[The following biography of Helvecio Martins was submitted by his son, Marcus Helvecio Martins, an LDS-GEMS subscriber. (MartinsM@ricks.edu) Marcus teaches Religion, Sociology, and Portuguese at Ricks College. He is a native of Rio de Janeiro and has written a doctoral dissertation on the growth of the Church in Brazil. He welcomes receiving any stories relating to the Church in Brazil.]
However, over the years he grew increasingly uncomfortable with many of the doctrines and practices of both Catholicism and Spiritualism, and started to visit other churches whenever he could, in search for a new religion. One day, he spotted the only chapel of the LDS Church in Rio de Janeiro and was curious about it.
At this time he was one of the top executives of Petrobras Distribuidora, a government oil company, and in the next morning he mentioned his discovery at work and stated that he would like to visit that church. One of his government oil company, and in the next morning he mentioned his discovery at work and stated that he would like to visit that church. One of his subordinates said: "You know, boss, they are the Mormons, and they are an American church where you can only visit if you are invited by one of its members. Besides, being an American church you might not be welcome there because the color of your skin." On hearing this, brother Martins left the matter aside.
Years later, in May of 1972, two missionaries (Elders Thomas McIntyre, originally from Sacramento, CA, and Steven Richards, originally from Gainesville, GA) were tracting in brother Martins' building and knocked on his door. On learning that those were missionaries from the Mormon Church he invited them in at about 9:00pm, and literally "immersed" the missionaries with all kinds of questions, starting with the Church's view on racism. The missionaries left his home around 1:00am, having taught the gist of most of the seven discussions.
The next Sunday was Mothers' Day, and the Martins family attended the LDS Church for the first time at the Engenho de Dentro Branch, in the Rio de Janeiro District. As the discussion progressed and the family showed increasing enthusiasm, there were a few concerns about baptizing them. Some shared the false belief that if a black member would become inactive in the church, those who facilitated his or her baptism of a would lose their exaltation. However, the president of the then Brazil North Mission, George A. Oakes, said he had never heard such a thing and gave the green light for the baptism to occur.
With strong fellowshipping and frequent visits from missionaries and members, the family was baptized on July 2, 1972. Two weeks after the baptism, brother Martins was called to be Gospel Doctrine teacher in Sunday School. In those days that was a class for those with more than one year of membership. However, the branch president figured that since brother Martins was also a professor at Rio de Janeiro State University he would be able to handle the assignment.
Later that same year (1972) the first stake in Rio de Janeiro was organized by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, and brother Martins was called as a counselor in the Stake Sunday School Presidency, and Sister Martins as a counselor in the Stake Junior Sunday School Presidency.
After the 1978 Revelation he served as Stake Executive Secretary, and in 1979 he became the first black to serve in a stake presidency (first counselor) in the Church (which fact was reported even by the newspaper "The Washington Post")
In 1987 he was called to serve as the first president of the Brazil Fortaleza Mission, a division of the highly successful Brazil Recife Mission. In April of 1990, 3 months prior to his release, he was called to serve as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, of which calling he was released in 1995.
Brother Martins currently serves as a High Priest Group Leader in Salt Lake City, Utah.
More details about Brother Martins' history can be found in his autobiography, translated by Mark Grover and published by Aspen Books, or through e-mail contact: "firstname.lastname@example.org".
Marcus Helvecio Martins