Ein Ruf aus der Wüste 4.1: Orson Hyde on the Godhead

Orson Hyde’s explication of doctrine, like the Articles of Faith, begins with the nature of God, although Hyde’s treatment is about 30 times as long.

Chapter 4

On the articles of faith and points of doctrine approved as acknowledged by the church of “Latter Day Saints” drawn from those scriptures that are in our possession. (1)

To comply with the wishes of several thousand friends in England and America, I have cheerfully come to the decision to give the German public a clear and short presentation of our principles in the firm belief that it will surely gain the acclaim of those to whom I have the honor of presenting it. May they properly appreciate the labor of their humble servant and reap from his toils some teachings that will thrive like seeds strewn upon good soil.

After having held a substantial position of responsibility in our church for several years as a dutiful member, I have not only had opportunity to make myself perfectly acquainted with its principles, but the performance of my duties also made it mandatory for me to make myself familiar with all its ordinances and its manner of government. (2) Therefore I hope by this production to be able to satisfy the innermost wish of my heart, which is to please the Lord, even if I should lose the friendship of human beings in doing so.

Article 1

On the Godhead

Anyone who wished to undertake a complete explanation of the wonderful and mysterious existence of the Godhead would only reveal his weakness and his foolishness. If we survey nature’s expansive kingdom, what do we see that we can fully comprehend? Nothing! Now if nature has so artfully hidden from our eye that fine plan by which it drives its grand mechanisms, what must we think of that being whose voice gave nature its existence and filled all its parts with life and movement!? (3)

Although we cannot fully comprehend the Godhead, yet there are various general indications in scripture that enable us to discover some features of its character. And by means of these sources from which we can draw instruction, the following is the result of our investigation.

There are two persons who constitute the great incomparableness, the highest governing force over all things, by which everything is created, visible and invisible, be it in Heaven, on Earth or under and in the same, or in the vastness of space. These two are the Father and the Son. (4) The Father is a spiritual person full of glory and power and possessing all perfection. The Son, who was eternally in the presence of the Father, bears his perfect likeness and shares all his glory, power, and perfection. Human beings were created according to the image of similarity of these two persons and therefore bear in their divine features the emblems of power and government and were placed above all created beings. (5) But how miserably have human beings deviated from God! And how many by their unworthy behavior will yet dishonor this noble heavenly image that they have been deemed worthy to bear!

The Son took on a human body in the womb of the blessed virgin after he had been conceived in purity by the Holy Ghost. He was born into this world amidst the jubilations of angelic singers who swelled their voices to the highest notes to give praise and honor to the prince of Bethlehem. “Glory to God in the highest and peace to men of good will on Earth.” Thus sang the choir of singers. The sins of the world were inflicted on this heavenly visitor, the son of the most high God. Meekly, subject to the opposition of sinners, he journeyed through his active life while proclaiming the will of His heavenly Father and doing good to body and soul of mankind until at last it pleased the children of Earth to drag Him for His good deeds before a worldly judgment seat, where he was unjustly condemned and sacrificed on the cross with utmost cruelty. (6)

But now, disembodied, he goes to the spirits of mankind who long had lingered in the vestibule—he strides over the boundaries of their dark dwelling-place—proclaims the gospel to them—opens the gates of their prison for the weary prisoners, and commands their tears to flow no more. O you faithless ones who did not repent to Noah’s sermon; but now a friend has come to your aid! (7)

On the third day he rose from the dead, and after he had given yet more instruction to His disciples, he ascended to his home, bringing with him to the heavenly court the rich booty of victory over death, the grave and Hell. There He took His seat to the right of the Father and has now become our mediator and advocate; for through His death and through His mediation, people can be saved if they obey His commandments and keep themselves unspotted from the world. (8) Through this man, righteous judgment will come over all flesh, for He possesses the same will as the Father, and this will is the Holy Ghost, which is the executive representative of the Father and the Son. He is a glorious messenger of truth and comfort, sent by the Father through the Son into the hearts of all those who walk upright before him; and these three, namely the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, are one. Therefore all those who keep his commandments will ascend from grace to grace and become heirs of the kingdom of God and fellow heirs of Jesus Christ. The closer they come to God through obedience, the more they will lose of their own will and receive of that of the Lord or of the Holy Ghost. They will be transformed again into His image and into His similarity with Him Who fills all things fully, and become one with the Son as the Son is one with the Father. O man, whoever you may be, consider well what is placed in your domain. Do not affix the predispositions of your heart to common and useless things, but remember instead the grand destination that awaits all those who make virtue their companion and salvation the goal of their labors.

* * *

(1) The construction “approved as acknowledged” is strange and omits who approved these articles. Also, I’ve updated the numbering of posts to match the chapters of Ein Ruf aus der Wüste.

(2) Here again, I’m translating Vorschriften “rules” as “ordinances.”

(3) This is the original punctuation, which is acceptable in German. Note that “parts” could mean something like “elements” or something like “segments,” so this shouldn’t be interpreted too drastically.

(4) I’m only capitalizing He/Him when the German text does. As the German text follows contemporary usage by capitalizing all nouns, I’m only capitalizing a few other nouns following English usage: Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Godhead.

(5) The German phrase for “according to the image of similarity,” nach dem Bilde der Aehnlichkeit, is quite unusual. The few occurrences outside Ein Ruf aus der Wüste I find are Jewish sources. This is something to keep an eye on. I don’t know what humans bearing “in their divine features the emblems of power and government” refers to.

(6) German Mensch is singular, grammatically masculine but not limited to males in scope. Throughout, I’m translating it variously as “people, human beings, mankind, man.” Hyde probably had man/mankind in all of these places.

(7) This is narrated in the present tense, so “now” doesn’t refer to Hyde’s day, but to the period between the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

(8) Hyde seems to be unconcerned with current anxieties about faith and works.

2 comments for “Ein Ruf aus der Wüste 4.1: Orson Hyde on the Godhead

  1. As I’d expect from its publication date, Hyde’s explanation of the Godhead seems quite consistent with the Lectures on Faith and somewhat inconsistent with current LDS theology of the Godhead.
    Translating “Vorschriften” as “ordinances” seems appropriate to the use of the latter in English and in LDS speech of the time including its use in JS’ original version of the Articles of Faith.
    Thanks again for this.

  2. Wondering, thanks for your notes. It’s helpful to get feedback on the translation. I’m trying to get the right balance between what Hyde probably wrote in English and what the words on the page say now, and I’m not always sure I’ve got the balance right.

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