“Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”[i]
All are invited to come unto Christ, “but every man in his own order.”[ii] For this reason, the Gospel has been administered only to certain groups in certain times and places. For instance, Noah ordained that the family of his eldest son Shem (these are the Semites, from whom Abraham sprang) would have the rights of priesthood. His second son, Japheth, the father of the Gentile nations, would eventually “dwell in the tents of Shem”—meaning that those of his family line would someday receive priesthood covenants. The lineage of Ham, his third son, would follow the other two groups in order in receiving the fullness of the priesthood.[iii]
The reason for this order of things has not been revealed to us, and it is irresponsible to speculate about it. But we are now living in the age the Lord calls “the fullness of times” in which the full blessings—and responsibilities—of the Gospel are available to all. In the final analysis, the order of reception does not matter: the last person to enter the temple receives exactly the same promises and blessings that the first person receives.
God Is Not a Partial God
In every generation and at all times the Lord accepts those who honor Him and do right. He is no “respecter of persons,” meaning there is neither partiality nor favoritism. All are alike to Him. Mormon states explicitly: “God is not a partial God.”[iv] The reason for His impartiality is simple: We are all His children, and despite our differences He loves each of us equally. Those who are parents can grasp what that means.
It means that we have a Father in Heaven and a Savior who love each of us individually with an infinite love. God does not love the apostles or the prophets or the bishop or the stake president any more than He loves you or me.
Unlike our Heavenly Father, we are too often “respecters of persons.” It’s only natural to favor our own loved ones. We like some people more than others. We fawn on some and ignore some. We angle for some people’s attention while we are indifferent or even rude to others. In this respect, we are not like the Father and the Son.
The challenge of this lesson is to become more like our Savior by treating everyone with the kindness and consideration He would give.
“Chosen” Does Not Mean “Superior”
Some Jews at the time of Christ viewed non-Jews with contempt,[v] considering Gentiles—Greeks, Romans, and others—who lived among them as unclean and therefore beneath notice. This attitude was the result of a distorted understanding of what it meant to be a “chosen” or “covenant people.”
It’s true that Israel was the Lord’s covenant people. They had willingly entered into a contract with the Lord to obey His commandments, and this contract conferred upon them certain responsibilities. But it did not confer upon them a “superior status.” It did not make them better than their neighbors.
Jesus attempted to make His Father’s impartiality clear to the Jews by frequently holding up to them examples of righteousness who were not of Israel, such as the Good Samaritan, Naaman the Syrian, and the widow of Sidon.[vi] His anger at the Jews was almost exclusively due to their lack of charity for their neighbors. Despite the great promises Isaiah made to the Gentiles,[vii] even learned Jews bore an ungenerous and malicious attitude toward those of other nations.
So Peter was surprised and troubled as he pondered the vision he received on the rooftop in Joppa.[viii] To his credit he realized that the vessel filled with unclean animals had little to do with Mosaic dietary laws: it was all about his attitude toward others.
The Roman centurion Cornelius was an example of a righteous Gentile, one who honored God and was filled with charity for others.[ix] No self-respecting Jew would darken the door of a Gentile. So Peter’s entry into the house of Cornelius is one of the great symbolic moments in the Lord’s plan. “What God has cleansed, that call not thou common,” the voice of the Spirit had said to Peter.[x]
In that symbolic moment, the great apostle realized that the Atonement of Christ extended to the entire human family. “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” The Greek word translated as “respecter” is prosopoleptes, which means “face taker”—in other words, one who prefers some faces over others and shows partiality.
Too many of us are “face takers”—we see some faces as more attractive, more interesting, more like ourselves. Faces that are plain, faces that do not call attention to themselves or that look too different—well, we too often ignore, distrust, or abuse them. This is not our Heavenly Father’s attitude at all. To Him, every face is beautiful and beloved.
Once convinced himself, Peter’s next trial was to convince his Jewish brethren of the Church of the truth of that principle. This is a timely challenge to each of us members of the Church as well—are we respecters of persons?[xi]
Be Not Partial in Love
Each of us is called to be “no respecter of persons.” Prejudice, grudges, resentments, feelings of superiority arising from race or class or background—these things that divide us from our neighbors work against the Atonement of the Savior. To the extent we overcome these uncharitable urges, we become more like Christ.
President J. Reuben Clark deplored the tendency even inside the Church to see some people as more important or more worthwhile than others:
“We stand upon our own feet in our own shoes. There is no aristocracy of birth in this Church; it belongs equally to the highest and the lowliest; for as Peter said to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, seeking him: ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.’”[xii]
As God is not partial, in order to be like Him we must learn to love all people: “Be not partial in love,” He says.[xiii] Infinite love for each of us is the highest attribute of God, and we must learn to cultivate this same attribute in ourselves. “Pray unto the Father with all energy of heart, that you may be filled with this love.”[xiv] We need to overcome what Joseph Smith called our “narrow, contracted notions” and become generous and expansive in our acceptance, appreciation, and love for others. The Prophet pointed out that the great evil of our time is religious hatred and prejudice:
“The Mussulman [Muslim] condemns the heathen, the Jew, and the Christian, and the whole world of mankind that reject his Koran, as infidels, and consigns the whole of them to perdition. The Jew believes that the whole world that rejects his faith and are not circumcised, are Gentile dogs, and will be damned. The heathen is equally as tenacious about his principles, and the Christian consigns all to perdition who cannot bow to his creed, and submit to his ipse dixit [“say-so”].
But while one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes ‘His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’ He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil.’”
If we wish to overcome the tendency to be a “respecter of persons,” the formula is this: “Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.”
 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Deseret Book, 1993. 217-218.
 2 Ne. 31:20.
[i] Acts 10:34-35.
[ii] 1 Cor. 15:23.
[iii] See Genesis 9:26-27; see also D&C Official Declaration-2.
[iv] Moroni 8:18.
[vi] Luke 4:25-27; 10:33.
[vii] Isaiah 60:3.
[viii] Acts 10:9-16.
[ix] Acts 10:1-2.
[x] Acts 10:15.
[xi] Acts 11:1-18.
[xii] J. Reuben Clark Jr., “Classic Discourses from the General Authorities: To Them of the Last Wagon,” New Era, Jul. 1975, 8.
[xiii] D&C 112:11.
[xiv] Moroni 7:48.