As I see it, there are three ways a person comes to the truth of the gospel:
1. His desires happen to match up with what the truth is.
2. He is determined to live by the truth, regardless of what it is.
3. He is forced to know what the truth is.
I find a story from the Book of Mormon instructive. In Helaman 7-8 a prophet named Nephi is speaking to people in his home city. He calls them to repentance. When he does this, some people become offended and angry and cry out “Why seest thou this man, and hearest him revile against this people and against our law?” and “Why do ye not seize upon this man and bring him forth, that he may be condemned […]?” (Helaman 8:2, 1)
But then some people respond “Let this man alone, for he is a good man, and those things which he saith will surely come to pass except we repent.” (Helaman 8:7)
It seems to me these people defending Nephi match up with #1 above. All they have to do is hear what Nephi is saying, and that’s it, they’re convinced. I think they are easily convinced because Nephi is telling them something that is not new to them, something they already believe.
Later in Chapter 8 Nephi prophesies to the people that their chief judge has been murdered, and that if they go right now they’ll find him dead. Then a group of five men run off, saying, “Behold, now we will know of a surety whether this man be a prophet and God hath commanded him to prophesy such marvelous things unto us. Behold, we do not believe that he hath; yea, we do not believe that he is a prophet; nevertheless, if this thing which he has said concerning the chief judge be true, that he be dead, then will we believe that the other words which he has spoken are true.” (Helaman 9:2)
These five men meet the criteria of #2. They didn’t believe Nephi at first, because he wasn’t saying what they wanted to believe was true, but they’re open-minded enough to say “Hey, if he’s right, he’s right. We don’t think he is, but if he’s right about this then he must be right about the other stuff.” They just want to know what is true, and even if it isn’t exactly what they want to be true, they’ll live by the truth because that’s important to them, and they want to know what is true.
The story goes on and Nephi is proven to be right about the chief judge being dead. But then some people say “Well, this is all a plot, and Nephi planned this out with someone so he could convince us he was a prophet.” But if you read Chapter 9 you’ll see that things work out in such a way as to prove that Nephi is innocent and that he really is a prophet. That is, it’s pretty much objectively proven. You would really have to strain to find some other plausible explanation for how Nephi did what he did. And yet there are people who still don’t believe he’s a prophet. These are the people who fit into category #3. Their desires don’t match the truth, even when the truth is proven to them they still don’t believe, and so when will they believe? Only when the truth is forced upon them. When will that happen? Only in the next life. They’ll know for sure what the truth is, and it will be painfully obvious that their rejection of the truth wasn’t due to a lack of information or evidence, but rather that they chose not to believe the evidence and information because they didn’t want it to be true, they preferred an alternate “truth” that did not exist.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?