The missionaries thought it unlikely that the young couple across the street would take time to meet with them. Gerard and Annie Giraud-Carrier were hurrying to an evening movie. But when the missionaries saw them that night, they decided to make one more contact. And the young couple paused long enough to agree to a visit later that week.
Gerard and Annie received the first discussion, then left their home in a small village 10 kilometers outside of Toulouse, France, for a three-week vacation. Before they got back, the elders were transferred, and the couple heard nothing more from them. Two or three months later, near the end of October 1968, new missionaries found their name in a record book, and the discussions resumed.
Brother Claude Tourres was the district president in Toulouse at the time. He and his wife became friends with Gerard and Annie, inviting them to a party and attending each of the missionary discussions. They helped Gerard and Annie understand the obligations that would be asked of them as members of the Church. As a result, the Giraud-Carriers committed themselves to the Lord and his work and were baptized four weeks after the discussions began.
“The thing that made the difference,” says Gerard, “was the plan of salvation. It was something we felt we had known before. I had a good feeling about Joseph Smith, and we both knew the teachings were right.” And the members of their new church welcomed them with open arms. The branch had been preparing a special program—a drama—and a role for each of them was written into it. The Giraud-Carriers went to the chapel nearly every night to practice. “It was a wonderful way to begin our membership.”
Gerard was soon called to be the branch clerk. Then he served as district clerk and later as a counselor in the district presidency. Annie was called to teach the investigator class in Sunday School. “This was her first consistent experience with the Spirit of the Lord,” Gerard says. “She had one book, The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage, but no other helps or instructions about how to be a teacher. She had to rely on the Spirit.” Now, years later, you sense how fully the Spirit operates in her life.
Gerard and Annie had met in college, when both were working toward degrees in civil engineering. They were married and had their first child while still in school. After graduation, Gerard needed to complete his military obligations, so Annie earned the living for the family.
“While Annie worked,” Gerard says, “our children were cared for by a nurse. Although the conditions were good, it was not like having Mom there. I had been home only one month from my military service when Annie decided she should no longer wait to apply the counsel of the prophet and stay home with our family. We will always remember the joy of our little ones when she announced her decision. Our little son collected as many stones as there were days from then until Mom would be home full-time. Each day he threw away one little stone until the time came to have his mother home.
“Annie has never regretted her decision. She has been a wonderful mother to our seven children and has been a great support to me. She has also served in the community, especially in the parents’ associations for our children’s schools.”
Annie and Gerard have always tried to teach their children the gospel in ways that would make an impression. A year after their baptism, when their two children were ages two and three, they prepared to go to the temple to be sealed as a family. In a family home evening, the parents illustrated what it means to be sealed in the temple. Holding four match sticks, representing each member of the family, they dropped them onto a table. Of course, the matches scattered. They explained that the family could be like that if death separated them. Then the matches were bound with thread and dropped again. This time they stayed together. The children were told that their sealing would be like that—nothing in the world, not even death, could ever separate them if they obeyed the commandments and worked together.
Three-year-old Christophe was very impressed with the lesson and waited impatiently for the day they would go to the temple. When the day finally arrived, two serious little children entered the sealing room with their parents. The ceremony was beautiful. But as the family was leaving the temple, a perplexed little boy, almost in tears, asked, “But Mama, when are they going to tie us together?” Another lesson on temple sealings quickly followed!
Two years after his baptism, Gerard accepted a civil engineering position in Paris. Two months later, he was called to be the president of the Versailles Branch. While living in Paris, he became critically ill with meningitis, and his doctor explained to him the necessary plans to remove fluid from his spine. Gerard called on his home teachers for a priesthood blessing and was healed. The feared medical procedure became unnecessary.
In November 1975, seven years after their baptism, Gerard was called as president of the France Paris Stake, the first stake organized in France. Three years later, he and Annie came to a turning point in their lives. Gerard was unhappy with the corruption he saw in the company where he worked, and he began looking for another job. At that time, the Church’s distribution center for France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal was in Grenoble, France, and the center needed a purchasing manager. To be hired for that position, however, Gerard would have to be released as stake president and move to Grenoble at a reduced salary.
During his interview with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Gerard expressed his willingness to abide by any counsel he received. “If I shouldn’t be released as stake president, we won’t move,” he said. “I have given my resignation, but I will stay and find another job. We have a year’s food storage; we can manage.”
He was released as stake president and accepted the position in Grenoble. The family lived with Gerard’s mother for a time while they built a new home. About a year and a half later, when their new home was almost finished, Gerard received the assignment to find a new location for the distribution center in the Paris area, which he found in Torcy. The family moved again, never having lived in the home they had built in Grenoble. However, they had been in the area long enough for Gerard to serve as district president.
In Paris he was called as a regional representative. Annie reflects on one experience they shared during those years: “My husband often had to be away all weekend to participate in stake conferences. One conference Saturday the alarm clock rang very early. Half asleep, I became aware of Gerard’s presence at the edge of the bed as he knelt to pray. He stood up and asked how I was feeling. I told him I felt fine. After a moment, he came back to ask about my plans for the day. He kept questioning me and even asked if I would like him to postpone his departure. Puzzled and completely awake by then, I decided to get up. When I got out of bed, I was overcome with dizziness and could not stand. My husband delayed leaving for a few hours until I had recovered. I’ve always appreciated his sensitivity to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.”
In 1988, Gerard was called to preside over a new mission in the Mascarene Islands, with headquarters on Reunion. When he and Annie and four of their seven children arrived, they found home and office to be a missionary apartment with only an old typewriter and little else. They moved temporarily into the apartment and went to work.
Annie quickly accepted her own role as a missionary. “One day,” says Gerard, “she saw a lady in the supermarket whom she had met at a parents’ meeting. The lady had been impressed by Annie, but had never dared ask about her name tag. At the store, the woman took the opportunity to ask. She was baptized one month later, and the following year she received her temple endowment.”
In 1991, when the family returned from their missionary service, the Europe/Mediterranean Area was organized, with offices in Thoiry, France. Brother Giraud-Carrier was asked to move there and set up a Materials Management office.
In November 1993, he was given his current calling—patriarch of the Switzerland Geneva Stake. At the time, Sister Giraud-Carrier was serving as Relief Society president of the Jura Ward, Geneva Stake—her third assignment as Relief Society president. She has also served in ward and stake presidencies of the Young Women and Primary. Their three oldest children have served full-time missions.
Reflecting on the 25 years since he and his wife met two elders in front of a movie theater, Brother Giraud-Carrier says, “Throughout our Church experience, we seem to have been always beginning. Each assignment we have received has been a beginning for us. We have been privileged to preside over a new stake, a new mission, and a new department in a new area of the Church. Perhaps now, with my calling as patriarch, our beginning days are over.”
Perhaps. But given their pioneering spirit, Gerard and Annie likely have many more beginnings ahead of them.