Elder Hugo E. Martinez: The Caribbean’s First General Authority

Contributed By By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 19 May 2014

Elder Hugo E. Martinez and Sister Nuria M. Martinez pose for a photo in Salt Lake City, Monday, April 7, 2014.  Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • In 1982 Elder Martinez and his wife, Sister Nuria Alvarez de Martinez, were baptized into the Church.
  • He was called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy in the April 2014 general conference.

“We want to strengthen families and each individual’s faith in Jesus Christ. Our aim should be the temple, making covenants with the Lord and then being true to those covenants” —Elder Hugo E. Martinez of the Seventy

In 1982 Elder Hugo E. Martinez and his wife, Sister Nuria Alvarez de Martinez, were both in their medical residency training in Mississippi when an unexpected knock came at their front door.

Standing outside the doorway were two Mormon missionaries.

“We opened our home to them, but we knew nothing about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—we didn’t even know about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” said Elder Martinez.

Still, the gospel lessons shared by the elders immediately resonated with the young couple.

“When we received the first missionary lesson and the elders talked about eternal families, my mind was just blown away,” said Sister Martinez. “I thought that that was perfect. I could not get enough.”

The couple soon accepted the missionaries’ baptismal invitation.

“And we have not looked back ever since,” he said.

On April 5, Elder Martinez, 57, was sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, becoming the first General Authority from the Caribbean. He is understandably “overwhelmed” by his new assignment.

“But then a sweet sense of peace comes over me and lets me know that the Lord is in charge,” he said.

Elder and Sister Martinez learned early that service is an integral element of the Church. After their baptism, they were both put to work almost immediately in their Mississippi ward. Sister Martinez was called to be a visiting teacher and given a job in the Primary. Later came a call to be the ward Young Women president.

“I was so scared,” she said, shaking her head.

Elder Martinez, meanwhile, was called to be a youth Sunday School teacher. He learned the principles of the gospel even as he taught them to his young students.

“The doctrines that I learned teaching that class remain with me today.”

Their growing testimonies were also fortified by the strong examples of their fellow ward members. Their loving friendship made the Martinezes feel immediately at home in their new church. They learned early of the power of fellowshipping in working with new converts.

A year and one month after their baptism, the couple was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on October 3, 1983.

Today they are the parents of five children and have five granddaughters.

Elder Martinez was born in 1957 in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, to Hugo E. Martinez-Sandin and Odalist Morales-Alamo de Martinez. While a young man, he chose to follow his father’s professional path and become a physician. He received his medical degree in Puerto Rico and then completed his residency at the University of Mississippi in 1984.

The Martinezes enjoyed living in Mississippi. But after Elder Martinez completed his residency, they decided to return to Puerto Rico. Their hearts belonged to the island of their youth.

“We felt we needed to go back and strengthen the Church in Puerto Rico,” he said.

Other difficult choices faced the young couple. Their first child arrived a short time after they were sealed. Others soon arrived. Sister Martinez decided she would practice pediatrics only part-time so she could be at home with her children.

“That meant I had to bring home the rice and the beans,” said Elder Martinez, smiling.

Sister Martinez would prove adroit at managing her time. Even while caring for her children, she was able to return to school, earn a law degree, and open her own business.

Elder Martinez, meanwhile, would learn the ins and outs of Church leadership through a variety of callings. He served as a bishop, a counselor in a stake presidency, a district president, and a counselor in the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission presidency.

He marvels at the potential for the Church throughout the vast and culturally diverse Caribbean.

“The Church grows quite easily there, and we have wonderful leadership in each area of the Caribbean,” he said. “It is an area rich in good families. There are strong priesthood holders and strong sisters.”

The Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple spiritually anchors the entire region, he added.

Elder Martinez retired from his medical practice in 2004. The family was prepared to serve the Lord however He saw fit.

Soon a call came for Elder Martinez to preside over the Guatemala Guatemala City Central Mission. There they enjoyed priceless personal growth even as they labored shoulder to shoulder with the full-time missionaries and the Guatemalan members.

“It was a wonderful experience,” said Sister Martinez. “It was a period of learning and growth and happiness because the joy of serving was with us.”

The work, added Elder Martinez, was “hard, yet joyful.”

“The most wonderful part of our mission was seeing the Lord bless our family in Guatemala and growing alongside the missionaries,” he said.

After returning to Puerto Rico, Elder Martinez served as an Area Seventy—a position he held until his recent call to be a General Authority. He appreciates being on the front lines of the growing Church during this historic period of hastening.

“The Lord has instructed His leaders that this is His time and His work. Everything that has been done in the past has prepared us for this moment. We can see the hand of the Lord allowing us to go forward.”

Elder and Sister Martinez know they are also serving during a period of great challenge in nations across the globe. Latter-day Saint families everywhere face difficult trials.

Safety, testified Sister Martinez, is found in the basics: daily prayers, scripture study, and family home evening.

Elder Martinez, meanwhile, is humbled by the opportunity to serve his fellow members worldwide.

“We want to strengthen families and each individual’s faith in Jesus Christ,” he said. “Our aim should be the temple, making covenants with the Lord and then being true to those covenants.”

FAMILY: Full name: Hugo Edgardo Martinez. Born in 1957 in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, to Hugo E. Martinez-Sandin and Odalisa Morales-Alamo. Wife: Nuria Merced Alvarez de Martinez. Children: Nuria Merced de Muñoz (Noel Alexander), Lyvia Alaida, Andres Daniel (Leidi Vanessa), Sara Virginia, and Gabriel Andres. Five grandchildren.

EDUCATION: Doctor in medicine from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine in 1981. Family medicine specialty from the University of Mississippi Medical Center Family Medicine Residency in 1984.

EMPLOYMENT: Private family medical practice in Arecibo, Puerto Rico (1984–2004); faculty member at the Family Medicine Residency of the Dr. Alejandro Otero Lopez Hospital in Manatí, Puerto Rico (1984–1995); medical director for MMM Healthcare, Inc., San Juan, Puerto Rico (2001–2003).

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Support staff to the “Coro de Campanas Jóvenes de Sión,” a community-based handbell choir (2009 to the present).

CHURCH SERVICE: Sunday School teacher, elders quorum president, bishop, counselor in a stake presidency, district president, counselor in the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission, president of the Guatemala Guatemala City Central Mission (2005–2008), Area Seventy.