March, 10, 2016

Faith in the Lord’s Promises

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By Annilyn Spjut

In honor of Black History Month, which took place during the month of February, the gallery has a temporary exhibit in the 2nd floor study alcove highlighting a few inspiring stories of black members from across the globe. One of my favorites is the story of the Martins family.

Stuck in traffic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Helvécio Martins prayed asking for spiritual guidance for his family. His prayer was answered several nights later when the missionaries knocked on his door. Helvécio and his wife, Ruda, were baptized in July 1972 despite the priesthood ban.

A year later they received their patriarchal blessings. They were promised that they would receive the blessings of the temple and their son was told he would serve a full-time mission. Neither they nor the patriarch knew how either of these blessing could be possible then, but the patriarch assured him that he had been prompted to say those words. The Martins family decided to go forward with faith and opened a mission savings account for their son.

Soon after, a temple was announced in São Paulo. Helvécio Martins was asked to help coordinate public relations for the new temple despite the fact he would not be able to enter the building once it was dedicated. He accepted the calling and worked tirelessly to promote the temple. Then, just a few months before the temple’s dedication, the landmark announcement came that “All worthy men could receive the priesthood.” President Kimball recorded seeing Helvécio and Ruda at the dedication, “I don’t know when I have ever been as touched as I was to see that man and his wife in the congregation when we were dedicating the São Paulo Temple, and to see them wipe their eyes all through the session. They were so thrilled to be permitted to have the blessings.”[1]

The lifting of the ban was life-changing for the Martins’s son Marcus as well. When the announcement came, he was engaged to be married. All the wedding invitations had already been sent, but he and his fiancée decided to postpone the wedding, so he could serve a mission. He was the first black missionary to be called, and he served in the Porto Alegre Mission. In 1990, Helvécio Martins was called as the first Black General Authority.[2]

The faith of the Martins family is both humbling and moving. May we all aspire to that level of faith and humility in our own lives.

[1] Milton V. Backman and Richard O. Cowan, “Revelation Continues,” Joseph Smith and the Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1992) 148–50.

[2] “Elder Helvécio Martins Of the Seventy,” Ensign May 1990: Web. 4 Jan. 2016.; Edward L. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood.” BYU Studies vol. 47 No. 2 (2008): 4–78. BYU Studies.