Coleen Kent Menlove recalls as a small child, just 8 years old, standing in sacrament meeting to share her growing testimony with the congregation.
But — at a time when members bearing testimonies did not always walk to the pulpit — no one could hear or see her, and three different attempts proved unsuccessful. Just as the young girl decided not to try again, a member of the bishopric interceded.
"I wasn't willing to make it a fourth try," she recalled. "But he came down and lovingly walked me to the pulpit so I could be seen and heard."
Now, years later, Sister Menlove, a member of the Mountain View 3rd Ward, Salt Lake Hillside Stake, who was sustained as the new Primary general president Oct. 2, hopes that she — as that bishop's counselor — will be able to help the young people of the Church develop and share their testimonies.
That day, he helped nurture the very thing that would help her succeed in life; he nurtured the testimony that would help her combat polio and later Bell's palsy, motivate her to attend college, marry in the temple, raise seven children, work as a part-time elementary school teacher after her children were raised, support a husband in his Church callings and serve in Church leadership positions.
The second of Robert D. and Marjorie Moon Kent's five children, she recalls happy days on the family's chicken farm, helping her parents gather eggs, clean coops and pluck feathers — all the while avoiding the roosters.
A few months after her sixth birthday, her family moved from the farm to a neighborhood in Salt Lake City.
Sister Menlove's father worked hard to provide for his family, first as a road engineer for the state of Utah, then as an organizer of the Utah State Employees Credit Union (now Mountain America Credit Union). "My father was interested in education," she recalled. "He was always trying to improve his life and give every opportunity to his children."
Her mother was "very diligent in teaching the youth of the Church." Sister Menlove said it gave her a sense of security to watch her mother do Primary work and share the joy that comes from faithful service.
It was Sister Menlove's parents that would literally carry her through one of her hard times in childhood. Shortly after her eight birthday, young Coleen Kent walked home from school with great pain throughout her body.
At a time when many children knew people who had died or been permanently disabled by polio, Sister Menlove does not remember feeling fear when she was diagnosed with the debilitating disease. "Maybe I was too young to recognize the consequences . . . but I don't remember fear; I just remember love."
Love from her father who tenderly carried her to the hospital for daily treatments, and from her mother who continued her therapy at home using soup cans as weights as she made her recovery.
A loving family, said Sister Menlove, is the most important thing children can have today. Much of her joy in life has come from raising her own family.
At the age of 16, Coleen Kent met Dean Walden Menlove, son of Walden and Alice Isaksen Menlove. They were married five years later, after Brother Menlove served in the army and as a missionary.
During their early years of marriage, Sister Menlove taught elementary school while her husband attended the University of Utah and worked during the summer as a salesman for a razor company. Together they traveled throughout Utah and Idaho, visiting drug stores and grocery stores.
It was a fun time for the young couple, who would throughout their lives find great joy in travel. When their children where younger they enjoyed camping with them. As they have gotten older the family has traveled to several international destinations. However, the Menloves' favorite family vacation occurred when they took all seven children on a three-week camping tour across the United States.
Some family members compared the trip "to being locked up in a bathroom for three weeks with your entire family." However, Sister Menlove explained, the children can point out certain times on that trip, which focused on Church history sites, when they felt the Spirit. "That was a really important part of building their testimonies," she said.
It was also an important time for the family to be together. The family also enjoyed being together as they constructed a playhouse in their backyard, using the parts of an old house that had been torn down. "The two-story Victorian playhouse has been a central part of our family," explained Brother Menlove, second counselor in the Salt Lake Hillside Stake presidency. "Our boys helped build it, our girls helped decorate it; now the grandchildren enjoy it."
Sister Menlove added that surprisingly the children were disappointed when the five-year project was finished. "They enjoyed the building and working together, and felt like that was over now and all they could do was play in it."
Sister Menlove said it is her family — as well as her testimony — that has helped her through hard times.
After the birth of one of her children, she suffered from Bell's palsy — a condition that made her lose control of the muscles in one side of her face. She could not smile or close one eye.
"I felt really alone for a while," she recalled. "I didn't feel acceptable because I looked different."
Sister Menlove noted that because she did not feel good about her appearance, she did not want to see anyone or go anywhere. Then her stake president gave her a blessing.
"That gave me the courage to come out to Church," she said. "At Church I felt the comfort and peace that I almost kept myself from because I tried to isolate myself. But really, what I needed was that love and support."
Ultimately, it was during a Church meeting that she began to regain some feeling in her face. "Now that I have my smile back, it is hard not to smile at people," she said.
Sister Menlove said she loves people, especially children. After receiving her new calling, she has given up her job as a part-time teacher — good work that was hard to leave. However, in exchange for educating children academically, she will now educate them spiritually. It is her hope some of the work she does will help Primary children across the world gain a testimony of Jesus Christ.
When Sister Menlove first received her new calling she had not worked in the Primary organization for several years. So she went to her ward Primary president and asked if she could help. During the next two weeks she was the substitute CTR 6 teacher, preparing several "wiggly" children for their ward's Primary sacrament meeting present- ation.
"That was important for me," she explained. "It helped me to understand some of the challenges, but it also helped me to feel again the blessing of serving in the Primary.
"I hope that parents will think of Primary as a place where the gospel principles they so lovingly teach their children in the home are reinforced and confirmed by the Spirit through the testimonies of teachers as they help children come unto Christ."