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Acts 7:55-56 and Mormonism

By John Finton

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven,

and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.

And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened,

and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

I. Introduction. Mormons believe that God has a body like ours: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also . . .” (D&C 130:22). It is not uncommon for the typical Mormon to try to support this teaching from the Bible. I suppose they do this because they would like to think their doctrines are Biblically based. In order for them to use the Bible as a means of support, they have to treat certain passages as either a mistranslation, or reinterpret them, (e.g., John 4:24 with Luke 24:39; cf. the JST--this is dealt with at http://faithandreasonforum.com “Mormonism and John 4:24”). Another tactic of the Mormon is to relegate key passages to a place of obscurity (e.g., Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 6:46; Col 1:15; 1 Tim 1:17; 6:16; 1 John 4:12). The Bible does not support the teaching that God has a body. The following is a demonstration of how the typical Mormon approaches Scripture as opposed to the historical Christian approach as it relates to this issue.

II. The Mormon View. These two verses are often used by Mormons as a proof text to demonstrate that God has a body and that God the father and Jesus are two separate beings. Thus, in their view, God (in a body like ours) is seated on a thrown and Jesus is standing next to Him. They understand the passage to be completely literal. The Mormon website (http://allaboutmormons.com) demonstrates their approach to Scripture:


Some mistakenly read scripture like Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, and John 6:46 and suppose that human beings cannot see God. While Mormons certainly respect those whose ideas differ from our own, we feel that it is important to consider the Bible as a whole and not to cherry-pick isolated scriptures to support a pre-conceived notion.


In reality, there are many Bible passages that support the idea that human beings can see God. In the Old Testament times, Moses and others saw God (Exodus 24:9-11, 33:23), in fact, Moses even spoke to God face to face (Exodus 33:11). The New Testament also teaches that human beings can see God. Clearly many saw Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, both before and after His resurrection. Acts 7:55-56 describes Stephen’s vision of God the Father as well.


Mormon View of Visions. It is important to point out that Mormons hold to a different meaning of the term “vision” than that of the historic Christian church. According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (http://eom.byu.edu/index/Visions):


In LDS doctrine visions are perceptions, aided by the Spirit, of something invisible to human beings. The things disclosed are viewed as part of general reality. This process is according to natural law and is not “supernatural,” in the usual sense of that term. It is analogous to the fact that some physical real phenomena, such as X rays and atomic particles, are not discerned by the ordinary sense but may be detected by scientific instruments. In the case of visions, the instrument is the person, and the mechanism of observation is faith aided by the Spirit of God.


III. The Historic Christian View. There are two ways Act 7:55-56 have been understood by the historic Christian church. Many under-standing that since God cannot be seen that what is taking place is a vision (the normal sense). Others say that Stephen is permitted to see God’s glory, not in a vision, but in reality. “Although Scripture asserts that no one is able to see God and live, God’s glory has often been revealed to man (compare Ps. 63:2; Isa. 6:1; John 12:41)” (Kistemaker, “Acts,” NTC, 278).

Christian View of Visions. Conservative evangelicals define “vision” as “experiences similar to dreams through which supernatural insight or awareness is given by revelation. The difference between a dream and a vision is that dreams occur only during sleep, while visions can happen while a person is awake (Dan. 10:7)” (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1088). A dream is defined as “a state of mind in which images, thoughts, and impressions pass through the mind of a person who is sleeping” (Ibid, 310). The definition of “vision” from Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (1597) is: “an experience, generally regarded as beneficent or meaningful, in which a personage, thing, or event appears vividly or credibly to the mind, although not actually present, under the influence of a divine or other spiritual agency or condition: a vision of the Apocalypse” (emphasis mine). The same definition is found in The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. Thus Mormonism presents a different definition than that of mainstream Christianity as well as normal English usage. Their definition is unique to Mormonism alone. This practice is not uncommon with Mormonism. Thei