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I thought that God once walked on the earth as we do now, but I can't find that in the bible, offhand.

I thought that Joseph Smith taught that he walked with us and was once a man. What bible verses did he use to show this?

Where does that teaching come from?

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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

As a preface, this doctrine is considered relatively "deep doctrine", which is a term in LDS theology that describes doctrines that are held to be true, but have no impact on our salvation. Other doctrines (not deep) include baptism, faith, repentance, remission of sins, etc as outlined by the 13 articles of faith.

The LDS canon consists of:

  • Holy Bible (Old Testament and New Testament)
  • Book of Mormon
  • Doctrine and Covenants
  • Pearl of Great Price- books of Abraham and Moses

The Doctrine and Covenants gives the clearest explanation of some of these matters, and I've also referenced the words of past leaders of the LDS Church, which are held to be authoritative.

Assumptions

To answer this question, a few assumptions must be made:

  • God progresses eternally (other answers show scriptures about the eternal nature of God)
  • Man is the literal offspring of God
  • Man can progress eternally

To prove the first, see this guide on God's eternal nature, and Moses 1:33-35, which is part of the Pearl of Great Price:

33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.

35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

In this creation is His progression.

To prove the second two, Romans 8:17 is very helpful:

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

The guide for Man's potential to be like God is also very helpful.

God has a physical body, as tangible as man's

First, we must assert that God has a body. The guide concerning God's body details a lot of evidences, both in the Bible and in other books in the LDS canon.

The most clear manifestation of God's physical body comes in a revelation to Joseph Smith in 1843:

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.

Note, there are other verses that hint at God's physical body, but this is the most clear.

As you know, God the Father is rarely mentioned. The classic mention of God being a spirit is John 4:24:

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

This verse should be coupled with a revelation to Joseph Smith:

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;

We can see that spirit is not meant literally. We consist of two parts, body and spirit. The spirit is the literal child of God, and the body is the created vessel that we inherited from our parents. In this sense we are spirits inhabiting a physical body, and in this sense God is technically a spirit. But God is also a soul, consisting of a spirit and a body.

When Christ "gives up the ghost", that means that his spirit is leaving his physical body. Many other churches don't believe this way, but this is standard doctrine, itself defensible, that does not fit the scope of the question.

God was once as man

Now we get to dive into deeper doctrine.

Here are a couple passages taken from another site:

I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. … It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God and to know...that he was once a man like us.... (“King Follett Discourse,” Journal of Discourses 6:3-4, also in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345-346, and History of the Church, vol. 6, 305-307, emphasis added)

Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar that through which we are now passing (The Gospel Through the Ages, 1945, p 104).

These were given by different prophets (or LDS leaders) att different times (separated by 100 or so years). The words of living prophets is accepted as doctrine and scripture, just like the words in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

It also makes logical sense. Our eternal nature is to become "like God". How can we be "like God" without having our own worlds and children? That is the aim of every LDS. This does not mean that man can ever become greater than or equal to God. God is always progressing, and we have the ability to eternally progress, so long as we are diligent in this life.

As to God's position as a man, we have no idea, only speculation. The foremost theories are:

  • God was as Adam, created by a different God on a different world
  • God was as Christ, the savior for his time
  • God was as us, a regular person who attained perfection

The second is difficult to defend, because Christ's Atonement is considered Eternal, but this may be the same sense in which God is Eternal. Eternal may not mean "forever"; it may just mean a really long time (like millions of years or something). Eternal is generally accepted as meaning the opposite of temporal, or lasting beyond the grave. This definition is also debated, with some scholars giving figures as to what Eternal represents, and is more fitting for a separate question.

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It would be helpful if you backed up the bullets in the Assumptions section with scripture. –  James Hill Sep 8 '11 at 15:41
    
@James Hill - I did. See just below it. I gave links with tons of scriptures, and the last two I gave a Bible verse. The links are to the Topical Guide, which is distributed with every copy of the LDS canon. –  tjameson Sep 8 '11 at 15:42
    
Excellent. Many thanks for this full and complete answer. –  Richard Sep 8 '11 at 15:53
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LDS doctrine is not very clear on this point. The general idea is that scriptures and revelations given to us pertain to us, to this world and the history and the future of its inhabitants, and not the broader aspects of eternity, whatever they may be. That knowledge is sufficient to guide us to our salvation, while going beyond that, especially when we don't even have a proper vocabulary to express infinite concepts, would only serve to distract and confuse us.

Joseph Smith taught that God once walked with man, just as it says in the first few chapters of Genesis. There's nothing particularly unusual there. He also taught that God was once a man as we are, but the two points are separate. There's very little doctrine available on that point, but it's safe to assume that whenever that happened was long before the creation of this world.

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I'm going to +1 this, because it gets at the heart of the matter. Please look over my answer, to make sure it is clear enough to not confuse those who may be interested. If it is too confusing, I'll vote to delete mine. –  tjameson Sep 8 '11 at 15:39
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In John 1:1 we read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

So, Jesus is God.

Then reading this a bit further, John 1:14 says:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

To summarise: Jesus (God) became flesh and made his dwelling among us (walked on Earth).

If, however, you are referring to God the Father or The Holy Spirit on Earth, please add a comment and I will add those verses (but then He is not described, "as a man").

If you don't accept Jesus was God, please see:

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I believe the OP is trying to determine if God the Father is eternal. Based on this post and previous posts, I believe that he's referring to Joseph Smith's teachings that God was once a man like us. I suggest providing scripture to prove the eternality of the Father as well. –  James Hill Sep 8 '11 at 14:49
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@Richard. I'm puzzled. You specifically state in your question that you have been looking in the Bible. I have provided you Biblical answers and you downvote. If you want answers according to an authority outside the Bible, please say so. –  Wikis Sep 8 '11 at 14:52
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@Richard, I don't agree with the meta question you posted. I believe that the Doctrine of the JW's is wrong in many ways. I can't in good conscience respond using that viewpoint. Forcing someone to respond in a viewpoint they don't agree with or don't understand has the potential to alienate large groups of users. I would hate to look at a post and say - "Man, I can't post what I think the Bible says about [Insert Topic Here] because I'll get voted down for my viewpoint." All users should be encouraged to respond. Especially users like Wikis who use scripture to back up their beliefs. –  James Hill Sep 8 '11 at 15:02
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@Wikis At Area51 - tjameson pointed out in a comment to the question that I totally botched up the question by providing Jehovah's Witness bible to a LDS question. I've edited the question to be more valid. The basis for my initial question was wrong. Sorry about that. –  Richard Sep 8 '11 at 15:13
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@Richard, therein lies the problem. If you can't answer a question about God using the Bible, what's the purpose of this site? –  James Hill Sep 8 '11 at 15:19
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I'm not familiar with Mormon doctrine, so I'm not sure where you're going with your line of questioning, but I'll try to answer the two questions you posed.

Is God Eternal?

The following scriptures describe God as eternal.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.

I Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Did God Walk on the Earth?

In the book of Genesis, God came and walked with Adam in the cool of the day.

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

In Exodus God revealed Himself to Moses as a man.

Exodus 33:22-23 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

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