“Stephen the Martyr,” Friend, Mar. 1984, 48–inside back cover
After Jesus was resurrected, His Apostles continued to teach the gospel, and many people believed and were baptized. Some Jewish leaders also believed and followed Jesus’ teachings. The work kept the Apostles busy, and they did not have enough time to do all that was necessary in the Church, so they chose and ordained seven good men to assist them. One of the seven men chosen was Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.” Stephen’s calling was very special to him, and he preached the gospel and performed through the power of the priesthood “great wonders and miracles among the people.”
Unfortunately, many Jews were angered by Stephen’s preaching. They did not believe that Jesus was the Savior, and they accused Stephen of blasphemy. Some of these nonbelievers brought Stephen before the Sanhedrin, a court of Jewish leaders. An unlawful trial was held, and some of the people lied about Stephen, hoping to get him into trouble. But even though Stephen was falsely accused, he remained strong, faithful, and forgiving. He knew that God was with him.
During the trial Stephen’s face was like the face of an angel, for the power of God was with him. In answering the charges of the council, Stephen did not try to defend himself but instead spoke of the history of Israel and told the people that they were not obeying God’s commandments.
The people were angry. They hated Stephen for telling them the truth. They became violent and wanted to attack Stephen. But Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, looked steadfastly toward heaven and declared, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
The wicked people could not see Stephen’s glorious vision, so they did not believe him. In their terrible anger they cast him outside the walls of the city. Leaving their coats at the feet of a young Jewish leader named Saul, they gathered rocks and stoned Stephen.
The stones painfully cut and bruised Stephen’s body, and he knew he was going to die. But he was not afraid, for he knew he would be with Jesus again. Courageously Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Feeling no anger toward his murderers, Stephen humbly cried out before he died, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”