22 February 2008

In memory of Elder Helvecio Martins (Lembrando o Élder Martins)

Elder Helvécio Martins passed away in 2006 in São Paulo, Brazil after a lifetime of education, service, and dedication to his faith.  I always admired his story of faith, dedication, patience, and hard work.  Of course, my love for Brazil and its people might have something to do with it too.  His son, the brilliant Dr. Marcus Martins, lives in Hawaii where he teaches at BYU-Hawaii, and chairs the department of religious education.  (I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Martins in Provo, Utah, and would love to talk with him again.)  I hope you enjoy the excerpt below.  The following is borrowed from an article in the Ensign published years ago:

On a clear April night in 1972, while stuck in a traffic jam in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Helvécio Martins contemplated his family’s search for truth. He and his wife, Rudá, had investigated many religions, but none seemed to fill their spiritual void. “I conversed with God that night, asking for help,” he says.

Missionaries arrived at their home several nights later and, Rudá observes, “ended up talking to us until very late. We gained a testimony that night.”

The family was baptized on 2 July 1972. According to Elder Martins, “We had found the truth, and nothing would stop us from living it”—not even the fact that their family could not directly enjoy the blessings of the priesthood. But “when the Spirit tells you the gospel is true,” says Helvécio, “how can you deny it?”

Brother Martins began teaching the Gospel Doctrine class in his ward two weeks after his baptism, and Rudá served in the Primary presidency. In 1974, he was called to be public communications coordinator for the North Brazil Region. In 1975 President Spencer W. Kimball announced the construction of the São Paulo Temple.

“Although we didn’t expect to enter it, we worked for the construction of the temple just like other members,” remembers Elder Martins. “It was the house of the Lord, after all.” Sister Martins sold her jewelry to help with fund-raising, and Brother Martins served on the publicity committee.

At the cornerstone-laying ceremony in March 1977, recalls Elder Martins, President Kimball “took hold of my arm and privately told me, ‘Brother, what is necessary for you is faithfulness.’ ” This counsel strengthened the Martinses’ commitment—faith that had led them to set up a missionary fund for their son, Marcus, whose patriarchal blessing in 1973 said that he would preach the gospel. Elder Martins also recalls that one day as he and Rudá visited the future temple site “we were overcome by the Spirit. We held each other and wept.”

On 9 June 1978, they learned of the revelation that all worthy male members could hold the priesthood. Immediately, they knelt and thanked the Lord. The Martinses were sealed as a family when the São Paulo temple opened, and Marcus served a mission.

Helvécio Martins was born on 27 July 1930 to Honório and Benedicta Martins in Rio de Janeiro. He left school at age twelve to help support his seven brothers and sisters. “I have no regrets about the difficulties of my youth,” he said. “Learning to work hard has been a great asset in my life.”

After he married Rudá Tourinho de Assis on 7 December 1956, Rudá encouraged him to finish his high school equivalency, obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and take graduate classes. Helvécio later became the financial management controller for the largest corporation in Brazil and later was the financial director for a subsidiary company. He also became an assistant professor at Rio de Janeiro State University.

The Martinses have four children: Marcus Helvécio, thirty-one; Marisa Helena, twenty-four; Raphael, fifteen; and Aline, thirteen; and three grandchildren: Flavio, Natalia, and Felipe. “We’re a family that loves to talk and tell stories—especially Helvécio,” says Rudá. “Often we’ll sit for hours talking, with the kids saying, ‘Dad, tell this story, tell that story.’ ”

Elder Martins has served as a counselor to two stake presidents, as a bishop, and, until June 1990, as president of the Brazil Forteleza Mission. Of his being the first black General Authority, he says, “Rudá and I are somewhat embarrassed [by all the publicity]. But if my calling encourages others and furthers the work, then the publicity is okay. It’s an enormous responsibility, but God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and I confide in him.”

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