Wednesday, January 16, 2013

God Has a Body

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. This sentence that begins the Old Testament summarizes five majestic creative periods in which God created light, earth, clouds, oceans, mountain ranges, waterfalls, forests, flower-covered fields, flocks of gulls, parades of elephants and billions of other formations, plants, ponds, animals and insects. The magnificence and wonder of God's creations has stirred your soul and mine as we've looked out over an endless ocean horizon, sat peacefully beside a quiet mountain lake or tried to count the stars in the midnight sky.

As a capstone to His creations God created the first people, Adam and Eve:

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so... And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them (Moses 2:26-27).

Like our first parents, you and I have been born in the image of God. We look like Him because He is the father of our spirits. He created physical bodies for us that house our spirits and provide opportunities for us that could not be gained outside of mortality.

The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that our bodies are sacred. Christ referred to his body as a temple when he prophesied of his death and resurrection to the Jews (John 2:21). Paul made the same reference in a letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:19) and goes on to explain that, though our spirits are separated from our imperfect mortal bodies at death, both spirit and body will be reunited in perfect form when we are resurrected so we may dwell in our bodies throughout eternity (see 1 Corinthians 15, Alma 41:2-4).

Old Testament Job understood this truth perhaps thousands of years earlier as he exclaimed: I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God (Job 19:25).

We have been created in the image of God. The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's (D&C 13:22), only His body is perfect, immortal, glorified and celestial in nature. He is a personage with definite and unalterable form who, albeit perfectly, shares a common physical structure and  looks and talks and walks like us. He is our father, after all.

Though most of God's communication with mortal man is done through the Holy Ghost, our Heavenly Father has appeared to men from time to time. He appeared in the Garden of Eden to give Adam and Eve instructions and perform ordinances such as marriage where there were no others to do so (Genesis 2-3). The New Testament apostle Stephen saw God on his throne with Christ at his right hand (Acts 7).

The grandest of these appearances came in a quiet grove of trees in upstate New York in 1820. There a young boy named Joseph Smith prayed with sincerity of heart to know God's will for him. After he began to pray he records this experience:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me... When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other-- 'This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!'

Joseph Smith saw God, our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. In addition to learning the answer to his prayer and being called to restore the pure gospel of Jesus Christ after hundreds of years of apostasy, Joseph learned the eternal truth that God does have a body.

Through the witness of Joseph Smith and the witness we can receive through the Holy Ghost as we approach the Lord in sincere prayer, we may know the truth about the nature of God for ourselves. We may know that He is the literal father of our spirits; that He has a glorious, perfected, immortal body; and that we have been born in the image of our heavenly parents as well as our earthly parents. You can know, as I know, that God knows and loves you and I individually, completely and unconditionally; He wants nothing more than to bless our lives and help us grow to meet our potential.

I feel much like President Gordon B. Hinckley when he said:

I do not equate my body with His in its refinement, in its capacity, in its beauty and radiance. His is eternal. Mine is mortal. But that only increases my reverence for Him. I worship Him 'in spirit and in truth'. I look to Him as my strength. I pray to Him for wisdom beyond my own. I seek to love Him with all my heart, might, mind and strength. His wisdom is greater than the wisdom of all men. His power is greater than the power of nature, for He is the Creator Omnipotent. His love is greater than the lover of any other, for His love encompasses all of His children, and it is His work and His glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His sons and daughters of all generations (see Moses 1:39).

He 'so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life' (John 3:16).

This is the Almighty of whom I stand in awe and reverence. It is He to whom I look in fear and trembling. It is He whom I worship and unto whom I give honor and praise and glory. He is my Heavenly Father, who has invited me to come unto Him in prayer, to speak with Him, with the promised assurance that He will hear and respond (Ensign, March 1998).