. “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” As seen in that couplet, Mormonism also teaches that God was once a man.
One passage that many Mormons use as proof that God has a body is Genesis 1:27 where it is recorded that man was created in God’s image. They say that this must refer to a physical image. But that is not what the Bible says. Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:24 refer back to that image and obviously in those passages it is talking about a spiritual, not a physical, image. Those passages identify it with the new man of faith which is attuned to God’s will. When Genesis talks about God creating man in his own image, it means that Adam and Eve were perfectly attuned to God’s will. It has nothing to do with how they looked.
But that is not how Mormonism sees it. Therefore it says that this teaching that God doesn’t have a body is one of the main characteristics of the Great Apostasy that it says occurred after the death of the apostles. “Soon pagan beliefs dominated the thinking those called Christians. The Roman emperor adopted this false Christianity as the state religion. This church was very different from the church Jesus organized. It taught that God was a being without form or substance.” (Gospel Principles, p.92)
This then is just another in a long list of examples of the vast differences between Mormonism and Christianity. Therefore it boggles the minds of many Christians when they hear Mormons saying that they are Christians like we are – only they have the fullness of the gospel. Why would they want to identify, in any way, with people who believe so differently than they do? Why does the first FAQ on mormon.org say they are Christian without any emphasis on differences?
Many LDS members, however, honestly don’t understand why this bothers, even angers, many Christians. In an attempt to illustrate this, I have asked some of how they would feel if I said I am a Mormon, although I deny that
1) Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God
2) The Mormon Church is the true church
3) The Book of Mormon, D&C, and the Pearl of Great Price are scripture
4) The president of the LDS Church is a prophet
5) God the Father has a body
6) We are saved after all we can do
If I said I denied those and numerous other teachings of Mormonism, but claimed to be a Mormon – the only difference is that I have the fullness of Mormonism – if I went around claiming to be a Mormon under such conditions, how would they feel? How would they feel if the first thing I tell people is that I’m a Mormon and this is a Mormon blog? Would they question me about that? Would they be angry that I made that claim? Honestly, I doubt if many Mormons would welcome me with open arms as a fellow Mormon.
In the same way, many Christians are dumbfounded by the thought of welcoming Mormons as fellow Christians. They feel that doing so would involve a denial of many truths they hold dear.
Openly and publicly acknowledging the differences, rather than ignoring them or talking in such a way that obscures them, is not only the honest thing to do – it is also the only way productive dialogue will ever be able to take place.