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Resilient faith: Elder Causse called from France

New member of Seventy learned to lead in his youth

Elder Gerald Causse was a 33-year-old father getting firmly established in his career in the food industry in France when the president of the group asked to meet with him.

At the time, Elder Causse had never distinguished himself as a leader of large numbers of people.

The president was a religious man who adhered to Christian principles. He knew Elder Causse's faith and devotion to his Church — traits he prized. The president felt to appoint this budding business mind as general manager of a company with 1,800 employees.

The task was daunting, Elder Causse said. The company was suffering from difficult times. Labor disputes and other matters were fracturing productivity. The president wanted a leader who could be trusted. After conferring with aides in the company, the president gained confidence in Elder Causse's ability to make sound judgments and unify diverse groups.

"I was able to assume responsibility because of Church callings that I'd held since I was a teenager," Elder Causse said. "One of the main reasons for success in my career comes from applying the same principles used in Church leadership."

At the time of his sustaining to the First Quorum of the Seventy during April general conference, Elder Causse directed 3,000 employees.

Now, at age 44, sporting a distinguishing spread of silver hair, Elder Causse is among the youngest of the General Authorities.

He is a second-generation member of the Church who lives with his wife, Valerie, and their five children in Paris where he served as president of the Paris France Stake, and, more recently, as Area Seventy.

Born in May 1963, he was little more than a babe in his mother's arms when his parents joined the Church.

His parents were French citizens living in Algeria in the early 1960s when war broke out in that north African colony. They were forced to move to France, a land they knew little about.

They were young students who were resilient and eager to learn. In this spirit of change and adjustment they were open to new ideas and became intrigued by two American young men who sent a letter announcing their intention to share the gospel.

They were curious and invited the young men. Testimonies took root after a few lessons. In short time, they were baptized in a collapsible pool supplied by the missionaries. They joined the fledgling Bordeaux Branch with a dozen members.

Soon, large numbers of French Algerian exiles were baptized, marking a significant time in Church history in France when a sturdy foundation of faithful membership was created. On this foundation the Church has grown, said Elder Causse.

The testimony that ignited his parents' faith quickly burned within him. Privileges and responsibility came early in his young life in the form of Church service, such as Sunday School president at age 16.

"For those members who stayed active, it was good training," he said.

One day in a high school-age philosophy class, the instructor berated the faith of anyone gullible enough to believe in Adam and Eve.

After a few of minutes of ranting, the instructor glared over the class asking for any enduring believers. "I looked around and saw that no one had raised a hand but me," said Elder Causse. "It surprised the teacher, who said nothing, but continued his lesson."

Following class, appreciative friends surrounded him to ask questions and applaud his courage.

Music has been a central theme in Elder Causse's life, the cause of much joy. Playing the piano since age 7, Elder Causse became very accomplished and frequently accompanied various choirs, including the choir of the young adult ward where his future wife, Valerie, sang.

He had known Valerie since age 8. Each summer her family would visit the ward when they came to the coast to vacation. "She was already pretty," Elder Causse said in reflection.

But it wasn't until years later when both were attending a young adult ward where her father presided as bishop that they fell in love. Feelings came unexpectedly during a break in choir practice. Sitting at the piano keyboard, Elder Causse was casually scanning the choir when his eyes locked on Valerie's.

"We both felt something happen," he said. They'd been friends for years, but this time, affection flowered. They were married civilly according to law, then drove the next day to the Bern Switzerland Temple in their box-shaped Renault with cardboard-thin sides where they were sealed Aug. 5, 1986.

Priesthood responsibilities increased as their family grew, often taking Elder Causse out of the home. "We wanted to live in such a way that our young children would have joy in the Church," he said. Because of his long days and often significant distances to travel each Sunday, requiring him to be out of the home for lengthy stretches, they made a family plan to awake the children early Sunday morning and travel as a family wherever his assignments took him.

"They spent a lot of time waiting for their father," Sister Causse said, describing how they lingered while he met privately with ward leaders. "They have come to love Church as much as home."

One moment early in life prepared Elder Causse for a later assignment with a prophet of God. While serving his compulsory military service in Paris, he was assigned to be the driver of a U.S. general working at NATO.

Years later, as a stake president, he chauffeured President Gordon B. Hinckley during his visits to France. On one occasion, President Hinckley placed his hand on Elder Causse's, and speaking only with his smile, shared his love and gratitude for Elder Causse service.

"It was a sacred moment," he said. "It's good to have a testimony of the prophet of God."

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