As vice president of a large corporation, Helvécio Martins lived a comfortable life in Rio de Janeiro. He and his wife, Rudá, felt a spiritual longing and began to attend several local churches. Yet over time, their search left them unsatisfied. One night in April 1972, while stuck in a traffic jam, Helvécio cried out to God for help. “My God,” he thought, “why don’t you help us find that something that will bring relief, satisfaction, [and] joy?”
When the missionaries knocked on the Martins family’s door a few days later, Rudá turned the missionaries away, knowing her husband did not want visitors that evening. But Helvécio told her to find them and invite them back.
Helvécio and Rudá, both of African descent, pointedly asked the missionaries, “How does your religion treat blacks?” Concerned how the family would react to the Church’s restriction that prevented black members from entering the temple or holding the priesthood, the missionaries asked to pray with them first. They then explained to the best of their ability the Church’s teachings on priesthood and the temple. “The missionaries’ explanations seemed clear to me,” Helvécio said later. He remembered the “calmness, serenity, and happiness” that entered their home. The couple was soon baptized.
An excellent public speaker, Helvécio was asked to serve as a spokesperson for the Church in Brazil. In 1975, when the São Paulo Brazil Temple was announced, Helvécio served on the public relations committee for the temple. Though he understood he would not be able to enter the temple, Helvécio traveled the country, explaining its significance to others. When the cornerstone of the temple was laid, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke to Helvécio privately. “Remain faithful,” Kimball encouraged, “and you will enjoy all the blessings of the gospel.”
On June 8, 1978, Helvécio returned home from work to find Rudá very excited. “I have news, amazing news!” she declared. Earlier that day, the First Presidency had announced that temple blessings would be extended to all worthy members, regardless of race. “I could not contain my emotions,” Helvécio recalled. “We wept as we thanked our Father in Heaven.” They were soon sealed in the São Paulo Brazil Temple.
On March 31, 1990, Helvécio Martins became the first man of African descent to be called as a General Authority.