Q. (from a Professor not of the LDS faith) To quote one of my students, “What’s up with the Holy Ghost?” If it is one of the principles of LDS faith that embodiment is a necessary phase in exaltation to godhood, how is it that the Holy Ghost has apparently bypassed this phase?
A. I’ve never seen it demonstrated that the LDS position demands such a prerequisite for godhood, so I must believe it is an assumption that started some time ago, perhaps from inquisitive Latter-day Saints. And since it is LDS doctrine that the person of Jehovah (who was later begotten in the flesh as Jesus Christ) was God, prior to obtaining a physical and mortal body, I see no reason for this standard to be necessary in LDS theology.
What we do know is that, “The Father has a tangible body and the Holy Ghost does not.” [Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 5 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966), 126.] Does this mean the Holy Ghost is not a god, per se? I don’t see this as being the case. Clearly Latter-day Saints acknowledge the divinity of the Holy Ghost as well as the divinity of the Son, even before He came to earth and attained His body.
The Holy Ghost actually does have a body, but His body is that of spirit. It should be worthy to point out that in LDS thought, “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by pure eyes; we cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.” (D&C 131:7-8). Why exactly the Holy Ghost has not received His Body lies in the realm of speculation.
But we do have at least some light to follow from the Church in forming our own hypotheses. For instance, Joseph Smith said that, “The Holy Ghost is yet a spiritual body and is waiting to take to himself a body, as the Savior did.”[Joseph Smith, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997)]
Furthermore, “The Holy Ghost is now in a state of probation which if he should perform in righteousness he may pass through the same or a similar course of things that the Son has.” (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 245; Sabbath address, Nauvoo, 27 August 1843. Reported by Franklin D. Richards.) What is it that the Holy Ghost should perform righteously? The LDS Church teaches that the Holy Ghost performs a necessary function for the salvation of mankind, primarily as a revelator. The Holy Ghost serves as a sanctifier, a teacher and revelator. These functions would be impossible to perform if He were a tangible body.
So the short answer to your question would be, while attaining a body is necessary for our exaltation, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it be necessary to be considered divine or God. Personally, I believe that godhood is attained when we come into the presence of God. The Church offers no definite timeline for what constitutes official “godhood.” What we do acknowledge is the process of eternal progression and that it applies to all divinities as well as all human beings. This could explain things a bit since, perhaps, this could be a phase in the progression of the Holy Ghost as He faithfully obeys the Father in serving as our teacher, sanctifier and revelator. But then again, this is speculation at best.