I knew the Joseph Smith story was true the first time I heard it. I was 15 then and living with my aunt’s family in Montélimar, France. Three of the children in the family were already members of the Church. The youngest daughter, my cousin, was not.
She and I went to the closest branch at Valence. There the missionaries told us the story of the young latter-day prophet, and it touched me profoundly. I had heard my cousin’s family discuss the restoration of the gospel at home before, but as I heard it in detail for the first time from these young men, it reached my soul.
They told me of the promise in Moroni 10:4–5 [Moro. 10:4–5] in the Book of Mormon and said that I could know the truthfulness of what was written there if I would ask God sincerely. They also said I could know if their message was true. That same evening, brimming over with a desire to know, I knelt and prayed. I was elated by the warm and wonderful feeling that flooded my soul. I knew this was a response from the Lord and that the gospel had indeed been restored by Jesus Christ, as the missionaries said.
My cousins had shown me a good example of love and concern for each other. I hadn’t been much interested in their church’s doctrine, but I had admired their ideals for family life. Now, however, I wanted to know more about the Church. I went with my cousins to a youth conference in Vaumarcus, Switzerland, and made many LDS friends there. During the testimony meeting, I stood and told them about my experience when I had prayed about Moroni’s promise.
My understanding grew rapidly, but soon my father intervened. He didn’t like the idea of me investigating a “new” church. My parents were separated, and no one knew where my mother was, but I felt obligated to honor my father’s wishes, at least until I was no longer a minor. My contact with the Saints as a group dropped off somewhat, but I knew in my heart that someday I would be baptized.
My oldest cousin went into the army, and then he left on a mission. During the two years he was gone, I kept thinking about the feelings I had felt. I always had a testimony of Joseph Smith, right from the start. His story seemed so logical, and the confirmation of the Spirit came so quickly that I couldn’t ignore it. When my cousin returned from his mission, I met him in Montélimar, and we rode together back to Antibes (near Nice), which is my hometown. All the way there we talked about the Church, and I accepted many new ideas.
The Lord also had something else in mind to help me. I was in agricultural school in Lyons at the time, and when I returned to my studies, I arranged to do some field study for three months in Aix-en-Provence. There, with my cousin, I heard all of the missionary discussions thoroughly, and the small testimony inside me became a big one. I was baptized on July 26, 1975, and I still feel as strongly today as I did then that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God.
I am thankful that I was able to see the gospel in action in my aunt’s home. Their example combined with the witness of the Spirit to let me know that the Lord has built a program for families that I want to follow.
Editor’s note: Since this story was written, José has served honorably in the France Paris Mission.