Serving together building family relationships

Sister Carole M. Stephens recently called to Relief Society general presidency

Carole Manzel Stephens has always had a respect for sacred and holy things. That reverence began when she was a young girl, as her family was sealed in the temple following her mother's conversion to the gospel.

"I remember walking into the sealing room when I was very small," said the new first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. "I can remember seeing all these people around the room and my parents at the altar. I remember someone kneeling in for my sister who had passed away. I didn't understand all that was happening, but I knew it was special. I was old enough to remember the temple was a sacred place."

Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, and her husband
Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, and her husband, Martin R. Stephens. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Born in March 1957 to Carl L. and Forest Manzel, Sister Stephens was the third of nine children and grew up in Ogden, Utah. She remembers well the examples her parents set of service and sacrifice, and what it means to make family and the Church their top priorities.

"The gospel was everything to them, and they showed us by example what Christlike service is," she said. "They taught us what service means — how to really serve."

As her parents served in different capacities, they made sure to always include their children.

"We did everything as a family," she said. "We served with our family. We had close relationships."

Sister Stephens remembers spending time working on the stake farm when she was a young girl and her father was in the bishopric.

"The counselor in the bishopric was responsible for the stake farm, so nearly every day my father would come home from work, our family would have a quick meal, and then we'd be on the farm weeding, hoeing and picking," she said. "And then I'd go with my dad in the truck and we'd take the beans down to the cannery where my mom would do the midnight to 4 a.m. shift canning the beans."

It was during those times of service that the Manzel family's relationships were strengthened — something that Sister Stephens and her husband, Martin "Marty" Stephens, have tried to do with their own six children and 15 grandchildren.

Carole Manzel and Marty Stephens met while attending Weber State College in Ogden, Utah, where she studied early childhood education and he studied business administration. Marty had returned from his mission to Japan and they were both participating in the institute choir at Weber State College.

"We have had a blessed and happy marriage," Brother Stephens said. "Carole and I felt comfortable with each other since we started dating. From the time we dated the first time I don't think we dated anyone else."

They were married in April 1976 in the Logan Utah Temple.

"We have lived a busy life ever since," he said. "I was working two jobs and she was working a job when we got married, and then we had kids come quickly."

Through the busyness over the years Sister Stephens said she and her husband have been a great "tag-team" as they have supported each other in different assignments — both in the community and at Church.

"In his callings I've tried to support him and in my callings he's supported me," Sister Stephens said. "We are a good tag team. We have tried to support each other the best we could."

Brother Stephens worked in politics as a city councilman, mayor of Farr West and in the Utah State Legislature while Sister Stephens has been involved with the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and American Mother organizations. Church callings kept them busy but, just as their parents had taught them, Brother and Sister Stephens tried to include their children in as much of their service as possible.

"We tried to involve our children in everything that we did politically and in the Church," she said. "When I was the ward Relief Society president I would take them with me to do service. I would have them help me deliver meals or visit people — whatever I could do to involve them. In politics, we did the same. They spent a lot of time at the capitol and going around neighborhoods hanging door hangers."

Strong relationships have come from being involved with good people, doing good things, Sister Stephens said.

"In all the busyness, we have found a lot of joy and happiness," she said.

Part of that joy has come through keeping a positive attitude, Sister Stephens said.

"We have found that if you have a positive attitude about what you are doing, you find good things," she said. "And if you are negative and frustrated that's what you get."

Along with her positive attitude, Sister Stephens has great faith that she attributes to a strong pioneer heritage filled with great examples.

"As I have read the journals of my ancestors and their experiences crossing the plains, I learned that they exercised great faith and learned how to work hard," she said. "Those combined attributes continue through generations. They passed that down to their children and they passed it down to me."

That faith and positive attitude is what Sister Stephens brings as she starts her new call to the Relief Society general presidency.

"No matter what age we are, no matter in what stage we are in life, no matter what our circumstances are, there are a few basic things to remember," she said. "We just need to stick with the plan, just keep moving one foot in front of the other every single day, through the adversity and hardship, progressing along the path, relying on the Atonement, we'll get there together.

"Heavenly Father has a plan for every one of us if we will just open ourselves up to His work, He will use us to do good. He needs us. He needs us to accomplish His work."

Biographical information

Family: Born in Ogden, Utah, on March 14, 1957, to Carl L. and Forest Manzel; married Martin "Marty" R. Stephens on April 22, 1976, in the Logan Utah Temple; six children; Jen Preston, Nate (Kristie) Stephens, Melanie (Joshua) Wright, Matthew (Asher) Stephens, Spencer Stephens, Daniel (Cassidy) Stephens; 15 grandchildren.

Education: Studied elementary education at Weber State College.

Community service: Member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, where she served as the Farr West camp captain, named Utah Mother of the Year by the American Mothers Inc.

Church service: Former member of the Relief Society general board; stake and ward Relief Society president; ward Young Women president; various callings in Primary, Young Women, Relief Society; Cub Scout leader; Church-service missionary and seminary teacher.

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