In the Saturday afternoon session of the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an African-American man was sustained as a General Authority Seventy. This is the first time than an African-American general authority is called in 189-year history of the LDS Church.
Elder Peter Johnson, 52, was previously serving in the southeastern United States as an Area Seventy for the church. Johnson was born in New York City. Johnson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Southern Utah University, and his PhD in accounting from Arizona State University.
General Authorities are among the highest levels of leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ, and have administrative and religious authority within the church.
The first first person of African descent to have been called as a General Authority was Helvécio Martins (27 July 1930 – 14 May 2005).
Helvécio Martins was born to descendants of African slaves in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With great faith, Helvétio Martins joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1972, despite his knowledge that the LDS Church did not allow yet members of black African descent to hold the priesthood or to receive temple ordinances.
Following the lifting of the priesthood ban on 9 June 1978, Martins received the priesthood and his temple ordinances, and later served in the church as a bishop, counselor to a stake president, and as president of the Brazil Fortaleza Mission.
President Ezra Taft Benson in April 1990 called Helvécio Martins as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and Martins became the first black general authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.