The Cornerstone

In one of the psalms, we find the following prophecy:

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.

Psalm 118:22-23

Jesus quoted this passage to a group of religious leaders who asked where His authority came from. (See Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11, Luke 20:17.)

And Peter later referenced it when members of the Sanhedrin asked how he had healed a lame man:

Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Acts 4:10-12; see also 1 Peter 2:7

Isaiah also used the imagery of a cornerstone in a Messianic prophecy:

Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste [or panic].

Isaiah 28:16

Peter blended these two prophecies in one of his epistles to the church:

Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,

And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

1 Peter 2:6-8

That sounds pretty dismal for those who reject the stone. But the original prophecy didn’t say, “The stone which the builders refused should have been the head stone of the corner.” It said, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” So there is hope even for those who have rejected Him!

How is this possible? That’s the question the prophet Jacob asks in the Book of Mormon:

I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation.

But behold, according to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build.

And now, my beloved, how is it possible that these, after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?

Jacob 4:15-17

In response to that question, Jacob relates the Allegory of the Olive Tree, in which a landowner tries time and again to help his trees bring forth good fruit. Even though he is repeatedly disappointed, he does not give up on the trees. Eight times, he says some version of “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree,” and he makes another attempt. In the end, “the Lord of the vineyard saw that his fruit was good, and that his vineyard was no more corrupt,” and he employs laborers to harvest the good fruit. (See Jacob 5.)

Jacob concludes:

How merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.

Jacob 6:4-5

So the message is clear: Jesus Christ is our cornerstone, our sure foundation. If we build on Him, we will not be confounded. But if we reject Him, all is not lost. He can still become the head of our corner. He is merciful and patient and ready to be our foundation as soon as we are ready to accept Him. He may wait a very long time for us. He is willing to do so, because He loves us.

Today, I will be grateful for the foundation provided by the Savior. I will strive to build on that foundation, and I will remember that He is patient with those who are not yet ready to make Him their cornerstone.

3 thoughts on “The Cornerstone

Add yours

  1. Paul, do other translations/commentary do much with the Psalm 118 verse
    and its later appearances in the Old and New Testaments?


    1. I didn’t see much in the other translations or the commentaries. I think the most interesting commentary is the one Jacob provides. I hadn’t noticed until this week that his whole reason for quoting the Olive Tree Allegory was to explain the apparent contradiction in this passage.
      I hope that’s helpful,


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