98988_000_004How long must a follower of Jesus Christ remain faithful while waiting to be baptized? For Sister Evelyne Pérez of Antibes, France, the answer was 22 years.
In 1969, while working in a bookstore in Bayonne, France, Evelyne Pérez noticed two young men, well-dressed and polite, who came into the store occasionally. “One day they asked if I would put up a notice about the English course they were teaching,” she remembers. “They said they were missionaries. When they later came to my house for a discussion, I learned that they represented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Most of what I had heard about Mormons wasn’t good. But a friend who had lived in South America told me, ‘The Mormons are the only church that respects Latin American culture. They don’t impose their own way of life.’ That impressed me.”
A Seed Is Planted
Evelyne began reading everything she could find about the Church. She learned of the plan of salvation and was much impressed with the Church’s welfare plan, which encourages a respect for personal dignity while helping recipients become independent.
But her first reading of the Book of Mormon was a disappointment. She had always been interested in pre-Columbian America, but what she read in the Book of Mormon “did not correspond with what I had previously learned. On the other hand, I found the teachings very worthwhile. Something led me to continue my research.”
“A Turning Point in My Conversion”
The missionaries gave her some copies of L’Etoile (French). In its pages she met simple people leading clean lives. “Just to know that such people existed somewhere did me a lot of good. I was very much concerned about the world’s attacks on the family,” she remembers. Through general conference reports, she became acquainted with Church leaders and felt their teachings could have their source only in Jesus Christ. “That,” she says, “was a turning point in my conversion. I decided to follow the commandments, even though I was not ready to accept Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon.”
Her concerns and remaining questions were resolved as she read Jesus the Christ, The Articles of Faith, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Reading the New Testament with a new perspective, she found a phrase that applied directly to the people and the teachings she was studying: “By their fruits ye shall know them” (see Matt. 7:15–20).
As she prayed, her testimony and her love of Heavenly Father grew. With budding faith, she decided to read the Book of Mormon again—this time not as a history book but as a means of finding Jesus Christ. Her reading led to a desire to take upon herself the name of Christ through baptism.
Because Evelyne’s husband distrusted all churches, he refused to grant permission for her to be baptized. Her reaction was consistent with the gospel she had accepted: “I decided I shouldn’t try to change him, but to change myself and become a better Christian.
“Unfortunately we moved to Antibes, 700 kilometers away, and I lost contact with the Church for a while. But I felt a need to associate with people with the same faith I had, and eventually I located the mission office. I was able to attend some meetings, where I learned more about God’s love for all his children and the need for us to be tolerant and to forgive.”
Evelyne was delighted to become part of the branch: “I was received with much warmth and was impressed that while attending Relief Society meetings I never heard anyone criticize another sister.”
Harvest of Faith
The year 1991 finally brought to harvest Evelyne’s growth toward Church membership. Her 20-year-old granddaughter, Vanessa, was at her home when the missionaries called. The young woman was invited to a social and soon began attending church. When Vanessa decided to be baptized and married, Evelyne obtained clearance from the mission president to be baptized. She was baptized in June 1991. Vanessa followed in July.
A few years ago Sister Pérez’s husband passed away. Not long before his death, he had expressed an interest in joining the Church.
Sister Pérez’s patience has been rewarded following her 22-year wait, but, as she explains, her harvest of Church service is far from over: “A conversion is never completely finished. There is always something to improve. But now I am sure of being on the right path. I am ready to accept whatever the Lord asks of me.”
In the years following her baptism and then the death of her husband, Sister Pérez has lived up to her commitment to serve by sharing her harvest of joy with others. She recently returned from serving full time in the England Bristol Mission.