Orson Hyde

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Mormon Apostle Orson Hyde
Orson Hyde, an original apostle of the Mormon Church

Orson Hyde (January 8, 1805 – November 28, 1878) was a leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was born in Oxford, Connecticut. His mother passed away, and his father left Orson to fight in the War of 1812. He was raised in nearby Derby, Connecticut, under the care of Nathan Wheeler. Orson Hyde was raised in poverty and was self-educated. In 1819, when he was just 14 years of age, he walked six hundred miles from Connecticut to Kirtland, Ohio, to care for a piece of property Wheeler had purchased. While employed as a retail clerk in Kirtland, Hyde became involved with the Reformed Baptist Society, also called Campbellites, through the preaching of Sidney Rigdon.

Church membership and service

When Oliver Cowdery and other Latter Day Saint missionaries preached in Kirtland in late 1830, Hyde spoke publicly against the "Mormon Bible." However, when his former minister, Sidney Rigdon joined the church, Hyde investigated the claims of the missionaries for three months, and was baptized by Rigdon on October 30, 1831, in the Chagrin River. Orson Hyde became a convincing and eloquent orator. He was called on a succession of missions for the Church, serving with Hyrum Smith, Samuel Smith, and John Gould. The missions were to Ohio, the "eastern countries" of the United States, and Jackson County, Missouri. He marched with Zion's Camp in 1834. Orson Hyde married Nancy Mirinda Johnson, in Kirtland, Ohio, on September 4, 1834. Hyde was ordained an apostle on February 15, 1835, at age 30, as one of the original Twelve. He was fifth in seniority. As an apostle, he became one of the most scholarly leaders in pioneer times. In 1837, he represented the Church in a petition to the Ohio State Legislature for a bank charter for the Kirtland Safety Society. An apostolic mission with Heber C. Kimball to Great Britain in 1837 to 1838 was successful in bringing thousands of converts to the faith. Orson Hyde was the first missionary to continental Europe, and later, the Middle East.

Upon returning from Britain, Hyde went to Far West, Missouri. During a period of persecution and internal dissension, Hyde wrote that he felt God was no longer with the Church. He left the Church in October 19, 1838, with Thomas B. Marsh. Marsh explained the reasons for their dissent in an affidavit which he and Hyde signed on October 24, 1838, in Richmond, Missouri. These included their contention that the Mormons had organized into a company known as the Danites, "who have taken an oath to support the heads of the church in all things that they say or do, whether right or wrong" and that Mormon and Danite vigilantes had burned and looted non-Mormon settlements in Daviess County, Missouri (Document, p. 57). Marsh and Hyde also claimed that Joseph Smith planned to "to take the State, & he professes to his people to intend taking the U.S. & ultimately the whole world."

Mormon Apostle Orson Hyde's Home
Orson Hyde's Home in Nauvoo, © 2002 Brigham Young University

The testimony of Marsh and Hyde added to the panic in northwestern Missouri and contributed to subsequent events in the Mormon War. Because he had signed the "Richmond affidavit" with Marsh, Hyde was disfellowshipped (disciplined, but not removed from membership) in 1838. On May 4, 1839, a Church conference in Quincy, Illinois voted to remove Orson Hyde and William Smith from the work of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The leadership of the Church invited the two to explain their actions. On June 27, Hyde returned to the Church and publicly explained himself, asking to be restored. The fall conference, October 6 to 8, 1839, voted to restore both Hyde and William Smith as apostles.

Orson Hyde left Church activity, and thus the quorum, on October 19, 1838. When dealing with seniority in the council in 1875, long after the Death of Joseph Smith, Jr., Brigham Young ruled that, if a council member had been disciplined and removed from the council, his seniority was based on the date of readmission. By this ruling, in June 1875, both Hyde and Apostle Orson Pratt were moved down in council seniority. So, when Hyde repented in 1839, he effectively joined the quorum as a new member. As a result of this ruling, John Taylor, rather than Orson Hyde, succeeded Brigham Young as President of the Church.

One of Hyde's most significant missions was a call to preach in Jerusalem. It had earlier been prophesied that Hyde "had a great work to perform among the Jews" (History of the Church, 4:106). Hyde undertook a mission that took him to New York, London, Amsterdam, Constantinople (Istanbul), and Jerusalem. He proselyted among Jewish communities as often as he could during his journey. This was the longest and probably the most dangerous mission performed by an LDS Church elder. Hyde went by himself. From April 1841 to December 1842, he proselyted in Palestine. On October 24, 1841, on the Mount of Olives, Orson Hyde dedicated Palestine for the gathering of the Jews. In his dedicatory prayer, Hyde asked the Lord to "remove the barrenness and sterility of this land." He traveled home through Europe, stopping in Germany to produce the first LDS pamphlets in that language.

Orson Hyde Park Mormon
Dedication of Orson Hyde Park, Mt. of Olives, Jerusalem, © 2002 Brigham Young University
After the death of Joseph Smith, when the majority of the LDS members left Nauvoo for the Iowa Territory, Hyde was asked to stay behind and oversee the completion and dedication of the Nauvoo Temple in 1846. Hyde returned to England to preside over the British mission from 1846 to 1847. Orson Hyde was then placed in charge of the Camps of Israel in the Midwest in 1848. He remained in Council Bluffs, Iowa, until 1852, publishing the Frontier Guardian, and acting as mayor and probate judge. The frontier town had as many as 16,000 inhabitants. He organized and sent immigrant trains to Utah during this time. He himself led two large wagon trains to Utah. In 1852, he closed Winter Quarters, and taking all who would travel, plus his own families, he made the second journey.

Orson Hyde organized and directed Utah's territorial expansion into Fort Bridger. He founded the Fort Supply in 1853. He also organized settlements in what is now Wyoming. In 1859, he conducted evening English grammar classes for adults. Wilford Woodruff was one of his students. During the settlement of Utah, Brigham Young called Hyde to lead settlement groups to Carson Valley, now in Nevada. In Carson Valley, Hyde was presiding officer and probate judge. He also operated a sawmill, and nearly froze to death bringing parts for the mill from California during the winter. The settlement was abandoned at great financial loss with the onset of the Utah War in 1857.

Orson Hyde was able to impart agricultural advice to improve Utah's agriculture. Some of his knowledge was gained from watching crop irrigation in Lebanon and Syria. He helped to organize the incorporation of the Provo Canal and Irrigation Company. He advocated controlled grazing of cattle in Utah, after cattle denuded many grassy areas. In 1860, he was called to serve as Stake President and head colonizer of the Sanpete-Sevier District in Utah. He filled this position for seventeen years, until his death. He served twelve years in the territorial legislature, part of the time as president of the Utah Senate. In 1861, he recruited fifty families to settle St. George, Utah. In Sanpete, he farmed wheat, served as an Indian agent, and fought in the Black Hawk Indian Wars. He helped to establish peace.

Orson Hyde served a total of forty-three years as an apostle, twenty-eight years of which were as President of the Quorum of the Twelve. Though he didn't keep a journal, he left behind volumes of letters, speeches, and reports. He was an orator, a writer, a farmer, supervisor of Utah immigration, wagon-train master, irrigation specialist, founder of Utah settlements, railroad planner, sawmill operator, participant in the Utah war councils, regent of the University of Deseret, legislator, newspaper editor, Indian fighter, peacemaker, lawyer, judge, and statesman (Utah History Encyclopedia [1]).

Orson Hyde practiced plural marriage and had seven wives. He fathered 32 children, but only 17 survived to adulthood. He died on November 28, 1878, at the age of seventy-three, after a lingering illness, and was succeeded in the apostleship by Moses Thatcher. He is buried at Spring City, Sanpete County, Utah.


  • Wikipedia, "Orson Hyde." [2]
  • Allen, James B. and Leonard, Glen M. The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1976. ISBN 0-87747-594-6.
  • Baugh, Alexander L. , A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri, BYU Studies, 2000.
  • Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders &c. in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; And the Evidence Given Before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, in a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12 1838, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others, for High Treason and Other Crimes Against the State. Fayette, Missouri, 1841, complete text.
  • Ludlow, Daniel H., A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1978. ISBN 1-57345-224-6.
  • Ludlow, Daniel H., Editor. Church History, Selections From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1992. ISBN 0-87579-924-8.

External links