“Stephen, the Martyr,” Tambuli, May 1987, 2
After Jesus was resurrected, his Apostles continued to teach the gospel, and many people believed and were baptized. Even some of the Jewish leaders who had not believed Jesus while he was alive joined his church and became known as Christians.
This missionary work kept the Apostles so busy that they could not do all that was necessary to direct the Church, so they chose and ordained seven good men to take care of the poor and the widows. One of the seven men chosen was Stephen. His calling was very special to him. His duties were similar to those of Aaronic Priesthood holders. Stephen also preached the gospel, performed miracles, and did other wondrous things through the power of the priesthood.
Unfortunately, many people were angered by Stephen’s preaching. They did not believe that Jesus was the Savior, and they accused Stephen of blasphemy. Some of these non-believers brought Stephen before the Sanhedrin, a court of Jewish leaders. An unlawful and unfair 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 began to glow. It was like the face of an angel, for the power of God was upon him. In answering the charges of the council, Stephen did not try to defend himself, but instead told the people that they were not obeying God’s commandments.
The people were furious. They hated Stephen for telling them the truth. They acted like wild animals and wanted to attack Stephen. But Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, looked toward heaven and joyously exclaimed, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56.)
Of course, the wicked people could not see this glorious vision, so they did not believe Stephen. 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.” (Acts 7:59.)