What Great Brothers Do


The greatest things I’ve learned in life have come from following my older brothers and doing the things they have done.

As a skinny 12-year-old, I watched through a chain-link fence as my two older brothers earned all-state baseball honors.

Life was exciting because they were my brothers. The guy wearing number eight and striking out three batters in a row, and the player hitting home runs over the centerfielder’s head were the same guys I shared a basement bedroom with. They were the ones who first taught me about putting gel in my hair and how to start a campfire. We were good friends.

The feelings of inadequacy kicked in because as a five-foot-three, 98-pound weakling, I could not understand how I would ever be able to fire an 80-mile-per-hour fastball or hit towering home runs.

On one hot summer afternoon, my oldest brother could see something was bothering me. After he encouraged me to tell him what was on my mind, I said in muffled tones, “How will I ever become a great baseball player like you?”

“Matt,” he said in his usual cheerful voice, “you’ve just got to do the things that great baseball players do.” After thinking about this, I came to realize that great baseball players aren’t only naturally talented, but they make themselves skilled through hours of practice. I committed myself to do all I could.

Three broken noses and six years later, I was a starter on the varsity baseball team and had just signed a national letter of intent to play college baseball.

I started my freshman year at college, and everything was going great. Great, that is, until an all-too-familiar feeling of my personal shortcomings began to settle in my stomach. My second-oldest brother, who was not only co-captain of my college team but also my roommate, had just come home from the mission field. He told extraordinary stories about living in England and preaching the gospel.

I read letters from the mission presidents of both of my older brothers describing what a good missionary “Elder Bennett” was and how blessed they would be because of their obedience and faith. Again, I began feeling inadequate. How could I ever measure up to their high level of missionary success? Although my body had grown several inches taller and my muscles had doubled in size, my testimony had not grown proportionately.

I confided in my brother and roommate, “What can I do to prepare to be a great missionary like you were? How can I change people’s lives like you did?” Again I received simple counsel. “Do the things that great missionaries do. Be nice to people, read your scriptures, and pray daily.”

I took the advice to heart and could feel my spiritual growth begin to catch up with my physical body.

Finally the day came for me to serve my mission, and being a missionary wasn’t nearly as glamorous as I had imagined from my brother’s stories. I quickly realized I was a small seedling among tall oaks of spirituality. I turned to my mission president for advice. “To strengthen your testimony and the testimonies of those around you, follow the example of our Savior. Do the things that he did. Jesus Christ’s life is an example for us in every way,” he told me as we were driving together one afternoon.

The greatest things I’ve learned in life have come from following my older brothers and doing the things they have done. My ultimate goal is to follow Jesus Christ. I know the way to fulfill that goal is to do the things that He who is greatest of all has done.

[photos] Photography by Christina Smith and courtesy of the Bennett family