A friend of mine who I taught on my mission and who was baptized by my companion and confirmed by me is one of my Facebook friends. We'll call him Benoit (not his real name). Yesterday he wrote in his Facebook status something that touched me very much (probably more so because it was specifically dedicated to me and my old companion (also Benoit's Facebook friend, and mine as well).
The status said: "We wonder sometimes if life has any meaning...and then we meet people who give life meaning." - Brassaî
It honors me that he feels that way about my old missionary companion and me. I love Benoit. He is such a great guy. I loved him when we met and enjoyed teaching him very much. When I met him, he was a confused guy trying to find some meaning in life and who was trying to find truth. He had a big smoking problem and also drank (although socially more than anything). I remember being drawn to his enthusiasm and youthfulness (although he is only a year younger than me) and his thirst for knowledge. I also admit I was attracted to him (although I no longer feel so). I remember one time when we greeted each other with a customary Belgian bise (kissing the air by the person’s cheek) and actually being a little turned on by our close proximity (not a very missionary-like thought) and being a little embarrassed that it would show.
He was an easy guy to teach and to befriend, and the three of us have remained friends all these years. Getting Benoit to quit smoking was probably the most challenging aspect of his conversion, but his heart was (and still is) very pure. I still have his old pipe among my missionary mementos. It thrilled me to no end (and still does) that he was baptized, went on a mission, married another member in the temple, and has two children born under that covenant. I remember confirming him. At the time, my French was still a little rough, but the minute I put my hands on his head, the Spirit was so strong and words poured out of me effortlessly. I was amazed by that miracle.
After Benoit joined the Church, he was on fire, was a great member-missionary, and several of his friends followed him by becoming members themselves. To the best of my knowledge, at least two of them are still active (I do not know about the rest).
A year or so after Benoit's baptism, as I was close to finishing my mission, I received a letter from Benoit announcing that he himself would be going on a mission, and I was so excited and genuinely moved by how far he'd come in just a year. Benoit was always a great person, but after he joined the Church, his life became much more focused and purposeful.
Later, after I'd come home, Benoit came to Utah. He and my old missionary companion came to see one of my shows and then we went out to eat, and it was marvelous. We also went to ZCMI to buy matching ties. That was the idea, at least. Unfortunately we all had different tastes in ties and couldn't agree, so we each bought what we liked and knew we'd think of each other every time we put the tie on. It's true, too. I still have mine and think of both of those guys every time I wear it.
Later, Benoit informed us that the LDS girl he was dating had agreed to marry him, and they got married in the temple, which pleased me. Not too long after, my sister and I visited Benoit and his new wife in Europe, and it was so wonderful to see him in love and happy.
Since then, he has had two boys, and they, with their parents, make a very happy family. I'm grateful I was able to be a part of Benoit's journey to where he is now, and I am happy he is happy. I am humbled by my role in his conversion, knowing full well that I was simply a tool in the Lord's hands at that time.
After I came out of the closet, I remember telling my old mission companion that I was gay, fearing he would judge me or think less of me, and instead he surprised me by revealing that his brother, too, was gay, and just as he loved and cared for him, his feelings would remain the same for me, too, and they have.
Strangely enough, I have never told Benoit that I am gay (although he might be able to figure it out from subtle hints I give in my Facebook statuses). I'm not sure why I haven't told him. I do not believe he would think any less of me or love me any less. That doesn't seem his nature as he is a very compassionate, Christ-like individual. No, I think the reason I've never told him is because as a missionary, I helped bring him into the Church, and while I am not ashamed of the way I am living my life now, I guess in a way I don't want to taint Benoit's image or memory of me then. Maybe that sounds stupid, but I don't want to go from being the good Mormon missionary boy to the excommunicated gay guy in his eyes. None of it changes who I am; I'm still the good, spiritual person I've always been (and am actually happier) and was; I guess I just want Benoit's image of me to remain pure. Does that make sense?
Anyway, here's to you, Benoit. I love you, and I'm glad we're both where we are in life.