The Lord often allows us experiences in order to teach us something or broaden our modes of thinking. Such proved the case recently when my son found himself invited to a birthday party at a friend's home. I had no idea what to expect as I had never met this friend or his parents and upon entering the yard where children ran about I found a group of adults who, though seeming quite comfortable with each other, made little to no effort to have anything to do with me. Moreover, at first glance I saw in them full body tattoos, a deep and abiding interest in hot rods, somewhat revealing clothing, and such logos as would prove their very comfortable and obvious employment of pornography. Swallowing my initial surprise I met them cheerfully and jumped in to help set up such decorations as were at hand. Initiating conversation I found them kind but still rather aloof. Then they broke out the alcohol.
Still not knowing much of these people I kept a close eye on my children to ensure that they would not be invited to do anything wrong or distasteful and as I did so, sitting alone near the children, I reminded myself that there was good in all people and decided to actively look for positive attributes in the adults around me. The first thing I noticed was how the tattoo covered, otherwise rough looking men treated children and babies. They were loving, careful, and tender toward all the children. I saw more men cuddling infants than women, and consider that perhaps they were giving their wives a break from their usual responsibilities. Then, acting upon an impression to do so, I entered the house. The spirit change hit me like a ton of bricks and the first thing I noticed was that on the opposite wall was a plaque with the lyrics to "Amazing Grace." Searching about like an active detective I found sprinkled here and there scripture references, signs of the cross and other indications of a family very dedicated to God, country and each other.
I investigated further and realized that though many of the tattoos ranged from skulls to victims spouting blood and even a swastika, there were many scripture references and crucifixes etched into their skin. Still they were cordial but aloof to a point that led me to wonder. Looking at my own modest attire I realized, and felt impressed through the Spirit, that because I bore no outward sign of proclaiming Christianity on my sleeve or my skin, they may in fact feel that I was a Godless, heathenish, unbeliever and were wary of becoming too close to one of the unclean. I have never in my life had anyone question whether or not God was a part of my life - it was a new experience and rather a strange, eye opening one, I confess. I decided to put this idea to the test and deliberately dropped hints of my church attendance and service. They immediately warmed up. I happened into a conversation with the homeowner and complimented the use of scriptures in her decorating. I inquired which church she attended and she answered contentedly. Then she turned and asked me in a firm, almost cold manner if I attended church. It was obvious that to her the distinction between a churchgoer and a person who did not attend was much the same as the difference between a saint and a demon from hell, and she wasn't going to stain her honor by befriending a child of the devil. I warmly assured her that I did and, softening, she asked which church. When I told her I was from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a rather amusing thing happened. I watched her face and manner move from a momentary haughty, then strained forgiving expression and she said, as though trying to accept my somewhat lost soul out of her own desires to emulate Christlike long suffering that, of course, everyone loves Jesus.
Ironically, both me and the others were initially led by what we first saw and while they still do not know this, I was wearing temple garments, a symbol of my devotion to God, under my clothing the entire time. These garments almost never leave my person but my devotion to God is so powerful, precious, and sacred to me that I refrain from wearing it outwardly, keeping it closer to my skin than anything else I put on.
My friends, remember to look for the good in others and seek to render to each person the benefit of the doubt. And as far as you are able, never, ever assume.