Ottoman Palestine and Orson Hyde

Robert Hunt, “Ottoman Palestine and Orson Hyde,” in Selections from the Religious Education Student Symposium 2003 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003), 101–122.

Ottoman Palestine and Orson Hyde

Robert Hunt


I have only time to say that I have seen Jerusalem precisely according to the vision which I had . . . The Lord knows that I have had a hard time, and suffered much, but I have great reason to thank him.

—Elder Orson Hyde


From royals to biblical researchers, people have made pilgrimages to the Holy Land for centuries. Jerusalem, even during its low points, has attracted travelers from all areas of the world. Its history and holiness have had a strong influence on many. However, during the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, Jerusalem became a forgotten city, nearly empty of occupants but full of refuse and debris. One traveler during this time, the Reverend J. A. Spencer, wrote:

To a European or American accustomed to the broad avenues and clean, paved and well-lighted streets of most of our cities and towns, Jerusalem . . . appear[s] unpleasant and disagreeably dirty. Its streets are very narrow, extremely uneven and by no means free from filth; the nature of the ground on which the city stands, renders it a constant succession of up and down, the street holed in many places, paved in the form of stairs; the evident state of ruin, and almost desolation, which characterises some portions of the town not only annoys the traveller who has to make his way as best he can amid loose stones, dirt and nastiness, but fills his mind with sadness that the Holy City should be thus degraded and brought low. [1]

However, many travelers were able to see past the neglect and instead focused on the spirit that filled Jerusalem’s hallowed ground. In 1842 William Bartlett wrote, “Within, the city is as dull as without; ruinous heaps and mean houses meet the eye.” [2] Spencer and Bartlett were but two of the many pilgrims who made their way to the Holy Land during this time. For example, Sir Moses Montefiore was a British Jew who traveled to the Holy Land seven times between 1827 and 1874. A very influential man, Montefiore essentially became the unofficial ambassador for Jews in Palestine and all over the world. Edward Robinson, an American professor in biblical studies, conducted an extensive study of the topography and antiquities of Jerusalem and its surroundings in the spring of 1838, and returned in 1852 to continue his research. Most of the travelers to the Holy Land used his books heavily as references. There were those who made the journey simply for personal reasons, such as William Prime, a wealthy American who made his journey in 1856; William H. Bartlett, an artist, traveled in 1842; and future British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who went in 1831. [3]

Included in this group is a man who had a singular mission to fulfill. Elder Orson Hyde traveled to Palestine in 1841. His mission was to dedicate the land for the return of the Jews and others of Abraham’s posterity. Hyde recorded much of his experience in letters to the brethren and his family. From these, some of the conditions of his trip and of nineteenth-century Palestine are explained, but his records are too incomplete to understand fully what it was like. Other travelers to the Holy Land wrote their own records, which include detailed accounts of this area and, specifically, Jerusalem. From these records a more complete image of what Orson Hyde saw and experienced during his mission to the Holy Land can be derived. The following will examine Hyde’s travels using these records to create a more complete understanding of Hyde’s mission and the Holy Land in 1841.

Orson Hyde: A Man of Great Faith

Orson Hyde was born to Nathaniel and Sally Hyde on 8 January 1805, in Oxford, New Haven Connecticut. As a young man he moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where the spiritual excitement of the area led him to join the Campbellite faith. After hearing about a “gold Bible,” he investigated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was baptized on the first Sunday in October by his old Campbellite leader, Sidney Rigdon. Joseph Smith confirmed and blessed him, saying in part, “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 of that people.” [4] On 15 February 1835 Orson Hyde was ordained one of the original Twelve Apostles of this dispensation, “to be [an] especial messenger to bear the Gospel among the nations.” [5] Oliver Cowdery ordained him to this sacred office and in the blessing said “that he should go forth to the nations of the earth to proclaim the Gospel . . . and that he should go forth according to the commandment, to both Jew and Gentile . . . and go from land to land and from sea to sea.” [6]

The work of gathering Israel began with visions and manifestations in the Kirtland Temple. On 3 April 1836, Moses appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and “committed unto [them] the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth” (D&C 110:11). These keys allowed the children of Israel to begin gathering to their inherited land, as commanded by the Lord. With the key given there was one more thing left to do: dedicate Palestine for their return.

In the early part of March 1840, Orson Hyde retired to his bed, contemplating his ministerial labors, and experienced a vision:

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, “ . . . Retire! stay not, for I will bring evil from the north and a great destruction. . . . Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, . . . 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.” [7]

Elder Hyde shared his vision with the Saints in a general conference in April 1840. A short time later, the Church body resolved to send him on a mission to the Holy Land to dedicate it for the Jews’ return. Elder John E. Page, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, then stood and spoke “with much force on the subject of Elder Hyde’s mission, the gathering of the Jews, and the restoration of the house of Israel,” declaring that “the time had nearly arrived for their accomplishment.” [8] On the third day of the conference, Joseph Smith appointed Elder Page to travel with Elder Hyde on his mission. Joseph Smith, acting as chairman of the conference, and Robert B. Thompson, acting as clerk, gave them the necessary credentials. [9] Elder Orson Hyde had his call from the Lord, his personal witness, a companion, and his brethren’s recommendation—he was ready to begin his journey.

Elder Hyde Begins His Journey

A journey of this magnitude presented a difficult task in 1840. Travel was slow and arduous, with transportation limited to canal barge, carriage, and stagecoach. In addition, sickness often hampered the nineteenth-century traveler. However, this did not forestall Elder Hyde, and he started his journey on 14 November 1839 from Nauvoo, Illinois. With several significant stops along the way, he was able to preach, baptize, and inform members of the Church about his mission. On many of these stops the Saints, after hearing about his mission, helped support him financially with generous donations. [10] Along the way to the East Coast, the two traveling Apostles received a much-desired letter from the Prophet Joseph Smith. In the letter the Prophet encouraged Elders Hyde and Page, writing, “It is a great and important mission, and one that is worthy those intelligences who surround the throne of Jehovah to be engaged in. Although it appears great at present, yet you have but just begun to realize the greatness, the extent and glory of the same.” He then added words of encouragement, saying, “Do not be discouraged on account of the greatness of the work; only be humble and faithful. ... He [God] will endow you with power, wisdom, might and intelligence, and every qualification necessary.” [11]

While Elders Hyde and Page were with the Saints in Philadelphia, trying to raise funds for their journey, one of the members, a stranger, gave Elder Hyde a purse full of gold. He had but one request of him: that he remember him in his prayer on the Mount of Olives. [12] Five months after leaving home, Elder Hyde reached Pennsylvania, where he had the following vision: “There appeared two bright and luminous bodies, one on the north, and the other on the south side of the sun: in length about ten yards, inclining to a circle resembling a Rainbow, about fifty yards distant from the sun; apparently east of the sun, about twenty-five yards, was a body of light as brilliant, almost, as the sun itself; and on the west, a great distance from the sun, appeared a white semi-circle passing half way round the horizon, and another crossing it at right angles ... It was a great wonder to the passengers on board the boat.” [13] Elder Hyde accepted this vision as an epiphany that the Gospel was restored, the Jews were gathering, and the last dispensation was under way. Elder Hyde stayed with the people for a time and expressed to his brethren that “we were in hopes of sailing earlier; but it has been impossible to get away from the people any sooner.” [14]

A short time later, Elder Hyde received a letter from the First Presidency telling him and Elder Page “to hasten their journey,” and that “the Lord [was] not well pleased with them in consequence of delaying their mission, (Elder John E. Page in particular).” [15] The time had come to embark. With this rebuke from the Lord, Elder Hyde sadly left Elder Page. Elder George A. Smith counseled Elder Page (who was in Philadelphia at the time) to “take up contributions [and set] sail . . . and overtake Elder Orson Hyde and accompany him to Jerusalem.” Whether because of selfishness, pride, or lack of faith, the journey seemed to present too difficult a task, and “Elder Page rejected the proposition.” [16]

Elder Hyde in England and Europe

Elder Hyde set sail for Liverpool, England, in companionship with Elder George J. Adams, on 13 February 1841. [17] He greatly anticipated his arrival, as he had been a missionary there a few years before. [18]

While in England Elder Hyde joyously met with the Apostles and other Church members, privately and in conferences. Elder Hyde, in a letter to Joseph Smith, described England in as being in “very hard times ... [and that] thousands have nothing to do, and are literally starving.” [19] He also commented in two different letters that he felt some apprehension in leaving Elder Page, but added, “I feel perfectly justified at present in doing as I have done,” [20] and “most gladly would I have hailed him as a companion to the oriental continent; but my hopes of that are fled.” [21] Elder Hyde’s courage is displayed in a letter he wrote to Joseph Smith, informing him that he would travel alone or find another companion, but that in either case he would “hasten on as fast as possible” and work to “lay the foundation of Jerusalem.” He then added, “I do not feel at all disheartened at the prospect of going alone. I fully believe that the Lord will open my way before me.” [22]

With the support and company of the English Saints and the Twelve Apostles, Elder Hyde stayed in England for a few months. He left no record of his activities, but it is assumed that he spent his time as he had in the United States—collecting funds for his travels, preaching, and baptizing. More than likely he was also gathering his own strength before traveling into a largely mysterious land that was misunderstood by most westerners. Only after the Twelve left for the United States in April 1841 did Elder Hyde once again set his face eastward.

Traveling across Europe he visited the cities of his vision, London and Amsterdam, as well as Rotterdam, Holland. He met with chief rabbis in every city in which he stopped, declaring to them that the gathering of the Jews was about to commence. He also learned from these rabbis that there was great anticipation of this gathering. One rabbi in Rotterdam said to Elder Hyde, “We believe that many Jews will return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city—rear a Temple to the name of the Most High, and restore our ancient worship.” [23]

Elder Hyde was delayed while waiting for a visa from the Austrian Ambassador in Munich, but used his time to learn German. He found a woman who was willing to trade language instruction: Elder Hyde taught her English and she taught him German. [24] During this delay he learned of the poor conditions in the East. He wrote to the Prophet Joseph, telling him, “it is very sickly in Constantinople, Syria and Alexandria, at present; I would rather, therefore, wait until cool weather before I go there.” [25] It was in this same letter that Elder Hyde expressed concern for his family, saying, “if the friends in America shall be edified in reading this letter from Bro. Hyde, I hope they [the Saints] will remember one thing; and that is this; that he hopes he has a wife and two children living there; but the distance is so great between him and them, that his arm is not long enough to administer to their wants.” [26] His concern was swallowed up in his faith, however, and he put his trust in the Lord.

The Heart of the Ottoman Empire

As mentioned previously, a journey to the Holy Land at this time was not a task for the faint of heart. Palestine had no paved roads until 1867, when the first highway was built from Jerusalem to Jaffa. [27] Travel in the land was accomplished mainly along dirt pilgrim-paths. There were mainly three options for travel to Jerusalem in the nineteenth century: first, a French steamer that left Marseilles every two weeks and stopped in Jaffa on the way between Alexandria and Constantinople; second, an Austrian steamer that allowed travel from Constantinople to Beirut (via Smyrna), Haifa, and Jaffa, and returned from Alexandria to Jaffa ending in Constantinople; and the third, a thirty-day trip from Egypt over the Sinai Peninsula. William Prime, who visited the Holy Land in 1856 and described these routes, wrote that landing in Jaffa was advantageous because the American Consulate had been established there. He added that if the traveler came from Constantinople, it was better to enter Syria at Beirut because of hotels and other conveniences. [28]

In a letter to Elder Parley P. Pratt, who was serving a mission in England, [29] Elder Hyde said that he arrived in Jaffa on 19 October 1841 from Beirut. [30] It can be surmised that Elder Hyde took the Austrian steamer Prime mentioned, stopped in Beirut, and then proceeded on to Jaffa. Beirut in the mid-nineteenth century was a flourishing trade center and a port for Damascus. It was bombed in 1840 by British and Austrian ships but remained the commercial capital of Syria. [31] Its population continued to rise—at the time of Hyde’s visit there were around fifteen thousand inhabitants. The city itself stood at the foot of the Lebanese Mountains on a point that extended into the Mediterranean Sea. It was also a center for American Christian missionaries. [32] Despite its importance Beirut was in turmoil in 1841. Elder Hyde recorded in one of his letters about the war between the Druzes and the Christian sects in the mountains of Lebanon. He wrote:

The country is in a terrible state. While I was at Beyrout, a terrible battle was fought in Mount Lebanon, about six hours’ walk from Beyrout, between the Drewzes and Catholics. It was said that about four hundred were killed on each side. An English officer, returning from St. Jean d’Acre to Beyrout, was taken by the Drewzes, and would have been killed had not the Pacha come to his rescue.

He said that he found ten human bodies in the street on his way without heads. Thefts, murders, and robberies are taking place almost continually. The American missionaries in Beyrout and Mount Lebanon have had notice from the Grand Sultan, through our minister at Constantinople, Commodore Porter, to leave the country, and a prospect that all the missionaries in Syria will have to leave. [33]

Despite the dangers and warnings from political leaders, Elder Hyde trusted in the Lord and continued on his journey to Jaffa.

On passage to Jaffa, Elder Hyde endured one of the greatest hardships of his entire mission. Taking only one week’s worth of supplies aboard the steamer for the anticipated four-day journey, he and the other passengers suffered when the trip took nineteen days. He wrote, “A number of days I eat snails gathered from the rocks, but the greatest difficulty was, I could not get enough of them. I was so weak and exhausted that I could not go on shore after the slight exertion of drawing on my boots.” [34]

Along the way the Lord showed His servant a sustaining vision. Elder Hyde described it as “a very bright glittering sword [which] appeared in the heavens, about two yards in length, with a beautiful hilt, as plain and complete as any cut you ever saw . . . [with] an arm, with a perfect hand, [which] stretched . . . out and took hold on the hilt of the sword.” To Elder Hyde this was a vision from God in direct relation to the earlier commandment he had received that he should “know the signs of the times, and the sign of the coming of the son of man.” To the superstitious Arab sailors it was confusing, and they cried, “‘O, Allah, Allah, Allah!’ ... all over the vessel.” [35]

Coming into Jaffa was a singular adventure. There was no harbor, and the shore was dangerous to incoming ships because of a “reef of rocks . . . run[ning] parallel with the shore, . . . [and] there [was] no anchorage inside for large vessels.” [36] The artist William Bartlett’s detailed account of landing in Jaffa includes the following commentary: “This most ancient city is on a bold hill; its buildings are gloomy and ruinous, and its port dangerous. The arrival of a ship of war could hardly have created more sensation, than did our paltry bark; people were on the roofs of their houses, or glancing from the wooden ‘jalousies.’ . . . [W]e clambered the ruinous streets into the upper part of the city, where we were received with hospitality by the worthy personage who acted as British consul.” [37] Benjamin Disraeli, future British Prime Minister, described Jaffa as a “pretty town, surrounded by gardens, and situated in a fruitful plain.” [38]

How Elder Hyde entered Jaffa is not made clear in his writings, but certainly he noticed Jaffa’s “gloom” as well as its “beauty.” Once in Jaffa Elder Hyde could sense that he was near to accomplishing his mission, and he wrote to Elder Pratt that his “heart leap[t] for joy at the prospect of seeing that land [Jerusalem], and there fulfilling [his] mission.” [39] Elder Hyde planned to leave the American Consul’s office and “start . . . to Jerusalem, at a most enormous price.” [40] Elder Hyde felt some apprehension and wrote to his friend Elder Pratt, saying, “You will hear from me again by the first opportunity, if the Arabs don’t kill me.” [41] His feelings were not unwarranted. Traveling in the Holy Land at this time was at best risky, and, being a solitary traveler, Elder Hyde was exposed to the greatest degree of danger. Certainly the atrocities he had seen in Beirut just weeks before added to his anxiety. Edward Robinson, who traveled to Palestine just three years earlier, wrote that “several robberies and murders were committed in the vicinity of Jerusalem. ... In another instance a pilgrim was shot, robbed, and left wounded on the road to Yafa. ... [I]t was for a time doubtful, whether we should be able to travel at all in the country, without (or even with) an armed guard.” [42] Elder Hyde changed his plans when a “company of English gentlemen rode in from Jerusalem with many servants all armed, . . . return[ing] immediately to Jerusalem” and allowing him to “go for little or nothing, comparatively speaking.” [43] The Lord’s hand was with Elder Hyde, and He led him to the Holy City in this English company. This large group of gentlemen with armed servants returning to Jerusalem and inviting Elder Hyde to accompany them was a great benefit and blessing.

Jerusalem, the Holy City

Political unrest and governmental corruption had taken its toll on the Holy City and the surrounding areas; just one year earlier the Ottomans had ousted Ibrahim Pasha. The nineteenth-century pilgrim to Jerusalem had to rely on the historical and spiritual aura of the city to justify such a journey. Jerusalem’s degraded state did not prevent most from being impressed while traveling in the Holy Land. Many pilgrims visiting Jerusalem described the view of the city as something magnificent. In 1832 Benjamin Disraeli described Jerusalem as “a gorgeous city set on a site that was “preeminently impressive.” [44] William Prime was moved to tears as he beheld the Holy City. [45]

Most travelers entered the city through Jaffa Gate on the west side of the city. The road from Jaffa to Jerusalem was steep and rocky, and weary travelers sought accommodations soon after arriving. Essentially, the two choices for accommodations were the Latin convent or the Armenian convent, and because of price, most travelers stayed in the Latin convent. [46] Many visitors to Jerusalem called on Mr. Whiting, an American missionary, who either boarded them or aided them in finding a place to stay. [47] Little or no help could be expected from the natives, who very much kept to themselves and gave the streets a deserted, silent feeling. [48]

Jerusalem was surrounded by thick walls built by Suleiman I. [49] According to Edward Robinson, the finest view of the walled city was from the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. This hill itself was covered with olive trees, with a small church and crumbling village at the top. The walk to the top, which passed through the Kidron Valley and the Garden of Gethsemane, was about twenty-five minutes. From the summit of this hill one could see the city laid out diagonally with its four quarters as well as the Dead Sea to the east. [50] Jerusalem’s most notable area from here was the Temple Mount, which housed the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. This whole area was covered with gardens, fountains, trees, marble staircases, and Islamic architecture. [51] It also included some schools and other houses of learning for the Muslim student. [52] The summit also afforded the observer a view of the impressive “Golden Gate,” which was shut up by Suleiman when he rebuilt the walls. [53]

The population of Jerusalem in the mid-nineteenth century was ten thousand. [54] Arabic was the local dialect, but the Jews spoke mainly a “corrupt medley of tongues among themselves,” while many other languages could be found, including Greek, Armenian, and Italian. [55] Jerusalem’s inhabitants were divided into four quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian. The Jews lived on the slope of Mount Zion in the northeastern area. [56] The Muslims dwelt in the middle and lower area of Jerusalem. [57] The Christian quarter was located in the city’s western part and included the Church of the Holy Seplechre. The Armenian quarter was the smallest and was west of the Jewish quarter.

At this time there were only four open gates into the city. [58] Entering the city through Jaffa Gate, the traveler would ascend a steep narrow street to the Latin convent. The streets in Jerusalem were also narrow and uneven, being made from irregular, large stones, and oddly had no names. [59] These nameless streets, in addition to the “countless little corners and inaccessible quarters of the city . . . [and even] an unexpected settling of a great accumulation of rubbish,” added to the already difficult travel. [60]

Elder Hyde in Jerusalem

Elder Hyde entered Jerusalem through Jaffa Gate on 21 October 1841. In order to procure accommodations, he immediately contacted the American missionary, Mr. Whiting, who was unable to board him but escorted the Apostle to the Latin convent. Shortly after Elder Hyde’s arrival, two American missionaries (Mr. Sherman and Mr. Gager) visited him. He held lengthy discussions with them during which he introduced them to Gospel principles and explained his mission to dedicate the land for the return of the Jews. These missionaries had been working to convert the Jewish people in anticipation of the Savior’s return and, to date, had only converted four. Overall, Elder Hyde was unimpressed with the missionaries in Jerusalem, although he “could not withhold [his] blessing from [Mr. Whiting] and [his] family” because of their hospitality and because “a kind word or action towards a stranger in a strange land is not soon forgotten.” [61]

On 21 October, early in the morning, Elder Hyde left the city from St. Stephen’s gate, crossed the Kedron Valley, and climbed to the top of the Mount of Olives. From this commanding point he saw “the mountains and hills by which [Jerusalem] is surrounded . . . where prophets were stoned, and the Saviour of sinners slain.” Elder Hyde was overcome by a “storm of . . . emotions . . in [his] breast, the force of which was only spent in a profuse shower of tears.” [62] The time had come to fulfill the prophecies that had been pronounced upon his head so many years before. There, “in solemn silence, with pen, ink, and paper, just as [he] saw in the vision, [Elder Hyde] offered up” the dedicatory prayer for the return of the Jews. He addressed Father in Heaven as “the God who rules in the heavens above, and controls the destinies of men on the earth.” He then pleaded with the Lord to listen to his prayer and forgive him of his “follies.” He declared that his blessing was “to dedicate and consecrate this land . . . for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants, . . . for the building up of Jerusalem again after it [had] been trodden down by the Gentiles so long, and for rearing a temple in honor of [God’s] name.” [63] He spoke of the covenant that God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and asked that the Lord would remember their seed, which had been scattered among the Gentiles. He specifically asked the Lord to “remove the barrenness and sterility of [the] land, and let springs of living water break forth to water its thirsty soil,” that the land would be able to support the returning House of Israel. Elder Hyde mentioned, in addition to the fertility of the land, the fertility of men’s hearts. He asked that “their stony heart” could be removed and replaced with “a heart of flesh.” He asked that the Lord would inspire the governments of the world to aid in this gathering and that He would bless those that took an active part. [64] Fondly, Elder Hyde remembered his family, from whom he had been away for so long. He prayed:

Though thy servant is now far from his home, and from the land bedewed with his earliest tear, yet he remembers, O Lord, his friends who are there, and family, whom for thy sake he has left. Though poverty and privation be our earthy lot, yet ah! do though richly endow us with an inheritance where moth and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.

The hands that have fed, clothed, or shown favor unto the family of thy servant in his absence, or that shall hereafter do so, let them not lose their reward, but let a special blessing rest upon them, and in thy kingdom let them have an inheritance when thou shalt come to be glorified in this society.

He then prayed for all those who had helped him along his journey, specifically asking the Lord to “bless the stranger in Philadelphia” who had handed him the bag of gold: “Let blessings come upon him from an unexpected quarter, and let his basket be filled, and his storehouse abound with plenty, and let not the good things of the earth be his only portion.” [65] He blessed the stakes of Zion and asked for a “peculiar blessing” upon the First Presidency of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve, and every member of the Church. He then concluded the prayer by giving “all the glory and honor ... unto God and the Lamb for ever and ever.” [66]

After the blessing, Elder Hyde “erected a pile of stones as a witness according to the ancient custom,” and did the same thing on Mount Zion. [67] Before leaving this sacred mount, he plucked an olive branch from the Garden of Gethsemane as a token of his journey and dedicatory prayer. [68] His mission now over, Elder Hyde, for the first time in nearly two years, turned his face westward.

Returning Home

From Jerusalem Elder Hyde journeyed on the oft-traveled pilgrim path across the Sinai Peninsula to Cairo. He took this route because he could not find a direct passage to England that was affordable. [69] Cairo was a city of about 240,000 people in the 1840s. [70] Robinson described it as “one of the best built cities of the East; the houses [were] of stone, large, lofty, and solid. The streets [were] narrow and often crooked; and the houses sometimes jut[ted] over them upon each side, so as almost to meet above.” [71] The ancient Pyramids welcomed the traveler to Cairo. Their partner, the Sphinx, was very unlike its appearance today, being buried almost entirely in sand. [72] Upon entering Cairo Elder Hyde immediately prepared to travel down the Nile to Alexandria.

Alexandria’s streets were densely crowded with people of various races. Edward Robinson give a complete description of what Alexandria’s streets looked like:

Egyptians, Turks, Arabs, Copts, Negroes, Franks [Europeans]; complexions of white, black, olive, bronze, brown, and almost all other colours; long beards and no beards; all costumes and no costume; silks and rags; wide robes and no robes; women muffled in shapeless black mantles, their faces wholly covered except peep-holes for the eyes; endless confusion, and a clatter and medley of tongues, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, German, and English, . . . strings of huge camels in single file with high loads; little donkies, bridled and saddled, each guided by a sore-eyed Arab boy with a few words of Sailor-English, who thrusts his little animal nolens volens almost between your legs. [73]

He added that Alexandra’s ancient glory had disappeared and that it was a city “buried ... in the dust and sea ... [by] the hand of time and barbarism. ... [having a] population ... at about 40,000 souls.” [74] Elder Hyde was aloof to Alexandria’s condition, feeling the relief of having accomplished his mission. He wrote to Elder Pratt that “the Lord knows that I have had a hard time, and suffered much, but I have great reason to thank him that I enjoy good health at present, and have a prospect before me of soon going to a civilized country, where I shall see no more turbans or camels.” He then added, “My mission has been quite as prosperous as I could expect.” [75] He added in a letter to his wife, Marinda, that “I feel glad, and more than glad that I have seen Jerusalem.” [76]

From Alexandria, Elder Hyde headed for Trieste in the Gulf of Venice. After the long cruise, he was forced to spend three weeks aboard a boat in quarantine. Quarantine was the lot of the nineteenth-century traveler to the Near East, where plagues and other diseases were rampant. [77] He spent a total of fifty-six days on board this ship, which seemed to him “like a prison.” [78] This extended time may have taken its toll on this Apostle’s morale, or maybe his idleness caused him to be depressed. In any case, he wrote a melancholy letter to the Saints on 17 January 1842. He had not heard from friends or family in over a year, and he longingly looked forward to a letter when he arrived in Bavaria. He asked the Saints to pray on his behalf, for, he said, “I need it.” [79]

From Trieste he immediately set his sights on London, although his passage was not direct. He wrote to his wife, Marinda, that he intended to travel “to Bavaria where I made a stop last summer; . . . it is my intention to go there and publish the principles of our faith in the German language, unless I shall be differently advised.” He added, “as soon as I can get the foundation of a good work laid in Germany, I shall go to England, if the Lord will, and there spend a short time, and then return to you.” [80] The language training he received before paid off. He wrote, “I begin to speak the German considerably. ... I have found no difficulty in getting along about languages.” He added, almost parenthetically, but certainly prophetically, “I trust the time will be when the servants of the Lord will even be able to proclaim the gospel fully and plainly by the power of the Holy Ghost in all these languages.” Despite his desire to speedily return home, he also felt that he had a work to do beforehand. He wrote, “I feel quite anxious to get our faith and principles in print in the German language; but what the effect will be, time must determine. ... I pray the Lord to keep me from evil, and strengthen my heart in righteousness, that I may be counted worthy to share the good will [of the Saints] when I return.” [81]

Much to his relief and delight, there were letters waiting for him in Regensburgh, Bavaria. The letters were from his beloved wife, his friend and fellow apostle, Elder Parley Pratt, and the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said about the letters, “I was thrice glad to hear from you all; I laughed and cried altogether.” Having received this communication, he wrote to Elder Pratt, “God be thanked that I am where I am.” He then added encouraging words of his own, saying, “If enemies are strong and many, nail your flag to the gaff, keep close to the wind, and if your metal is not heavy enough, the artillery of heaven will play upon them.” [82] His spirits buoyed up by these letters, he speedily returned home. Most of this trip leaves the reader wanting, as there is a lack of letters or records documenting his journey. It can be assumed that he took the path dictated in his letters to Marinda.

He arrived in Nauvoo on 7 December 1842. Joseph Smith described his return as “truly gratifying,” and he “spent the day with Elder Hyde.” The next day, the Prophet “received a visit from Elder Hyde and [his] wife.” [83] Certainly these two servants of the Lord had plenty to discuss. The sweet reunion between Elder Hyde and his family can only be guessed at, as well as the eternal rewards for this Apostle, who laid the foundation for the return of the House of Israel to the Promised Land. His was not a mission of personal enlightenment or biblical study; rather, his was the commission from God and the Prophet Joseph Smith to dedicate Palestine for the return of the Jews. His journey to Palestine and back took over three years. Once his mission was over and his prayer had ascended to heaven, Elder Hyde made his way home into the arms of his family, his prophet, and the Saints he loved. The full implications of this mission may never be realized, but his eternal reward for his sacrifice, toil, and effort are written in heaven’s annals.


[1] Robert Blake, Disraeli’s Grand Tour: Benjamin Disraeli and the Holy Land, 1830–31 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982), 71.

[2] William H. Bartlett, Walks about the City and Environs of Jerusalem (London: George Virtue, 1844), 13; see also Kathleen Stewart Howe, Revealing the Holy Land: The Photographic Exploration of Palestine (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1997), 16.

[3] See Linda Osband, comp., Famous Travellers to the Holy Land: Their Personal Impressions and Reflections (London: Prion, 1989), 88, 98; Howe, Revealing the Holy Land, 16.

[4] Nephi Lowell Morris, Prophecies of Joseph Smith and Their Fulfilment, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1926), 261.

[5] Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B.H. Roberts, 2d ed., rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:180.

[6] Morris, Prophecies of Joseph Smith, 260.

[7] Smith, History, 4:375–76.

[8] Smith, History, 4:106.

[9] Smith, History, 4:109.

[10] Elder Hyde commented that typically it was the poorer members who were the most willing to donate to his mission. Of them, Elder Hyde said “may the Lord bless them forever. Let their companion be the son of peace;” see Times and Seasons, 19 February 1839, 72. Along the way to the east coast Elders Hyde and Page journeyed to Quincy, where they obtained their credentials from the governor, Thomas Carlin, who said he was impressed with Elder Hyde’s sermon and believed that Hyde and Page were “entitled to the respect and kind treatment of all.” While in Quincy the missionaries also had the opportunity to preach to bodies of Saints and baptize. Elder Hyde’s spirits were high; see Orson Hyde, A Voice from Jerusalem, or A Sketch of the Travels and Ministry of Elder Orson Hyde (Liverpool: P. P. Pratt, 1842), 5; see also Times and Seasons, 19 February 1839, 117.

[11] Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1949), 163.

[12] See Morris, Prophecies of Joseph Smith, 263. In November 1924, a letter was written to Nephi Morris, who was giving a lecture about Joseph Smith’s prophecies and this Orson Hyde story. John Beck attended this lecture and wrote a letter to Morris saying that the stranger was Joseph Ellison Beck, his father. The letter explained the circumstance of his father’s generosity and claimed that, “every feature of it [Elder Hyde’s prayer] was wonderfully fulfilled.” See Orson Hyde’s prayer in Hyde, A Voice, 31.

[13] Times and Seasons, 28 September 1841, 204.

[14] Times and Seasons, 28 September 1841, 205.

[15] Times and Seasons, 15 January 1841, 287.

[16] Smith, History, 4:372; sometime later, Elder Smith learned that Elder Page in fact had enough money to take him all the way to England.

[17] See Smith, History, 4:298.

[18] Knowing that he would be traveling through England where he had served a mission two years earlier, Elder Hyde wrote “it is with joy, I anticipate the day of siting [sic] under a large oak with brother [Theodore] Turley on the other side of the Atlantic; and meeting with the saints in England once more.” Times and Seasons, 19 February 1838, 71. Elder Theodore Turley was a Seventy and accompanied Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor of the Twelve on their mission to England on 10 December 1839. The rest of the Twelve followed in March 1840.

[19] Smith, History, 4:378.

[20] Times and Seasons, 17 April 1841, 483.

[21] Smith, History, 4:373.

[22] Times and Seasons, 17 April 1841, 483; it was during his time in England that Elder Hyde wrote a book on the history of the Church. He intended to have it published in German. He also attempted to meet with Rabbi Solomon Hirschell, the “President Rabbi of the Hebrew community of this country.” Hirschell had broken his leg and was unable to meet with the Apostle, so Elder Hyde wrote him a letter. In the letter he expounded the Latter-day Saints’ belief on the gathering of Israel, his confirmation blessing from Joseph Smith, his vision of his mission, and an admonition to Jews around the world to return to Jerusalem; see Smith, History, 4:375–78.

[23] Times and Seasons, 17 July 1841, 570.

[24] The Spirit of the Lord was with him in this language instruction, and after only eight days of lessons he had “read one book through and part of another, and translated and written considerable.” He wrote to Joseph Smith, “I can speak and write the German considerable already, and the lady tells me that I make astonishing progress;” Times and Seasons, 17 July 1841, 571–72.

[25] Times and Seasons, 17 July 1841, 572.

[26] Times and Seasons, 17 July 1841, 573.

[27] See Benjamin Mazar, The Mountain of the Lord (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975), 291.

[28] See William C. Prime, Tent Life in the Holy Land (New York: Arno, 1977), 495. Prime included these three routes in an appendix to his book to aid the future traveler. The reader will also notice that Beirut belonged to Syria; the country of Lebanon was created later by Western Powers.

[29] See Ivan J. Barrett, Joseph Smith and the Restoration: A History of the Church to 1846 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1973), 460, 466; Parley P. Pratt served in England with the rest of the Twelve Apostles. He arrived in Liverpool, England, on 6 April 1840. After the Twelve had left, on 20 April 1841, Elder Pratt remained to continue publishing the Millennial Star.

[30] See Hyde, A Voice, 33.

[31] See Edward Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea: A Journal of Travels in the Year 1838 (London: John Murray, 1841), 3:446–47.

[32] See Henry B. Ridgaway, The Lord’s Land: A Narrative of Travels in Sinai, Arabia Petraea, and Palestine, from the Red Sea to the Entering in of Hamath (New York: Nelson and Phillips, 1876), 728–29.

[33] Hyde, A Voice, 34. The Consular Minister in Constantinople was David Porter, and the Consular Representative was George A. Porter. These men were the link between American citizens and the Ottoman government during this time; see also Ruth Kark, American Consuls in the Holy Land, 1832–1914 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994), 339–40. Kark gives an exhaustive review of all the American consuls in Palestine and the surrounding major cities.

[34] Hyde, A Voice, 34.

[35] Hyde, A Voice, 35. It is interesting to note here that the Arab sailors indeed saw the visions, and it was not an illusion produced by Hyde himself.

[36] Prime, Tent Life, 25.

[37] Bartlett, Walks, 7–8.

[38] Robert Blake, Disraeli’s Grand Tour: Benjamin Disraeli and the Holy Land, 1830–31 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982), 64.

[39] Hyde, A Voice, 34.

[40] Hyde, A Voice, 33. The American Consul at this time was Murad Arutin, an Arab appointed by the United States government. See also Kark, American Consuls, 347.

[41] Hyde, A Voice, 35.

[42] Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1:366–67. Not long before this account Robinson wrote about another attack on a group of pilgrims in which one was killed and another wounded and the horses driven off, 323.

[43] Hyde, A Voice, 33.

[44] Blake, Disraeli’s Grand Tour, 65–66.

[45] See Prime, Tent Life, 56, 60.

[46] Bartlett, Walks, 13; see also Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1:373. There were convents all over the Holy Land that were open to travelers; see Prime, Tent Life, 47.

[47] See Carl Ritter, The Comparative Geography of Palestine and the Sinaitic Peninsula, trans. William L. Gage, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1866), 4:105; See also Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1:327; see also Hyde, A Voice, 21.

[48] See Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1:362; see also Bartlett, Walks, 13.

[49] These walls were made from large stones that were hewn at various times, some dating back to Herod. The surrounding area outside the walls was barren with no houses and few buildings. The first houses built outside the Old City were the Juda Touro Almshouses, commissioned by Sir Moses Montefiore in 1860; see Dr. L. Loewe, ed., Diaries of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore: Comprising Their Life and Work as Recorded in Their Diaries from 1812 to 1883 (Chicago: Belford-Clarke, 1890), 2:109.

[50] See Robinson, Biblical Researches, 2:108.

[51] Travelers at this time, including Robinson, used the word Saracenic, to describe Islamic things.

[52] See Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1:361, 418–21; see also Prime, Tent Life, 179–82; see also Ritter, Comparative Geography, 4:115–17.

[53] Galbraith, Jerusalem, 327. Christian tradition stated that the Messiah would return again and enter through the Golden Gates. To prevent this, Suleiman sealed them up.

[54] This included 4,500 Muslims, 3,000 Jews, and 3,500 Christians.

[55] Robinson, Biblical Researches, 2:86.

[56] Most pilgrims to Jerusalem during this time mention the poor living conditions of the Jews. They lived in “wretched and ruinous habitations . . . crowded together, without the slightest regard to cleanliness or comfort;” Bartlett, Walks, 197. Even with the reforms of Ibrahim Pasha, the Jews were simply too poor during this time to rise above the mire and poverty.

[57] See Robinson, Biblical Researches, 2:85.

[58] Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1:386–94; the four gates were as follows: Jaffa Gate on the west side, Damascus Gate on the north, St. Stephen’s Gate on the east and Zion Gate on the south. Jaffa Gate was called Jaffa Gate, or sometimes Hebron or Bethlehem Gate, because it led to all three of these cities. Some of the natives also call it Pilgrim Gate because of the number of pilgrims who entered there. Damascus Gate, the most ornamented of all of the gates, led north to Nablus and Damascus. St. Stephen’s Gate had multiple names, one of which was Lion’s Gate, named for the four Lions sculpted on the outside. It led to the Mount of Olives and to Bethany. The last, Zion’s Gate, had several paths leading from it but no major road.

[59] See Prime Tent Life, 109–110; see also Ritter, Comparative Geography, 4:99. There were other minor gates, but they were sealed off and not in use. Some of these are open in modern-day Jerusalem.

[60] Ritter, Comparative Geography, 4:99–100.

[61] Hyde, A Voice, 18–22.

[62] Time and Seasons, 15 July 1842, 847.

[63] Hyde, A Voice, 29.

[64] Hyde, A Voice, 30–31.

[65] Hyde, A Voice, 31.

[66] Hyde, A Voice, 32.

[67] Hyde, A Voice, 32.

[68] See Times and Seasons, 15 July 1842, 851.

[69] Hyde, A Voice, 28. This was one of the routes mentioned by Prime in Tent Life, and apparently Elder Hyde just traveled it in reverse.

[70] See Edward William Lane, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, 3d ed. (London: Knight, 1846), 1:30–31.

[71] Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1:34.

[72] See Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1:38.

[73] Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1:20.

[74] Robinson, Biblical Researches, 1:21.

[75] Hyde, A Voice, 27–28, 32.

[76] Times and Seasons, 21 December 1842, 777.

[77] Robinson, Biblical Researches, 3:70–71. Robinson was turned away from the gates of Jerusalem because of plague scare; see also Arnold Blumberg, A View From Jerusalem 1849–1858: The Consular Diary of James and Elizabeth Anne Finn (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1980), 86, 107, 196. James Finn records in his diaries numerous quarantines in Jerusalem and Jaffa.

[78] Times and Seasons, 21 December 1842, 776. Elder Hyde spent six days in Alexandria, twenty-two days en route, and twenty-eight in quarantine.

[79] Hyde, A Voice, 22.

[80] Times and Seasons, 21 December 1842, 776–77.

[81] Times and Seasons, 21 Decemer 1842, 777.

[82] Hyde, A Voice, 27.

[83] Smith, History, 5:200.