Meet Elder Matthew L. Carpenter: Life Unfolds in a Beautiful Pattern
Contributed By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
- He overcame his speaking anxiety by focusing on serving others.
- He looks forward to sharing his testimony of the Savior with the world.
- His experiences taught him to trust the promptings of the Spirit.
“In my patriarchal blessing it says, ‘Your life will unfold in a beautiful pattern.’ And it has been a beautiful pattern. But often you don’t see it looking forward; it becomes clear looking back.” —Elder Matthew L. Carpenter of the Seventy
As a young man just returned from serving in the Switzerland Geneva Mission, Matthew L. Carpenter looked over the congregation of people in his ward. He had learned much, had found success in finding people to teach the gospel, and had served in many leadership capacities.
Yet, finding the words to share his experience suddenly became difficult. “I remember standing up in sacrament meeting to report on my mission and something changed—the mantle of the missionary had left, and I had difficulty speaking.”
Prior to his mission, he had served as the Salt Lake Valley North student seminary president over seven schools. In that role he spoke with no anxiety to large groups, and he shared the stand in the Salt Lake Tabernacle with the prophet at the time, President Spencer W. Kimball, as well as Elder Thomas S. Monson.
But in that moment of speaking about his mission, something had changed. He became anxious speaking to more than a couple of people at a time.
“It was debilitating,” he said.
After several years of wrestling with this speaking anxiety, he was able to overcome it by focusing on those he served in the Church.
“It was service to others—focusing on them instead of internally—that has helped me to overcome that speaking anxiety,” he said.
As a newly called General Authority Seventy, speaking to large groups of Church members will be a large part of his call. Elder Carpenter stated he looks forward to sharing his witness of the Savior with the world.
“Now it is a joy,” he said. “Because I feel the Spirit come through me to teach and answer somebody else’s prayer.”
Matthew Leslie Carpenter was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 21, 1959, to Leone Erekson and Robert Allred Carpenter. He is the youngest of the couple’s eight children and grew up in a “believing home” with five older sisters and two older brothers.
He remembers the first time he recognized feeling the Spirit as a young boy sitting in junior Primary. He was approximately seven years old and noticed a light coming into the room through a window. He had a feeling of warmth he had not recognized before.
“I felt stirrings in my heart—and not because I was physically warm,” he said. “At that moment I knew God was real. I felt it.”
He remembers when he was around 11 years old attending a session of general conference in the Salt Lake Tabernacle with his father. In that meeting, for the first time, he was in the same room as the prophet, who at the time was President Joseph Fielding Smith.
“When I saw him,” he said, “the Spirit bore witness to me that he was the prophet of God.”
In his last month of high school, he and Michelle “Shelly” Brown met and started dating.
“I saw the goodness in his heart early on in high school,” she said. “He was always looking out for the one, caring for people around him.”
Their courtship was put on hold while he served a mission from 1979 to 1981, and after his return the couple married in the Salt Lake Temple on July 9, 1982. They are the parents of five children and have five grandchildren with another one on the way.
Elder Carpenter earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Brigham Young University. After working for two years, he wanted to continue his education and applied to graduate school. He was accepted and enrolled at Harvard Business School.
Being thrown into a highly competitive environment was stimulating, challenging, and somewhat intimidating. “As I watched those around me and sought to learn business strategies from the professors which would help me succeed as a business leader, I found that being honest, supportive, and kind are hallmarks of long-term successful business relationships. These are also attributes which the Savior emulates.”
By reason of his kindness and integrity, his career flourished. After graduate school, employment opportunities took the Carpenter family to New Hampshire, Northern California, and Colorado.
During the second week of one of his jobs—a job that both he and his wife felt very strongly he should take—Elder Carpenter found that the company he had just begun working for was involved in fraud. After disclosing these findings to management and trying to work things through with different creditors, he found the company was continuing to engage in fraudulent business practices. When he went in to talk to the president, an offer to increase his salary came, with the expectation that he would keep quiet about what was going on.
“I remember writing on a piece of paper, ‘This is my resignation; I will have nothing to do with this,’ and walked out the door,” he said. “At the time we had $750 in the bank, and our rent was $1,050 a month and it was due in two weeks, but I felt completely at peace. This was the right thing to do. Just before we needed to pay our rent, I got a call inviting me to work on a consulting basis for another company for nearly double what I had been making at the company I had left.”
That consulting job led to a full-time job in the company of which he would later become president. But sometimes the Lord has other plans, he said, requiring changes “when we are comfortable.” At the prime of his career and with an attractive professional opportunity in front of him, Elder and Sister Carpenter felt directed by the Spirit to turn down the job and instead move their family.
“Our oldest daughter came home from seminary when she was about 16. She had just learned about the calling of the Apostles and how the lesson had been that they were called when their nets were full of fish,” Sister Carpenter said. “Even though our ‘nets were full’ from an employment standpoint, we felt we needed to move.”
“While we didn’t know why exactly we needed to move, we felt impressed to move to Denver, Colorado. I went to work as a temple worker, and while I was in the temple I had impressions about what I should do professionally, so I started a company … that has worked really well for us for 17 years,” he said. “The move to Colorado has provided me with the flexibility to serve as a bishop, stake president, and an Area Seventy. This service has allowed me to see the tremendous power that the Atonement of Jesus Christ can have in the lives of those who follow the promptings of the Spirit and have enough faith in Jesus Christ to repent and embrace the gospel in its fulness. … In my patriarchal blessing it says, ‘Your life will unfold in a beautiful pattern.’ And it has been a beautiful pattern. But often you don’t see it looking forward; it becomes clear looking back.”