Morgan Jones 0:00
Marcus Martins was 19 years old in June 1978. He had no expectation at the time of serving a mission, because of the priesthood restriction that precluded him from doing so. But all of that changed on June 8, when a friend in Utah called to tell his family the news. The Church had announced a revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male members, ages 12 and older, regardless of race or color.
Just months later, Marcus Martins, who had been engaged at the time of the revelation, entered the year-old Brazil Missionary Training Center and became the first Black missionary to serve after the announced revelation.
A native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Marcus Martins worked as a systems analyst and project manager for the Brazilian government, and as a freelance consultant before moving to the United States in 1990. He served as chair of the department of religious education at Brigham Young University Hawaii and teaches church organization and leadership, marriage, and occasionally managerial leadership. Brother Martins joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1972. Since then, he has served as a mission president, Bishop, temple officiator, and translator of the Book of Mormon.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so honored to have Marcus Martins on the line with me today, Brother Martins, welcome.
Marcus Martins 1:39
Thank you very much for having me.
Morgan Jones 1:41
Well, I have been watching talks that you've given and reading things that you've written, and I'm just so thrilled to have the chance to ask you some questions today and hear more of your experiences and your story. But let's start at the very beginning of your experience with the Church. You were a convert to the Church – how did you originally come in contact with the restored gospel? And you grew up in Brazil, so I'd love to hear about that, and what about the gospel message when you heard it resonated with you?
Marcus Martins 2:16
Oh, thank you. Very good question. Yes, my parents and I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1972. We were a very religious family. I grew up surrounded by people of faith, Catholics, African Spiritualists, and my father was a seeker of truth, and a very well educated man. He was an executive with the National Oil Company.
But he had this nagging question, which was, if there is only one God, how come there are so many religions? And so he would visit churches, and he became curious about our church. So one day, two full time missionaries, Elder Thomas McIntyre, from Sacramento, California, and Steven Richards, from Gainesville, Georgia, we're tracting in our apartment building, and they rang our doorbell. And that's where it all started. I was 13 years old at the time, and I did not participate in the first visit of the missionaries.
I went to the living room very briefly, and then went back to my bedroom. I remember I was typing a geography paper, so I did not participate. But the missionaries – and I hope I don't get them in trouble after 40, almost 49 years – they stayed in my home for four hours, answering my father's questions about the Church, including the Church's stance on race relations.
They were two American missionaries, and my father had already heard some things about the Mormons being Americans, and they may not like Black people very much. And for me personally, when the missionaries returned, and gave us the first – we used to call them discussions back then – and it was about the Restoration and Joseph Smith. I read the testimony, the pamphlet with the testimony of Joseph Smith, read some of the selections from the Book of Mormon the missionaries had left.
I grew up surrounded by books, I always loved to read. You know, kids would be – on summer vacations – kids would be playing outside, flying kites, playing marbles and I would be in my grandfather's house, reading encyclopedias. Nerd.
But, so when the missionaries left with a pamphlet, with the testament of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, a copy of the Book of Mormon, of course, I was going to read that, because I love to read. And my first reaction – what resonated with me – was, you see, I was 13 years old. And when Joseph Smith had the first vision, he was, you know, 14-15.
So when he was very close to my age, or I was close to his age, at the time of the first vision, and the first thing that I kind of remember, having this feeling – if you will – even though I may not have been able to put it in so many words back then, was that, you know, this guy must have been telling the truth, because if it were me, I wouldn't say that I saw God and Jesus. I would, you know, lower the bar a little bit and say, "Look, I saw the Virgin Mary," "I saw an angel," something like that, you know, the archangels, St. Michael, or something – I wouldn't say I saw God and Jews, and, "They told me not to join any church."
So that's not, you know, like we say, today, it's not politically correct. And so I thought for somebody at that age, close to my age, to bear a testimony like that, I thought, you know, this guy must have been telling the truth. And that's associated with my reading of the selections from the Book of Mormon which I recall, Third Nephi chapter 11, you know, the account of the Savior's visit, the resurrected Savior's visit to the Nephites and Lamanites. I immediately sensed that, look, you know, this is, this is something, you know . . . I'm not sure if I would have put in words and say, "No, this is true." But I had this sense that look, no, this is something serious. This is something that has some substance to it.
And so that's how our journey towards conversion and towards the baptismal font started. And I believe my parents had the same, similar, experience. They had been with the missionaries a lot longer than I had, and they already had that trust between them. Because I think if Elder McIntyre, who was a senior companion – Elder Richards had only been in Brazil only a couple of weeks, if I recall, so his Portuguese was not, not up to speed, so Elder McIntyre did most of the talking – if Elder McIntyre had dodged my father's questions, probably my father would not have trusted them. But because they, he accepted the questions and handled them with respect and with intelligence, I think that allowed my father and my mother who was also in the room with him to trust that they were really telling them truths. Telling them like it is, not just simulating or trying to fool them.
Morgan Jones 8:03
Yeah. I wonder for you, Brother Martins, you mentioned that your dad knew about the priesthood ban or had some sense of hesitations on the part of Black's to accept the gospel message. When did you first learn about the priesthood ban? And I know that you said that that was a concern to you before you joined the Church.
Marcus Martins 8:29
No, not to me particularly, but my father had heard from associates of his at work, that – because you see, my father got stuck in a traffic jam, I don't know, a year or two prior to the missionaries visit. And the traffic jam was right in front of the then, only meeting house the Church had in Rio de Janeiro. And he was intrigued by the architecture of the building. Very modern for a church and the name of the church, a very long name. And so when he mentioned that at work the next day, one of his advisors, told him, "Gee boss, you know, you're talking about the Mormon church." And said, "They are an American church," and my father had expressed a desire, "I'd like to, I'm curious, I'd like to visit them." And this man, who ironically was named Solomon, or Salamone in Portuguese, he gave him some really bad comments and said, "Well, you know, they're an American church, you know how Americans are in relation to Black's. You're a Black, probably you're not going to be welcomed." "Besides," Solomon said – Mr. Solomon said, "I heard that you can only go to one of their churches if you're invited by one of the members." So my father put that aside, and so he didn't hear about the recent ban until the missionaries came. And that's one of the things that I refer to, regarding that first visit.
Because that was the very first question my father asked. Not, "What are your standards, your articles of faith?" or anything. He said, “Look, what's your Church's position regarding racism?" And what Elder McIntyre did was to give to my father the information they used to be given in the seventh lesson or the seventh discussion. My father received that on the very first visit. So he heard all that, so when the missionaries came in subsequent visits, there were no surprises anymore.
We already knew that, look, if by any chance, we decided to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that there will be some restrictions on our activity in the Church, namely, my father and I would not have been – would not be able to receive the priesthood and be ordained to offices in the priesthood.
So there were no surprises, nothing hidden from the very first encounter with the missionaries. This was already out in the open. So the missionaries, as I said, I had that experience with the testimony of Joseph Smith, with a Book of Mormon, and so when I heard – and I believe my father explained that to me if I recall correctly – you know, almost half a century – detail sometimes escapes me – but I was aware, as we received the missionary, the subsequent lessons, I was aware of that, and so my reaction was, well, you know, if everything else they're telling us so far is true, this must be true as well. Okay. Accept. I don't understand a whole lot –I was 13 years old, but “Okay. So if I am a descendant of Cain, and if I messed up in this pre-existence, okay. If they're saying this is, this is it.”
It was only later, years, as the years went by, that I started to reflect and say, "Well, some of these things kind of don't make much sense." If I'm here, you know, on earth with a veil of forgetfulness, and I've been so religious, and my parents, my grandparents, so religious, how come in the presence of God and the pre-existence, we would have been less than that? So that's why– but this was, you know, already a few years into membership in the Church, that I started to have these nagging questions a little bit. How's that possible?
But, so that's how my experience of the priesthood ban, it was not something that challenged my faith. I did receive a testimony, by the power of the Holy Ghost, a small one, but sufficient to take me and my parents also to the baptismal font, and to make the decision that we were going to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we were in it for the long run. It was not something, "Well, we'll test and see," – no. We were really embracing that as our new faith for life. And I'm glad to say that after almost half a century, we are still here.
Morgan Jones 13:28
That's great. I want to touch on a few things that you've said regarding these explanations that people tried to come up with to explain the priesthood ban. You've said that, "These efforts at explaining the ban were perhaps more harmful than the ban itself." Can you elaborate on that? Why were these explanations that people tried to come up with to explain away the priesthood ban so harmful?
Marcus Martins 13:58
Yes, let's review what those explanations were. One – that yes, Black members of the Church could not have access to priesthood ordinations or temple ordinances because Cain killed Abel thousands of years ago. Or they could not hold the priesthood or have access to temple ordinances, because in the pre-existence, they were fence-sitters, they were not, they were not so valiant in defending Jehovah, they were less valiant.
Those were the explanations I'm talking about. Now, the problem is that there was never a revelation on that. But they became part of the beliefs of the Church. Now you can end a ban, okay, like the First President of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles in 1978 ended, but to end a belief, to change a belief, is more complicated. And so you . . . when I was teaching at BYU in Provo, as a part time lecturer at BYU Provo while I was getting my PhD there, in the mid 90s, I would have the few African American students coming to my office at BYU and asking me, "Brother Martin, how do I handle this thing? You know, because I have a professor say that, 'Oh, you know, poor you, who were cursed.'" And I said, "Well, look, you know,” – this was almost 20 years after the end of the ban. And they were still talking in terms of "You’re cursed."
There was one student who told me that his mission president, when he asked his mission president, the mission president said, "Well, God forgave the Black race, and that's why you could hold the priesthood." And he said, "Brother Martins, what was the Black race forgiven for?" So this was mid 1990's, 1994, 95, 96. And so all yeah, there we were, almost 20 years after the ban, and these beliefs were still pervasive. And people were still passing them on, even though the priesthood ban did not exist anymore. So that's why I stated in a speech, that these pseudo doctrines that I used to call them, were more harmful than the ban, because the ban ended. And then the official statement was that well, you know, the latter, which became official declaration to the Doctrine and Covenants – speaks for itself. Well, it spoke for itself, but it didn't say, "Look,” you know, “We renounce all those things that we, that we theorized as possible explanations for the ban." That only came in 2013.
So it took 35 years for us to have an official statement saying, "We reject those statements from the past." And so now, here we are, now going into eight years since the statement, which is the race and the priesthood essay on the Church website. And so we're, we have a still a lot of minds that need to be retrained. Look, you know, really the scriptures say that the gospel is for everybody, in all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, and like Nephi said, "He invites all to come unto me, black and white" and the lighter Blacks, you know, darker Blacks, lighter whites, you know, darker whites, whatever.
Because remember, this is significant to the entire membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because it is not just a black and white issue. I'm speaking now as a sociologist here, if I may, there are racial tensions, you know, between whites and whites. Remember, those of us who were alive in 1990's, what happened in the Balkans. The whole conflict in the old Yugoslavia, you know, Serbians against Bosnians and Croatians and so on. So, well, for a lot of people, they will notice that, "Yeah, it's whites and whites." You go to some tribes in the African subcontinent. And it's this Black tribe thinking itself as higher in value than this other Black tribe and so on.
So there are all kinds, you know, of ethnic groups around the world, you name it – in Asia, here and there – who suffer racial discrimination because of these racial theories of the past that said, look if you don't conform to certain physical attributes that we consider desirable or quote on quote, "desirable" quote on quote, "normal," “we'll think less of you.” So it is a significant issue, not just because "Oh, because Black's couldn't hold the priesthood," – no. There are lessons here for the entire membership of the Church, anywhere in the world.
Morgan Jones 19:28
Yeah, I wanted to ask you, Brother Martins, you released a video in June of last year, where you talked about how we are at a crossroads in history, and you address the history of racism – not just within the Church, but in the world – and I thought you made some really interesting points about how, kind of, this seems to be a part of human nature. Racism tends to creep in, and I wondered, what do you wish members of the Church understood about racism and society? And then we can kind of come back to kind of the ideas surrounding the priesthood ban.
Marcus Martins 20:09
Very good. Yes, indeed. I recorded that video and I have two versions. One in English, one in Portuguese – my native language – on healing racism. And I call it a crossroad in history because of the events that were surrounding the context in which we were, especially in the United States. For the first time, we seem to witness what looked like a significant percentage of the population, I'm not sure if it came to be a majority of the population, but it was a significant enough percentage of the population who were willing to tackle that racial question. Do we really value people who look different than us, as our equals? Do we value their humanity? Do we value them, despite any differences in skin color or accent? Do we value them as citizens in the full exercise, fully vested in the privileges that our constitution provides? And in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do we see them as children of God, like me? My equals, my brothers, my sisters.
And so, because of that significant percentage that we saw willing to tackle that question, to address that question –I call it a crossroads in history. Because prior to that, what we saw, even during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, was that, yes, there was a significant percentage of the population, but it was mostly African Americans. And from the establishment – of the so called establishment – the idea, the response was, 'Well, you know, you guys are troublemakers, you're probably communists in disguise. You're being manipulated by Soviet Russia,” and so on. Even though we did have in 2020 voices like that, but they were a minority this time. That's why I call it, "This is a crossroads in history."
Because now, as a nation, the majority of us are willing to tackle this question. And we're willing to really consider what previous generations were reluctant to consider. Which is the equality that exists in our humanity, regardless of skin color, or nationality, or whatever. So, now, as far as the members of the Church, what I, what I explained in that video is essentially, that, yes, historically, we find racism, you know, throughout the history of the world.
In fact, one of the things that I argued is that, at the moment that Cain, valued Abel's properties more than he valued Abel's life, that alone was already some kind of discrimination, there. "I see you see as less than, and so I'm going to kill you, because I value your property more than I value your life." This is not the classical definition of racism, but at the root of racism is this devaluation of the other person. And so how did slavery come about? Whether among the Egyptians or among the Romans, or the Greeks, so many civilizations in the past had slavery. Well, they had to devalue the other population. Otherwise, they would not have enslaved them and considered them merchandise.
So in order to combat that, what seems to be an inherent, trait in, you know, human experience, we need the influence of the power of the Holy Ghost in great magnitude, in great brightness. We need such a powerful testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His role as Savior, Redeemer of all humankind, that we will say, "Yes, these are my brothers and sisters. Because Jesus Christ paid for them. Jesus Christ payed the price for them. They are as valued in the sight of God as I am." So for me, this is the only way to effectively root out racism. It's the influence of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Morgan Jones 25:06
Yeah. I want to talk a little bit more about that idea and dig in to the idea that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the answer for the question that – I think you're right. I think people in our world, specifically in the United States, are more eager to talk about this topic than they ever have been before. I'll just say, we have seen – even just at LDS Living – when we did stuff before June of last year on this topic, it was of interest, but definitely not as much as it was after that. And it was like, after June of last year, people were listening, and we had people's attention. And I think that that matters. And I think when you have people's attention, it's important to use our voices.
And so I want to touch on a few things that you've said about this, and then kind of end – if it's okay with you – I'd love to come back to this idea of the Atonement, as, you know, being the answer for this. But in a talk for Fair Mormon, you said, "Other religious denominations of that time, also responded to that uncertainty in ways that by today's standard are no less problematic." – And here you're talking about pre-1978 – "denominations open their priesthoods to people of different races, but generally they did so in strictly segregated congregations. The top Latter-day Saint leadership of the 19th century did not segregate their congregations and clearly pointed out that future divine direction would clear the matter up. We believe that such direction finally came in 1978."
"In the meantime, members and lay leaders attempted on their own to find possible reasons for the existence of the ban. These attempts led to the unofficial adoption of pre-existing ideas about the Black race, well known in other religious traditions for centuries." You also though, have said, "I often receive a lot of questions about my experiences. I love my religion, and I've never found in its official doctrine, any evidence of racism." And I love Brother Martins, that you acknowledge the detrimental aspect of some of these pre-existing ideas, but then you also are very clear in the fact that in the official doctrine of the Church, you've never found evidence of racism.
I want to ask you, in regard to the end of the priesthood ban, at that point, you were – you had been a member for six years, and you were - were you on a mission? Or had you been called on a mission when you became the first missionary – the first Black missionary – to receive the priesthood?
Marcus Martins 28:00
Black members of the church prior to 1978, could not serve missions.
Morgan Jones 28:05
Marcus Martins 28:05
And we could hold certain callings, locally, wards and stakes, which did happen with my family – immediately. In fact, two weeks after our baptism, my father was called as a gospel doctrine teacher in Sunday School. Which was remarkable, because the gospel doctrine class in those days, in 1972 was for members with more than one year of membership. But the Branch President there in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, you know, knew that my father was an executive for the National Oil Company, and also, that a couple of nights a week, he was an assistant professor of finance and accounting at Rio de Janeiro State University. And so he thought, "Well, if you can teach accounting and finance at the university, you can teach gospel doctrine."
Gave him a copy of Elder James Talmage's book, "Articles of Faith," and said, "Well, next week will be” – whatever the lesson was, and that was it. No teacher manual, nothing. So we always had local callings, but no full time issues. Now, what happened then was that in 1978, I was engaged to be married. My sweetheart is white, she had just returned from her mission in San Paolo, Brazil. And so, since I could not serve a mission, I was 19 years old, she was a little older than I. In fact that was a time when the First Presidency allowed sisters to leave on the their missions at age 19, and so she took advantage of that.
And so I was not planning to serve a mission at all, because I couldn't even dream of serving a mission. So when the revelation came, you know, we were well advanced – this was June of 78 – and our wedding was scheduled for August 5. So we were, you know, really well advanced in our preparations for our marriage. We were already receiving wedding gifts from family and friends. And so when my Stake President invited me for an interview to talk about the mission. I thought, "You gotta be kidding me. You know, I'm getting married in two months. And you want to talk about mission? Forget it."
And so I resisted the idea of serving a mission, until three weeks before the wedding. When because – and I'm sad to say that it was not a change of heart, simply I yielded to the pressure of the local members and leaders – there were people who were no longer talking to me, and they were saying really nasty things. They’d say, "Yeah, you messed up in the pre-existence, and you're messing up again, you are not valiant. They are not being valiant here again," which I was – I was okay, I could handle that.
The problem is that about three weeks before the wedding, they turned their backs on my sweetheart, to my fiancée, and said, "No, she's the one who doesn't have faith. She is the one." And so now look, no, now you're attacking my woman. I love her, and I don't want her to have to face this. And so I said, "Okay, fine. Okay, I'll serve a mission." Well, when I said that I was going to serve a mission, then the criticism changed. And instead, "Are you crazy? Are you out of your mind? You are walking out on her, right? You're getting cold feet. And you're using the mission as an excuse? How dare you? Shame on you."
I called my Stake President and said, "Look, you know, you got to help me out here, I can't stand this." Okay, I was bad because I was not going on a mission, now I'm bad because I'm going on a mission? Get me out of here!
Morgan Jones 31:59
You couldn't win.
Marcus Martins 31:59
Yeah, so he called the missionary department. And they said, "Well, okay, we can make arrangements, we'll expedite his papers. And let's have him enter the MTC, in the very next group." And the MTC was brand new in Brazil, was in downtown San Paolo, in an old house property the Church had in downtown San Paolo. And so they told me to go to the MTC and wait for my mission call, in the field.
So I had not even been called on a mission yet, and I was at the MTC and so I had been on the mission for about a month when I finally received my letter with my mission call. So it was kind of a strange way that things happen. And that's how I became the first Black member to serve a full time mission after the revelation.
Sorry, it's not a faith promoting story. It does not make me a hero of the Restoration or anything. I'm glad I served a full time mission. In fact, I was delighted with the fact that – because I always have this question in my mind, I said, looking you know, gee, how bad it was for me, you know, to go on a mission for that reason, you know to escape, the pressure, the criticism. I have a testimony. I love the Lord. I love missionary work, I love to teach the gospel, but I went on my mission, you know, for that reason, and I didn't like that.
And so, 33 years later, I was called to preside that same mission. And for me, that's, "Okay, now I'm going to the Brazil San Paolo North mission because my heart is totally pure in serving as a, as a missionary again," So for me, it took us all those years to finally say, "Whoa, okay, now I went on a mission, a full time mission for the right reasons, not because of pressure or anything." But so yeah, my experience, you know, going on a mission was a, kind of a, I would say – less than faith promoting.
Morgan Jones 34:20
Well, I think – you know, it's interesting to hear you say that and to hear you say, you know, that you don't feel like you're a hero of the Restoration. I wonder, in the moment, when you were receiving the priesthood. Did you understand the significance of that and being the first Black missionary? Or was that something that you were – just kind of came along with the mission?
Marcus Martins 34:45
Well, of course, we had been members of the Church for six years when the revelation came in 1978. And as I said, my father and I were, you know, students of the gospel. We read a lot. We had pretty much all items of Church literature in Portuguese. In 1976, January of 76, so 45 years ago, this month. I had a chance to visit the United States and I visited Salt Lake City, I mailed to myself three boxes of books, Church literature. And I read a lot of those books.
And we understood very well, the priesthood. In fact, when I turned 16, and I mentioned this in some firesides – youth fireside that I've spoken in the past – when I turned 16 years old, my father instructed me to learn how to perform the ordinances that a priest would perform. Baptism, the sacrament. And I told him, "Well, you know, I'm not going to be a priest, why do I have to do that?" He said, "Because that's what a 16 year old young man in the Church needs to do." So I had been studying the priesthood and its ordinances and how to perform them, since I was 16 years old.
So for three years, I had been intensively studying about the priesthood. So when the revelation came, we knew very well. In fact, when I turned 18, I learned how to perform the ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood. How to give blessings, how to confirm people, I had been studying these ordinances. So we knew very well the significance.
Now, during my mission, I did actually push aside – I tended not to focus so much on the historical aspect. I, I tend to look at myself, "I'm just another missionary. I'm just another missionary. There's nothing special about me." Fortunately, my mission president sent me, my first areas, so I spent my first six months pretty much in areas where people did not read the Church News, because there had been an article in the Church News about the first three Black members to serve as full time missionaries, myself, Jacques Jonassaint sent originally from Haiti, who had been baptized in Canada, and Sister Mary Sturlaugson-Eyer. I forget where she was from, but I believe she was studying at BYU in 1978. So there was an article in the Church News with our teachers. But the place where I was in the hinterlands of Brazil, in my first six months of the mission, people didn't read the Church News, so I was spared of all the attention. By the time I came to San Paolo, the big city, I was old news. Okay, there were other, few, you know, dark skinned missionaries, almost nothing new anymore.
Yeah, yeah. That helped a lot. That helped a lot.
Morgan Jones 38:01
Yeah. Brother Martins, you have shared some experiences that you've had with racism in the Church. And I think it's important to talk about these things, because, one, I think that they kind of make us uncomfortable. And I think being uncomfortable is sometimes a good thing. And two, I think that in order to recognize that something is not right, we have to listen to the experiences of other people and pay attention to the way that those things make us feel. And so I wondered if you could share an experience or two that you've had with racism, specifically in the Church, and what you've learned from those experiences.
Marcus Martins 38:50
First of all, as I often remind my audiences, is that – I'm not an African American. My experience was very different from the experience of African American members of the Church. And in Brazil, I was blessed with living in a, you know, part of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, that is very cosmopolitan and multiracial and multiethnic, whatever you want to call it. And so I was spared a lot of what people would call, you know, experience with discrimination and prejudice. But there were a few instances, and I spoke about them last year, for the first time, publicly. These are things that only close family members or very close friends knew about.
And when I recorded that video on healing the wounds of racism, I decided that it was time for me to put that on record. And I did not share those experiences as a way to complain, but I was trying to educate people, that said, look, you know, very often experiences people have with discriminatory statements or attitudes or prejudicial statements and attitudes are very small things. The problem is that we have this accumulation of a small thing here, another small thing here, another small thing here, another small, another small, until, you know, the . . .
Morgan Jones 40:29
They add up.
Marcus Martins 40:29
Yeah, until, you know, the cup, you know, runneth over. And people then explode. And so I was not trying to convey an idea, "Oh, poor me. Look at me." No. These were things that I pushed aside, I forgave the people. But yes, you know, right there on my mission, right at the beginning of my mission, there was an instance in which a missionary – one full time missionary from Southern Brazil, okay, it was not an American, it was a Brazilian from Southern Brazil –compared me with a monkey. And all the other missionaries thought that was funny.
And I was shocked. I was thinking like, look, you know, I'm a missionary here, I'm an Elder, like he is. And so I sensed that he doesn't see me as his equal. He sees me as a monkey. Unfortunately, my mission president was rather than new – or no, he didn't say anything. I don't know if he later talked to that Elder, but he didn't talk to me, didn't say anything. The whole thing happened there in a luncheon. All the missionaries were probably about, I don't know, 20 missionaries, between elders and sisters, and so I was humiliated in front of everybody. And that was it. It was just "funny."
I mentioned also another experience I had with an administrator at BYU in Provo, who, in our conversation, just an informal conversation, we met in front of the humanities building, and he said something along the lines of, "Oh, wow, you know," Well, he didn't say in so many words. But he said, "I understand you're trying to become a full time faculty at BYU." And I said, "Yeah, that'll be something that, you know, I'm thinking about seriously." And he told me, "Well, you understand that the brethren" – I don't know who the brethren were that he was referring to – "They're concerned about interracial marriage. And you understand that faculty members have to be a role model for the students." I don't know if he knew that my wife was white. I really don't know.
And I was shocked by that. But once again, I pushed it aside, forgave, forget about it. So it's things like that, that most people say, "Oh, come on, you're seeing too much. You're taking this too seriously." Yes. We don't take it too seriously when it is only once. But when it begins to accumulate, 10, 15, 20, 30, 50 of these little things, people start to get really, really upset. And as I said, my experience has been very different. I don't remember most of these things, I use them in that video only as illustrations of the kinds of things that, you know, people may face that others would look at it and say, "Oh, come on, that's not racism." Oh, maybe it isn't – but it hurts. And when you have those wounds accumulating in your mind, in the end it starts to hurt.
Morgan Jones 44:00
Right? Absolutely. Brother Martins, I appreciate you sharing those things. And I think that you are a great example of using those experiences and sharing those experiences in a way that is positive and looking for a solution, right? And you emphasized that we have to be willing to forgive while also acknowledging wrongdoing. In one of the talks that you gave, and I wondered for you, how do you look back on those experiences, and you know, you said, “I don't harbor any ill will toward those people that said hurtful things,” but also acknowledging those things so that we can move forward. How do we do that?
Marcus Martins 44:50
Well, I don't look back on those things. In fact, my attitude has always been, “Put this behind, put this behind.” But as I said, on the video, yeah, you know, I keep putting this garbage behind, but there is always somebody who brings it in front of me again, throw that in my face again. Oh, and that's what bothers a lot of people. But in my case, I'm a university professor and I have the privilege of serving in certain leadership capacity in the Church, as a bishop, a counselor, or a mission president, I received, you know, very respectful treatment, from the overwhelming majority of members of the Church, anywhere I go.
You know, whether – and I've been in a number of countries, you know, in Japan, in China, in Hong Kong, or Malaysia, Singapore – everywhere I've been – in England, Portugal, Spain, people were very respectful, very kind, very nice. And I believe that this comes precisely because these are individuals who have – who understood that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Atonement makes us all equal, because God really is no respecter of persons, and all are alike unto Him. And once we have a testimony and an understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that He paid for our sins, and that the worth of each individual soul is greater in the sight of God, because of the Atonement, then we don't have a tendency anymore to disparage or look down on anybody.
And so this is what prompts me to put these things behind me. Because if there are people – and there may very well be – you know, converts, somewhat recent converts to the Church, who still harbor racist feelings, and ideas and attitudes. For me, it's just a matter of time until they will come to that realization, that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we are of equal worth in the sight of God. And so I don't need to worry about this. So no, I don't keep reliving the past. I don't go on a daily basis, you know, think, "Oh, somebody told me this, somebody did this, somebody did that, or somebody did not do this, or," – no, I think to look much more to the future.
And in fact, that was a speech I gave at the Maxwell Institute at BYU in 2018, in which I was talking about this. This was one of those commemorations on the 40th anniversary of the revelation on 1978. And on that speech, I just said, “Okay, look, no, let me take a look at 40 years, after the 40th year, and I'm very optimistic about the future. You know, the fact that because of the testimony of Jesus Christ, will come eventually to a point – even before the Millennium – in which this will be, for most people, a thing of the past, Because since we're always receiving new converts, we'll always have to be revisiting these lessons, but it won't hurt as much.
Morgan Jones 48:36
Yeah, so well said, thank you so much. I really loved when you were talking about this in one of your YouTube videos, you said, you know, "What is the punishment for racism?" And you said, "You can see where I'm going with this, the punishment for racism has already been paid by the Savior." And I thought that was such a great thought, and certainly one that – and this is true of any sin – but certainly something that when we think about it in that way, we don't want to inflict any more pain than we already have, on Jesus Christ. And so I love that thought. And I, for me, it inspired me to want to be even better than I've been trying to be.
Brother Martins, what would you say is the importance of diversity in the kingdom of God? Why is diversity such an important thing in creating a Zion-like society?
Marcus Martins 49:36
Well, we're all descendants of Adam and Eve. So, if over the course of millennia, okay, our Heavenly Father chose to express our humanity, in genetic or whatever terms, you know, in different ways. I wonder if this is some kind of lesson for us about Himself in our modeling heaven. How universal they are. How – we know very little, we know very little about the generations of the Gods. Okay, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost and our Mother in heaven, we know very, very little. But I wonder – these are beings who can manipulate space, time and matter, you know, they have the fullness of the priesthood.
And as we've seen . . . they can manipulate space, time and matter. And I wonder if this idea of having His family here, spread all over the world, and expressing our humanity through differences in skin color, and facial or body features, you know, tall, short thin, large, and languages – I wonder if this is a way that Heavenly Father has found for us to understand a little better about Himself. About how He sees the universe, about how He views what it means to be Gods in embryo, a human, a mortal human being, who is preparing to become part of this nobility in a heavenly society.
I wonder if somehow these differences that we have here and on mortal earth are a lesson in disguise, for us to understand how God thinks, how God sees things, how He understands things, and how His love transcends all these artificial boundaries or artificial or temporary boundaries and differences. And that's how I want you to think about this. So yeah, you know, we, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is found all over the world. And we are a worldwide community. A worldwide family of Latter-day Saints. And we have a lot to teach one another. I use language as just one of – one example. How understanding, studying the scriptures, in multiple languages, allows us to expand our horizons of understanding, because there are certain things that we can only learn in certain languages.
I give a quick example here, how the translation of the Book of Mormon to Thai – for our brothers and sisters in Thailand – let us understand that, oh, wait, you know, the brother of Jared was the younger brother of Jared. How the certain words and key words – and I gave a speech about a year ago here at BYU Hawaii about the importance of language, and I called our religion an intelligent religion, and I talked about the role of language, how understanding key words and key terminology allows us to expand that – what is that called?– our horizon of understanding, of who God is, and the beauty and majesty of His plan of salvation, and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So that's how important diversity is in the Church of Jesus Christ.
Morgan Jones 53:51
Yeah, I love that. I think, you know, the expansiveness of a Worldwide Church, it makes sense that it would be a reflection of the expansiveness of the universe and of God.
Marcus Martins 54:05
Now, may I add kind of a parallel comment here about this – by saying this, regarding diversity, how important it is to the Church, I know that in the minds of a lot of Latter-day Saints, they look at the leadership of the Church, the general leadership of the Church, and they think in terms of representation. "Well, you know, we should have more people of color and people of different nationalities among the top leadership of the Church," and I'm talking here, general officers, general authorities, including the Quorum of the 12 Apostles.
Morgan Jones 54:47
Marcus Martins 54:47
I think there is some value in having that. However, I often remind people that the place where – proverbially – the rubber meets the road, okay, the rubber touches the road, is in our wards. Not in our stakes, it's in our wards. It's not so much in Salt Lake City, the Church office building with the church administration building. So yes, it's kind of nice to think in terms of, "Oh look, we have these Mexicans and Black Africans among the general authorities of the Church." Yeah, that's nice. That's cool. But that's not where the rubber meets the road. It will always be valuable to have those brethren who come from different cultural and national and linguistic backgrounds there, it will always be valuable. But that's not really where things happen.
It's like Elder LeGrand Richards made that comment once in a meeting in the Salt Lake temple. After some lengthy discussion, he reportedly said, "Well, Brethren, now all we need to do is to wait and to see if the bishops are going to do something about it." Because everything above the level of Bishop is, it's just talk. And so as I say, they have to say, "Yeah, people keep waiting, every time there is a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles? Are we're going to get a Mexican in the Quorum of the Twelve? Are we're gonna to get a Black African in the Quorum of the Twelve?" Eventually, we will. For me, personally, I don't think the Church is going to change dramatically, because of that.
You know, bringing foreigners into the Quorum of the Twelve apostles, if it would change anything. We would all be speaking German today. [Laughter] So, yeah, you know, although I should say, we know a lot about aviation, because of Elder Dieter F. Uchtodrf.
If there's one thing, yes, we incorporated a lot of aviation concepts and principles into our understanding, our study of the gospel because of him. So I have to grant that. But we're not eating sauerkrauts and schnitzels in our ward parties, unless, we are in Germany, or Austria, or somewhere like that.
Morgan Jones 57:14
And we're also not all pilots.
Marcus Martins 57:16
No, we're not all pilots.
Morgan Jones 57:17
Well, Brother Martins, thank you so much for sharing so many wonderful thoughts with us, you are just such a joy to talk with. My last question for you is what does it mean to you, to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Marcus Martins 57:35
Yeah, since you invited me – and I, once again, thank you very much for this opportunity to spend this time with you. And I hope those who are listening to our podcast, you know, can derive some benefit from my insights – but since you contacted me, I've been thinking about this expression, "all in." And for me, it means immersion. To be totally immersed in the light that comes from heaven, and the power of the Holy Ghost. Totally immersed in the light of Christ, and totally committed to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Our hearts, our minds, continually thinking about, what would the Savior do, if he were in my place? Or what would the Savior have me do, in this situation I'm living in? That's for me, what I would say in a very brief statement, what it means to me to be all in, in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Morgan Jones 58:42
Thank you so much.
Marcus Martins 58:44
Morgan Jones 58:47
We are so grateful to Marcus Martins for joining us. You can hear more about Brother Martins story on episode five of the new Joseph Smith papers podcast, The Priesthood Restored, which is available now.
On Friday at 11AM Mountain Time, we will be joined by the host of The Priesthood Restored, Spencer McBride, for a special Instagram Live, so be sure to check out our Instagram, which is @Allin.podcast for more information.
We are so thankful to Derek Campbell, who makes this podcast sound good every single week, and thank you so much for listening. We love being with you and we'll look forward to seeing you on Instagram on Friday.