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Top leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a document titled: "The Restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ; A Bicentennial Proclamation to the world.

I'm not so much concerned about the "Restoration" part as with what else was said here.

Two hundred years ago, on a beautiful spring morning in 1820, young Joseph Smith, seeking to know which church to join, went into the woods to pray near his home in upstate New York, USA. He had questions regarding the salvation of his soul and trusted that God would direct him.

In humility, we declare that in answer to his prayer, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph and inaugurated the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) as foretold in the Bible. In this vision, he learned that following the death of the original Apostles, Christ’s New Testament Church was lost from the earth. Joseph would be instrumental in its return.

The full article can be found here: https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2020/04/05/what-new-lds-proclamation/

Specifically it says, "God the Father and His Son, appeared to Joseph." I would like to know how it is that God the Father appeared to Smith since according to the Bible God the Father cannot be seen. I know that this was a vision but even the definition of the word vision is, "the faculty or state of being able to see."

Also, Jesus Christ Himself said at John 1:18, "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." Or at John 5:37, "And the Father who sent Me, He has born witness of Me, You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form."

According to the LDS "Doctrine and Covenants 130:22," The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's,” Joseph taught in April 1843, “the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22).

So how does the LDS Church reconcile their teaching that the Father can be seen and He has a body of flesh and bones with what Jesus said and John 4:24 says, "God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth."

Just to sum up Smith says he saw God the Father and the Son of God. Jesus says His Father cannot be seen with the physical eyes. Since both of us cannot be right that means one of us is wrong. Or were both wrong.

You posted verses that you believe shows that God the Father was seen. First of all I'm familiar with those verses and others that people use to show it's God the Father who physically appeared in the OT.

Now, I'm not going to address the verses you posted except for two of them kutschkem. I am not going to quote all the verses but highlight the salient points. I will start out with Genesis 26:1-5. Verse 2, God appears to Isaac. At verse 3 God says "I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham."

At verse 24 the Lord appears again and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham; Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants, For the sake of My servant Abraham." So the question is where did the Lord God swear the oath to Abraham and was it God the Father?

Genesis 22:11, "But the angel of the Lord called to him/Abraham from heaven, and said Abraham, Abraham and he said "Here I am." Vs12, And he said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me."

Verse 15, "Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven. vs16, "and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because (or why?) you have done this thing, and have not withheld you son, your only son."

Verse 17, "indeed I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore etc. It was the angel of the Lord who swore the oath and the angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. It was not God the Father.

Going back to Genesis 16:7 the angel of the Lord first appears as the angel of the Lord appears to Hagar and tells her at verse 10, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they shall be too many to count. Moreover, she said at vs13, "Thou art a God who sees; for she said, Have I even remained alive after see Him."

Now look at Genesis 17:1-2, "Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord APPEARED to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. vs2, "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly." This was a physical appearance and it's based on Genesis 17:22, "And when He finished talking with him, GOD went up from Abraham." God ascended straight up due north and disappeared. This was not God the Father.

The angel of the Lord who multiplied Hagar's descendants is the same "being" who multiplied Abraham's descendants at Genesis 17:1-2. The writer of the book of Hebrews said the following at Hebrews 6:13-14, "For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He/God could not swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, vs14, saying, I will surely bless you/Abraham, and I will surely multiply you."

Notice, you never see the title "the Father." It just says, "God." Now, what about Stephen at Acts 7? Acts 7:1, "The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham etc." Jumping down to vs30, "And after forty years had passed, An Angel appeared to Him (That is Moses) in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, the flame of a burning thorn bush." Verse 32, "I am the God of your fathers, The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob." Are you seeing a pattern here?

Verse 38, "This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the ANGEL, THE ANGEL OF THE LORD who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai." All you have to do to confirm what I'm saying is please read Exodus 3. There is only one being of God who chose to reveal Himself as three distinct persons in the Bible. It was not God the Father who was seen in the OT, but God the Son as the angel of the Lord.

Jesus Christ is the one and only physical manifestation of His Father. This is brought out at various places in the Bible but I like what is said at John 14:9, "Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." This does not mean that Jesus is God the Father. John 14:11, "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me." God the Father has no separate manifestation from the Son. The Son is the ONLY manifestation and revelation of the Father. What is knows of the Father is revealed through the Son. To see the Son is to see the essence of the Father, (John 1:1,18; John 10:30; John 12:45; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.

  • @NigelJ I absolutely do have information regarding the salvation of his soul. Can I put them in the body of the thread because his questions are in there. – Mr. Bond Jun 18 at 1:39
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    @NigelJ The body of the thread is where I ask the question and then started with the sentence, "Top leaders of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints etc. In other words I want to click "edit" and address your question there/in the body instead of addressing it in the making a comment section. – Mr. Bond Jun 18 at 1:51
  • Are the textual discrepancies you speak of mixing the Bible with BOM and D an C? – Kris Jun 18 at 3:01
  • The full text of the proclamation, and context around it, can be found here: newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/… – Samuel Bradshaw Jun 18 at 3:36
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    I went through all 31 pages of questions tagged lds and, to my surprise, this question hasn't been asked yet here. I am commenting this to save others the same work ;-) – kutschkem Jun 18 at 7:12
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To get this out of the way first, yes Joseph Smith indeed claims to have seen God the Father, and Jesus Christ, in what is called the First Vision:

Joseph Smith—History 1:17

17 [...] 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!

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1.p17#p17

How does this reconcile with what is written in John 1:18 and John 5:37?

  1. Jehovah HAS been seen, and heard, in the Old Testament (and New), numerous times
  • Jacob Gen 28:13; 32:30; 35:1,9; 48:3
  • Moses Ex 33:11
  • Moses + 70 Elders Ex 24:9-11
  • Abraham Gen 12:7 ; Acts 7:2
  • Stephanus Acts 7:55-56 (notable because he sees God the Father, and the Son standing next to the Father)
  • Salomon 2 Chr 7:12; 1 King 3:5; 1 Kng 9:2; 1 Kng 11:9
  • Job Job 42:5
  • Isaiah Is 6:1,5
  • Isaac Gen 26:2,24
  • Samuel 1 Sam 3:21
  • Ezechiel Ez 1:26-28
  • John Rev 4; Rev. 19:4
  • Amos Am 9:1
  • Micha 1 Kng 22:19

Some of those are less clear than others, but in summary the discrepancy is already in the Bible, with in my opinion more support for God can be seen than the other way around. What we see in the Old Testament more is the fear that seeing God (or an angel, in some cases) would lead to death. I just listed scriptures regarding seeing, if we include hearing there will be additional ones of course. Job has a lengthy conversation with God for example.

  1. But Jehovah is God the Son, not God the Father

Maybe Jesus is saying here that, technically they always interacted with him, the Son, and not the Father, and that he is now revealing the Father to them. But to be honest, I find that not safisfactory because that would put a rather artificial divide here that doesn't really help his point.

  1. Text and / or understanding incomplete?

How did Joseph interpret this in the Joseph Smith Translation? That might give a hint as to how he thought this discrepancy had to be resolved.

JST, John 1:19

19 And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/jst/jst-john/1.p19#p19

For John 5:37 I didn't find anything in the study helps.

  1. Transfiguration

Moses 1:11

11 But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp/moses/1.p11#p11

But again, that would be a technicality that seems not like it would be the thing Jesus would bring up in John.

  1. Just because something hasn't happened before, doesn't mean it can't happen. If the First Vision was indeed the first appearance of the Father, this would still be in line with John saying the Israelites hadn't seen or heard the Father, since this talks about the past.

  2. John 5:37 Maybe it means none of you in particular? Seeing as he is talking to people claiming to be the ones to judge what is from God and what is not, when all they got is writings from prophets, instead of the prophets themselves, maybe it makes it clear that they really don't have authority at all to judge what is from God? Further support for saying he means them in particular is verse 38, which continues the train of thought with: "And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not." You in particular have not his word in your heart, because otherwise you would believe me. "Heard his voice" in this sense could mean more abstractly that they don't obey his voice, which is in the scriptures, and the prophets.

How does the church resolve it in manuals etc.?

From the study manual from last year, "Come Follow me - New Testament 2019"

Can God be seen? January 21–27. John 1: We Have Found the Messiah John 1:18

The Old Testament records examples of people who saw God (see Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:11; Isaiah 6:5). So why would John the Baptist say that “no man hath seen God at any time”? The Joseph Smith Translation of this verse (see John 1:18, footnote c) clarifies that God the Father does appear to men, and when He does, He bears record of His Son. For example, when He appeared to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, He said to Joseph, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17; see also D&C 76:23). There are several other recorded instances where people saw God the Father in vision (see Acts 7:55–56; Revelation 4:2; 1 Nephi 1:8; D&C 137:1–3) or heard His voice bearing record of the Son (see Matthew 3:17; 17:5; 3 Nephi 11:6–7).

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/come-follow-me-for-individuals-and-families-new-testament-2019/04.scripture_title5-p10#scripture_title5

Is God a spirit? February 11–17. John 2–4: “Ye Must Be Born Again” John 4:24

Some may be confused by Jesus’s statement that God is a spirit. The Joseph Smith Translation of this verse provides an important clarification: “For unto such hath God promised his Spirit” (in John 4:24, footnote a). Modern revelation also teaches that God has a body of flesh and bones (see D&C 130:22–23; see also Genesis 5:1–3; Hebrews 1:1–3). https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/come-follow-me-for-individuals-and-families-new-testament-2019/07.scripture_title4-p11#scripture_title4

In the same manual I don't find anything for John 5:37, but note this is an extremely condensed manual that can't be expected to have answers to everything.

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    You say "Jehovah is God the Son, not God the Father." Is that because the first spirit son of Elohim and his wife was called Jehovah, and Jehovah then had to take on human form and was born as Jesus? This was necessary for Jehovah to progress to godhood. Therefore Jesus was originally the spirit son called Jehovah? If that is LDS doctrine, then who is God the Father? Elohim? Christians don't understand the LDS view of gods, goddesses and eternal progression, which may be why we are confused. Who do you say God the Father is, if he isn't Jehovah? – Lesley Jun 18 at 13:41
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    @Lesley God the Father is Elohim, Jesus is Jehovah. With regard to the OT God, it's not always clear cut but in general the understanding is that the premortal Jesus presents himself as Jehovah and acts on behalf of the Father. Refer to these questions for more information. christianity.stackexchange.com/q/73406/6520 christianity.stackexchange.com/a/74041/6520 – kutschkem Jun 18 at 13:52
  • @kutschkem It's a biblical fact, God the Father does not have a body of flesh and bone. Read Luke 24:39. Yes, Jesus Christ is God, not "a god" and not "god" with a small "g." Jesus is the only physical manifestation of His Father according to John 14:9. "He who has seen Me has seen the Father;" This "DOES NOT MEAN" Jesus is the person of the Father. God the Father has no separate manifestation from the Son. What is known of the Father is revealed through the Son. John 1:1,18; 10:30; 12:45; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3. What Moses saw in the OT was Jesus as the angel of the Lord. Exodus 3:1-15 – Mr. Bond Jun 18 at 21:25
  • @kutschkem I addressed a couple of the verses you gave in my initial thread. – Mr. Bond Jun 23 at 3:32
  • @kutschkem The question I raised is simple, Smith clearly said that God the Father and His Son appeared physically to him. The Bible says God the Father cannot be seen, period. I will get to the "hearing His voice part later." I went exegeted two of the verses you provided to show that it was not God the Father that was seen, it was God the Son as the angel of the Lord. Like you told me above, "You pick who is wrong, the Bible or Smith?" And whatever answer you give please tell me why one or the other is wrong or right. – Mr. Bond Jun 23 at 21:31
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These main points are important in addressing your question.

How do you reconcile this when the Bible says the Father cannot be seen?

  • Our way to the Father is through the Son.
  • If we can not see the Father, that does not mean he has no body.
  • A mortal man can not see God.
  • There are very few recorded manifestations of God the Father, but there are some. He usually just introduces the Son.

Our way to the Father is through the Son.

First, to answer this part of your question about seeing the Father:

Specifically it says, "God the Father and His Son, appeared to Joseph." I would like to know how it is that God the Father appeared to Smith since according to the Bible God the Father cannot be seen. I know that this was a vision but even the definition of the word vision is, "the faculty or state of being able to see." Also, Jesus Christ Himself said at John 1:18, "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." Or at John 5:37, "And the Father who sent Me, He has born witness of Me, You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form."

John 1:18 can be interpreted to mean that God the Father doesn't manifest himself to man, except that he does it through the Son. (There are other interpretations of this verse, but let this suffice for now.)

We read in the Old Testament about prophets seeing God. And as you wrote, these were via the Son:

It was not God the Father who was seen in the OT, but God the Son

This agrees with the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a general rule, scriptures about someone seeing or hearing God will be God the Son. Jesus is our intermediary with the Father. Although Jesus saw the Father (John 6:46), direct manifestations of God the Father to the rest of us are very very rare.

If we can not see the Father, that does not mean he has no body.

You noted that in John 5:37 Jesus said, "you have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form." Although they hadn't heard or seen the Father, that doesn't mean He can't be seen or heard.

To answer this part of your question:

So how does the LDS Church reconcile their teaching that the Father can be seen and He has a body of flesh and bones with what Jesus said and John 4:24 says, "God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth."

Here is someone's explanation how this is possible. (From https://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_Relationships.shtml#spirit)

In John 4, a woman is asking Christ about whether God is best worshipped on a Samaritan mountain or in Jerusalem. The context of John 4:24 shows that Christ's answer is about our spiritual communication with God, which is not restricted by place. He wasn't answering a question about God's physical nature, but about how we worship. In fact, the phrase "God is a spirit" may be a poor translation of the Greek, "pneuma ho theos," which really says "God is spirit." Some modern translations, like the New English Bible, recognize this and simply say "God is spirit." John 4:24 doesn't say that God is "only a spirit." It certainly doesn't say God is "an incorporeal, immaterial, formless spirit Being who is wholly other, comprising three persons of one substance." No, not even close.

...

We worship God in "spirit" because God is "spirit" and we, being spiritual beings also (but not spirits only), can communicate with Him "in spirit." But nothing in John 4:24 rules out the possibility that God has a body - or that Christ has a body, or that we have bodies. We all do. We are all spirits clothed in tangible bodies - and someday, that tangible body will be resurrected and made glorious - like Christ's body, according to Philippians 3:21, and presumably like the Father's body, in whose physical image we are created (Gen. 1:26,27, cf. Gen. 5:1).

The phrase "God is Spirit" should remind us of other similar phrases, such as "God is light" (1 John 1:5) and "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Are these passages defining God's physical nature or several of His many attributes? Is it not possible to be love and light and Spirit while still having material form? We humans are body and spirit - can it not be so with God as well? In fact, Paul writes that "he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:17). Spirit and body are not antagonistic concepts, else how could we corporeal beings worship Him in spirit and truth? (But spirit and matter are incompatible in Neoplatonic philosophy, the Greek worldview of the fourth-century intellectuals who devised the post-Biblical creeds that gave us the definitions of the Trinity.)

God is not like mortal man in many ways, for He is perfect, divine, immortal, infinitely wise and all knowing, etc. But He did create us in His image (Gen. 1:26,27). To say that He lacks a form or a body, based on John 4:24, would be to say that Christ cannot be God (or part of the Godhead) because He plainly taught that He does have a resurrected body and is not spirit alone. In Luke 24:39, His resurrection, He told his disciples: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." When we resurrect, we will have a "spiritual" body (1 Cor. 15:44), though it will also have a component of tangible matter like Christ's resurrected body (compare Philipp. 3:21), and even mortal believers are said to be "spiritual" (Gal. 6:1) -- not because there is no tangible matter present, but because of the role played by the spirit. God is spirit, and so are we.

A mortal man can not see God.

It's also helpful to learn how to reconcile scriptures about seeing God (even God the Son) and seemingly contradictory scriptures that man can not see God. We understand that as a "man", or mortal, we can not see God. A change/transfiguration (even if temporary) needs to occur.

This is about Moses seeing God the Son: "But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him." (Moses 1:11)

There are very few recorded manifestations of God the Father, but there are some. He usually just introduces the Son.

  • Adam and Eve spoke with God the Father in the garden (Gen 3:8-10)
  • God the Father introduced His Son at Jesus's baptism (Matthew 3:17)
  • God the Father introduced His Son when Jesus was transfigured (Matthew 17:6)
  • Stephen saw the the Son alongside the Father( Acts 7:55-56)
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    I want to comment. You quoted Genesis 3:8-10. You cannot assume that it was specifically God the Father talking to Adam and Eve. It says, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden. How do you know it was the Father? Concerning the other verses it was God the Father speaking from heaven, He was not seen. Stephen at Acts 7 saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. At vs59 Stephen called upon the Lord Jesus, why did he not call on God the Father? Hagar at Genesis 16:13 said she saw God and lived. She saw the angel of the Lord, i.e. God the Son. – Mr. Bond 2 days ago
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    @Mr.Bond This answer doesn't prove Joseph saw the Father, or even prove if seeing the Father is possible. Things could reasonably be interpreted multiple ways. This simply provides a way to reconcile Bible teachings with the possibility of someone seeing God the Father. Discovering the proper interpretation of scripture requires revelation (2 Peter 1:20-21). Prophets and other scripture help us to receive revelation. Also, revelation and knowledge of God is often received incrementally. – user3141592 2 days ago
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    Acts 7:56 says 'the right hand of God' not the Father. Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5 both say 'a voice' not the Father's voice (who, in any, case was not 'seen'. Eve and Adam, spoke with God, not the Father. This answer is poorly researched and is not factual. – Nigel J yesterday
  • @NigelJ Acts 7:56 does not say "not the Father". Granted, seeing "the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" could be interpreted as seeing Jesus standing on the right hand of Jesus. However, it's also plausible that the Son was standing on the right hand of the Father. Another interpretation is that this was only metaphorical and he didn't see anybody. – user3141592 yesterday
  • @NigelJ Likewise, Matthew 3 and 17 don't say "not the Father's voice." The voice saying "this is my beloved Son" could be interpreted as not being the Father's voice. But it's also reasonable to interpret that as the Father's. It's applicable because the question quoted John 5:37 which said "you have neither heard His voice at any time not seen His form." The original question asked "how do you reconcile this when the Bible says..." An answer saying we do not reconcile certainly wouldn't be genuine. – user3141592 yesterday

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