Volume 4 Chapter 21

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Chapter 21

The Mission to Jerusalem—Progress of Orson Hyde in His Journey.

Elder John E. Page—a Laggard.

Elder George A. Smith met Elder John E. Page at Philadelphia, and advised him to take up contributions to enable him to sail within three days in the Garrick for England, and overtake Elder Orson Hyde and accompany him to Jerusalem, promising to use all the influence and exertion in his power to assist him. Elder Page rejected the proposition. Elder Smith subsequently learned that Elder Page had sufficient money, without collections to have taken him through to England.

Tuesday, 15.

Letter from Elder Orson Hyde to President Joseph Smith—Recounting Incidents of his Journey en Route for Jerusalem.

London, June 15, 1841.

President Smith:

Sir—With pleasure I take my pen to write you at this time, and through you to the Times and Seasons, and through it to the Saints at large, and to all whom it may concern. May grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, rest upon you abundantly, and enable you to serve Him acceptably, secure to yourself that honor which cometh from above, guide the counsels of the Saints in wisdom, that peace and good will may reign predominant in Zion, and joy and gladness swell every grateful heart. Most gladly would I embrace an opportunity of a personal interview with you, did one offer, but such a favor is beyond my reach at this time. I have just seen the 12th number of the Times and Seasons, containing the minutes of your conference, the report of the Presidency, the celebration of the anniversary of the Church and the laying of the foundation of the Temple. This, to me was a precious gem; it brought tidings from my own country, and from the place rendered doubly endearing from the fact that there is the home of my wife and children.

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I was sorry that Elder Page had been so tardy in his movements that objections were made to him. Most gladly would I have hailed him as a companion to the oriental continent; but my hopes of that are fled. I shall go alone or find some other person, in all probability, to go with me.

I have written a book to publish in the German language, setting forth our doctrine and principles in as clear and concise a manner as I possibly could. After giving a history of the rise of the Church, in something the manner that Brother Orson Pratt did, I have written a snug little article on every point of doctrine believed by the Saints; I began with the Priesthood and showed that the Saints were not under the necessity of tracing back the dark and bloody stream of papal superstition to find their authority; neither were they compelled to seek for it among the floating and transient notions of Protestant reformers; but God has sent His holy angel directly from heaven with this seal and authority, and conferred it upon men with His own hands—quoting the letter and testimony of Oliver Cowdery; next was on the use and validity of the holy scriptures in the Church; next on faith, set forth from the scriptures and the Book of Covenants; then on repentance, baptism; laying on of hands; then the different offices of the Church; next the power and authority of each one; and, in fine, the whole order, doctrine and government of the Church. I have not written it as a law binding on the German Saints; but have taken this course to illustrate and set forth the true principles of our doctrine to them, fully believing that it would meet with the cordial approbation of those whom I have the distinguished honor to represent, could they but see it. I have written a lengthy preface and introduction to it. I here copy an extract from the introduction: “When in the course of divine Providence it becomes our duty to record one of those remarkable events which gives birth to a new era, and lays the foundation for the renovation of the moral world, it fills the mind with wonder, astonishment and admiration. How welcome are the rays of the morning light, after the shades of darkness have clothed the earth in gloom! So after a long and tedious night of moral darkness under which the earth has rolled, and her inhabitants groaned for the last fourteen hundred years, an angel commissioned from the Almighty, descended and rolled back the curtains of night from the minds of some and caused the sunbeams of truth to enlighten, cheer, and warm the hearts of many. Welcome, welcome to our earth, thou messenger of the Most High! and thrice welcome the tidings which thou hast borne! O Gracious Father! I ask Thee, in the name of Thy holy child, Jesus, to bless with Thy royal favor, the weak exertions of Thy humble servant, and make this production a blessing to all people who may be favored with a perusal of its pages. Wherever it shall go let it be a messenger of conviction to the wicked, and a harbinger of peace to the righteous. Let its contents be borne upon every breeze, and wafted to the remotest climes. Let the angel of the covenant go before it, and prepare its way. Let its heavenly influence be distilled upon the rich and fertile soil of humble and honest hearts. Go forth, therefore, little volume to other nations and tongues, and may the Almighty speed your way, and like a sharp, two-edged sword cut the way through the prejudices of this generation; encamp with all thy virtues in the hearts of the people, and there let thy principles be enthroned.”

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One thing I was pleased with, which I noticed in the Times and Seasons—the remarks made on the use of intoxicating spirits. In my heart they found a corresponding echo. I should not be willing to indulge the thought for a moment that the Saints in Nauvoo would quietly stand by and see a brother gorge himself with that strong drink which makes a hell of his home, and rolls the fiery flood of ruin over the affections of his once happy family. No! they will dash from his lips the cup of wretchedness, and sharply rebuke the homicide that sells to him the wine of wrath, and measures to him his wife’s tears. * * * May the lightnings of heaven forever blast (I had almost said) those brewers of strong drink which send forth their corrupt and poisonous streams to sweep down in their filthy current men of sterling talents to an untimely grave. May the Saints of God stand as far from them as Lot stood from Sodom in its evil day. This dizzy flood has sometimes entered the house of worship, invaded the sacred desk, and hushed in death forever the voice that could plead like an angel, the cause of God and man.

I have just received a note from Dr. S. Hirschell, President Rabbi of the Hebrew community of this country, in reply to a very polite note which I sent him, requesting the indulgence of a personal interview with him. But in consequence of a very severe accident which befell him he is confined to his room, and unable at this time to grant the asked indulgence. (His leg is broken.)

I have addressed to him a communication upon the subject of my mission, a copy of which I transmit to you. It may not be altogether uninteresting to the Saints and friends in America.

Elder Hyde’s Letter to Rabbi Hirschell.

Rev. Sir:—I cannot but express my sorrow and regret at the misfortune under which you labor, in consequence of the severe accident which befell you, and by which you are confined to your room. Please accept, sir, the sincere wishes of a stranger, that you may speedily recover from the injury you sustained in consequence of the accident, and resume the labors which your high and responsible station calls you to perform.

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Feeling that I may not enjoy the privilege and happiness of a personal interview with you, I hope you will indulge the liberty which I now presume to take, in addressing a written communication to you, embracing some of those things which I had fondly hoped would have been the foundation of a mutual interchange of thought between us. But as Providence has laid an embargo upon that distinguished privilege, I must forego, at this time, the pleasure of a verbal relation of those things pertaining to your nation, with which my mind is deeply affected.

Since I have arrived to years of more mature reflection, and become religiously inclined, the writings of the Jewish Prophets have won my affections; and the scattered and oppressed condition of that people has enlisted the finest sympathies of my heart. Believing, therefore, that the words of Hosea, the Prophet, 2; 23, connected with your magnanimity, will prohibit the indulgence of any prejudices in your feelings against the author of this production, in consequence of his not being able by any existing document or record, to identify himself with your nation.

“About nine years ago, a young man with whom I had had a short acquaintance, and one, too, in whom dwelt much wisdom and knowledge—in whose bosom the Almighty had deposited many secrets, laid his hand upon my head and pronounced these remarkable words—’in due time thou shalt go to Jerusalem, the land of thy fathers, and be a watchman unto the house of Israel; and by thy hands shall the Most High do a great work, which shall prepare the way and greatly facilitate the gathering together of that people.’ Many other particulars were told me by him at that time, which I do not write in this letter. But sufficient is written to show that divine appointment is claimed as the mainspring that has sent me forth from the embraces of an affectionate family and kind friends, as well as from the land that gave me birth.

My labors since that period have been bestowed upon the Gentiles in various countries, and on both sides of the Atlantic, until in the early part of March, 1840, I retired to my bed one night as usual; and while meditating and contemplating the field of my future labors, the vision of the Lord, like clouds of light, burst into my view (see Joel 2:28). The cities of London, Amsterdam, Constantinople and Jerusalem, all appeared in succession before me, and the Spirit said unto me, “Here are many of the children of Abraham whom I will gather to the land that I gave to their fathers; and here also is the field of your labors. Take, therefore, proper credentials from my people, your brethren, and also from the Governor of your state, with the seal of authority thereon, and go ye forth to the cities which have been shown you, and declare these words unto Judah, and say, “blow ye the trumpet in the land; cry, gather together, and say, assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defensed cities. Set up the standard towards Zion—retire, stay not, for I will bring evil from the north and a great destruction. The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way—he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate, and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished—that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received of the Lord’s hand doubly for all her sins. Let your warning voice be heard among the Gentiles as you pass; and call yet upon them in my name for aid and for assistance. With you it mattereth not whether it be little or much; but to me it belongeth to show favor unto them who show favor unto you.” The vision continued open about six hours, that I did not close my eyes in sleep. In this time many things were shown unto me which I have never written; neither shall I write them until they are fulfilled in Jerusalem.

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It appears from the Prophets, that Jerusalem has none to guide—none to take her by the hand among all the sons whom she hath brought forth and reared. But these two sons are come unto thee! the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls.

Permit me now, Rev. Sir, to trouble you with the reflections of a mind that feels completely untrammelled from every party interest, and from every sectarian influence.

When I look at the condition of your fathers in the days of David and Solomon, and contrast that with the present condition of their descendants, I am led to exclaim, “How are the mighty fallen.” Then they possessed a kingdom—a land flowing with milk and honey—then the strong arm of Jehovah taught the surrounding nations to pay tribute and homage to them—then their standard was raised high, their banner floated on every breeze; and under its shade the sons and daughters of Israel reposed in perfect safety; and the golden letters of light and knowledge were inscribed on its folds. But now, no kingdom—no country—no tribute of gain or honor—no standard—no security: Their sceptre has departed! and instead of that light and knowledge which once gave them a transient elevation above other nations, the height of their ambition is now (with some honorable exceptions) the accumulation of sordid gain, by buying and selling the stale refuse with which their fathers would never have defiled their hands.

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Why this wonderful change? Is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a just God? Most certainly He is. If, then, He is a just God, of course He will mete out and apportion the chastisement or penalty to the magnitude of the offense or crime committed. Allowing, then, the law of Moses to be the standard by which actions are weighed: were not idolatry and the shedding of innocent blood the greatest sins which your fathers committed? And was not the penalty inflicted upon them for that transgression, captivity in Babylon seventy years? Have they ever been guilty of idolatry at all since their return from Babylon? No! Have they been guilty of shedding innocent blood, to that extent since their return, that they were before they were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar? The Jew says, No! Very well; there will none deny, with any claim upon your credulity, but that the disaster and overthrow that befell the Jewish nation in the days of Vespasian, very far exceeded in severity, in almost every particular, the disaster and overthrow that befell them in the days of Nebuchadnezzar.

Now, then, if God be just and mete out and apportion the chastisement or penalty to the magnitude of the offense or crime committed, it follows, of course, that your fathers committed some far greater crime subsequent to their return to Babylon, than ever they before committed. Be that crime whatever it may; know ye that for it, or because of it, the Roman armies were permitted to crowd their conquests to the heart of your city—burn your temple—kill your men, women and children, and disperse your remnant to the four quarters of the earth. The fiery storm that burst upon your nation at that time, and the traces of blood which they have ever since left behind them in their flight and dispersion, together with the recent cursed cruelties inflicted upon them in Damascus and Rhodes, but too plainly declare that the strong imprecation which they uttered on a certain occasion has been fulfilled upon them to the letter. “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” If condemning and crucifying Jesus of Nazareth was not the cause of this great evil, what was the cause of it?

Aware that I have written very plainly upon these points, that have come within my notice, you believe me, sir, when I assure you, that my pen is pointed with friendship, and dipped in the fountain of love and good will toward your nation. The thoughts which it records have proceeded from a heart grateful to the Almighty, that the time has arrived when the day-star of your freedom already begins to dispel the dark and gloomy clouds which have separated you from the favor of your God. Ere long it will be said to you, “Arise, shine, for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.”

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The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Lo! Zion’s standard is unfurled;
The dawning of a brighter day
Majestic rises on the world.

The Gentile fulness now comes in,
And Israel’s blessings are at hand:
Lo! Judah’s remnant, cleansed from sin,
Shall in their promised Canaan stand.

Now, therefore, O ye children of the covenant, repent of all your backslidings, and begin, as in days of old, to turn to the Lord your God. Arise! arise! and go out from among the Gentiles; for destruction is coming from the north to lay their cities waste. Jerusalem is thy home. There the God of Abraham will deliver thee (Joel 2:32). There the bending heavens shall reveal thy long looked-for Messiah in fleecy clouds of light and glory, to execute vengeance upon thine enemies; and lead thee and thy brethren of the ten tribes to sure conquest and certain victory. Then shall thrones be cast down, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God. Then will they come from the east, west, north, south, and sit down in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But the children of the kingdom (Gentiles) shall be cast out, and the kingdom restored to Israel.

With sentiments of distinguished consideration, I have the honor, sir, to subscribe myself,

Your most obedient servant,

Orson Hyde.

Rev. Dr. Solomon Hirschell, President Rabbi of the Hebrew Society in England.

Conclusion of Elder Hyde’s Letter to the Prophet.

It is very hard times in England. Thousands have nothing to do, and are literally starving. Trade of all sorts is at the lowest ebb. Very cold and dry. No harvest unless rain come soon. You will discover that the greater part of the English brethren have always worked under masters; and they have not so much notion of planning and shifting for themselves, particularly in a strange country, as the Americans. They want some one to be a kind of father to them, to give them plenty of work, and plenty to eat; and they will be content. They are a very industrious people whenever they can get employment: and by a little fatherly care, they will soon get way-wised to the country, and be enabled to shift for themselves. I trust that exertions are made to give employment to as many as possible. You know the reasons there better than I do, and you have received a specimen of the English Saints. Now if you have any counsel to give concerning the gathering, in addition to that already given, I shall be happy to receive and execute it, as far as opportunity offers.

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I shall not remain here long, it is true; but Brother Pratt is here, and I shall return here some time if the Lord will.

I must now close by saying for one and all, God bless Zion for ever and ever.

Your brother in Christ,

Orson Hyde.