Christian Dior. Pierre Cardin. Nina Ricci. These fashion designers are famous for their beautiful, stylish clothing, and for several years LDS convert Cècile Pelous played a role in their success by turning their design sketches into stunning pieces. But in 1986, a life-changing experience would teach Pelous that her talent for serving the poorest among us was even greater than her talent for clothing the wealthy.
Raised in a large Catholic family in an apartment outside of Paris, Pelous and her eight brothers learned at a young age the importance of giving and sharing. “With nine kids in the family, we learned to help each other out,” she recalls.
Growing up, Pelous’s parents encouraged her to pursue a career, but she was also expected to learn all the social graces of a “proper woman,” along with homemaking skills such as cooking, cleaning, and sewing. By age 15, Pelous was accepted into Paris’s top fashion design school, even though she didn’t like to sew. Soon, however, she discovered that she enjoyed the creative process as well as teaching others. But since teachers were required to sign a 10-year contract, she chose to enter the creative side of fashion and began working for Christian Dior when she was just 18 years old.
Pelous quickly became one of the most talented designers working in the fashion houses of Paris. And soon the gospel of Jesus Christ would add another layer of richness to her already successful life.
Finding the Gospel
In 1971, Pelous toured the United States with a group of French college students. One of the stops on their tour was Salt Lake City, and Pelous was instantly enamored with the unique surroundings. “The city had a spirit that was very holy,” she recalls. The group attended a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square—a performance that deeply moved Pelous. “It was
very emotional for me,” she says. In fact, she was so touched that her visit to Salt Lake City became her favorite part of the tour.
“Other students liked the big, glamorous cities like San Francisco or New York, so they were surprised when I said Salt Lake City was my favorite,” she says. “I was impressed with the Mormons. I felt something special there.”
Three years later, two LDS missionaries knocked on her door in Paris. Pelous had no intention of letting them in—until she learned they were from “the church with the choir.”
“I listened to their message, but I told them that I wouldn’t join their church until I knew for certain that what they were teaching me was true,” she says. “I felt the Spirit when I was with them, but I
needed to feel it by myself.”
The elders had given Pelous a Book of Mormon, but it sat untouched in her home for quite some time. Finally, Pelous told herself, I need to read this. She began to sincerely study the scriptures.
“One night, I knelt down to pray,” she says. “I asked if Jesus Christ really lived. I prayed all night long, and I told myself I wouldn’t stop praying until I got an answer.” And the answer came.
“I felt an overwhelming feeling of peace,” she says. “Everything made sense, and I knew that this was His church.”
After nine months of investigation, Pelous told the missionaries that she had received an answer to her prayers and had gained her own testimony of the gospel. She was baptized in 1975.