I had an interesting conversation with a woman today. Missionaries would call it a bash. I called it posing and answering meaningful questions. It prompted her to listen more than she would have.She had determined that Joseph Smith was a fraud, and she funnelled all new information through that lens. I had a very difficult time believing that she was that closed to the Spirit that she would be unwilling to entertain the possibility he was not a fraud. Perhaps it was the “false traditions of her fathers,” yet so many overcome such limitations. Was it her agency? Well, that’s not very comforting. There must be a different explanation.
Orson F. Whitney explained it like this:
Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of his Church, to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else… Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of Truth, while others remain unconverted…the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in his own due time…God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of his great and marvelous work. The Latter Day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people…We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.
One might compare these perceptions to a person’s reaction to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity concerning the speed of light and time perception. Basically, if one travels at the speed of light, then the perception of time slows down until time essentially ceases to exist to those outside one’s frame of reference.
We must understand that we are asking investigators to do something similar, to stop time as it were. The church’s claims may be possible, but they seem utterly fantastic, even absurd to the uninitiated. So when they reject it, is it possible, as President Whitney said, that some are kept from the truth not only because they know not where to find it but also because the Lord would rather have them elsewhere for the time being?
If the Pope joined the Church (as we dreamed of during our missions), there would not likely be massive LDS baptisms, but charges of scandal, of madness, of intrigue. If Mother Theresa had become a member, could she have retained her credibility as an international humanitarian? Could it not be the Pope, Mother Theresa and others are/were doing their parts in the vast work of temporal and spiritual salvation? While they might be introducing incorrect doctrines, isn’t it possible that the Lord plans on getting that straightened out later? Maybe in the meantime, he needed Mother Theresa’s humanitarianism, Martin Luther’s defiance, and Isaac Newton’s mind right where they were.