At age 23, Douglas Martin began regularly attending Church with his girlfriend, Amelia Wati Crawford. Although he couldn’t understand much of what was said in her all-Māori Latter-day Saint congregation, Douglas immediately felt at home there. “As soon as I started investigating the Church, her parents and family and the whole Latter-day Saint community were kindness and love themselves,” he recalled. Though he’d previously been far more interested in surfing and rugby than in religion, he soon found himself making significant changes in his life for the gospel’s sake. Douglas’s parents and friends, however, remained suspicious of both Māori and Latter-day Saint communities and pressured Douglas to break ties. “It upset me that I was changing my life for the better,” he recalled, “and yet everyone close to me was giving me such a hard time about it.” Undeterred, Douglas was baptized in a creek in Korongata in 1951, still nursing a broken collarbone from a recent rugby injury.
Now a Church member, Douglas asked Wati to marry him. But shortly after their engagement, she accepted a call to serve a full-time mission as secretary to the labor missionary program and left to serve in Temple View on the outskirts of Auckland. To Wati’s delight, Douglas was soon also called to serve a mission in Auckland. At first, Wati had worried that Douglas had agreed to be baptized just to marry her. “Our mission calls served as a nice test,” she recalled. “I soon realized he was genuinely converted to the gospel for all the right reasons.” When the two returned, they traveled to Hawaii to be sealed in the temple. Wati’s father paid for the trip so Douglas wouldn’t have to sell his car.
The Martins’ life was good but not without its challenges. For 10 years, Douglas and Wati were unable to have children. In a Māori expression of trust and respect, Wati’s sister, who had a large family, gave two of her younger children to the childless couple to raise. “It was the ultimate expression of love,” Douglas said. Eventually, Wati also gave birth to two boys. However, the youngest boy, Craig, died in a drowning accident when he was still a toddler. “I loved that child as much as any father could love any son,” Douglas said. Despite the tragedy, he and Wati moved forward, determined to live so that they could spend the next life together with their family in heaven, “where one of us has already gone.”
After hearing Church President Spencer W. Kimball’s call for more senior couples to serve as full-time missionaries, Douglas and Wati developed a desire to serve a mission together. They made plans for Douglas to retire at 60 so the two could prepare for missionary service. Then one morning in March 1987, they received a surprise phone call from President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency, who asked if Douglas would serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy. The Martins were humbled by the call and grateful they had heeded President Kimball’s admonition to prepare for service.
Elder Martin was the first man from New Zealand to serve as a General Authority. The Martins traveled widely together to fulfill various assignments, and for a time, Elder Martin was called to the Pacific Area Presidency, serving the people of New Zealand and many other Pacific nations.