Claire and Laurence Küsseling of Gournay, France

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    Claire and Laurence Küsseling of Gournay, France

    In France, it isn’t unusual to see sleek sports cars whizzing around the streets. But it is unusual to see a large family van driving down the road—with a father, a mother, and seven children squeezed into it.

    Many families in France have only one or two children. People are often surprised to learn that Michel and Pascale Küsseling have seven.

    The Küsselings live in Gournay, a beautiful town of about 6,000 people on the outskirts of Paris. They are members of the Torcy Ward, Paris France East Stake. There’s a row of child-sized bicycles in their driveway. In the backyard are trees to climb and a slide to play on.

    There are four boys and three girls in the family. Julien, age 14, is a teacher and likes to swim. Jérome, age 13, is a deacon and likes to swim and play the piano. Next come twin girls, age 10—Claire, who plays the flute and likes ballet, and Laurence, who also plays the flute but prefers swimming to dancing. Marie, a 9-year-old girl, is next; she likes to dance and play the piano. The youngest two are boys—Christophe, age 6, who is learning to swim, and Nicolas, age 4, who likes to play ball.

    “I always wanted to have a large family, even before I was a member of the Church,” says Sister Küsseling. “I love children.”

    “The most difficult time,” laughs Brother Küsseling, “was when Marie was born and the twins were only a year old. We suddenly had three girls nearly the same age. They became a little jealous of each other, because I had three girls to hold and only two knees to hold them on!”

    Large families can have lots of challenges—but also lots of blessings. On the challenging side, sometimes the children need to have patience when Mom and Dad are busy with the others. And sometimes brothers and sisters tease one another.

    On the positive side, there’s always somebody to play with—or to work alongside. “I’ve always had lots of brothers and sisters,” says Laurence. “For me, it seems normal. It’s nice to have older children and younger children in the family. That way, we all learn from each other and help each other.”

    And there are plenty of family members to share assignments for family home evening. “We try to give each child a responsibility every Monday evening,” says Sister Küsseling. “Someone leads the music; somebody tries to find something for the lesson; somebody makes a treat for refreshments. They all try to participate.” Family home evening is also a time to share things the children have learned or made in Primary.

    They love to go to Primary. “I learn about Jesus, about His life and what He did,” says Laurence. “And we learn about Joseph Smith. He translated the Book of Mormon and organized the Church when it was restored. I believe he was a prophet.”

    The children enjoy reading stories from L’Étoile, the Church magazine in French. They also read the scriptures together and have family prayer. And they love to sing. Laurence’s favorite song is “Love One Another” (Hymns, number 308). Claire’s favorite is “Silent Night” (Hymns, number 204). “I love Christmas,” she says, “because we remember the birth of Jesus and can all be together. That’s important to me.”

    Brother Küsseling has been a member of the Church all his life; as a young man he served a mission in New Caledonia, an island in the South Pacific. He currently serves as a counselor in the mission presidency in Paris. Sister Küsseling, a Primary teacher, was baptized 16 years ago and is the only member of the Church in her family. Brother and Sister Küsseling were married in the Swiss Temple. Claire says it’s a wonderful feeling to know that their family can be together forever.

    Claire is also thankful for many other blessings that come with being a member of the Church. When she was three years old, she became extremely sick and began having seizures. “We were very frightened,” says Sister Küsseling. “Her dad gave her a blessing, and then we took her to the hospital. The next day, Claire was well. She hasn’t had any seizures since.”

    Claire can’t remember that incident, but she knows she was healed through the power of the priesthood. She does remember another time when the priesthood was especially important in her life. She clearly recalls when her father baptized her. “It made me happier than before,” she says. “I knew Jesus would forgive all my sins.

    “I have seen my father bless and baptize the children of our family. And when he was bishop, he also blessed other people in the ward who were sick or needed a blessing,” says Claire. “He gives us blessings when we start a new year at school. When he does, I know I will have a good year.”

    Her twin sister, Laurence, says: “I believe Heavenly Father hears me when I pray. He has answered my prayers. When our father lost his job four months ago, we all prayed for him to get a new job. And he got a new job in two weeks!” Brother Küsseling now works as a financial adviser for a British company in Versailles.

    Both Claire and Laurence like to study math, and both are good students. Although they are the only Latter-day Saints in their school, they have learned to choose friends with similar standards and values, and they have talked with some of them about the Church. “Since my parents and relatives are not members of the Church,” says Sister Küsseling, “the children often bear their testimonies to their uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents.”

    And they try to show by their actions that they are followers of Jesus Christ. For example, they often help their neighbor, an 87-year-old man who lives alone. They help carry his groceries into his house because they are worried he might fall. And they help feed his dog. In return, he lets the children eat cherries off the branches of his tree that reach over the fence into the Küsselings’ backyard.

    “I’ve learned in church to be more polite,” says Laurence. “The gospel teaches me to be kinder to people around me, including my family.”

    Most of all, Claire and Laurence each want to be the kind of mother their own mother is. They are glad to be part of a family that people notice. Some may notice the Küsselings because of the size of their family or the size of their car. But more important, people notice them for their love for one another and for their efforts to live the gospel.

    [photos] Photography by Marvin K. Gardner, except as noted

    [photos] Whether dancing (Claire, far left) or playing the flute (Laurence, right), the 10-year-old Küsseling twins (center) try to show by their actions they are followers of Jesus Christ.

    [photos] Above, left: Laurence (left), Claire (right), and their family arrive at Church in their van. Above: The twins want to be like their mother, Pascal. Right: In this large family, there’s always somebody to play with. On their backyard slide: (from front) Claire, Laurence, Nicolas, Julien, and Christophe; (standing) Jérome and Mom. (Photograph by Richard Romney.) Above, right: Get ready! Get set! Go! Marie, Laurence, and Nicolas pedal down their street.