Matt’s hero was his big brother Nate. Although Nate was ten years older than Matt, they were very good friends.
When Matt was seven, he wrote this essay for school:
Wouldn’t It Be Great If I Grew Up to Be Like My Big Brother?
Wouldn’t it be great if I grew up to be like my big brother? My big brother is an awesome basketball player. He can sink three-point shots, and he almost always makes his foul shots. He can really jump high, so he gets a lot of rebounds. My favorite thing is when he plays me a game of one-on-one. It is even fun to play when he beats me with all of his slam dunks. I’m glad I have such a neat big brother. I hope I can be the same kind of big brother to my little brother someday.
Matt still felt exactly the same way about his brother two years later, but along with those happy feelings were some feelings of sadness. Nate was nineteen now, and he had recently met with the bishop and stake president to send in his mission papers. Matt wanted Nate to serve a mission, but he knew that two years would seem like a very long time. He would really miss his brother.
When the mission-call envelope arrived in the mail, the family all sat around Nate. He read his call from the prophet:
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Brazil Florianopolis Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of twenty-four months.
Nate continued reading, but Matt didn’t hear the rest of the letter. All he understood was that his brother was going to go to a place Matt had never heard of and that he would be gone for two years. Matt knew that his family and Nate were excited, so he kept his sad feelings to himself and tried to share in the celebration.
The next few months were busy ones as everyone helped Nate prepare for his mission. They found maps and pictures of Brazil and hung them on the wall. Mom bought some tapes so that the family could all learn a few words of Portuguese. Nate bought a lot of white shirts and ties. Matt thought that Nate already looked like a missionary in his new suit.
Matt was very proud as Nate spoke in sacrament meeting on the Sunday before he was to leave. Matt felt all warm and fuzzy inside as Nate shared his testimony. As much as he was going to miss Nate, Matt knew that his brother was going to be an awesome missionary.
The day before Nate was to leave, Matt was out in the driveway, shooting a few hoops. He was trying to not feel sad, but tears were beginning to pool in his eyes.
“Hey, what’s up?” Nate asked as he rebounded the ball after Matt’s shot. Matt didn’t want Nate to see him cry, so he choked back the tears and challenged his older brother to a game.
Nate had noticed the tears in Matt’s eyes, though, and agreed to the game under one condition. “If I win, you have to make me a chocolate milk shake. Deal?”
“You’re on!” Matt grinned as he grabbed the ball, dribbled past Nate, and swished a three-point shot.
It was a hard-fought game, but Matt finally won by a point.
“Good game, champ!” Nate gave Matt a high five. “I hope that they have basketballs in Brazil so I can practice once in a while, or you’ll really skunk me in two years.”
Matt laughed, moving close to his big brother as they sat down under the shade of the apple tree in the backyard.
“I guess the treats are on me today.” Nate smiled as he handed Matt his favorite candy bar and pulled another from his pocket for himself.
“I was really hoping for a chocolate milk shake,” Nate said as he took the last bite of his candy bar. “I’m not sure I’ll get any of those in Brazil.”
Matt tried to smile, but a few tears slipped out of the corner of his eyes and down his cheeks.
Nate put his arm around his little brother. “I’ll be fine, champ. I think I’ll survive for two years without chocolate milk shakes.”
Matt smiled but couldn’t keep his voice from cracking. “You might survive without milk shakes, but I don’t know if I will survive without you.”
“Can I share a secret with you?” Nate said in a quiet voice.
“I’m really going to miss you and the rest of the family. I am also very nervous about going to a country so far away where they speak a different language.”
Matt was surprised. “If you’re nervous and scared, why are you going?”
Nate was quiet for a few moments. Then he said, “Champ, do you believe that President Hinckley is a true prophet of God?”
Matt nodded. “Sure I do.”
“Our prophet has said that all worthy young men should serve a mission. Even though I am nervous and know it will be very hard, I want to follow the prophet. If he says that the Lord wants me in Brazil, then I need to go.”
As Matt gave his brother a hug, he said, “I promise to write to you and pray for you. I really am glad that you are going on a mission.”
“I appreciate that, champ!” Nate wrapped his arms around Matt in a huge bear hug.
Although the next day, it was hard to tell his brother good-bye for two years, Matt thought that the Missionary Training Center was awesome. He had never seen so many missionaries, and he had a really warm, happy feeling inside while they were there. He knew that Nate would be all right.
Matt enjoyed the letters that came from Brazil. In one letter, Nate described the excitement of the people when President Hinckley went to Brazil to dedicate a temple near them. Nate knew one family who had the opportunity to personally talk with President Hinckley. They later bore testimony of him as a true prophet of God.
Matt knew that President Hinckley was the prophet for the whole world, but he hadn’t thought about how important it is for everyone in the world to have the opportunity to learn about him and about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One day, a letter arrived from Brazil from a girl named Aline. Matt’s mother took it to a friend who had served a mission in Brazil several years earlier. He translated the letter into English for them. In the letter, Aline told how thankful she was that Nate and other missionaries had taught her the truth and had baptized her. Matt felt a warm feeling inside as he finished reading her letter:
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am sixteen years old and have been a member of the Church for four months. It is true, and I have a serious happiness in the church in which the elder baptized me.
I am a stake missionary now, and I know how important missionary work is. Missionaries receive much happiness, blessings, and make many friends, and they dedicate everything with this great love they have.
I am very happy in this Church that is so true, and I am also happy for my family that is in the Church.
I want to give a very strong hug for all of your family. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
After reading the letter, Matt sat down and wrote a letter to Nate. He told his brother how thankful he was that Nate was in Brazil, teaching people about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Matt also did some serious thinking. He didn’t want just to be a good basketball player like Nate when he grew up. He wanted to be like Nate and follow the prophet and be a good missionary, as well!
The fundamental [most important] responsibility of prophets … is to bear certain testimony of the name of Jesus Christ to all the world. …
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven.” …
Secondly, prophets … teach the word of God in clarity [in a way easy to understand] that all His children may … be blessed through obedience to their teachings. …
Our sustaining support of prophets [is] in our courage, testimony, and faith to listen to, heed, and follow them. …
Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy (Ensign, November 2000, pages 40–41.)