The fierce desire harbored by the author of this booklet to fulfill an obligation that, he feels, a more than human power has imposed on him, as well as the heartfelt diligence with which he hopes to gladden his fellow men through the proclamation of those truths that fill his own heart with inexpressible joy – these things have impelled him to commend the following little volume to the German people so that it might be received with an interest appropriate to the importance of the subject being treated.
When in the course of human events it is made incumbent on us through the injunction of Divine Providence to record those unusual events that are suitable to comprise a new era and lay the foundation for renewal of a spiritual world and the destruction of tyranny and oppression to help promote the glorious kingdom of the Prince of Peace – then minds are filled with wonder and astonishment.
The millennial church of Christ has been founded in the United States of America through the direct action of Divine Providence by His sending of His holy angel to show the nations the true fundamental teachings of his church, which was to be restored in the last times to prepare for the second coming of Christ to this world.
The author of this little work is an American by birth and has been a priest of this church for eleven years, almost since the outset of its organization. It began on 1 April 1830 in the city of Manchester, Ontario county, in the state of New York, consisting of six members. But quickly it grew into hundreds and thousands. As its organization advanced and improved, there were among them prophets and apostles named by God. These were ordained to high posts of responsibility and anointed with sacred oil.
The rapidity with which these teachings spread over America and England since their proclamation, although under the most unfavorable circumstances, attests that a might and power lies concealed within them that proclaims them worthy of the attention of a rational people.
The number of those who have become brothers in faith in the two countries is approaching 80,000.
The purpose of this little work is therefore to set out the particular principles and teachings of our church, which bears the name: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”
Since the rise of this church, we have had to struggle through tribulations of a serious nature. The defaming tongue of calumny and falsehood turned against us, and press and pulpit cast stumbling blocks in our path with unrestrained hand. Yet if it had gone no farther, we would have little cause to complain. But our enemies, seeing that moral authority was insufficient to impede the rapid progress of our teaching, grasped for other means, and their own language was: “Let us oppose them with arguments of bloody steel!” And they fell upon us with sword in hand. They burned down many of our houses, destroyed our fields, killed our flocks and with cold-blooded intent shot dead around thirty of our brothers, many of whom were priests, or wretchedly wounded them, even when they offered no resistance.
As an American, it pains me to have to confess my fellow countrymen capable of such brutality, but an eternal Government that mingles the interests of all nations with each other demands the sacrifice of any local attachment and the voluble confession of truth as a warning for all nations that they should take care never to become the initiators of such misery.
In this storm of persecution that fell upon us in the winter of 1838–39, almost two hundred saints were dragged into prison. Some obtained their freedom after a few days; others languished three or four weeks; and yet others even lay in chains for half a year, after which they were nevertheless granted their freedom, although their enemies were their judges.
Almost 12,000 souls were banished in the cold of winter and their houses, farms, lands etc. etc. were consigned to their enemies as booty.
All this took place under the protection of a lieutenant governor whose every method was diametrically opposed to the laws of the land, but who feared us as a rival power.
The matter has now been brought before the American Congress, and it is to hope that the damages and affronts of a suffering innocent people can be appropriately redressed by this honorable assembly.
Thus we were compelled to pass through afflictions and humiliations of the most painful kind; but like the tender young mother whose love for her newborn is all the greater the more suffering she had to endure at its birth, so too is our love for our religion increased by the cruel hand of persecution that imposed exile, prison and death upon us.
These, however, did not inflict more on us than on our Lord and Master or on the saints of former days, and if we suffer like them in this world, so too do we hope to be glorified with them in that country that lies beyond the realm of the oppressors.
The reader is therefore earnestly admonished to read this little work with diligence and attentiveness. May no one judge its contents prematurely or condemn it, but instead pray to God in the innermost part of his soul with beseeching heart in the name of His holy child Jesus that light and knowledge, joy and gladness might descend upon him to revive his spirit and grant his devout wishes.
How welcome are the beams of morning to us after the dark shadow of night! Thus may we also feel equally after a long, lonely night of spiritual darkness, beneath which rolling Earth and its inhabitants have sighed for so many a century.
An angel, yea an angel sent by the Almighty descended to lift the veil of darkness from the minds of some people to make them receptive to the beaming light of truth that warms and gladdens the hearts of so many. Welcome, yea welcome you messenger of Heaven, and thrice welcome the message that you have brought us.
O benevolent Father! I ask you in the name of your holy child Jesus to bless the feeble effort of your servant; and wherever this little book may go, let it be a messenger of persuasion for the wicked and a harbinger of peace for the just. Let its contents be carried forth by favorable winds to the farthest borders and let its influence thrive on the rich and fruitful soil of humble and righteous hearts, let it bear shoots and yield fruit even into eternal life.
Go forth now, you little book; the Lord will hasten your paths. Battle the prejudices that will rise up against you, take your enemies captive, enter with your virtues into the hearts of the nations, and let your principles be enthroned there forever.
Frankfurt, in August 1842
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It’s notable how forthright Orson Hyde is in his assertion that the church is nothing less than the restored and pre-millennial church of Jesus Christ. He underscores the epochal significance of the Restoration by echoing the language of the Declaration of Independence.
Around a third of the foreword is devoted to the recent persecution of church members in Missouri. The events in Missouri came at a time when Hyde was temporarily disaffected from the church, and his own role in the Missouri episode was, well, let’s say it’s complicated. But as a matter of persuasive rhetoric, the invocation of persecution wasn’t ineffective. Persecution and expulsion of Christian non-conformers, including Reformed and Anabaptists, was still less than a century in the past in German-speaking lands.
The last third of the foreword is comprised of Hyde’s direct addresses to his readers, an angel, God and the book itself. Hyde refers to his work as a “feeble effort” and also invokes divine blessing on it as it makes its way into the world, both rhetorical gestures with many centuries of tradition behind them.
His positioning himself as a “priest” (and his anointing) is really interesting. Despite having priests, early evangelists often used the term as an epithet. Was priest (instead of apostle) a conscious attempt to tap into the local religious heritage?
There also seems to be a sort of nationalistic Zionism going on, particularly while alluding to the Declaration of Independence, as you note.
…which is particularly striking while alluding to…
J., I don’t have a good read on the use of “priest.” It’s a fairly neutral word as far as I can tell. Interesting that he doesn’t call himself “apostle” when that option was available.
And yeah, I’m not sure if it’s nationalist (maybe more like universalist) or if Zionism is the right term, but it’s definitely not the strategy of American nationalism that the church would later embrace.
I’ve also had a chance for a quick look at Orson Pratt’s “An Interesting Account,” and it looks like Pratt strongly influenced Hyde’s retelling of church history and the Book of Mormon, but not the other 100 pages. We’ll have to see if there are obvious sources for the rest of the work.
Jonathan, Thanks for this series. I’m quite interested but don’t expect to have much of anything useful to add.
I was going to speculate on the use of the word “priest” rather than “apostle” — that the point was to use a word that, to his audience, denoted a status of ordained leadership while avoiding using a title that, while accurate for the LDS church, would be potentially confusing to his audience or raising questions in their minds outside his initial purpose. Perhaps in common German use at the time, “apostle” was generally limited to the apostles named in the New Testament. According to https://www.dwds.de/wb/Apostel
tracking use from 1600, its German meanings seem to have been limited to the 12 disciples:of the NT [(a) [Religion] Jünger Jesu] or either mocking or figurative [(b) [spöttisch, übertragen] Vertreter einer Lehre] The common use of the word had been drastically reduced from 1600 to 1800 according to the Wortverlaufskurve at that dwds.de site. I am not widely enough read in early 19th century German to make any independent evaluation of what I found at dwds.de.
I had supposed Hyde might have wished to avoid confusion with the Catholic Apostolic Church that did spread from England to Germany.*. But I think that hypothesis quite unlikely in view of the report by the New Apostolic Church (the surviving originally German splinter) that “It all began with the first sealing not only on German ground but on the European continent. On 17 October 1847 in Frankfurt, Apostle Thomas Carlyle administered the gift of the Holy Spirit to a number of people, among them a certain Heinrich Wilhelm Josias Thiersch. Thiersch, a professor of theology, returned to Marburg and in 1848 established the first Catholic Apostolic congregation there outside of the British Isles.” https://nac.today/en/a/347996
* Per Wikipedia: “In England in 1832, John Bate Cardale was called, through prophecies, as the first apostle of the second sending. Eleven more men from various Christian denominations, social positions and religious training were called to the newly founded apostle ministry from then until 1835. After a long period of combined preparation, these apostles started to travel around the world, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The main point of their gospel was that the Church had deviated from its origins; only through restoring the Universal Church to its perfect state could the return of Christ be ensured. They were convinced that the restoration of the apostles’ ministry was necessary to achieve that perfect condition.”
“As an American, it pains me to have to confess my fellow countrymen capable of such brutality”
A phrase that rings down through the ages
More speculation of the use of “priest”. In the Catholic Church (at least in the US, or maybe the English speaking world) a priest is formally a “presbyter” which comes from the Greek “presbuteros” which is commonly rendered into English as “Elder”. “Priest” is a derivation of “presbyter”. (See https://www.catholic.com/qa/where-in-the-new-testament-are-priests-mentioned for more detail.) It’s possible that the closest word Elder Hyde had for “elder” is a word that’s translated into English as “priest”. And this from someone who knows no German. :)