Grateful to Bring Them Home
April 2024

“Grateful to Bring Them Home,” Liahona, Apr. 2024.

Portraits of Faith

Grateful to Bring Them Home

My father’s safe return during World War II helped me appreciate the miracle of family history work after I joined the Church.

the author with her grandson and daughter

Above: The author with her grandson Jordan Stanford and daughter Marie-Laure Stanford.

Photographs courtesy of the author

Paris, France, was a dark place in many ways in 1939. The defeat of our soldiers had already begun, and a stream of Parisians began abandoning the city. By the summer of 1940, Germany had occupied France.

My father was requisitioned under the Service du Travail Obligatoire (Compulsory Work Service) and sent to Germany to work in a factory. Mom and I stayed together, working odd jobs to make ends meet through the difficult years of the occupation.

One day on the way home from work in the summer of 1944, I rode my bike through the Place de la Concorde and found myself in the middle of a battle. German tanks crowded the square, and confusion reigned as shots came from all sides, including from rooftops. A German soldier grabbed me by the arm and shoved me behind his tank, saving my life.

After that, change came quickly. The Allied armies soon entered and retook Paris. France celebrated, but Mom and I could not participate in the general outburst of joy. We had heard no news of Dad. French prisoners slowly returned, but we wondered how those who had worked in German factories had fared.

One night, without notice, Dad arrived exhausted and unshaven. He told us about his miraculous escape from Germany and his journey on foot, by bicycle, and via train through Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Our family was together again, and our joy was full.

author as a young woman

Gisèle as a young woman.

Unassailable Answers

A number of years later, the eternal importance of having—and bringing—our family together became clear to me after I accepted the teachings of two young men who knocked on the door of my husband’s chocolate factory. They introduced themselves as missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

My husband, Gerard, had arranged to meet them at home after work, but he forgot to tell me. When I saw these two young people arrive, I had them sit in the living room and wait for Gerard. I wasn’t very nice to them.

I was religious, but my faith didn’t require much of me. I had been living blissfully with no need to study or ask questions. The thought of questioning my faith troubled me, and I didn’t feel brave enough to change my religion.

For a long time, Gerard went to church without me. The small branch he attended held meetings in a trailer while the Church’s first meetinghouse in France was being built. Gerard even helped dig the foundation.

He would come home happy and try to share his impressions with me. Finally, I took the missionary discussions, asking questions mostly intended to embarrass those two poor missionaries. With great patience and total honesty, they admitted their ignorance on certain doctrinal points, offered to research my questions, and returned the following week with unassailable answers.

When a visiting parish priest found out we were receiving the missionaries, he tried to expose Church teachings as false. His efforts, however, had the opposite effect. Even as he tried to paint Church members in the worst possible light, I decided to accept the principles taught by the missionaries and be baptized.

Gerard had been ready for baptism for a long time but did not want to be baptized without me. In May 1964, the missionaries set up a portable canvas pool in the middle of their apartment’s living room and filled it with water from a pipe running from a sink. All our Church friends were there. I was so emotional that I was afraid my tears would make the pool spill over!

family in front of temple

Gisèle with her husband, Gerard, and their two daughters at the Bern Switzerland Temple.

Connected for Eternity

One year later in the Bern Switzerland Temple, my husband and I were sealed to each other and then our two daughters were sealed to us. While we were there, we did temple work for our ancestors. I love what the Church teaches about family history and sealings and the gathering of Israel. I love the focus on bringing families together.

the author and two daughters

Gisèle with daughters Marie-Laure Stanford and Isabelle Horne.

It wasn’t easy to do family history in France at that time, but I felt inspired to do it. No digitized records existed, so I often traveled to the hometown of an ancestor to request physical records. I felt such a special feeling when I held documents written by humble people who had been present at the birth, marriage, or death of one of my ancestors.

author sitting at a computer

“I love what the Church teaches about family history and sealings and the gathering of Israel.”

I am somewhat limited now by age, but I’m so grateful I can continue to do work for my ancestors through FamilySearch, both by indexing and finding new names. With the tools available to us, I have indexed more than 35,000 names and found more than 5,000 names to take to the temple.

The happiness we find in the gospel is complete when we can enjoy it with our families. I’m grateful for the chance to bring them together—to bring them home forever.