For example, Gospel Principles claims:
“We read in Acts 10 that the Roman soldier Cornelius received inspiration from the Holy Ghost so that he knew the gospel of Jesus Christ was true. But Cornelius did not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized” (Gospel Principles, 2009 ed., 122, emphasis added).
Acts 10, however, says the opposite: that Cornelius received the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized:
"While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:44-48, emphasis added).
Luke says that “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” before Peter had even finished speaking, and explicitly explains that this meant that “the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out” on the Gentile family of Cornelius (v. 45). Luke also quotes Peter as calling for them to be baptized because they had “received the Holy Spirit” (v. 47). (By the way, notice that here receiving “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is synonymous with receiving the Holy Spirit himself; there is no difference.) The order here is undeniable: first, the receiving of the gift (vv. 44-46); second, baptism (v. 48). Furthermore, since Cornelius and his family had not yet been baptized when they received the gift, clearly no one had laid hands on them to impart the gift. We must conclude, then, that these people received the gift of the Holy Spirit before they had been either baptized or had hands laid on them.
Although honest people can disagree about many things, in this instance there really is no room for doubt that the statement made by Gospel Principles—that “Cornelius did not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized”—is flat wrong. Furthermore, it is difficult to see this claim as anything but a deliberate distortion of the facts. This false statement, in clear, explicit contradiction of Acts 10:44-48, has appeared in Gospel Principles from the very first edition over thirty years ago (see Gospel Principles, 1978 ed., 101). More than that, the LDS Church has been contradicting Acts 10 on this point since Joseph Smith himself. In 1842, Joseph made the following comments:
“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” (History of the Church, 1949 ed., 4:555; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976 ed.], 199; The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. and ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, 108).
LDS leaders have quoted these statements from Joseph Smith, including in general conference, to support their doctrine that one can only receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by someone holding the LDS priesthood. For example, in 2003 Joseph B. Wirthin quoted the above statements from Smith and commented:
“The gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the right to receive the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, is obtained only upon condition of faith in Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands by authorized servants endowed with the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is a most precious gift available only to worthy members of the Lord’s Church” (“The Unspeakable Gift,” Ensign [conference report], May 2003, 26).
The LDS Church has been perpetuating this falsehood ever since Joseph Smith and continues to do so today in a doctrinal manual that all Mormons are currently studying. Again, honest and sincere people can disagree about many things, but I cannot see any plausible way of denying that in this instance Joseph Smith and the LDS Church is simply wrong.