Friend to Friend
previous next

“Friend to Friend,” Friend, Jan. 1992, 6

Friend to Friend

Teach them the word of God with all diligence (Jacob 1:19).

Elder Helvecio Martins

I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As the eldest of eight children, I left school when I was twelve years old to help support my family. After I grew up and married, my wife, Ruda, encouraged me to go back to school, and I earned my high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

But even when I was the financial management comptroller for Petrobras, the biggest oil company in Brazil, and I had the respect of my colleagues, I was not satisfied. I did not feel happy; I felt confused. I thought that the solution would be religion.

I had a wonderful wife and two children, Marcus and Marisa. (Later, another son and daughter, Raphael and Aline, were born.) We were not involved in a church at that time, and I told my wife that it would be best for us and for our children to find one. Many of my friends at work were members of different religions, so my family and I went to five or six different churches.

One day we found on our door a card with a picture of Jesus Christ on one side and the name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the other. I had never heard of this Church, and I asked my assistant at work, “What is this Church?”

He said, “Boss, don’t go there.”

But Heavenly Father had heard my family’s prayers. A few days later, in April of 1972, the missionaries knocked at our door. That changed our lives. We received all the discussions in one night. I asked and asked and asked questions. The missionaries answered my questions about the Church and about God and Jesus Christ and about the standing of black people in the Church. Elder Steve Richards and Elder Thomas McIntire were two very special missionaries, and they were prepared for that moment. All my questions were answered. The Holy Ghost testified all the time that these things were true.

When they left my house, I was completely changed. With reverence and respect, my family attended the meetings and activities, but we postponed baptism because of fear of negative reactions from our extended families.

Then we attended a district conference in Rio de Janeiro. The inspired messages from the pulpit prepared our hearts for an unforgettable moment. The counselor in the mission presidency bore his testimony about Jesus Christ, after which the congregation sang “I Need Thee Every Hour.” In that moment, the Holy Ghost reconfirmed the truthfulness of the things we already knew: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the Lord’s kingdom on earth, the road back to the celestial mansion of our Eternal Father.

My wife and I and Marcus—Marisa wasn’t old enough yet—were baptized July 2, 1972, the most important date in our lives. All the members of our branch attended our baptisms.

I had respect for all the doctrine and for the priesthood. Because I couldn’t hold the priesthood at that time, people often asked me, “What about the priesthood?” I told them that I had complete acceptance of it.

During the cornerstone laying of the São Paulo Temple, President Spencer W. Kimball motioned for me to come to him. I looked around to see whom he was looking at. He repeated the gesture. I did not understand. Elder James E. Faust looked at me and mouthed, “Come here. He wants to talk to you.” I went. President Kimball shook my hand and took hold of my arm and said, “Brother, what is necessary for you is faithfulness. Remain faithful, and you will enjoy all the blessings of the Church.”

A little more than a year later, in June 1978, we received a telephone call from a friend in Salt Lake City, Utah, telling us that President Kimball had announced the revelation* that all worthy males could hold the priesthood. I shall not forget that day. My wife cried. I cried. We knelt to thank our Heavenly Father. After that, the phone rang many, many times. Friends from the United States and Brazil called us.

The hand of the Lord is resting upon Brazil. It is a special country. We have many challenges, but we have a very special people who are friendly and accepting of the missionaries’ message.

Illustrated by Larry Winborg