Annie Bush joined the Church in her native Bordeaux, France at the age of 16. Working as a translator for the Church, Annie spent years immersed in bringing The Ensign, the scriptures, and church manuals to life in her mother tongue of French. Through it all, Annie says her priority has been her family. See other interviews with French women. Read this interview in French.
I was born in Pessac, France, which is a suburb of Bordeaux, in southwestern France. I was born a few years after the end of World War II. From what I remember of my childhood, life was difficult. The country hadn’t recovered yet from all the damages of the war, and the people were generally poor. Life then was completely different from the one I know now. I remember all the stories my family would tell about the war and the occupation. But I think I had a pretty typical childhood for the time period. We weren’t Mormon then. My parents were Catholic by tradition—they didn’t go to church. But they insisted I receive a religious education and sent me to catechism. I had my first communion there in the Catholic Church where I was active on Sunday. My parents were people who didn’t actively go to church, but who had very strong principles and values on the family, work, etc. After my first communion, I have to say that I had faith in Christ in particular, but I found that all the traditions didn’t correspond with what I believed. I had been very interested in the Protestant religion. The English had occupied Bordeaux and the region for at least two centuries, so there is a strong Protestant tradition. So I would go to church for Christmas and for Easter like everyone else, right? Like the majority of the French.
I think I was sixteen when the missionaries came to my house. I wasn’t there; I was at the time in high school, and so it was my father who received the missionaries. Kindly, of course; my father was very kind. The missionaries wanted to present their message, and he said, “Listen to me, this doesn’t interest me. But it might interest my daughter.” So they came back one afternoon when I was available and presented their message. They told me, “In order to have a response, you must pray and ask if Joseph Smith was a true prophet and if this church is true.” And I said, “Okay! If it’s as easy as that, I’ll do it.” So I did it, and I found out quickly through a feeling that it was true. I was baptized when I was sixteen years old. My mother was baptized a few months later. I was baptized in April, Mom was baptized in June, and Dad was baptized a few months later. We were very active in the church. If you want my testimony of the church, it was that when the missionaries presented to me their message, I truly had the impression of discovering something I had already known. I felt perfectly at ease, everything made sense, everything corresponded with what I imagined a church should be.
What were the things you found familiar in our faith?
I had already thought that it was very important to have a living prophet. It seemed obvious to me that there had been an apostasy a little bit after the death of Christ when the Catholic Church said that it was their heritage from Jesus through Peter. And through Peter then all the other Popes received their authority. I found this questionable. I found Mormonism was more open as a religion, more practical. I really liked the teaching of the Divinity as three distinct personages. I didn’t understand why in the Catholic Church you pray to the Virgin Mary. I respected her as the mother of Jesus, but I didn’t think you should pray to her. I liked the way in which leadership was held in the Mormon Church, that there was member participation, that I could ask questions, and that members studied the Bible, because in the Catholic Church, there are very few people who truly read the Bible. You go to mass, and the mass at that time was still in Latin, so most of the people didn’t understand it. I had, however, found that there were priests and nuns who were truly very, very good. See, they were people truly engaged and sincere in their beliefs, who loved others and served them. But I found in our church something that could help me in a practical way every day: to serve, to participate as a member, etc. It was truly the engaged members, active every day, who had an influence on me.
Did your conversion to the church change the experience in your home?
Completely–for good and for bad. We were already very close; my parents were big on family. The church brought us closer and we had things in common, we prayed together, we went to church together. It was more difficult for the other members of our family to accept us. In fact my godmother in the Catholic church was disturbed by our conversion and had asked her priest what she should do, if she should continue to contact us or no. He said, “No, no don’t. You must cut all relations with those people.” So for ten years we had nothing to do with her. She suffered a lot, and we did too. The rest of the family didn’t understand very well. Before our conversions, we had the tradition of all gathering at my grandmother’s house for Sunday dinner. We couldn’t do this anymore. And I felt there was a little bit of regret. We continued to be nice to them. But it’s true that our connection with the church isolated us from the rest of our family. After about ten years, I think, my godmother was really troubled and sad to not be able to see us. I think her old priest died and was replaced by a young priest. So she went to see him, and she told him the whole story and said, “I have suffered a lot because of this.” He told her, “Madame, the Mormons are very good people and you should renew your relationship with your goddaughter.” So we were reconciled, and it was a great joy. In fact, she received the missionaries, but she was very, very sick. She had heart problems, and she couldn’t be baptized because her doctor said that it would kill her. But we promised that when she died we would do her work in the temple, which we have done.
What kind of education have you had?
I finished my university studies in French and English letters. Once I finished my university studies, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my diploma. I had thought about teaching but I wasn’t sure. So for two years I taught high school in southern France. Before going back to school, I was hired by the church to do translation work. I worked for ten years in the church’s translation service.
I started translating when I still lived in France, and when I moved to the United States, they offered me to work by correspondence. They sent me work, I translated it, and I sent it back to them. I did this for ten years, which worked really well for me because we had four children fairly quickly, so it was a flexible and easy schedule. It allowed me to work when I could.
What sorts of things did you translate?
Church manuals, The Ensign, everything really. I even participated in the retranslation of all the scriptures of the church, which was a huge project. We retranslated everything: the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, everything. It was a project that lasted a long time and it was very, very interesting.
You said that you had wanted to be a teacher; during the ten years you did translating work, did you miss teaching at all?
No, not at all because I loved to translate. It was an exercise that interested me a lot. And then, in the church there are many opportunities to teach. I remember after I was baptized when I was sixteen, my first calling in the church was to teach a Sunday school class. I was completely terrified because it was a class of adults! We had a really small branch in Bordeaux, and it was me there, not very big, very, very young, and I taught everyone. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. It gave me an opportunity to study a lot and to pray a lot.
What has been your experience in the Relief Society?
It was a very rewarding experience for me, especially because when I was president or even the last time when I was a counselor, we worked very, very closely with the sisters. We learned to get to know them. We understood their problems, their struggles, but also the richness that they brought and their faith. We helped them, but they also helped us a lot. It’s truly a two way thing. What comforts me, in this completely crazy world that we live in, is to have women who are engaged in the gospel, who have superb priorities, irrevocable faith, who have suffered very hard trials, and who have maintained their faith, who serve others, who are examples. For me, that is very, very enriching and it strengthens my own faith. I appreciate especially the dedication women have towards their families and their understanding of the greatest thing they can accomplish in this world, which is to raise a good family. It’s an incredible example. I can’t think of a career more important, more enriching and which yields such blessings and satisfaction.
Why did you move to Utah?
I met my husband when he was on his mission in Bordeaux. We spoke to each other, but we were just friends since he was a missionary. Then he returned home and I continued my studies. We wrote to each other for a little bit. We met again two and a half years later, completely by chance, in France. He was directing a group of young Americans called “Experiment in International Living.” It’s out of Vermont and they would take them all over the world to experience the culture, the language and so on and so forth. So we met totally by chance at the wedding reception of some friends we had in common. And we were able to date then and the rest is history! We were married the year that my husband finished his studies at BYU. He then became an officer in the Air Force. We’ve lived a little bit everywhere: California, Missouri, Ohio, Colorado, Paris. He had a twenty year career in the Air Force. Then when he retired from the Air Force, he taught here at BYU. We moved here in 1992, so that makes almost twenty-one years since he retired.
Was it hard to move from France to the United States?
Yes, it was difficult. I left my family, my friends, my habits, my traditions, my culture and food. We were married here in Provo—my husband was a student at BYU. At the time, it was very, very different from France. But since then, Utah has changed a lot. It’s more open, there is more input from other countries. But at the time it was difficult. The first year was hard for me. But just after entering the Air Force, I made some friends. We were a family, so we were having children and all that, so it was something that brought us closer to the others. In fact, we returned to France very, very often, and we continue to do that.
Did you like to move around a lot?
Yes, I really enjoyed our experience in the Air Force. It was very interesting, with fantastic people of a quality of life and set of values that I admire a lot. Courage, determination, fidelity to their country. I appreciated that a lot. We moved a lot, but everywhere we went we found an instant family because we were united by the work that we were doing together. And anyway, as members of the church you have another family too. I really loved my experiences. When we lived in Paris, every time we had a vacation, we would take a trip around Europe. My children remember it with pleasure. We travelled a lot while they were young to many countries.
How many kids do you have?
Four children. Two boys and two girls.
What was your experience in becoming a mother for the first time and in taking on that identity?
It was at the same time a mix of wonderment and terror. I remember that my husband was in the Air Force, and when I had my first son we were in Missouri not far from Kansas City. My husband at the time was what I think they call Missile Launch Officer. He worked with nuclear missiles. At the time he had to work either two nights and a day or two days and a night. When our son was born, my husband came to visit me in the hospital, and he asked me, “Do you want me to take a few days’ leave?” I said, “No, I can manage all alone.” I remember we left the hospital, and they put the baby in my arms. We went home, and I broke down into tears! I said, “I don’t want to be all alone!” So he took a few days so he could support me. Little by little though, I, of course, had to adapt myself to this new little being. It’s true that it’s a little scary. But you progress. It’s an experience that makes you grow. You find emotional and physical resources that you didn’t know you had. I love very much my four children, and now I’m grateful for my grandchildren. It’s truly, I think, an experience that taught me a lot about myself. You can’t be selfish and be a mother. You brought these children into the world and you are responsible for them, for their physical well-being, their spiritual well-being, their emotional well-being, to teach them, to watch over them, to comfort them and encourage them. I learned a lot, and I continue to learn because when you are a mother, you are a mother for life. My children are now married with their own children, and I still feel a responsibility to watch over them. It’s not an experience, a responsibility that I regret. On the contrary, I accept it with joy because it has brought a lot to me too.
How would you define “motherhood”?
It’s the greatest service you accomplish, I think. For all their needs, for their formation, to help them also better understand the world, to help, to encourage. It’s very important. I don’t know how to explain it, but there are many facets to the role of being a parent. You can’t be selfish, self-centered and be a parent. You have to truly give of yourself. And I think too that, even though it’s a lot of work, you shouldn’t consider it a burden. It’s hard work, but it also brings many rewards. I believe you have to look at it with that perspective. I find that there is nothing more important that I’ve accomplished than to raise a family. And that’s not to say that I neglected the rest. I have other interests, too. But for me, the priority is family.
How did you envision your life when you were younger? What were your dreams, plans, goals etc.?
When I was younger? I didn’t ask myself too many questions about the future when I was young. No, I had always thought that I wanted to have a family, a nice husband, children etc. but I was not too concerned about the future. At one time I wanted to be a flight attendant, and I tell myself now that it’s a good thing that I didn’t do that because I really don’t like to fly. I wanted to teach and actually taught high school for a couple of years. But besides that, I was not really sure what I wanted to do.
How did your goals evolve through the years?
My life at certain moments has surpassed my childhood dreams because my dreams were pretty limited. I didn’t have a vision of the world, an understanding of the gospel. So it’s true that the church brought me a new perspective. Yes, my dreams if you want, I live them better now. And you learn every day.
Do you have any regrets in life?
We always have regrets because none of us is perfect. It’s true I could have been more patient more often. But I see my children as they are now and how they are grateful. They are grateful for what we have done for them. That erases all the regrets. I think that as mothers, we shouldn’t expect too much from ourselves. You have to learn to be tolerant towards yourself. You can always do better, but I believe that the secret to happiness in general is to not linger on negative things. I started the habit a few years ago, before going to bed, instead of thinking of all the things I didn’t do that day, I think of all the things I did accomplish, and I feel a lot better. So I think that’s something to remember. Don’t try to be a “supermom.” Just do the best you can with the knowledge that you have. I think the question of priorities is very important, especially in the world where we live where there is a lot of negative exterior pressure. There’s a certain section of the population that would say, “Oh, stay at home moms! You don’t have any worth. You don’t contribute to society.” I find that idiotic because how can you better contribute to society than to raise children who will be responsible citizens, work hard, people who have faith, who want to help others. I can’t think of a task, a responsibility, a mission more important than that. Because when there aren’t families, there’s nothing. When the family is broken up, and you can see it in our modern society, it creates a lot of problems in the homes. Children, if they don’t have mothers in their homes or aren’t taught values, will have problems, no? So when we succeed in raising children, it’s very gratifying. You can say, “Good, I did something positive with my life.”
At A Glance
Annie J. Bush
Location: Orem, UT
Marital status: married
Children: 4 (40, 39, 37, 33)
Occupation: Housewife & part time in BYU French Department
Schools Attended: Lycee de Talence, Université de Bordeaux
Languages Spoken at Home: French and English
Favorite Hymn: Souviens-toi mon enfant (music by Dvorak) in French hymnbook
Interview by Lauren Brocious and Ashley Brovious. Photos used with permission.