France, August ’96—I have a transcript in my journal of the tape Shawn left in my sister’s dictaphone. It’s as if I’d nothing better to do back then. But I’m glad I have that genuine snapshot of those days in someone else’s words:
4—Being LDS in France and in the closet
3—A transcript that reveals the nature of my relationship with the missionaries. This is what happened to them. This is me wanting to be straight. And this is a look at polygamy in the LDS Church today.
“You are a good friend. The last 4 months here were good, you know. We had such a laugh! The Big Night Out, the splits [when he went with me and Elder French went with another male member to knock on doors, teach investigators or visit inactive members]. It’s weird, but it’s good, all the stuff we did together. I’m so happy to have a friend like you. And thank you for letting me use the lawn mower at your house, because it was fun. And thank you for your example, brother [ironic], and everything you’ve done for me… [sounding like the missionary from the other team who used to say stuff like that.]
“I shouldn’t make fun of him cuz I imagine you’re gonna be best friends with him now that I’m gone [Shawn laughed there]. But anyway, we are not far… We are not far at all. And I will speak to Elder Larson so you can come visit. You can call us too. Oh and Madonna, she’s pregnant, man! You know I love her… We did silly things together, right? It’s weird, because I can’t imagine meeting someone like you anywhere else. I don’t know, man. We’ll see. In this city I have experienced the best and the worst of my mission…
“I loved going to The Big Night Out with you… It’s all well in the end… I hope Larson will be cool… Make sure you speak to Elder French every now and then a bit more, eh? Do splits, and stuff like that, cuz he’s scared about the new companion… It’s always weird those transfers…
“Just make sure that things are right between you and God, and you and yourself. Is it OK after that? It doesn’t matter what people think.”
“You must come visit the summer after my mission. Next year. We’ll go find Brazilian girls for you and me. And you know Scottsdale, where I’ll be based, is very close to the Mexican border and the girls are hot there! But that’s if you haven’t asked Rachel to marry you yet. [Rachel and I had grown close but that was just wishful thinking from people—even if I wanted to believe it could happen somehow.]
“You have to forget about those American girls… Missionaries’ sisters [I used to write to the sister of the Texan missionary from the days I got taught and baptised. She used to send me scented letters—Pleasure by Estee Lauder—and I imagined that one day I would marry her—and become American and straight in the process]. And forget about sister missionaries too! [There was one sister that I really cared for. I imagined I could somehow make it work too]. You’d be crazy… [He had no idea how crazy that would have been, indeed!]
“I hope all goes well for you and you call me and I will call you too. Thank you for everything. It was good, it really was. I know we will have fun again… and good luck with getting a job and with university…
“I hope you won’t have blue hair tomorrow because I think that sucks on Sunday! [Sylviane had started to get us to dye our hair. I just had one red streak for now. Something I had always wanted to try but never dared to]. They will be sick about that. But if you do and like it, forget about them, man. You don’t give a s-it. Je m’en fous qu’est-ce qu’ils pensent! [I don’t give a damn what they think]. C’est le moyen Américain [That’s the average American for you].
Serious. The mentality: we just don’t care whatever people think. It’s the way it should be… Don’t care about what people think… You’re not the person to do that. Parce que tu t’en fous! [because you don’t give a damn]. It’s just my advice… Yes, it’s my advice: Always be real, even when you’re talking to others, to a missionary, your bishop or your mom. Always say what you really feel. You don’t have to worry about what other people think. Just make sure that things are right between you and God, and you and yourself.
“It doesn’t matter what people think. I can see that every time. You see other people try and do things to please other people and they’re not happy. Just be yourself, man. Just do it if it makes you happy. Do it for yourself, don’t do it for others. If you go on a mission, do it because you want to please God, you wanna help others and wanna do it for yourself. Don’t do it for any other reasons.
“Just be happy, man. Sois toujours heureux. Dans la discussion aver les amis de l’Eglise, c’est le premier principe. (Be happy always. It is the first principle in the first missionary discussion). On est là pour être heureux, dans cette vie, c’est ça, man. [We are here to be happy, in this life. That’s what it’s all about]. Toujours avoir le sourire et tout ça. [Keep smiling] Mais bon, bref, fin. [Anyway, that’s it.] Goodbye to you, man. Take care. See you in Arizona. And we’ll keep in touch, man, so it’s no big deal! Ciao.”
She used to send me scented letters—Pleasure by Estee Lauder—and I imagined that one day I would marry her—and be straight.
As I transcribed Shawn’s words in my journal, I looked at the bright yellow paper on which he had transcribed song lyrics for me. I fell in love with Don Henley’s Boys of Summer the first time I saw the video on the French music channel—a decade after its original release. I taped it on the VCR and then held my sister’s dictaphone to the TV set to record it too.
I don’t know how much Shawn (supposed he) knew. Maybe he was referring to himself. Maybe he felt inspired. And maybe he just thought he should come up with something spiritual. Whatever the reason, I wish I had heeded to his advice. I wish I remembered it in crucial times in my life, good and bad. But I didn’t. Not for many years to come.
At least I knew I would see him again. He was Elder Larson’s companion. Not far.
I already missed the sisters and I’m glad I didn’t know we’d never meet again. I still see some of their updates on social media, though.
The gay missionary came out a year after his mission and is no longer a member. I found out when we reconnected on Facebook.
The missionary from the other team who liked to play by the rules and that Shawn made fun of (especially after he told on us to the Mission President) passed away shortly after his mission. He died of a brain aneurism. We were told his new wife was hysterical at the funeral and I couldn’t help thinking that it might be partly because she might never be able to marry again.
Mormons want to be sealed (married for time and for all eternity in the temple), so Death does not do them part. A woman cannot be sealed more than to one man. Unless the 19 year-old widow married a non-member (which was allowed but not the best option in Mormon doctrine) or got ‘unsealed’ (and therefore be separated in the afterworld from the man she loved) she’d have to remain single (and celibate) for the rest of her life. And as bad as those options were, they were still far better than those available to gay Mormons wishing to remain in the Church.
Interesting to note that straight Mormon men don’t have that problem: they can be sealed to another woman if their wife dies. Indeed, while the Church condemns and persecutes polygamists in this world, it still believes it is right for the afterlife. Perhaps that will change soon, in a new policy, which LDS members will call ‘a revelation’.
That’s the Fundamentalist in me talking. I don’t like change overall. Maybe that’s why Boys of Summer is still my favourite song.