Holy Ghost/Divinity without a body

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The Holy Ghost is divine but does not possess a physical body

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Question: Can the Holy Ghost not be fully God, because he does not have a physical body?

It is not known by revelation that it will be necessary for the Holy Spirit to receive a body at some point

Critics charge that since LDS doctrine teaches that a body is required for exaltation, the Holy Ghost cannot be fully God, because he does not have a physical body.

Modern scriptures indicate that having a body is necessary for a fullness of joy (DC 93:33). It is assumed by some Latter-day Saints—but not known by revelation—that it will be necessary for the Holy Spirit to receive a body at some point, but the timeframe in which He does so is not particularly important. (To travel overseas to another country, one needs both a passport and an airplane ticket. It doesn't matter in which order one gets the passport or the ticket, but one must eventually have both in order to reach one's destination.)

Jehovah, the premortal Jesus Christ, was part of the Godhead before his mortal birth. He was the God of Israel, and his yet-future atonement was efficacious to those who were born, lived, and died prior to His crucifixion. The fact that it was effective should blunt any feigned requirement for sequence concerning the Holy Ghost's receipt of a physical body, a matter about which the Church has no official doctrine.


Question: Will the Holy Ghost ever receive a physical body?

We have no revelation on this topic

Because nothing has been revealed on this topic, leaders of the Church have consequently discouraged pronouncements or speculation on this subject.


Joseph Fielding Smith: "I have never troubled myself about the Holy Ghost whether he will sometime have a body or not because it is not in any way essential to my salvation"

Before he was president of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

AVOID SPECULATING ON DESTINY OF THE SPIRIT. The Holy Ghost is not a personage with a body of flesh and bones, and in this respect differs from the Father and the Son. The Holy Ghost is not a woman, as some have declared, and therefore is not the mother of Jesus Christ.

It is a waste of time to speculate in relation to his jurisdiction. We know what has been revealed and that the Holy Ghost, sometimes spoken of as the Holy Spirit, and Comforter, is the third member of the Godhead, and that he, being in perfect harmony with the Father and the Son, reveals to man by the spirit of revelation and prophecy the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our great duty is so to live that we may be led constantly in light and truth by this Comforter so that we may not be deceived by the many false spirits that are in the world.

I have never troubled myself about the Holy Ghost whether he will sometime have a body or not because it is not in any way essential to my salvation. He is a member of the Godhead, with great power and authority, with a most wonderful mission which must be performed by a spirit. This has satisfied me without delving into mysteries that would be of no particular benefit.[1]

Bruce R. McConkie: "expressions on these matters are both speculative and fruitless"

In the same vein, Bruce R. McConkie wrote:

In this dispensation, at least, nothing has been revealed as to [The Holy Ghost's] origin or destiny; expressions on these matters are both speculative and fruitless.[2]


Question: Did certain Church leaders claim that Joseph Smith "held the office of Holy Ghost"?

It is true that some Mormons in the 19th century apparently believed that Joseph was the Holy Ghost incarnate

It is true that some Mormons in the 19th century apparently believed that Joseph was the Holy Ghost incarnate.[3] Some have also speculated that the Holy Ghost is a "calling" filled over the eons by various individuals, and that Joseph Smith took this position following his death.[4]

This is, of course, not a doctrine of the Church and was repudiated by leaders when it appeared: It is also contrary to LDS scripture

Vern G. Swanson has written:

The most widespread is the belief that Smith was the Holy Ghost; or more correctly stated, that he represented the emanating spirit of the Father and the Son. This theory arose from several sources. In a 9 March 1841 discourse Joseph Smith apparently discussed three gods who covenanted to preside over this creation: "[An] Everlasting Covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and [it] relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth." These three gods, some argue, were Father Adam for the beginning of the mortal world, Christ for the Meridian of Time, and Joseph Smith for the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. Others have seen Doctrine and Covenants 135:3 as evidence for Smith being the Holy Ghost: "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world than any other man that ever lived in it." Accordingly, Christ did the most to save humanity and is the second member of the Godhead; therefore, Smith, who did second to the most, is the third member.

That such notions have circulated in the church since 1844 is made clear by comments from church leaders contradicting these views. In August 1845 Orson Pratt wrote to church members responding to rumors that Joseph Smith was the Holy Ghost incarnate: "Let no false doctrine proceed out of your mouth, such, for instance that the tabernacle of our martyred prophet and seer, or of any other person, was or is the especial tabernacle of the Holy Ghost, in a different sense from that considered in relation to his residence in other tabernacles. These are doctrines not revealed, and are neither believed nor sanctioned by the Twelve and should be rejected by every Saint."[5]

In D&C 130:21, a statement spoken by the Prophet Joseph Smith also makes it clear that during Joseph Smith's lifetime the Holy Ghost was a personage of spirit.

The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.

This canonized statement makes the concept that Joseph Smith was the Holy Ghost theologically impossible, since Joseph was clearly a mortal human being with a physical body, despite his description of the Holy Ghost as a spirit.


Notes

  1. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 39.
  2. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 359. GL direct link
  3. That Orson Pratt (see below) had to preach against this doctrine demonstrates that it had at least some currency. We [citation needed] an example, if possible
  4. [citation needed]
  5. Vern G. Swanson, "The Development of the Concept of a Holy Ghost in Mormon Theology," in Line Upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine, Gary James Bergera, ed., (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 97.