In mainstream Christianity, the incarnation is a really big deal. The idea that the transcendent and ineffable God could enter into creation and become a man is a mind-boggling concept (and provides much for a religious mind to meditatively feast on)

However in Mormonism both the father and the son have physical bodies, and neither of them seem particularly transcendent, supreme, ultimate, absolute or ineffable. (in fact, when put next to the God of classical theism, the Mormon God doesn't really look like "God" at all!) Furthermore, our eternal destiny is to become Gods just like Jesus and the Father are Gods, and we will retain our fleshly bodies.

In other words, "Incarnation" seems like an every day occurrence in Mormonism. It's all rather pedestrian.

With all that in mind, what does the doctrine of the incarnation look like in the Mormon tradition, and how important/profound is it for Mormons?

2 Answers 2


It's a big, transcendent deal for Latter-Day Saints too, just in a different way. Mormons believe that God the Son, Jesus Christ, has a physical body, but before the Incarnation he didn't.

As I understand it, the Catholic doctrine of "hypostatic union" teaches that Christ was both fully human and fully divine during his mortal ministry. LDS doctrine essentially takes that idea one step further: while Jesus has always been the Son of God, participated in the Creation alongside the Father, and gave revelations and power to his prophets and his people in ancient days, he has also always been a son of God, as we all are, and followed the same eternal path of progression as we do, serving not only as our Savior and our Lord, but as our Exemplar.

He began as a spirit child of God, as we all did, was born into mortality, lived among us and experienced the joys and hardships of mortal existence, and eventually died, just like the rest of us. But then he did something that only he, being God, was capable of: he broke the bands of death, taking back his life and opening the doors of the Resurrection, so that all of us can follow in his footsteps and continue our progress.

Latter-Day Saints believe that the righteous can achieve "exaltation," the quality of eternal life that God the Father and Jesus Christ enjoy, in the hereafter, but saying that it will be in "our fleshy bodies" is a bit of a simplification.

When Jesus was resurrected, he appeared to the apostles in his resurrected body. He showed them the wounds from the crucifixion and had them touch and handle him so they would know he was not some sort of ghost, and even ate food with them. (See Luke 24.) But he said something very unique during this meeting: "a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me have." The much more common description of our physical bodies is "flesh and blood;" by saying "flesh and bones" instead, this implies that, while our resurrected bodies will still be distinctly our own bodies, (note the crucifixion wounds,) they will be different in quality in some way. Mormons believe that these bodies will be perfected and immortal, incapable of further corruption or death.

This shows what the profound implications of the Incarnation are to Latter-Day Saints: when Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by me," he was describing himself as our Exemplar. He showed us the way to "come unto the Father" and achieve exaltation by achieving it himself!


For more LDS scriptural reference, we have Doctrine & Covenants 93:33-34:

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.

The whole idea that God has a body is looked upon less as bringing God down to man's "pedestrian" level, and more of God giving man the opportunity to be brought up to His divine level. Before we were born we were "only" spirits, and that God presented a plan by which He would create us in His image; we could be tested and find for ourselves whether we would be worthy/capable of an existence more like His, with all the powers, abilities, and fullness of joy He has that apparently come from having a spirit united with element. "Eye hath not seen, or has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath in store for them who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9) may refer to the ineffable capabilities of a divine physical body.

Right now we are in a "trial run" with imperfect, mortal bodies that don't have those full capabilities, which is still better than being only a spirit. A revelation about the spirit world states "the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage" (D&C 138:50). In fact, one key fact held by the Latter-day Saints is that Satan and his followers, because of their rebellion in heaven before the world was, will never have a body, and that is part of their eternal punishment; they will never become like God (Guide to the Scriptures: Devil). The rest of us chose to follow God and be tested in a body.

Because of Adam's transgression, we would have been in the same predicament as Satan, eventually losing our bodies through death, and no longer having the capabilities and fullness of joy that they bring. Jesus Christ is centrally important because He broke the bands of death, and every person who has ever received a body will be resurrected eventually and receive perfected immortal bodies and stand before God to be judged. Whether we will continue to become like the Father or be damned (stopped) depends on our acceptance of Christ and repenting from our sins (2 Nephi 9).

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