My suggestion a few days ago that the traditional Christian doctrine that God is incorporeal is a form of atheism has incited outrage among many and a lot of commentary. I am accused of using a rhetorical device to repeat the sins of other Christians when they insist that Mormons are not really Christian because we teach a "different Jesus." They say I am using an esoteric and obscure doctrine to draw a false distinction. They are wrong.
Once again, this is not merely my opinion alone. It was the opinion of Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt and James E. Talmage. And it is the opinion of the Savior himself. He said this in the First Vision when he told the boy Joseph that the creeds of apostate Christendom are an "abomination." What do those creeds teach? They teach that God is incorporeal, that he does not actually exist in the real, physical universe.
And while it is true that the Mormon teaching is esoteric. It should not be. It is the most fundamental and basic teaching there is about the nature of God. Without this teaching it is impossible to understand his relationship with man or that Jesus is really the Son of God. It is a bedrock teaching. Without it men cannot understand anything else about God that is correct.
Of all the lies about God told by the devil to pervert true Christianity during the Great Apostasy, this one is the most damning. It was this single lie that led away an entire religion from the truth about Jesus Christ and his Father. Every other doctrinal abomination begins with this one.
Yes, there are honest Christians in other denominations that believe in God and have faith in Jesus Christ. But they do so in spite of this false teaching, not because of it. Such honest Christians know instinctively that God is an actual, corporeal being with the exact same body that he showed to Doubting Thomas in the Upper Room. They do not believe in the incorporeal God of the creeds. This is the root reason that so many of them fall away from their own churches and end up joining ours. They have faith in a real, tangible God long before they join us.
Calling this point of doctrine "obscure" or "esoteric" completely misses the point. The importance of this doctrine is infinitely critical. It must not be "obscure" or "esoteric." It is because it has become so obscure and esoteric that the whole world has gone astray. It defines the essential difference between theism and atheism.
Joseph Smith knew this. Orson Pratt knew this. James E. Talmage knew this. Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie knew this. And the Savior himself taught this when he called the creeds of apostate Christianity an "abomination." Those who fight against it or have a different opinion or suppose that it is merely a rhetorical device such as the Mormon bashers use to say we believe in a different Jesus are simply wrong. They do not understand the significance of this esoteric and obscure teaching. It is infinitely significant.
Do we Mormons believe in a different Jesus? Yes we do. Our Jesus actually, bodily exists in the real, physical universe. Theirs does not. A living prophet of God as real as Moses was to the ancient Israelites has confirmed this "different Jesus." Gordon B. Hinckley said,
As a Church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.
I believe that he is referring to this most basic difference between the God of traditional Christianity, and the real God of Mormonism that actually exists.