Acts 10:1-2 Cornelius was a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always
The story of Cornelius demonstrates how God's ways are higher than man's ways. Certainly, the Lord loves all of His children equally, for all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile (2 Ne 26:33). However, at the time of this story, all were not alike unto the Jews, for the Gentiles were not considered worthy of God's blessings.
Many are familiar with the enmity between Jew and Samaritan. While the Samaritan had claim to some Israelite blood and many Jewish religious traditions, still the Jews considered them as an inferior, mongrel race. But even more despised than Samaritans were the Gentiles. In explaining "the bitter hatred which the Jew bore to the Gentile," Edersheim noted, "The most vile, and even unnatural, crimes were imputed to them. It was not safe to leave cattle in their charge, to allow their women to nurse infants, or their physicians to attend the sick, nor to walk in their company, without taking precautions against sudden and unprovoked attacks...They...were defiled; their houses unclean, as containing idols or things dedicated to them; their feasts, their joyous occasions, their very contact, was polluted by idolatry; and there was no security, if a heathen were left alone in a room, that he might not, in wantonness or by carelessness, defile the wine or meat on the table, or the oil and wheat in the store. Under such circumstances, therefore, everything must be regarded as having been rendered unclean." (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 63)
That Cornelius was viewed as a just man...and of good report among all the nation of the Jews (v. 22) is quite significant given the prevalent culture. Yet, by Jewish tradition, even Cornelius' devotion and prayers could not save him-for he was a Gentile, and "the vials of wrath were to be poured out only on the Gentiles, while they, as Abraham's children, were sure of escape." (Ibid, p. 187)
Acts 10:4 Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God
In a time when religious ethnocentrism was at an all time high, the Christian era ushered in radical and revolutionary concepts. The first is that God hears and answers prayers. The second is that he hears and answers the prayers of all of his children-even Gentiles. Today, we are occasionally guilty of the same narrow-mindedness. Do we really believe that the Lord is just as willing to answer the prayers of non-members as he is for Church members? If not, then we imply that God is a respecter of persons, an unjust judge, and a bigot. The words of the angel, 'Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God,' prove that prejudice and bigotry are exclusively mortal attributes.
Russell M. Nelson
"[God's] children can be so intolerant with one another. Neighboring factions, whether they be identified as groups or gangs, schools or states, counties or countries, often develop animosity. Such tendencies make me wonder: Cannot boundary lines exist without becoming battle lines? Could not people unite in waging war against the evils that beset mankind instead of waging war on each other? Sadly, answers to these questions are often no. Through the years, discrimination based on ethnic or religious identity has led to senseless slaughter, vicious pogroms, and countless acts of cruelty. The face of history is pocked by the ugly scars of intolerance." (Russell M. Nelson, Perfection Pending, and Other Favorite Discourses, 67.)
Acts 10:6 he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do
"From this example we learn that no matter how righteous one may be who seeks after truth, the Lord directs him to one of his servants who has been ordained to the priesthood, so that he can be baptized at his hands and be instructed.
"This was also true with respect to Saul (Paul), to which we have already referred. Even though the Savior spoke to him on the road to Damascus, the Lord directed him to go into the city of Damascus, where the Lord instructed one of his servants, Ananias, what to do. Ananias first restored Paul's sight by the laying on of hands, and then baptized him. Paul was later ordained to the ministry. (See Acts 9:1; 13:1-3.)" (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 105.)
Acts 10:11 a great sheet knit at the four corners
The symbolism of the vision cannot be mistaken. The Lord did not send down the food in a great vessel or basket. He did not offer it on a banquet table, but on a 'great sheet knit at the four corners', symbolizing the four corners of the earth from which the Gentiles would come to receive the gospel. Of these, John spoke saying,
'I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea nor on any tree...
'After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.' (Rev 7:1,9)
Acts 10:14 Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean
To partake of wild beasts and creeping things was strictly prohibited by the Law of Moses (see Lev 11). For Peter to partake was to go against everything he had been taught from his youth. A modern day corollary would be for the President of the Church to be commanded to drink beer or smoke a cigarette. For Peter, the idea must have been unthinkable.
Spencer W. Kimball
"The prejudices were deep rooted in Peter, and it took a vision from heaven to help him cast off his bias. The voice had commanded: 'Rise, Peter; kill, and eat,' when the vessel descended from the heaven containing all manner of beasts, reptiles, and fowls. Punctilious Peter expressed his lifelong prejudices and habits in saying, 'Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.' Then the heavenly voice made clear that the program was for all. 'What God hath cleansed,' it said, 'that call not thou common.' Peter's long sustained prejudices finally gave way under the power of the thrice-repeated command. When the devout gentile Cornelius immediately thereafter appealed to him for the gospel, the full meaning of the vision burst upon Peter and he exclaimed, '. . . God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.' (Acts 10:13-15, 28.)" (Faith Precedes the Miracle, 294.)
Acts 10:19 the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee
In this story, two men are given divine instructions. One of them was a Gentile-to whom the gift of the Holy Ghost had not been given. The other was the spiritual leader of his day-well accustomed to the things of the Spirit. Accordingly, both men receive instruction from God in different ways. To Cornelius is sent an angel with specific instructions. To Peter, the Lord does not need to send an angel. His spiritual sensitivity is such that he could recognize the voice of the Spirit.
The difference is significant because members often hope for dramatic, angelic ministrations-occasionally as validation of their faithfulness. Yet, if the Lord can communicate with us in a simpler way, He will. If all of one's personal revelation comes quietly through the Spirit, that can be viewed as a sign of spiritual sensitivity, not personal insignificance. As Oscar McConkie noted, "Angels do not attend men unless there is need. It is not their errand to satisfy idle curiosity. We have no scriptural accounts of any angels doing any service for man that man could have done without the help of the angel. With the ample precedents available for examination, we can establish this principle as the order of heaven." (Oscar W. McConkie, Angels, p. 109)
"One of the Apostles said to me years ago, 'Brother Woodruff, I have prayed for a long time for the Lord to send me the administration of an angel. I have had a great desire for this, but I have never had my prayers answered.' I said to him that if he were to pray a thousand years to the God of Israel for that gift, it would not be granted, unless the Lord had a motive in sending an angel to him. I told him that the Lord never did nor never will send an angel to anybody merely to gratify the desire of the individual to see an angel...
"Now, I have always said, and I want to say it to you, that the Holy Ghost is what every Saint of God needs. It is far more important that a man should have that gift than he should have the ministration of an angel." (Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, vol. 5, Oct. 19, 1986.)
Acts 10:26 Stand up; I myself also am a man
It seems natural to us that Peter would not allow Cornelius to worship him (See also Acts 14:8-18 and Alma 18:16-19). Yet kings of the earth have often considered themselves divine. One such episode contrasts the difference between the Lord's leaders and the world's. Herod once made the mistake of allowing the people to praise him with worshipping words:
And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.' (Acts 12:21-23)
Acts 10:34 God is no respecter of persons
Franklin S. Harris, Jr. noted, "For any people to believe that it is the only people in whom God is interested, or helps, or that we have special merit because of our color, race, country or beliefs, that is, that we are inherently superior and loved by God without regard to the lives we live is one of the great fallacies and barriers to peace. This is a fallacy whether in an exploded myth of an Aryan race of supermen, or disguised in more subtle form in our own consciousness. We must not be guilty of such a fallacy." (The Book of Mormon: Messages and Evidences, p. 20) In this respect, Nephi was ahead of his time. Although raised in the Jewish tradition of religious ethno-centrism, he understood by the Spirit that the Lord is no respecter of persons. He taught, 'the Lord...inviteth...all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile' (2 Ne 26:33).
"Recent news reports reflecting widespread ethnic and religious intolerance have prompted the following statement in behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Bruce L. Olsen, managing director of Public Affairs:
'We reaffirm the longstanding concern of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the well-being and intrinsic worth of all people. Latter-day Saints believe that 'God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.' (Acts 10: 34-35.)
'All men and women are [children of God]. It is morally wrong for any person or group to deny anyone his or her inalienable dignity on the tragic and abhorrent theory of racial or cultural superiority.
'We call upon all people everywhere to recommit themselves to the time-honored ideals of tolerance and mutual respect. We sincerely believe that as we acknowledge one another with consideration and compassion we will discover that we can all peacefully coexist despite our deepest differences.'" (LDS Church News, 10/24/92)
Spencer W. Kimball
"The Lord would have eliminated bigotry and class distinction. He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, healed the centurion's kin, and blessed the child of the Canaanitish woman. And though he personally came to the 'lost sheep of the House of Israel' and sent his apostles first to them rather than to the Samaritans and other gentiles, yet he later sent Paul to bring the gospel to the gentiles and revealed to Peter that the gospel was for all. (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 294-5)
Spencer W. Kimball
"The scriptures and the prophets have taught us clearly that God, who is perfect in his attribute of justice, is no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34.) We know also that God is perfect in his love for each and all of us as his spirit children. When we know these truths, my sisters and associates in this divine cause, it should help us greatly as we all experience much less than perfect love and perfect justice in the world. If, in the short term, we are sometimes dealt with insensitively and thoughtlessly by others, by imperfect men and women, it may still cause us pain, but such pain and disappointment are not the whole of life. The ways of the world will not prevail, for the ways of God will triumph.
"We had full equality as his spirit children. We have equality as recipients of God's perfected love for each of us." (My Beloved Sisters, p. 35.)
Acts 10:38 God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power
The title, Christ, is a Greek word meaning, "the Anointed One." The term is equivalent to the Hebrew title, Messiah. Yet, to understand the full significance of the title of Christ, we must understand who anointed him and with what he was anointed. Traditionally, religious anointings are done with pure oil as part of a blessing or consecration, but Jesus of Nazareth is "the Anointed One" because his Father anointed him 'with the Holy Ghost and with power.' Certainly, this otherwise unrecorded anointing is the most significant anointing in religious history. Furthermore, it reminds us of the significance and symbolism of other anointings-that it is the Holy Ghost, represented by the oil, which is the cleanser and sanctifier.
Bruce R. McConkie
"The oil with which the priests were anointed was understood by the ancients to represent the necessity of those on the Lord's errand being filled with his Spirit. More directly, the idea of anointing and the concept of sanctification are consistently associated in the scriptures with the reception of the Holy Ghost (Alma 13:12; 3 Nephi 27:20). The Holy Ghost is the Sanctifier." (Mormon Doctrine, p. 675)
Acts 10:40-41 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses
Significantly, the resurrected Lord did not appear to the wicked. He may have wished to say "I told you so" to those who mocked him as he hung on the cross, saying, 'He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him' (Matt 27:42). Yet, the Lord did not appear to any of the wicked Jews or the wicked Nephites-nor did he minister unto the wicked in spirit prison prior to his resurrection (see DC 138:29). To be a witness of the resurrected Lord is a privilege and responsibility not to be wasted on the wicked.
Bruce R. McConkie
"The way that Peter and the ancients proved that Jesus was the Son of God, and therefore that the gospel which he taught was the plan of salvation, was to establish that he rose from the dead. And the way you prove that a man rises from the dead, because it is in the spiritual realm, is to bear witness by the power of the Spirit of knowledge that is personal and real and literal to you. Peter could have gone into a congregation and said, 'I know that Jesus is the Lord because Isaiah said this and this with reference to him. Or one of the other prophets said this.' And he did that, for a reason, I suppose. But the great crowning thing that Peter could do was to stand before the people and say, 'I know he was the Son of God. I stood in the upper room. I recognized him. He is the man who ministered among us for more than three years. I felt the nail marks in his hands and in his feet. I thrust my hand into the spear wound in his side. I saw him eat food; he ate fish and an honeycomb. He has a body. He said his body was flesh and bone. I know he is the Son of God. I am his witness!" (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p. 124.)
Dallin H. Oaks
"How do members become witnesses? The original Apostles were eyewitnesses to the ministry and resurrection of the Savior. (See Acts 10:39-41.) He told them, 'Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.' (Acts 1:8; see also Acts 10:42-43.) However, he cautioned them that their witnessing would be after they had received the Holy Ghost. (See Acts 1:8; see also Luke 24:49.)
"An eyewitness was not enough. Even the witness and testimony of the original Apostles had to be rooted in the testimony of the Holy Ghost. A prophet has told us that the witness of the Holy Ghost makes an impression on our soul that is more significant than 'a visitation of an angel.' (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:44.) And the Bible shows that when we testify on the basis of this witness, the Holy Ghost testifies to those who hear our words. (See Acts 2; Acts 10:44-47.)" (Ensign, Nov. 1990, 29)
Acts 10:45 they of the circumcision which believed were astonished
Bruce R. McConkie
"...in the day between Moses and Christ, the gospel went to the house of Israel almost exclusively. By the time of Jesus, the legal administrators and prophetic associates that he had were so fully indoctrinated with the concept of having the gospel go only to the house of Israel that they were totally unable to envision the true significance of his proclamation that after the Resurrection they should then go to all the world. They did not go to the gentile nations initially...There was about a quarter of a century, then, in New Testament times, when there were extreme difficulties among the Saints. They were weighing and evaluating, struggling with the problems of whether the gospel was to go only to the house of Israel or whether it now went to all men. Could all men come to him on an equal basis with the seed of Abraham?" (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p. 163)
Acts 10:45 on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost
Luke records that the Gentiles received "the gift of the Holy Ghost" prior to their baptism or confirmation by the laying on of hands. But they did not receive "the gift of the Holy Ghost" in the same sense as the term is used today. Rather, the power of the Holy Ghost temporarily came upon them in a manner reminiscent of the way it had come upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Such a powerful bestowal of the Holy Ghost was necessary to show the Jews then present that the Gentiles were worthy of the greatest blessings of the gospel. Yet, the gift which would give them the privilege of constant companionship had not yet been bestowed upon them, for they had neither been baptized, nor had they received the laying on of hands.
"There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the gospel. But he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. And had he not taken this sign [or] ordinances upon him, the Holy Ghost, which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him until he obeyed those ordinances and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, according to the order of God." (Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible, p. 150.)
"Our friends of the Christian world have labored from the pulpit and through the press, for ages, to make it appear that baptism by immersion is non-essential, and that the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost is done away and no longer needed. Suppose Cornelius had refused to be baptized, on the grounds that he had received the Holy Ghost as well as the Apostles, the result would have been that the Holy Ghost would have left him, and the light that was in him would have become darkness, and then it could have been exclaimed, how great is that darkness!...When men have the privilege of hearing the plan of salvation from the mouth of an inspired servant of God, and they reject it, I will promise them that if they have ever possessed any portion of the Holy Spirit, it will depart from them and sevenfold more darkness will ensue to the mind of that person than is the lot of all to suffer in a state of nature, unenlightened by the inspiring rays of the Holy Spirit." (Journal of Discourses, 10:323.)
Acts 10:48 he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord
"What would have been the result if they had refused to obey this commandment, and had counted baptism non-essential, like many modern churches do? It is evident that not one of them could have been saved. Why? Because the angel said that Peter should 'tell them words whereby they should be saved.' (see Acts 11:14) If they had rejected baptism, they would have rejected the 'words' of Peter, which the angel said should save them. No one can be saved who rejects baptism. It matters not how righteous he may have been; though he, like Cornelius, may have given 'much alms,' and prayed much, and feared God and worked righteousness for years; yet more, though he may have attained to greater blessings than the present sectarian churches now even believe, to say nothing of the enjoyment; though he may have seen a vision of angels, and spoken with tongues by the power of the Holy Ghost; yet, with all this righteousness and great power, he can in nowise be saved if he rejects baptism. Hence, faith, repentance, and baptism are three essential conditions preceding remission of sins. Each is equally important. These are three of the rules of adoption by which strangers and aliens may become legal citizens in the church and kingdom of God." (Orson Pratt's Works, p. 55.)