Modern pioneer will always be linked to 1978 revelation

Published: Wednesday, April 30 2008 11:37 p.m. MDT

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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