“Les Derniers Jours”

I was writing my dissertation in musicology at the Sorbonne and those words—“the last days”—leaped out at me. Could this church be the mystery event that had happened between 1798 and 1844?

The car turned into the short, winding street and proceeded slowly as the driver studied the numbers on the stately gray buildings. There it was: 3, rue de Lota. The car pulled over to the curb and stopped. For a moment the driver sat, his hands still gripping the steering wheel. It had taken him a good hour and a half to drive from his home in Dourdan to this building in Paris. Now how would he introduce himself? What would he say?

“My name is Albert Roustit. I’m interested in those last two words in the name of your church: derniers jours [last days]. …”

That approach would be honest enough, but would it sound a little odd, or too abrupt? Perhaps: “I’m a musicology student at the Sorbonne. My name is Albert Roustit and I’ve just recently read a few things about your church that interest me. Would it be convenient for me to ask a question or two?” … Better see if anyone answers the door first, then decide what to say.

Albert Roustit got out of the car, walked to the door, and rang the bell.

What had actually prompted him to come here at this particular time? He smiled. He wouldn’t have been doing this several years ago, before he went to Africa to teach, for example. Some church might possibly have contacted him in those days, but he wouldn’t have been contacting any church, more than likely. God and church hadn’t been very important in his life in those days. But then along had come one of the Amis de l’homme (“Friends of Man”) and helped him discover a love for God. Then later, another group had interested him in studying the Bible on his own; several lectures by various pastors of still another group had further stimulated him.

But questions of interpretation had naturally arisen, too, especially regarding the fulfillment of biblical prophecies in the last days, and here it seemed to him that at the very point in man’s history when prophetic foreknowledge was most relevant, when man was in the greatest need of understanding his times and his destiny, the vision was clouded, and men, however learned or sincere, were confused.

The prophets themselves, on the other hand, seemed to speak with equal confidence of what they had seen and what they foresaw. Albert Roustit had been impressed that the future of mankind was so predictable, in great detail, down through the last days and the final glorious advent of the Savior. The prophets had foreseen and described various ebbs and flows of spirituality, and especially two spiritual peaks: the first when Christ personally established the kingdom of God on earth, and the second which was to occur in the last days prior to and part of the Second Coming. The first was a spiritual summit such as the world had never known, an outpouring which it was never to know again until the last days.

What had begun to fascinate Albert Roustit was that the evolution of musical history, as one looked back on it, also seemed “predictable,” and that, as in the spiritual history of man, there were noticeable highs and lows in the development of musical art as well. He had been particularly struck by what seemed to him to be a close parallel between the various spiritual peaks, as they could be identified in history, and artistic peaks of accomplishment in the field of music. For him it was as if a line of predictable musical “prophecy” supported, confirmed, and illustrated what the biblical prophets had foretold. Surely, he thought, musical art, like other forms of human expression, cannot help but reflect the aspirations, the interests, the triumphs, the failures, and the ills of society, constituting a check, as it were, or a confirmation of how biblical prophecies had long ago indicated men would begin to think and to act. To Albert Roustit it did not seem logical that man’s spiritual evolution was so predictable, but not his social or artistic development. Why would there not be parallels? Could man evolve spiritually in one way, socially in another, and artistically in still another?

He poured many of these questions and the results of his research to find the answers into a book, La Prophétie musicale dans l’histoire de l’humanité (Musical Prophecy in the History of Mankind), published in April 1970. He had initially hoped that the study would serve as his doctoral dissertation in musicology at the Sorbonne, but he should have foreseen that the thesis was too unorthodox, too extra-academic, too controversial for him to ever be allowed to defend it. The renowned French organist and composer, Olivier Messiaen, however, had thought enough of Albert Roustit to express, in a lengthy preface, his personal unwillingness to just toss the work aside as unworthy of scholarly attention:

“It will perhaps astonish some that I have agreed to preface this book. As a matter of fact, several statements by the author, not only about religion but also about music, are not in harmony with my personal opinions. … He was formerly my student—took first prize in my theory classes at the Conservatory of Paris and it may be thought that I have prefaced his work out of affection, and for no other reason. That is not it at all. … I was bowled over—that’s the exact term—by the extraordinary coincidences which burst forth from every page of this book between the history of musical language and its evolution on the one hand, and the history of mankind and the biblical prophecies which declare man’s beginnings, his destruction, his punishment, and his resurrection, on the other hand. But what decided me, and I say it so that all may understand, is the formidable, frightening actuality of the book. … It is prudent to be prepared. That is what we read in each of the pages which follow. That is why I have written a preface for this book.”

Meanwhile, Albert Roustit had quickly selected another dissertation topic which he planned to handle traditionally enough this time to satisfy the purely academic standards of his professors. He selected this topic, “Le Theatre de Hector Berlioz,” because it would require research on a particular period of history which he simply could not leave alone. The tremendous significance of this period had been the most exciting discovery he had made during the writing of La Prophétie musicale dans l’histoire de l’humanité, but at the same time it had posed a burning question for which he had been as yet unable to find a satisfactory answer.

In essence it concerned the last days, or at least that initial period of the last days characterized by the great, predicted spiritual reawakening, that new and last great peak of spiritual outpouring described so vividly by the biblical prophets, but, of course, without any specific dates being given to mark it.

Now, in studying the scriptures and in tracing his line of musical “prophecy” for Le Prophétie musicale dans l’histoire de l’humanité, Albert Roustit had become convinced that the great spiritual outpouring had to have begun somewhere between 1798 and 1844, that period which marks the ultimate break with tradition

It had to have begun then, but where were the great spiritual manifestations to confirm it? His religious friends had suggested that the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804, which launched the translation of the Bible into so many foreign languages and inspired the organization of similar groups on the continent, was the answer he was looking for. For want of something better he used that explanation in the text of his book, but it did not satisfy him. Though he loved the Bible, he felt that the mere translation and dissemination of those ancient scriptures fell short of what he understood that great spiritual reawakening in the last days would include. After all, Europe had had the Bible for centuries, and Europeans had never agreed as to what it meant or what they should do about it. No doubt the new translations Europe was sending to other continents would have a spiritual effect on the different countries which received them, but no doubt the same arguments would arise.

And where was the spiritual outpouring on Europe itself? As he understood it, that last great spiritual outpouring was to be on all nations and peoples, according to the Lord’s own word in Matthew 24:14, and it had to include, as John foretold in Revelation 11:3, a restoration of the power to prophesy. [Matt. 24:14, Rev. 11:3]

So Albert Roustit began work on a second dissertation, but the desire to find out how the Lord began to pour out his spirit and his punishments on all nations, and how he restored the power to prophesy, all between 1798 and 1844, continued to excite him.

Flying back from Africa a few years before he had read a short article on the Mormons. He had never heard of them before and the article was not very informative. He mentally classified them at the time as a peculiar group of Americans and more or less dismissed them from his mind. Then, just a day or so ago, he had come across another article on the same group, his second contact with the Mormons. This latter article taught him that the real name of their organization, in French, was L‘Eglise de Jésus Christ des Saints des derniers jours . … les derniers jours: “the last days.” Those words fairly leaped out of the title at Albert Roustit and the article gave him the address of the group in Paris: 3, rue de Lota.

So here he was, pushing the doorbell and wondering who and what he would find inside.

The door opened and Albert Roustit was welcomed in. He was introduced to and left alone with the president of the mission, Smith B. Griffin, now a Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve.

Albert Roustit wasted little time in getting down to business. He was interested in those words “derniers jours.” He said his research had convinced him that a great spiritual outpouring, predicted in the scriptures, had begun in the 1798–1844 period, and that sooner or later the restoration of the power to prophesy had to be part of that outpouring, if it had not already taken place. He wondered if that meant anything to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

During the next hour Albert Roustit listened to an account of the First Vision to Joseph Smith in 1820, of his call as a prophet of God, of the restoration of the gospel, of the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830, and of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom in 1844. He learned that the mission given the Church was to preach the gospel of the kingdom in all the world “for a witness unto all nations” in the latter days.

Further study, fasting, and prayer prepared him for baptism on April 24, 1971.

Albert Roustit is now an ordained elder in the Church, his lovely wife has joined more recently, and they are rearing their young son in the gospel.

Albert Roustit eventually completed his academic dissertation on “Le Theatre de Hector Berlioz,” and successfully defended it at the Sorbonne in 1973. The English translation of his earlier book, somewhat revised, is about to be released, however, under the title Musical Prophecy in the History of Mankind, and he is presently seeing to the German translation. That is the message, that is the work which continues to interest him and which he feels he is beginning to understand more fully than ever before.

The late apostle John A. Widtsoe liked to remind us of a beautiful parable: “… the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind. … So shall it be at the end of the world. …” (Matt. 13:47–50.) Albert Roustit is one of many who have been caught in the gospel net in the latter days. His witness of the Spirit and his conversion are some of the many wonderful evidences that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that the spiritual outpouring foretold by his many prophets is in truth reaching into the far corners of the earth in the last days to gather the Lord’s elect for the God and Father of us all.

Dr. John A. Green is a professor of French language and literature at Brigham Young University. He serves as teacher development director in Orem 38th Ward and as a member of the Orem Utah Sharon Stake Sunday School board.