Skip to main content

Marcus Martins envisions deeper spiritual understanding through mastery of ‘divine language’ in McKay Lecture

Marcus Martins stands at the podium and accepts recognition from President Tanner

A detailed study of earthly elements can help deepen our understanding of heavenly objects, and refine our religious practice, explained Dr. Marcus Martins. He was this year’s McKay Lecturer on Feb. 11 in the Cannon Activities Center, and his address was titled “The Third Century of an Intelligent Religion.”

“We are surrounded with symbolic elements that, once studied in detail, can give us greater views about God, His kingdom, our familial relationship with Him and the glories He has in store for us through His Plan of Salvation,” said Martins in his speech, which he later published on his website, in both English and Portuguese, complete with charts representing some specific elements.

Martins was introduced by Vice President for Academics John Bell, who added a personal reflection, relaying his experience of meeting Martins almost 45 years ago as teenagers. Bell recounted that Martins was visiting from Brazil, and the two were able to spend some time together before parting ways, only to be reunited years later at BYU–Hawaii.

Martins added, before beginning his speech, during his time in Bell’s hometown, he gave a talk in English for the first time in Bell’s home ward. “I remember, distinctively, John Bell sitting at the sacrament table to my left,” said Martins.

“Right after that trip, I started dating my sweetheart, Mirian, and here we are, after over four decades. I’m speaking again, and John Bell to my right and now my wife to my left. This is really a special occasion for me.”

Inoke Funaki, former BYUH professor and past McKay Lecturer in 2001, said he developed a deep appreciation for the David O. McKay Lectures partly because he remembers President McKay visiting Tonga when he was a boy.

Funaki said he remembers his father putting him on his shoulders to get a view of President McKay. When Funaki came to BYUH in 1964, he remembered hearing the McKay Lecture for the first time and being amazed at the speaker’s depth of understanding, which inspired him to embark on a path that would eventually lead him to give his lecture.

In his speech, Martins explained how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practice what he calls an “intelligent religion,” and how God expects His children to expand their intellectual capacities to deepen their spiritual understanding.

“How can we see as normal the fact that we have reached such developments in multiple sciences and yet remain generally speaking, kindergarteners in gospel scholarship?” questioned Martins.

“Yes, I believe that the Lord in His infinite wisdom has fixed priorities on what to reveal to His children,” he continued. “But I also believe that we are mentally and intellectually prepared for ever-increasing levels or magnitudes of light and truth or intelligence from on high, if it be the Lord’s will to grant them to us.”

Martins used the example of what he called “divine language” to illustrate how students of the gospel can overcome feelings of gospel study being “the same old stuff.”

He explained how language is central to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, acknowledging the imperfections of mortal languages, and illustrating how these imperfections can be overcome through the use and study of symbols.

With these examples of symbolic elements, Martins illustrated, through his personal rhetorical questions and questions he has previously taken to professors of other subjects, how students of the gospel might blend their secular learning with their deep gospel ponderings.

“I was reminded of the value of thinking about things from different perspectives,” said Dan Scott, associate professor for the department of biochemistry and physical science, of his reaction to Martins’ lecture and the accompanying panel discussion in the Aloha Center Ballroom. “I think we have to seek for revelation constantly, and we can’t close our minds to thinking about anything that we’re interested in.”

Martins went on to explain how knowledge, such as a mastery of the divine language, is a power every member of the Church will need in the coming days.

“The quality and durability of our religious practice, or our discipleship, depends on our understanding of the divine language,” said Martins. “The weapons to safeguard our individual faith cannot be deployed in Church offices and meetinghouses, because the battle for our souls is waged in the innermost recesses of our hearts and minds.”

Hinanui Tahiata, a freshman from Tahiti studying biochemistry, said she enjoyed Martins’ focus on knowledge being a divine characteristic.

“I liked it when he was talking about the fact that God is a god because he has knowledge, and if we want to become a god, we have to get a lot of knowledge,” said Tahiata.

“He also said devil angels, or servants of Satan, can have power upon us because they have knowledge too. It helped me realize if we want to be able to overcome temptations and Satan’s influence in our lives, we need to deepen our knowledge of the gospel.”

Before Martins’ speech, the 2021 McKay Lecturer was announced as Dr. Troy Smith, a professor in the faculty of business and government.