His Brother’s Keeper

by Catherine and Don O. Thorpe

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    You’ll find the Morales of this story are worth knowing.

    Jonathon Morales, 14, leans over the front seat of his older brother’s car and guides him through the streets of Mexico City, population 20 million. Israel Morales has just returned from a mission to New York City. He has forgotten some of Mexico City’s streets. The two brothers talk softly, trying to figure out the best way to their destination. There are questions and confusion, but no impatience or sharpness. There’s a peaceful feeling in the car.

    Why do these two brothers get along so well? How can they be so cheerful in situations that usually bring contention?

    Their only sister, Bethsheba, 16, says, “My brothers are always smiling and friendly, especially Jonathon. He even smiles when I get cross with him. So usually I just shrug my shoulders and forget my anger.”

    Jonathon and Israel also have three more brothers: Jordan, 19; Adrian, 24; and Ulises, 26; and parents: Ulises, Sr., and Guadalupe. It’s a home filled with a good-natured attitude.

    Jonathon goes home teaching with his father, and this gives him an opportunity to share his cheerful disposition with others. He likes to see the Spirit help families develop a good feeling in their homes. “I feel like a missionary when I go home teaching,” he says. He wears a tie, and he takes his Book of Mormon along. Jonathon wants to go on a mission so he can be like his older brother.

    When Israel returned from his mission, he brought back a symbolic American dollar bill for Jonathon to put into his mission savings. He also brought him a T-shirt with the mission logo on it. Israel often reads the scriptures in English to his younger brother so Jonathon can become familiar with the language in case he is called to an English-speaking mission.

    It is obvious that Israel loves his younger brother; they go many places together and enjoy each other’s company.

    Jonathon has been following in his brother’s footsteps since he was a young boy. When he was only seven he followed his example and bore his testimony in fast and testimony meeting. Jonathon remembers, “After my brother bore his testimony, I felt a strong feeling that the gospel was true. So I stood up and gave my testimony.”

    When he was 11 years old, Jonathon’s friends at school tried to get him to smoke, but he turned them down, recalling his brother had turned down the same temptations.

    Ismael Ruiz, 17, a young man in Israel’s ward, remembers, “When Israel was my age, he protected me from the bullies in our school, and he showed me that you didn’t have to swear or do the kinds of things the other boys did to impress people. I never saw Israel do or say anything bad. And he always talked about his parents with love and respect. I’ve remembered that and tried to be like him as I grew up.”

    Finally the two brothers find the right street, and a few minutes later arrive at their destination. Their influence on each other is warm and genuine. While Jonathon has been looking up to his older brother for many years, the reverse is also true. Israel is motivated to do what is right because his younger brother is doing what is right. And Israel knows that Jonathon is watching him.

    Photography by Don O. Thorpe