Summary Lesson 32: “Righteous vs. Evil Martyrdom”
Past Prophet’s persecutions and martyrdoms reflect the past or show the future and teach us something about the ultimate sacrifice of the Lord. These prophets were models of their Master, the Savior, who would prophesy against the corrupt part of the Jewish government and the people who followed their wickedness. “And . . . he shall be led . . . as a sheep before the shearer is dumb. . . the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.” (Mosiah 15:6-7)
Let me add some Jewish thought on martyrdom. It may have some significance in understanding the difference between righteous martyrdom and those would cause themselves to die in their evil intent destroying and killing others. “Martyrdom is permitted only in the most exceptional circumstances; to lay down one’s life, even for the fulfillment of divine laws, when such sacrifice is not required by law, is regarded as a mortal offense.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
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At the Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem, Naphtali Bezem’s wall sculpture carries a similar message. Below the panel depicting the Jews being brought into the slave/extermination camps is a “broken woman” representing the broken Jewish family line. Next to her is a broken fish with wings. A fish is sometimes used as an art metaphor for the spirit. It’s wings seem to represent an ascension to heaven, a compensation for martyrdom. It is a reminder to me of the Book of Mormon’s Alma and his response to Amulek’s plea to use prophet’s power to stop the carnage. “. . . let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames. But Alma said . . . behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself . . . and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” (Alma 14:10-11)
One may get a glimpse of impending martyrdom as Abinadi rebukes the wickedness of the people. They rejected Abinadi. In reflection, the Children of Israel did not reject the Lord completely. They accepted a “lesser law,” one with strict rules rather than accept the spirit-guided “higher law.” In another Old Testament case, the people of Nineveh repented when Jonah preached to them. As Abinadi gave his life, he succeeded in reaching through the crowd of wickedness to one soul. One person, an Alma, hears the voice of the prophet. More importantly, he feels the spirit of the Lord and subsequently becomes a prophet to speak to the people for God.
In these modern times, evil pretenders “give their lives” to further their misguided causes. They pretend that they are using religion as a worthy reason for their and other’s deaths. These are false martyrs that tear down and destroy. True martyrs seal their testimonies of the Redeemer, the Savior, the Giver of Life with their lives. These are true prophets who leave a legacy of life. As tragic as their deaths may be for those so close to them, they build a future. They lead us to God.