Friend to Friend


Elder Charles Didier

The oldest of four children, Elder Charles Didier grew up in Brussels, Belgium, during World War II. His childhood experiences taught him about thankfulness and honesty.

“I remember the bombings, and I remember soldiers occupying our country,” Elder Didier recalled. “But I especially remember the scarcity of food. We grew up without many of the basic foods that most children have today. During five long years, only once did I have an orange to eat. It was a Christmas present at school. I took it home, and my mother peeled it carefully so that we could all have a piece.”

Elder Didier’s father was fighting in the war, so it was up to his mother to raise the children. During air raids, she often carried them down three flights of stairs to hide in the shelters. “We would sit for hours in the dark, listening to explosions outside,” Elder Didier said.

“One day I was in school when a huge airplane was hit, and we saw the soldiers jumping out, their parachutes opening. The airplane crashed close to the school and flattened two or three houses. After class, some of us went to the crash site and sat down and watched the fire. What I remember most, however, was my grandmother coming up to me and grasping me by the back of the neck. I was three hours late coming home, and my mother had everyone searching for me. After that, I always kept my promise to come straight home from school.”

Elder Didier remembered another lesson he learned as a young man: “One day while I was shooting a BB gun at some cherry trees in our garden, I heard the noise of shattering glass, and I knew that I had broken someone’s window. I hid in my room, imagining that the police would come and arrest me. Then I decided to do the honest thing. I rode my bike to the house with the broken window. When I rang the bell, a man came to the door. Trembling, I said, ‘I came to see if by any chance you have a broken window. If you have one, I’m sorry, for I am the one who did it. It was an accident.’

“The man said, ‘Well, as a matter of fact, young man, I do have a broken window.’ And to my surprise he added, ‘I admire your courage to come and tell me. Not many young men would have done that. I’m proud of you. Telling me is enough. I’ll repair the window myself.’ Then he shook my hand!

“It was an experience that I will remember forever because I learned that it’s always best to be honest, even when you’re afraid.”

Finally the war ended, and the family moved to Namur. “That’s where we had our first home. We were so glad! It was the first time in my life that I could look out the window and see a garden.”

Elder Didier was then sixteen, and he often played in the garden with his twelve-year-old sister and his two younger brothers. “That was our favorite spot. We lived on a hill, and we watched people go up and down the street.

“One day we saw two young Americans pushing their bicycles up the hill. In the afternoon they passed again, heading downhill. This went on day after day. We were so curious that when they finally came to our house, all four of us rushed to the door, yelling, ‘Let them in. We want to know what they’re doing!’”

That was the first of many visits from the missionaries.

“My mother quickly gained a testimony of the gospel, and within six months she became a member of the Church. She knew that it was right, and she was convinced that this was our salvation. But Father would not let us children be baptized until we were older, so we had to wait, even though he let us go to all the meetings.

“I would say that bit by bit the gospel principles penetrated our minds and our hearts. I never smoked. I never drank. I loved the truth, and I loved the missionaries. They were the greatest friends we had.” Eventually all four Didier children became members of the Church.

“My message for all the boys and girls in the Church is this: Build a spiritual atmosphere in your home. Ask your parents to read the scriptures with you, to pray with you, to go to church with you. Share your spiritual experiences with them. Be willing to listen and follow the counsel of righteous parents. They are instruments in the hands of the Lord to bring you back into His presence.”

[photo] Elder Didier (center) portrays Joseph Smith at 1958 Youth Conference in France.