Your Brother

Obadiah was unhappy with the Edomites. They stood by and watched as their neighbors in the kingdom of Judah were conquered and carried away captive. “On the day that you stood aloof,” he said, “on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.” Then he reminded the Edomites of their relationship with the children of Israel:

But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress.

Obadiah 1:11-12, English Standard Version

The Edomites were descendants of Esau, the older brother of Jacob. Even though Jacob and Esau had lived a thousand years earlier, Obadiah wanted the Edomites to remember their shared heritage with the Israelites and to think of them as brothers.

Elder Dale G. Renlund shared the experience of Orson Pratt, a church member in the 1800s who had a strained relationship with his brother Parley. When Orson began to research their family history, his heart was softened toward his brother. ““Now my dear brother,” he wrote, “there are none among all the descendants of our Ancestor, Lieut[enant] William Pratt, who have so deep an interest in searching out his descendants as ourselves…. We know that the God of our fathers has had a hand in all this. … I will beg pardon for having been so backward in writing to you. … I hope you will forgive me.” (Orson Pratt to Parley P. Pratt, Mar. 10, 1853, Parley P. Pratt Collection, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; quoted in Givens and Grow, Parley P. Pratt, 319).

Elder Renlund went on to share the lesson of this experience:

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. Family history and temple work provided the power to heal that which needed healing.

Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing,” General Conference, April 2018

In the Book of Mormon, the descendants of Lehi were divided into Nephites and Lamanites for much of their history. Those labels separated them, just as the Edomites considered themselves to be separate from the Israelites. But if they had thought more carefully about those label, they might have recognized the kinship implied in them. Nephi and Laman were brothers after all. Brothers might fight and argue, but in the end they are family, and they are supposed to stick up for each other. No wonder one of the first messages the Savior delivered when He visited the Nephites and the Lamanites was a call to eliminate contention. (See 3 Nephi 11:29-30.) And no wonder one of the outcomes of His visit was that they stopped thinking of themselves as separate groups. (See 4 Nephi 1:15-17.)

Today, I will ponder how my family history connects me with other people. I will think about people who may be distantly related to me in light of our common heritage. We are brothers and sisters, not only because we are all children of God, but also because our ancestors were literally brothers and sisters. I will remember Obadiah’s stern rebuke: Don’t stand idly by when your brothers and sisters are suffering. Don’t gloat over their misfortunes. Treat them as a brother should.

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