Born to descendants of African slaves in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Elder Martins joined the LDS Church in 1972, despite his knowledge that the LDS Church did not then allow members of African descent to hold the priesthood or to receive temple ordinances.
On 9 June 1978, Martins and his family heard of the announcement that the LDS Church was lifting its racial priesthood ban. After Martins received the priesthood and received his temple ordinances, he served as a bishop, and then as a counselor in a stake presidency. Elder Martins then served as the first president of the Brazil Fortaleza Mission. He served in this position from 1987 until his call as a general authority.
Having served the standard five-year term as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Martins was honorably released as a general authority on 30 September 1995. He died in São Paulo, Brazil at age 75 from heart problems.
Shortly before retiring, Martins dictated his life story which was published as The Autobiography of Elder Helvecio Martins.
Like Elder Martins both his son Marcus and Marcus's son have served as bishops, possibly as of 2009 the only three-generation set of bishops in the church of African descent.
Elder Martins had spent his career as a high ranking executive with an oil company in Brazil.
- LDS Church Almanac, 2005 Edition, p. 481
- Helvecio Martins and Mark Grover, ''The Autobiography of Elder Helvecio Martins (Aspen Books, 1994, ISBN 1-56236-218-6).
- "News of the Church: Elder Helvécio Martins of the Seventy", Ensign, May 1990, 106.