She began singing as a young girl of 12, inspired by the music of the birds. Talented at school, both in visual art and song, Christine was told she had it in her to become an opera singer. She was encouraged to set her sights on Vienna, Austria, the opera capital of Europe. All the way through school, Christine achieved honours and accolades in singing competitions.
When she finished school, Christine went to Rhodes University in Grahamstown to study for a BA degree in fine art, and then started her career as a high school art teacher. The dream of studying singing in Vienna was by no means lost, but she needed money to get there, and teaching would provide that money.
At the age of 23 she prepared and sold seven paintings, which allowed her to earn the remainder of the money she needed to fulfill her dream. Soon after, she sailed to Vienna to be instructed in opera singing.
In Vienna, life was not easy just 10 years after the end of World War II. Neither were her studies. She discovered that she had to “unlearn” everything that she had been taught as a singer, and “relearn” a whole new way of singing.
After being in Vienna for some time, the young Christine met with two young missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They had already tracted through her building and didn’t usually go back to a place after finding no success. But on this occasion, they felt impressed to return to Christine’s apartment. Something that had always bothered Christine while growing up, was the idea that God was not fair. He gave prophets to the Old Testament people but didn’t care enough to do the same for us. So when the missionaries told her about the restoration of the fullness of the gospel, together with a prophet to lead us, she knew she had finally found the truth.
She was baptized in the Danube River on 10 October 1955 at 6pm. It was icy cold and sleeting, and they needed the headlights of the car to see. However, the gospel was “a live, burning thing in her system,” and it remained so throughout her life.
Unfortunately, her life wasn’t to get any easier for her in Vienna. Her South African friends turned their backs on her after she joined the Church. Her father passed away before she was able to return to South Africa and see him. Upon hearing of her father’s death, in a state of despair, she turned to Heavenly Father. It was then that she discovered for herself the comfort that comes from the Holy Ghost, a comfort that would sustain her throughout her life, like a song in her heart.
At the age of 27 she returned to South Africa. Her talent for singing continued to blossom as she performed locally. A few years later, Christine married and had four sons within four years. When her youngest began school, Christine returned to work, teaching singing until her retirement in 1988. She also translated many of the hymns into Afrikaans. These are in the Afrikaans hymnbook which is still used today.
As she taught her students to sing, Christine found that she often taught them about the gospel as well. All she had to do was live her beliefs and answer the questions people asked. At least 15 of her singing students joined the Church. When her family moved to Wolmaransstad, a small town in South Africa, she was able to share this precious part of her life with at least 20 people. Eventually, the mission started sending missionaries down monthly, and finally opened a branch in Klerksdorp, about an hour away.
“Meeting Christine du Plessis is like coming into contact with an energetic, lively whirlwind,” said Sally-Ann Powrie in her blog, SA Mormon Women. “This is a lady who, despite her share of difficulties in life, has accomplished great things, and continues to be active and to serve.”
And of course, as she tends to her testimony, her acquaintances, and her pets, Christine continues to sing.
Excerpted by Thalia Holmes from the blog, SA Mormon Women by Sally-Ann Powrie