Family relationships "can be some of the most rewarding yet challenging experiences we encounter," said Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. "Many of us have faced a fracture of some sort within our families."
Speaking during the Saturday afternoon session of general conference on May 31, Elder Renlund said one such fracture developed between Parley and Orson Pratt, early converts to the Church and ordained apostles. Both faced trials of faith but came through with unshakable testimonies. However, during the Nauvoo era, a deep rift developed between them in 1846. While Parley wrote a letter attempting to resolve the dispute, Orson didn't reply.
Several years later, in 1853, Orson learned of a project to publish a book on the descendants of William Pratt, their earliest American ancestor. "Orson began to weep 'like a little child' as he glimpsed this treasure trove of family history. His heart melted, and he determined to repair the breach with his brother," Elder Renlund said. Orson wrote to his brother, begging for his forgiveness.
"Despite their unshakeable testimonies, their love for their ancestors was the catalyst to heal a rift, mend a hurt, and seek and extend forgiveness," Elder Renlund said.
Temple and family history work bless the lives of the living, Elder Renlund said. "When God directs us to do one thing, He often has many purposes in mind. Family history and temple work is not only for the dead, but blesses the living as well. For Orson and Parley, it turned their hearts to each other."
Church members have a divinely appointed responsibility to seek out their ancestors and perform the ordinances necessary to redeem the dead. Elder Renlund said, "[As] we participate in family history and temple work today, we also lay claim to 'healing' blessings promised by prophets and apostles."
These include increased understanding of the Savior, feeling a greater influence of the Holy Ghost, strengthened faith, the ability and motivation to learn and repent, protection from temptations and other incredible blessings.
"If you have prayed for any of these blessings, participate in family history and temple work," Elder Renlund said. "As you do so, your prayers will be answered."
To illustrate the capacity to heal that the blessings of the temple have, Elder Renlund, who was a cardiologist before he was called as a General Authority, told about a young man named Todd. He and his family were members of the Church, but their activity was sporadic and they hadn't experienced the blessings of the temple.
In 1999, Todd collapsed from a ruptured blood vessel in his brain and died soon afterward. His mother, Betty, on the last night of his life, promised him that she would make sure his temple work was done.
Todd's heart was transplanted into Elder Renlund's patient, a man by the name of Rod. He learned the identity of his heart donor's family and began a correspondence with them. "About two years later, Todd's mother, Betty, invited Rod to be present when she went to the temple for the first time. Rod and Betty first met in person in the celestial room of the St. George Utah Temple," Elder Renlund said.Comment on this story
Some time later, Todd's father died and Betty invited Rod to represent her deceased son in receiving his temple ordinances. "Rod gratefully did so, and the proxy work culminated in a sealing room in the St. George Utah Temple."
Fifteen years after that, Elder Renlund was invited to seal Rod and his bride; in attendence were Betty and her family — Rod's donor family.
Elder Renlund concluded, "Orson and Parley Pratt experienced the healing and sealing effects of family history and temple work early in this dispensation. Betty, her family and Rod experienced it. You can, too. Through His Atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ offers these blessings to all, both the dead and the living."