LE CHESNAY, France – On the grounds of the Paris France Temple, blooming with spring tulips, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of the message he brought to the people of France from President Russell M. Nelson, the president of the Church.
“One, we love them so very much,” Elder Rasband said.
“Two, we thank them for all that they are doing to build up the Lord’s Church and His kingdom, not only in their communities but in their own homes.
“And third, we need them. We need them to continue to grow and build and prosper the Lord’s Church here in France. Whether they be missionaries or youth or members or leaders, we need them.”
France is the first stop of a three-country visit to Europe for Elder Rasband. “I almost feel like we are coming home as we come back to Europe and as we start in France,” he said.
As a General Authority Seventy, Elder Rasband served in the Europe Central Area presidency — living in Frankfurt, Germany, and often visiting wards and stakes in France on assignment.
Before his full-time Church service, Elder Rasband was a businessman, and he led a company in Ribecourt, France, employing hundreds of French people.
But the Rasbands’ love and appreciation for France runs even deeper. Sister Melanie Rasband’s father, Blaine Exeter Twitchell, landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy during World War II.
“My father was grateful he was blessed to be able to survive Normandy and further into the war,” Sister Rasband said. “He was impressed by the French people and their greeting and their love and their kindness. ... He instilled in our family a love for the French people and for their goodness.”
Sister Rasband’s father kept a journal, Elder Rasband said, which outlined miracles that happened to him in France, preserving his life. “I’m grateful because it means I have my sweetheart, and five children, and 29 grandchildren.” And Sister Rasband added, “and two great-grandchildren.”
Over three days in France, Elder Rasband spoke at a conference for three stakes, held training meetings for local ward and stake leaders, met with missionaries, and visited with the mayor of Le Chesnay, where the temple is located, just outside Paris.
Do not be troubled
Speaking to more than 2,000 Latter-day Saints from the Paris, Paris East and Paris South stakes gathered at the Pyramides Congrès Center, on Sunday morning, April 16, Elder Rasband said these troubling times of the latter days were prophesied of by past prophets.
But do not be troubled, Elder Rasband said. “For Jesus Christ is our ultimate protection. He is our ultimate place of safety.”
He invited the French Saints to stand in holy places — with their homes, meetinghouses and the temple as examples.
“And you should not be troubled, because your life is built on promises to the Lord. You make them in your homes, you make them in sacrament meeting. You make especially eternal promises in the temple. It’s because of these promises, these covenants made between us and God, that we can be not troubled.”
He said that if they keep the commandments, they will prosper in the land as was said for example in Alma 37:13 and other places.
“The promises in the scriptures are true, they are meant for you and they are meant for me. Trust in them, rely on them, and ask Heavenly Father to bless your posterity with the blessings that come from God and Jesus Christ.”
Sister Rasband shared with the congregation her father’s experience in France, and said a few words in French to them, adding, “Though I cannot communicate well in your language, I am grateful to know the Holy Ghost is with us. He can help convey our love and appreciation for you.”
Elder Rubén V. Alliaud, General Authority Seventy and second counselor in the Europe Central Area presidency, told the French Saints, “The more I know you, the more I love you… You are loving. You are wonderful disciples of Christ.”
Siblings Matthieu and Emma Fournier, age 15 and age 13, from the Troyes Ward in the Paris East Stake, sang in the choir during the conference — including singing again for the Rasbands on the stage after the meetings were over. They felt the Spirit strongly and were almost overwhelmed with emotion.
Emma said she will remember how Elder Rasband told them, “The Prophet told us he loves us, and that he needs us.”
And Matthieu will remember: “A testimony of Christ, that He lives. And that Elder Rasband is an Apostle of God.”
Anne Berberovic, the Relief Society president in the Paris Ward of the Paris France Stake, resonated with Elder Rasband’s message to stand in holy places and be recommended to the Lord.
“I really felt strongly that we do not need to be afraid. We do not need to be afraid to bring kids into the world. If we raise them in the right way, centered on Jesus Christ, that is what will change the world,” she said.
Berberovic also attended a leadership training the day before for multiple stakes at the Versailles meetinghouse.
“The Lord is counting on us, and we have a work to do,” she said. She wrote down in her notes to do the small and simple things. “The Lord is not asking us difficult things. He’s asking us to do small and simple things every day. That will change the way we view our lives.”
Claire Civet, the stake Primary president in the Nancy France Stake, said she was grateful for the message from President Nelson of his love.
“We need love,” she said, “and to take care of the children and to love the children. If we show them love, that will help them grow like a flower in the gospel.”
Her son, Bishop Yohann Langoust of the Neaux Ward in the Paris France East Stake, translated for her and told the Church News what he learned, too.
“I was touched by the simplicity of Elder Rasband’s talk – how easy it is to understand, especially for the youth.” He appreciated how Elder Rasband wanted to be sure that the leaders understood what he was teaching.
He wrote down to discuss with his next ward youth council President Nelson’s message and what Elder Rasband taught — “to be recommended to the Lord.”
Flooding Paris with the Book of Mormon
When meeting with missionaries in the France Paris Mission on Saturday, April 15, Elder Rasband invited them to take out their phones, open the Gospel Library app and share a digital copy of the Book of Mormon with someone they knew.
As he said in his October 2022 general conference talk, “This Day,” about flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon, he told the missionaries, “We’re going to flood the Paris mission right now with the Book of Mormon.”
In that moment, Sister Clara Fowler, from South Jordan, Utah, thought of a woman named Sophie and sent her a digital copy of the Book of Mormon.
“To be Book of Mormon missionaries and Book of Mormon people is so important, and I want to be like that,” Sister Fowler said.
Elder Rasband held up for the missionaries the same 50-year-old copy of the Book of Mormon that he had as a young man on his mission. “Out of this book, I gained my witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I hope you are too.”
Elder Rasband told the missionaries the most precious thing they have is their testimony of Jesus Christ, “and I hope you are very liberal in sharing it.”
Elder William Håkansson, who is from Sweden, said Elder Rasband was full of joy and happiness. “He treasures the Book of Mormon, his testimony and Jesus Christ,” Elder Håkansson said. “When we really learn to treasure our experiences about Jesus Christ, that’s when we really have the opportunity to share experiences and go forward with that knowledge.”
Sister Claire Wilson from Holladay, Utah, has been serving in France for only about two weeks. She loved hearing Elder Rasband say how kind the people of France are, because she has experienced the same thing.
“Being in the presence of Elder Rasband was so inspiring, because you can feel that he is a true Apostle of God when he speaks,” Sister Wilson said. She felt comforted when he said the missionaries are called to be exactly where they are supposed to be. “And it’s not just where you are supposed to be as a missionary, but in the gospel for the rest of your life.”
When Sister Rasband spoke, she told the missionaries that the more they know the Lord, the more they will love Him and want to serve Him. She told them to hold up the light of the Lord unto the world, as it says in 3 Nephi 18:24.
“You are bringing such a special gift to the people of France,” she said. “They will see the light in your eyes as you pass by in the street. Let them see your smiles.”
The Paris temple
The Paris temple is located in Le Chesnay, a suburb of Paris. On Saturday, Elder Rasband met with the mayor of Le Chesnay-Rocquencourt, Richard Delepierre, inside the Paris temple visitors’ center.
They spoke about the building of the temple and the open house. The mayor said at first, the people were unsure about what the temple would look like or what it would mean for the city. But in the six years since the temple was dedicated, all of those worries have vanished.
Delepierre congratulated Elder Rasband on a beautiful building and beautiful grounds. The gardens are open to the public, and they spoke about how to ensure more people know they could walk through and see the flower beds and Christus statue.
Elder Rasband asked what the Church could do for the mayor. The meeting included Elder Alliaud and Elder Franck A. Poznanski, an Area Seventy in France. They spoke about how the Church could work together with local officials.
Delepierre ensured his commitment to religious freedom. “It’s a good thing that religious communities understand one another,” he said. “That’s how we build respect.”
Elder Rasband presented Delepierre with a copy of the Book of Mormon engraved with the mayor’s name and he told the mayor how precious it was to him: “Anyone can get closer to Jesus Christ by reading this book,” he said.
The Church in France
Then-Elder John Taylor began missionary work in France as early as 1850. But the boom of Church growth in France coincided with the end of World War II, when peace and better conditions finally allowed for continuous growth.
The first stake in France was created in Paris in 1975. Now there are nine stakes solely in France and four covering part of France and part of French-speaking Europe — Switzerland, Belgium, Monaco and Luxembourg.
When France Paris Mission President C. Michael Hansen arrived in France as a young missionary in 1978, he learned that nearly all the Church members at that time were first or second generation. Now there are many three- and four-generation member families.
“The temple has been an incredible blessing for not only the members, but also for missionary work in France,” he said. The Paris mission is now the largest in the Europe Central Area, with 166 young missionaries and 11 senior couples.
“Our wonderful members in France, Belgium and Luxembourg are very missionary-minded, using the principles of love, share and invite,” President Hansen said.
Elder Silvan Lauener, a full-time missionary from Switzerland who is serving in the Paris mission, said missionaries benefit from having a temple in the city not only as a spiritual resource but also to show people the grounds and visitors’ center. “Being able to talk about the temple here in Paris and bring our friends to the temple, it’s very useful and enriching,” he said.
The growth of the Church in France in the past 20 years has been slow but “always steadily upward,” explained the Church’s communication director for France, Matthieu Bennasar, who served as an Area Seventy and chaired the local Paris temple committee as it was being built.
Bennasar said when all of France’s territories are taken into account — such as French Polynesia, New Caledonia, French West Indies and French Guyana — France’s Church membership is in excess of 72,000.
Latter-day Saints in France are a cross section of the society, coming from many different backgrounds. Because French members are still relatively few, they often serve in more than one calling at a time.
“They also develop strong connections with one another and form tightly knit congregations,” Bennasar said.
The missionaries and members looked forward to the visit from Elder Rasband with great anticipation and joy, and began preparing as soon as they heard he would be coming.
“They know that the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, Bennasar said.