Latter-day Saint Life

Standing in a Celestial Room, the Beautiful Witness This Black Family Had a Year Before the Priesthood Revelation


A powerful article onlds.orgshares the faithful stories of black members of the Church and their experiences before and after the priesthood revelation in 1978. This is the story of the Martins family.

In the early 1970s, Helvécio and Rudá Martins were searching for religious truth in Brazil. At the encouragement of Rudá’s family, the couple had spent several years practicing Macumba, a faith that mixed African traditions, Catholic teachings, and spiritualism. Gradually, however, they began to feel that Macumba was not fulfilling their spiritual needs or bringing them closer to deceased family members and ancestors.

In 1972, two LDS missionaries knocked on their door. Helvécio was interested but had one pressing concern. “Given that your church is headquartered in the United States, a country with a history of racial conflict,” he asked, “how does your religion treat blacks? Are they allowed into the church?”

Helvécio remembered the older missionary “nervously squirm[ing] in his chair” in response. Before answering, the missionaries asked to pray with Helvécio, Rudá, and the children. They then shared the story of the Restoration and explained the priesthood and temple restriction to the best of their understanding. Helvécio felt satisfied enough by their answer to focus on their other new teachings. Within a few months, encouraged by “the spirit of the talks . . . and the love of the members” at church, Helvécio and Rudá were baptized. At the time, they were happy to let the gospel improve their lives and to wait—they assumed until the Millennium—for some priesthood-related blessings.

About a year after their baptisms, though, the Martins family was surprised when their patriarchal blessings suggested that they would be sealed together as a family in this life and that their son Marcus would serve a mission. Not wanting to be disappointed, they held to their understanding that they would wait for such blessings until Christ’s return. At the same time, wanting to be prepared for whatever the Lord had planned, they opened a mission savings account for Marcus.

Over the next few years, as the Martins family grew in the Church, members gave them support—and sometimes uncomfortable expressions of sympathy. On one occasion, a bishop said he felt Helvécio’s greatest challenge was to remain faithful in the Church without being ordained to the priesthood. “Bishop,” Helvécio replied, “I would be grateful if it were my greatest trial.”

In 1977, Helvécio and Rudá were invited to tour the construction site of the São Paulo Brazil Temple because of Helvécio’s calling as the Church’s regional public relations director. During the tour, both Helvécio and Rudá stopped at what they later learned was the site of the celestial room. “A powerful spirit touched our hearts,” Helvécio recalled. “We hugged each other and cried, not really understanding why.”

Two years later, at the temple’s cornerstone ceremony, President Spencer W. Kimball called Helvécio to his side. “Brother Martins,” he counseled, “what is necessary for you is fidelity. Remain faithful and you will enjoy all the blessings of the gospel.”

Lead images from Mormon Newsroom and Pinterest
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