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.
His first question to the missionaries was, "Are you racist?"
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.”
Elder Martins served in the Second Quorum of the Seventy
with distinction, and having fulfilled his five-year call, was honorably
released on September 30, 1995.
Elder Helvecio Martins, 75, died May 14 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, of heart problems. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Seventy, president of the Brazil South Area, said:
"Elder Helvecio Martins was a living example of Alma 13:3: 'called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God.' Within five days of meeting the missionaries in 1972, Brother Martins was at the Church, helping and cleaning, serving in whatever way he could. Once he believed something was right, he had a steel determination to hold firm and never let go.
"Elder Martins' courage and determination continued to the end of his life. Just this past January, he graduated from law school at age 74. Asked to give a commencement address at graduation, Elder Martins stirred the faculty and students with a passionate plea of how the law must protect the interests of the traditional family. His talk ended with him receiving an extended standing ovation from those in attendance. His powerful witness of the Savior and of the Restoration was heard to the very end of his life. Each week as the gospel doctrine teacher in Sunday School, he raised his voice in testimony of those things he knew to be true."