Bodies All the Way Down, and Up
The materialism that includes the physical embodiment of God raises at least as many theological questions as it answers, but as I've pointed out before (here, here, and here), Mormons aren't overly concerned with unity on those theological questions, emphasizing instead the unity of practice and love. And understanding God as embodied has the advantage that such an understanding conforms more closely to our ordinary thought about him.
What's more, believing that the Father is embodied does not contradict his perfection any more than Jesus' embodiment contradicts his. In fact, Jesus' embodiment is surely one of his perfections: he could not have suffered in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross if he were not vulnerable. But being vulnerable meant being embodied. Christ's sacrifice on our behalf required that he be embodied.
Mormon materialism sounds crazy to both most theologians and most scientists. But being thought crazy by both sides of one's culture isn't new. Paul understood Christianity to be in a similar position, thought mad by most during his lifetime: "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:23).
Mormon materialism is not as important to our self-understanding as are the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God. But it is very important to our understanding of God's relationship with us and our relationship with the world. For Mormons, it's bodies all the way down, and up.
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.