Editor's note: Noting the 30th anniversary of the 1978 priesthood
revelation, this is the first in a series of profiles on black Mormons
and their families. Marcus Martins' life story has been written before. His noteworthy, and
in some cases unprecedented, experiences as a black member of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are well-chronicled, and
Martins says he enjoys reading such accounts."These stories really inspired me," he said. "I only wish they were true."Martins
laughs when discussing how the details of some accounts aren't entirely
accurate. The heart of his story, however, is still worthy of print,
and there is inspiration to spare in even the most basic retelling.Martins
insists he is just an ordinary church member but concedes that his
experiences have been "extraordinary." The story begins with his
family's conversion in 1972 and their activity in the church at a time
when their African ancestry made certain opportunities unavailable. The
1978 revelation allowing all worthy male members to hold the priesthood
regardless of race opened a new chapter, and the timing of the event
made Martins an unexpected pioneer.While he does not consider
himself an activist, Martins' educational and professional pursuits
have afforded him the opportunity to share his story and enlighten
church members on the priesthood restriction and race relations in the
LDS Church."I suppose that not because of ourselves, but
because of the nature of those experiences, those served as ... a
visible example to others of the universality of the gospel and the
universal nature of the blessings of the gospel," Martins said."We
can all come into the church and be one. My story is just another
example of the universal availability of the blessings of the gospel."MARCUS MARTINS IS
the descendant of European, African and American Indian ancestors who
grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His father, the late Helvécio
Martins, was a respected professional who worked as an executive for a
national oil company and as a university professor.But when the
family was baptized into the LDS Church in 1972, their African ancestry
prohibited Martins, who was 13 at the time, and his father from being
priesthood holders. Martins, now 49, says the family never experienced
"any crisis of faith.""We saw this as just the cost of
membership in the church," he said. "Because of our desire, and we had
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