I started hiding a Book of Mormon under my mattress about halfway through my junior year of high school. I had asked for it on a whim and initially I didn't want my parents asking any questions. Eventually I got more enthusiastic and started going to early morning seminary off and on, telling my parents I was going to early-morning chemistry labs. Everything was going so well... until we had a lesson in seminary about what happens to liars after this life and I figured I should probably come clean.
My mom was pretty okay with it. She was disappointed I had lied, but she's generally more comfortable with the idea. My dad, though, was certainly not as a enthusiastic.
At that point, the support I had from my friends and my ward was an absolute god-send. After things cooled off, I started going to church more often and I had an unspoken agreement with my family-- we wouldn't talk about it unless absolutely necessary and I'd pick up "appeasement pastries" from the bakery on my way home.
In the beginning I attended a ward with four of my close friends from high school. They were responsible for getting me in contact with the missionaries, involving me with the LDS community, and answering a boatload of questions. I kept all mormon-related matters strictly with them to avoid sensationalizing anything... which meant my best friend was largely uninvolved in my investigation.
Later, she'd tell me that she was disappointed she didn't play a larger role in my conversion-- after all, she was my best friend. She'd taken me to church in junior high and all I'd done there was show off how much I supposedly knew about the Old Testament. She felt like I was spending way more time with my "wardies" and I was leaving her in the dust.
Honestly, my best friend had nothing to do with my investigation. But she had everything to do with my conversion.
The main reason I left my best friend out was because I was scared of what would happen if things didn't work out. I knew my friends loved me and genuinely cared about me. I knew they'd respect my decision no matter what, but I was uncertain how it would affect our friendship. Especially in Utah, investigators face a huge amount of pressure, and he aftermath of a failed attempt is pretty overwhelming. It was bad enough telling my family I didn't agree with their belief system-- I couldn't image publicly disagreeing with my 85 percent-LDS high school (Note: I realize now just how few people were involved, but in my head everyone knew). I knew that no matter what, though, that my best friend would always stick with me. We'd never let religion get between us before. She was the only person with whom I was 100% sure our friendship wouldn't be affected if I chose not to convert.
Somewhere in my senior year of high school, I had convinced myself that I could be Catholic and Mormon at the same time and there was nothing anyone could do to stop me. Of course I didn't say this out loud, but in my head I was basically planning on never getting baptized and just keeping everyone happy where I was. I was worried converting meant I'd compromise my own personal identity-- that I wouldn't be special anymore. I was scared there was some mold that you had to fit once you got baptized and that I wouldn't be able to fit. I was sure I'd find a way to unwittingly get myself excommunicated and everything would be for naught (Note: my imagination has a tendency to exaggerate every outcome, if you haven't noticed).
My best friend was the one who completely obliterated these ideas. After I tentatively shared these concerns with her, she pointed out how outstandingly wrong I was. The LDS church is outstandingly diverse. It may not be initially apparent in the Utah suburb where I grew up, but with a little digging I realized what she said was true. In fact, the existence of the church relies on the fact that no mold exists.
Of course there are commandments. Heavenly Father has high expectations of His children-- we're capable of some incredible things and He's given us the best methods out there. However, we're all capable of different incredible things. She pointed out that if everyone was good at public speaking or at making stuffed monkeys out of recycled socks, the human race wouldn't make it very far. You should never be concerned about not fitting the mold-- she didn't fit the mold either and from my own observations, her faith was unshakable. An issue only exists if you find yourself being molded by forces that have nothing to do with the doctrine of the church.
At that point, my entire perception of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints changed. It became so much easier to see the individuality in other people and to appreciate their gifts. I realized that what made me and everyone else different was something Heavenly Father would never resent. Most importantly, though, I was finally excited about getting baptized.
You don't have to be knocking on doors or distributing pass-along-cards to impact the way someone feels about the church. These are outstandingly important and absolutely necessary, but those aren't the only means. My best friend, though largely uninvolved, was the leading factor in my final decision to officially join the LDS church. Not only is example everything, but being ready to calm the fears or dispel the doubts of someone else is absolutely essential. I'll always owe the happiness the knowledge of the restored gospel has brought me to those "wardies" that so mercifully and patiently helped me along. The immeasurable blessings I've received, though, are all thanks to the friend I didn't' even want to involve in the first place.
So, in other words, I guess this constitutes as my formal nomination for the baptism brownie points. Hope you enjoy that comfy seat, Liz.