As we LDS attempt to share our message of a restoration of the Christian Church and it’s Priesthood authority, it is only natural that we identify in our minds those individuals who would appear to be most receptive. Often it is not really a measure of receptivity that we recognize but rather some manifestation of supposed preparedness. Who could blame us for thinking that someone who already believes many of the important doctrines of Christianity that we ourselves embrace, should be the one who is most prepared to listen to our message. When a person lives a life that exemplifies devotion and commitment to God, we can easily visualize the necessary transition in becoming a solid member of our church and a valuable asset to the Lord in building up His Latter-day Kingdom. It is these understandable expectations that sometimes leave us bewildered when our, so imagined, prime candidate rebuffs our overtures.
People live such varied lives and have so many unique experiences that we are unlikely to be aware of a person’s true historical makeup. It is partly these experiences that prepare a person’s mind for the planting of the Gospel seed, or preclude its nourishment. Each of us comes here from the presence of God with developed personalities and capacities, and yet many of our capacities lay hidden until some series of events brings them to fruition. I think we all know people who appeared to be unlikely prospects before exposure to the LDS story, but who surprised us by embracing it with zeal. I submit myself as an example. Who knew me well enough to have predicted my interest and willingness to change my lifestyle so radically? Outward appearance and current habits and affiliations seem to be poor indicators of the truly receptive.
The world is filled with many millions of people who are of such character, that when given the right opportunity, they will fully embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The “right opportunity” is sometimes too complex for us to provide in short order. It is not always a matter of presenting the message in just the right words or from the lips of the right messenger. I believe most of these good people are simply sidetracked, either by other compelling interests, or by a heavy cloak of misinformation. In either case, something is going to happen to them someday, which will cause them to stop and reevaluate their pursuits and prejudices. The Lord is obviously willing to wait for this to happen and we must be patient as well. Meanwhile, hearts are being softened every day in those unexpected few that are ready now. Our charge is to find them but it is not very often easy. They may be in camouflage, not only to us but also to themselves.
I could not have predicted my own conversion because I could not have imagined the offer. The LDS message caught me totally by surprise and I was ill prepared to accept it. I was, however, receptive. What was it that made me receptive? It could have been a complex set of variables, but mostly, I wanted to do the right thing with this precious mortal existence. Although I did not expect to find a precise plan and reliable guide when I was nineteen years old, I recognized that that was exactly what the LDS message offered. Fortunately, I was not prejudiced against the Church, as so many good people are. I could visualize the significance of the promise of a modern prophet -- if only I could come to know if it was really true. That is a story for another day.