The class was dismissed. Boys and girls gathered their books with their usual youthful chatter. They left the seminary singly or in groups, their eyes and interest focused on their next activity.
Alone now, I slumped rather wearily into my chair at the front of the classroom, perhaps a bit discouraged and certainly distraught. Today had been especially trying. I had played center stage in a recurring scene with Dennis.
He had challenged nearly everything I had said about the gospel. He had resurrected for reexamination some questions I thought we had put to rest in previous discussions. Several times he had skillfully forced me into a position where I had to take a stand. I had once again borne testimony to the truth of the eternal principles I was teaching and had added my own personal witness.
Now, sitting at my desk, I began to wonder if on some things I had been too firm, too dogmatic. Certainly I had taught the Church position supported by scripture, by the Brethren, and by my own personal experience. But had I been so firm that youth could not accept? Would I lose boys like Dennis or girls like Alice who sometimes took his part?
I was prayerfully pondering this question as I began straightening my desk at the front of the classroom. John, one of the students, stopped by to collect some books he had left behind.
“How ya’ doin’,” he said.
“Fine, John. How are things with you?”
“Great! I enjoyed your class last period, even if Dennis did lead us away from the lesson for a while.”
John was a little cautious as he framed his next question. “Does it bother you when he challenges what you say and takes the negative side?”
I quietly admitted that it did but that my real concern was my apparent inability to reach Dennis and convert him to a more positive attitude of faith in the Lord’s teachings.
John smiled. “I thought you felt that way,” he said. “Let me tell you something about him.
“Dennis has many friends who are not members of the Church. He seems negative here in class, but when he gets over to high school, he becomes you! The arguments he gives in class are the arguments he gets from his friends. The answers you give him are the answers he gives back to them. He’s just storing up ammunition.”
John picked up his books and smiled a good-bye. I sat down again at my desk, smiling. Suddenly everything fell into place. When Dennis asked questions in the future I would understand. I would be glad to help him find answers.
Then a fear swept over me. What if I had faltered? What if I had compromised? I would not have won Dennis over—I would have betrayed him and I would have betrayed the sacred trust of being his teacher.
It was the Apostle Paul who said, “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8.) We don’t blast the trumpet in someone’s ear, but neither do we indiscreetly sound its message; rather, the call should be sweet and sure and certain of sound.