By Sister Kathy W. Andersen
Sister Kathy Andersen, with her four children, lived and served in France while her husband, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presided over the France Bordeaux Mission from 1989-1992.
As my husband and I were happily thinking and talking about the soon-to-be dedication of the Paris France Temple, we took from our bookshelf a binder now almost 25 years old. It was a gift given to us by the Saints of our little Eysines Branch before we left France in 1992 to return to our home in Florida. We looked at their pictures, read their testimonies again and thought of the faithful men and women from our branch in southwestern France who lived their lives with the hope and anticipation that perhaps one day there would be a temple in France, not just for them but for their children, grandchildren and fellow countrymen. Let us tell you about a few of the people we came to know and love:
Sister David was a wonderful, faithful woman. She was a pillar of strength in the Church, always faithful, spreading her beautiful influence. When our youngest child was going to be baptized, we invited his Primary teacher, Sister David. We didn’t realize that being present at the early morning baptism at the church would require her arising at 5 a.m., taking two buses and then a good walk to arrive at the church. Sister David was there (never mentioning the inconvenience) with her beautiful smile and warm embrace for one of her Primary boys. She lived a life of unwavering faith and devotion.
One of our dear branch presidents was President Jean Caussé. After joining the Church as adults, he and wonderful Mari-Blanche were undeviating in their love of the gospel. Their testimonies forged strength in their children (including young Gérald, who now serves as the Presiding Bishop of the Church) and their grandchildren. So many lives have been blessed by the testimonies of Jean and Mari-Blanche.
Brother and Sister Dupuy were faithful pillars in the branch in Eysines. Year after year, decade after decade, they quietly lived the gospel. Their influence has extended through generations with their daughter and her beautiful family.
A young couple, Alain and Laurence Boulie, planted their faith and trust in the Lord. Laurence was the Young Women president when we were in the Eysines Branch and lovingly blessed the lives of the young women through her beautiful example. Years later, Alain would serve as bishop of the Eysines Ward for seven years. After his service as bishop concluded, they continued faithful and true.
Brother and Sister Farel were present in the early 1970s when a mission president reportedly said that missionaries would no longer play the piano in the meetings and that the members needed to learn to play the piano. At first, it seemed a bit harsh, but the Farels were not offended. Instead, filled with faith, they immediately enrolled their daughter Annie in piano lessons. It was a sacrifice for them, but Annie Farel learned how to play the piano.
Almost 20 years later, we arrived with our family. Brother and Sister Farel were now grandparents. Their daughter, now Annie Guerrero, was the branch pianist. Annie’s generation developed talents that helped strengthen the Church in France, and now she was a mother faithfully teaching the gospel to her children.
Theo and Suzanne Plante joined the Church as adults. They embraced the gospel with a full measure of heart and soul. Brother Plante was a professor. The Plantes have spent their lives serving with a devotion that reflects their complete love for the Lord. The years have passed. There are now three generations of the Plante family who rejoice together in the dedication of the temple in Paris.
We remember a wonderful district Relief Society president who arrived in the city of Bayonne one Sunday. We had driven the two hours in the car with our family. We were embarrassed when we realized that she had arisen before dawn and ridden her bike in the dark to the train station. She had taken the train to the city and then made her way to the house where the meetings were to be held. I still remember the lesson she taught that day in Relief Society. After the meetings, she returned with us to Bordeaux in our car. I have never forgotten my feelings that day as we dropped her off at the train station where she climbed on her bike to ride the distance home. Hers was a measure of devotion that touched me very deeply.
I remember sitting in a Sunday School class shortly after we arrived in France. The teacher handed out about ten little cards for class members to read at the appointed time during the lesson. I was quite astounded that each card was handwritten. I wondered why she hadn’t just copied it. Then I realized that this sister didn’t have access to a copier or a computer. Thinking that we would learn more by participating, she had painstakingly handwritten lengthy quotations from the lesson manual.
We remember a devoted father and mother with a 16-year-old son who didn’t want to attend seminary. The father was the branch president and had been given permission to be the early morning seminary teacher for his son. Early in the morning, they would have seminary together. The 16-year-old son was able to keep his feet in the gospel. He now has a family of his own, was married in the temple and is teaching his children the gospel. Such are the Saints in France.
The tradition of religion is prominent in almost every village and town in France, as beautiful cathedrals are often the centerpieces of their communities. We watched as devoted Latter-day Saints often passed these magnificent structures on their way to worship God in simple chapels and rented houses or buildings. Of course, the famous wines of France are undiscovered to faithful Latter-day Saints, and — though sometimes not numbered among society’s elite — these extraordinary men and women are surely numbered among God’s elect.
The faithful Saints from our Eysines Branch and others are a small sampling of the members of the Church in France who have helped build generation after generation of strength and hope and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel.
On Sunday, May 24, 1992, a congregation of Latter-day Saints, including those who have been mentioned, attended church in a large rented hall and sang, “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning! The latter-day glory begins to come forth. The visions and blessings of old are returning, and angels are coming to visit the earth” (Hymns, No. 2). Then-Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood and announced the creation of the Bordeaux France Stake of Zion. At that very moment, there was an audible clap of thunder such as we had never heard in our years in France. It seemed to us that heaven had given an exclamation point to the furtherance of the Lord’s kingdom in France.
It will be almost 25 years to the day, on May 21, that the Paris France Temple will be dedicated. How we rejoice with the Saints of France whose privilege it is to have lived long enough to see this blessed day.
Untold numbers of faithful men and women who gave their lives for the gospel did not live to see the hallowed day when the House of the Lord will be dedicated.
Although they are not here, their lives, their deeds and their faith join together with Latter-day Saints today, becoming the figurative mortar and stone of this Paris France Temple.
We will think of them — all of the true Saints who called France home and who lived and longed for this holy day. In our mind’s eye, we will see their faces on the glorious day of dedication and imagine their happiness as heaven and earth join in singing: “We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven, Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb! Let glory to them in the highest be given, Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!”