I think most LDS thinker would say that the aspect of creation thought that most distinguishes the CoJCoLDS from other Christian churches is the rejection of Creation ex Nihilo. I personally believe that this is the greatest (in its far reaching and also wonderful consequences) departure in ALL of LDS thought from Christian thought.
Most folks who have been LDS for more than 30 years might speak of God the Father’s, Father especially if they read comments from earlier LDS leaders on these ideas (an idea I have never heard mentioned over the pulpit in church or general conference - I have been a LDS for only 16 years or so). I will not espouse such an idea as I along with Blake Ostler and many others reject it.
- However, the problem is not so much the Bible as it is Mormon scripture. The Mormon scriptures say that “there is a God in heaven who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God…” (D&C 20:17). "The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end "(D&C* 20:28). When the term eternal is conjoined with infinite and from everlasting to everlasting, it is pretty clear that it means without beginning or end. The notion of infinity usually means unlimited, without bounds.
- There are other Mormon scriptures that are even clearer: “Behold I am the Lord God Almighty, and endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is this not endless?” (Moses 1:3) “For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity” (Mormon 8:8). Further, Joseph Smith stated in 1840 that: “I believe that God is eternal. That He had not (sic) beginning and can have no end. Eternity means that which is without beginning or end.” Given this clarification, it seems pretty clear to me that these scriptures mean that God has always been God in the same unchanging sense without beginning. Are the King Follett discourse and President Snows couplet simply inconsistent with scripture? It seems to me that there are several possibilities here.
So, with that caveat out of the way …
I believe that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit worked together to create the universe and those who inhabit it. That this creation was done from eternally existing “matter” and “intelligences.” This “matter” and “intelligences” are not acted upon except for by the divine power of God. That God formed this “matter” into what we typically call matter. And formed individual intelligences into spirit/soul/human (there obviously being ordinary created matter as part of what is a human, but the most important being “intelligence.”)
It might be worth mentioning that there are temple allusions to an additional involvement in the creation of this earth. I do not have any problem with this as pre-mortal spirits existed as spirits before the creation of the earth in LDS thought.
Anyway, the idea that God acted long ago in the presence of “eternal intelligences” and “eternal matter” has far reaching consequences for LDS thought. It is a true distinction that I think must be maintained based on our scriptures and teachings. I am sympathetic to the thought from a Catholic that a concept of God that does not include that He created ex nihilo (from absolutely nothing) is limiting God somehow. I think it is true and is necessary to explain things, but I respect the desire to unbound God in ones theology.
P.S. The bulk of Ostler’s essay linked above is about the Trinity. If you have some huge curiosity concerning LDS theology/thought Ostler’s 3 volumes Exploring Mormon Thought are IMO unparalleled in their engagement of the issues.