We had a large LDS population in my hometown. I played in our high school band, but my band teacher did not like the Church and was always trying to discredit the Book of Mormon.
When we went on band trips, he would bring ideas from his church meetings with him and confront me. He found it entertaining to bash the Church, and I felt like I was the only one who would defend it.
At first I wanted to prove to him that he was wrong. He would tell me that every sin is equally as bad—murder and lying alike—and that there is really no repentance. Instead, we go through this life and as long as we acknowledge Christ as our Savior we will go to heaven.
I felt like the plan of salvation had suddenly been turned into a game of Monopoly. There are no free rides, I tried to explain. But he was not there to learn about my beliefs.
Since he was there in the spirit of contention (and I followed somewhat ignorantly), we just went around in circles. No matter what explanation I could offer, he would come up with something else to debate. It wasn’t until a year later that I realized what it was I was doing.
I had thought I was doing missionary work, but I was not. After studying the scriptures, talks, and lectures on the subject, I now know that if people are there with the intention to debate beliefs, they are not ready to hear the gospel. This seems so obvious to me now, but at the time I had no idea. People must open their hearts to receive the gospel message.
If we learn to share the gospel with those who truly want to learn, we can share the truth with them.
We need not contend, but instead we need to proclaim the gospel. It brings happiness to all who partake of it.