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When Did Joseph Smith Know the Father and the Son Have “Tangible” Bodies?

TitleWhen Did Joseph Smith Know the Father and the Son Have “Tangible” Bodies?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsWelch, John W.
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
KeywordsFirst Vision; Godhead; Heavenly Father; Jesus Christ; Smith, Joseph, Jr.

During his lifetime, Joseph spoke fairly often about his First Vision. Historians have grouped these accounts by author: four written by Joseph, five composed by others, and a dozen later reminiscences by people who heard him tell of the experience.1 In addressing a variety of audiences, both formally and informally, these accounts consistently speak of the Father and the Son as two separate personages, who are described as having bodies and looking like each other. The Father called Joseph by name. They both spoke to him in English. He was told that his prayers were answered, that his sins were forgiven, that he should not join any of the existing churches, that he should keep God’s commandments, and many other things. He was left wholly exhausted but completely filled with love and joy, knowing that God had a work for him to do. In many ways, this experience was both spiritual and physical.

Twenty-three years later, on Sunday, April 2, 1843, in Ramus, Illinois, Joseph spoke more clearly than ever before about the tangible nature of the exalted bodies of God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. He also stated how those two divine beings relate to and are different from the Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead. He said, “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” (D&C 130:22).