My friend Miguel is heading home to Mexico. He sent his wife and three children back and planned to stay in Utah and work for a year. But he couldn't do it. He missed them too much.
So he's heading south.
That will make the "America for Americans" crowd smile, I'm sure. Miguel has been here without papers.
But it will also make the members of our little LDS branch very melancholy. He will be missed. For a decade here, Miguel has been all about hard work and humility — he's been all smiles, simplicity and service.
This may sound like an exaggeration, but it's not.
Miguel may be the best man I know.
(If you wonder if he'll see all this, he won't. He speaks very little English and never sees a newspaper.)
I tried to help him with money a couple of times, but he often just sent it back to the branch as fast offerings. I know. I was the financial clerk and recognized the crisp bills.
And like Clint Eastwood, he has played the role of "The Man With No Name" in many of my columns. I've used him as an example about tithing, baby blessings and baptisms. Like a scribe, I simply followed him around and passed along to readers what I observed.
I observed a special man.
One day I hope to write a book about him: "Miguel the Mormon."
And so today, as a kind of farewell, let me share a final moment from the life of Miguel the Mormon.
It happened several Sundays ago in priesthood meeting.
The lesson that day was about forgiveness. And before long the men started sharing stories. Many told how difficult it had been for them to forgive their fathers. They were from a dozen different countries, but "father forgiveness" was a common theme among them. I was surprised how many had absent, angry or alcoholic dads.
As the comments went around the room, I could see Miguel's eyes grow soft and sad. I knew his own father had passed away when he was a little boy. I also knew his mother had run away with another man and left him to fend for himself and his siblings in the cornfields of Jalisco.
When Miguel raised his hand to speak, my spiritual antenna went up. I listened carefully. Without self-consciousness or guile, he told how when his mother abandoned him, he was so furious he couldn't speak to her for 10 years.
The men listened, waiting to hear how Miguel finally found a way to forgive her.
It never came.
"Ten years is a long time," Miguel said, tears in his eyes. "I hope one day my mother will be able to forgive me for being such a stubborn and prideful son."
That was Miguel — always filled with spiritual surprises.
I will miss him very much.
The branch will miss him.
And so will all the Americans who never got to meet him and missed getting to know a true Latter-day Saint.
Jerry Johnston is a Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears weekly in Mormon Times.
e-mail: [email protected]