Helvécio Martins

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Helvécio Martins (27 July 193014 May 2006) was the first Latter-day Saint of African descent to be called as a general authority.

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 wherein the LDS Church announced that it was conferring the priesthood upon all worthy male members of the Church. 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.[1] He served in this position from 1987 until his call as a general authority.

In April 1990, President Ezra Taft Benson called Elder Martins as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. Martins thus became the first black general authority in LDS Church history.

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.[2]

Elder Martins' son Marcus Martins is currently the chair of the department of religion at Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

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.


  1. LDS Church Almanac, 2005 Edition, p. 481
  2. Helvecio Martins and Mark Grover, ''The Autobiography of Elder Helvecio Martins (Aspen Books, 1994, ISBN 1-56236-218-6).


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