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

the desire to join the church, we could just say that this is the way

the church operates. ... We had to accept it, so we did."The

Martins family became part of a branch that included neighbors and

members who were welcoming. Helvécio Martins was called as a gospel

doctrine teacher just two weeks after his baptism, and just three

months after the family's conversion, Martins' father and mother, Ruda

Martins, both received callings in the newly established stake in Rio

de Janeiro. Marcus Martins himself served as secretary in the Young Men

program."We were fully integrated, fully fellowshipped in the

church," he said. "These issues about the priesthood ban were in the

background."But they were still present.Martins

describes these issues as "clouds." In his book "Setting the Record

Straight: Blacks and the Mormon Priesthood," Martins writes about going

from a "somewhat privileged social standing" to being "categorized as

'cursed, less valiant, fence-sitters, Cain's lineage."' Perceptions of

the priesthood restriction were founded in explanations members often

ascribed to the policy, such as the notion that blacks were not as

faithful in the premortal existence. In his book, Martins addresses

these perceptions and calls them "speculative ideas and hypotheses

developed as man-made attempts to understand the rationale and possible

reasons for the ban."When Martins was deciding whether to serve

a mission, a fellow ward member suggested that he should accept the

call so he wouldn't "mess up here" like he had in the pre-existence.

One church leader implied that Martins' fiancée and now wife, who is

white, would not be able to enter the celestial kingdom if they got

married."The fact is that we knew that people were looking upon

us as those people who messed up in the pre-existence," Martins said.

"It was there. ... We knew that these things were in people's mind."There was this cloud, if you will, following us around."Martins,

however, emphasizes that he was never mistreated or discriminated

against, and that such experiences were isolated and contrary to the

general acceptance and respect his family was received with. In fact,

in 1975 Helvécio Martins was called as a public affairs representative,

giving television and newspaper interviews about the church despite not

being allowed to hold the priesthood. General authorities traveling to

Brazil would often ask to meet Brother Martins.Despite some

members' perceptions, Martins says the priesthood ban was a "non-issue"

in Brazil. His father was never asked to speak about it, and Martins

remembers only two occasions when Helvécio Martins addressed the

restriction in church. While Marcus Martins himself has been requested

to speak on the issue more than 120 times in the United States

throughout his career, he's never been asked to do so in Brazil.BECAUSE OF THE

standing of his father, who in 1990 became a member of the LDS Church's

Second Quorum of the Seventy, and the culture he was raised in, Martins

realizes his story isn't typical."My experience in the church

was very, very different than my counterparts in the U.S. because of

where we were and who my father was," Martins said.When Martins

did experience what it was like to be a black member of the church in

the United States, his impressions were positive. After getting

married, having two children and working for 10 years as a systems

analyst in Brazil, Martins and his family moved to Provo, where he

obtained three degrees from Brigham Young University in a six-year span.Because

of his family situation, Martins and his wife, Mirian, were counseled

by a stake president that a community ward might better meet the needs

of their growing children. Martins was hesitant to leave the student

ward because of the "misconceptions and stereotypes" he had about

Americans being a little cold.His family's experience in the

Pleasant View 1st Ward, however, was far from frigid. The ward included

63 high priests who were much older than Martins, who was a former

bishop. But the men "took me in as one of their own," he said."People

received us with open arms and open hearts, and we made friends for

life and beyond," he said. "It was one of the greatest surprises for

me, as a Brazilian, the warmth and love we received."That's

when I finally came to the realization (that) this gospel of Jesus

Christ can really transcend nationalities and racial barriers."While

studying in Provo, Martins' career path veered away from business. He

began teaching religion courses at BYU, and upon graduation, Martins

and his family moved to Rexburg, Idaho, where he became a religion

instructor at Ricks College. In 2000, he joined the faculty at

BYU-Hawaii, where he is currently chairman of the department of

religious education.MARTINS' MEMBERSHIP IN the LDS Church, and the subsequent 1978 priesthood revelation, has changed his life in many facets.Martins

and Mirian Abelin Barbosa, who had just returned from a mission, were

engaged to be married on Aug. 8, 1978. Exactly two months before their

wedding date, President Spencer W. Kimball announced the revelation

that would allow Martins to hold the priesthood and enter the temple,

and Martins was challenged by his stake president to serve a mission.Initially,

Martins planned to continue with the wedding but was persuaded to serve

a mission by what he calls "a sense of duty." Mirian Martins, who lived

60 miles away in Petropolis, said she received a call from her fiancé,

who said they needed to talk."I was so surprised," she said.

Because she had a testimony of missionary work and because her fiancé

had encouraged her to serve a mission, she supported his decision. At

the same time, she felt like "(asking) my bishop if I can go back to

the mission field."Marcus Martins became the church's first

black member to serve a full-time mission post-1978. He downplays the

distinction, saying he was totally unprepared because he never thought

he'd have the opportunity. He served in the Brazil Sao Paulo North

Mission and describes himself as an "ordinary missionary" who "didn't

do anything special." After working for one year in some remote areas,

his unique status became "old news," he said.Mirian waited for

her missionary, and the couple married upon his return in 1980. While

they both prayed and fasted about the decision, Mirian Martins said

that prior to 1978, the priesthood restriction was cause for concern

about the marriage among some. The revelation, therefore, was a great

blessing to the couple."It was the answer to our prayers for everybody, not just for ourselves," she said.The

couple has four children and one grandchild. With Martins' son Flavio

recently being named bishop of a ward in Eagle Mountain, Utah, three

generations of the Martins family have served in that capacity.MARTINS DOESN'T CONSIDER

himself a representative of any race or nationality, acknowledging all

areas of his ancestry and calling himself "a citizen of the world." He

doesn't specialize in researching the priesthood ban or race relations,

and his professional emphasis is more on temples, globalization,

economics, immigration and technology, and how those concepts affect

the church.He's not an activist. In fact, his often-used phrase is: "This is a time for activity, and not activism."But

being the church's first black missionary following the priesthood

revelation does give Martins authority on the subject, and his career

as an educator at three church institutions has provided him with

opportunities to address the issue. This past semester, Martins spoke

at a devotional at the Orem LDS Institute of Religion."People think I know about this so they invite me to speak," he said.From his unique perspective, he sees a bright future and a capable church.In

his book, Martins suggests that parents "not allow the (priesthood ban)

issue to trouble our children and grandchildren." He has told his two

sons and two daughters that because of their race, others may have

misconceptions about them. Martins says that teaching his children has

been less about the priesthood ban and more about life and society in

general. More than counseling them on race relations, he has focused on

civility, citizenship and conviction."What I taught them is

that they should gain a testimony of the gospel, keep the commandments

and be active members and contributors in whatever place they lived,"

Martins said.He doesn't believe in color-blindness, but Martins

hopes that the generation of his granddaughter will be one where

"differences will be accepted as normal," he said."I have great hopes for the future. I am optimistic."After

36 years of membership in the church, Martins is convinced that as the

faithful become more global and diverse, The Church of Jesus Christ of

Latter-day Saints will continue to meet the needs of its members."I

like to say that the church is perfectly adapted to the circumstances

in which its members live," he said. "I don't have any concerns

whatsoever about the future of the church. We have challenges, but

we're in good hands."Martins profileName: Marcus Helvécio Tourinho de Assis MartinsHometown: Rio de Janeiro, BrazilMission: Brazil Sao Paulo North (1978-80)Family: Wife, Mirian; children, Flavio, Felipe, Cristina, Natalia; grandchild, HannahEducation:

Bachelor's (business management), master's (business administration),

Ph.D. (sociology of religion, race and ethnic relations) from Brigham

Young UniversityOccupation: Chairman, department of religious education, BYU-HawaiiChurch service:

Full-time missionary, bishop, high councilor, stake and ward executive

secretary, high priest group leader, ward mission leader, temple

officiator, instructor