Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dying as a Witness

I first learned the story of Stephen during my sophomore year in high school, studying the New Testament in Seminary. His story has always captivated me.
First, because even in his last, dying breaths, he taught the doctrine of Christ.
Without fear.
Without hesitation.
And with complete assurance that the word of God was mightier than the sword . . . or the stone.

Secondly, Stephen was a witness of the Godhead.
For him the heavens were opened and he saw what others did not and could not see.
Knowing that the Holy Ghost was real, Stephen saw the Father and the Son.
A sure witness that they were and are two separate and distinct Personages, full of glory and grandeur.

Third, Stephen possessed a forgiving heart.
A heart without hate or malice or contempt.
His willingness to “stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places,  . . . even unto death” cost him his earthly life. (Alma 18:9)
But his death gave new life to one young man named Saul.

Abinadi is the Book of Mormon’s equivalent to “Stephen.”
Like Stephen, Abinadi faced his accusers without fear or hesitation as he taught the significance of the Law of Moses and prophesied of the coming a Savior.

Like Stephen, Abinadi was filled with light as he testified of truth and called the Nephites to repentance. His love for the Lord was greater than his love for himself.
Like Stephen, Abinadi was martyred.
Death by fire.
Burned at the stake.
A burnt offering of sorts, which only yielded one soul unto repentance.
And that one “Soul” changed the course of history for the Nephite people.
(Interestingly, “Alma” means “soul” in Spanish).

Recently, I read My Name Used to be Muhammad.
What shocked me most is that stories like Stephen and Alma are happening today!
Two thousand years removed from what was - is what is!
Life for those who are true disciples of Christ  will never be easy. Elder Russell M. Nelson said it quite frankly,

“Difficult days are ahead. Rarely in the future will it be easy or popular to be a faithful Latter-day Saint. Each of us will be tested. The Apostle Paul warned that in the latter days, those who diligently follow the Lord ‘shall suffer persecution.’ That very persecution can either crush you into silent weakness or motivate you to be more exemplary and courageous in your daily lives.”

How grateful I am that Stephen and Abinadi refused to be crushed into silent weakness.

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