Ein Ruf aus der Wüste 4.10: Orson Hyde on continuing revelation

The teachings are familiar, but the images are surprising.

Article 10.

On the revelations and commands that God has given to his church since it was organized. (1830)

The idea that the Lord has given his people a revelation or command in present times is as far removed from the beliefs of the largest part of the religious world as Lot was from Sodom on its evil day.(1) But we have long since learned that the unbelief of a benighted world cannot serve as a guide for us, and because we are not of the same opinion as it, it regards us as deceivers, hypocrites and blasphemers. And under this prejudice, we were compelled to suffer not only the falsity and abuse of their tongues, but also their instruments of torture and cruelty, and even death. And yet we believe in revelations! The blood of our martyrs rises up from the sacrificial altar to Heaven and there champions our cause before the judgment seat of grace with such mighty eloquence that Jehovah’s compassion is awakened, and He sends down light and knowledge on us, like quickening showers, even like balming dews.(2)

Since the organization of our church, it has pleased the Lord to give us various revelations and commands through his holy priesthood by which many passages in the scriptures have been shown and made clear to us that were formerly obscure and mysterious for us. In short, it seems that the finger of divine inspiration has touched each obscure place in the Bible so that the truth of it may shine in our hearts like the illuminating glow of a lamp in a dark place.

I cannot fail to remark here about the difference of the people of God in earlier days and about the difference of those who call themselves his people in these days. In the old days they regarded their condition as most deplorable if the Lord did not speak to them, but today they consider it to be the highest presumption or folly to even even accept the possibility that the Lord would speak to them again. The ancients regarded dreams, prophecies and visions just as a lady regards her diamonds; but our modern people look upon such privileges just as a pig looks at a pearl.(3) Had I not experienced too frequently how often one is inclined to trample such things underfoot, I would not have dared to speak as I have done. And if it were given to the bright seraphim, who draw near to the throne of the Most High and bask in the ray of immortality, to weep over mortals’ lack of faith and irrationality, then the Earth would be covered in heavenly tears as with dew.

We believe in prophecies, we believe in revelations; for they were given not only to the ancients, but also to us. We believe in visions, and we also believe that God warns and admonishes his people through dreams. We also believe in efficacious prayers for our sick and anoint them with consecrated oil in the name of the Lord.(4) We lay our hands on them and the Lord answers our prayer. He heals our sick and makes the lame leap in joy. —

* * *

(1) I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lot and Sodom used as a metaphor for distance. In recent decades our curriculum has come, incorrectly in my view, to treat Lot as someone who got Sodom-curious and suffered for it, but 2 Peter 2:7 calls him a just man. But even apart from that, it always seemed to me like Lot was getting out in the nick of time and was still within viewing distance of Sodom when things got real. Where is Hyde and/or his translator deriving this image from?

(2) Another striking metaphor. Instead of the usual image of Christ acting as the advocate of the righteous before the Father, here Hyde has the blood of the martyrs acting as the saints’ advocate before Jehovah. And how does Hyde interpret the name “Jehovah” in 1842, anyway?

(3) I think Hyde is saying that visions, dreams, etc. identify the faithful as being particularly elect and estimable, just as a woman of high station is identified as such by her diamond jewelry. The faithful should be as unashamed of their revelations as a woman of station is of her finery, Hyde seems to be saying.

(4) I don’t think we usually connect healing directly to continuing revelation, but the comparison is actually pretty instructive. Whether by prayer of faith or through a formalized ordinance, it’s usually (and maybe surprisingly) uncontroversial that sick people, even deathly ill people, are in fact healed. Every family has a story. And so, Hyde might justifiably ask, if God can exercise his power in the modern world through miraculous healing, why is it inconceivable that he should exercise his power through visions and revelation? At the same time, we’re regularly reminded that healing is not automatic, that it’s ultimately in God’s hands, and this too is generally uncontroversial: it was his time and we were comforted in our grief. Visions and revelations have attracted much more controversy: some perceive the mere possibility as a threat, some worry revelation is too rare, others worry it’s too frequent. Perhaps it would help to remember that in both revelation and healing, God will prevail.

6 comments for “Ein Ruf aus der Wüste 4.10: Orson Hyde on continuing revelation

  1. On the Jehovah issue I’d just point you to Robert Boylan’s blog where he ran across the 1852 Australian Latter-day Saint hymnal which has verses referring to Jehovah as the Father. (See http://scripturalmormonism.blogspot.com/2021/03/insights-from-1852-australian-latter.html)

    Hymn 5

    4 Bearing the seed of heav’nly virtue,
    Scatter it o’er all the earth.
    Go! Jehovah will support you, <<== reference to the Father
    Gather all the sheaves of worth,
    Then with Jesus, <<== who will reign with Jesus
    Reign in glory on the earth.

    Hymn 28

    4 The name of Jehovah is worthy of praising,
    And so is the Saviour an excellent them;

    Also FairMormon touches on Old Testament and modern Latter-day Saint usage of the titles Jehovah and Elohim. (See https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/answers/Mormonism_and_the_nature_of_God/Elohim_and_Jehovah#Question:_Are_Elohim_and_Jehovah_the_same_deity.3F)

  2. It seems likely that when Hyde’s “Ein Ruf aus der Wüste” was published in 1842, the Church had not yet identified Jehovah specifically as Jesus. The Church’s 1841 hymnal (Emma Smith’s collection) included “Salem’s Bright King, Jesus by Name”, vv. 3 and 5 of which are:

    3 Down in old Jordan’s rolling stream,
    The prophet led the holy Lamb,
    And there did him baptize:
    Jehovah saw his darling Son,
    And was well pleased in what he’d done,
    And owned him from the skies.

    5 This is my Son, Jehovah cries,
    The echoing voice from glory flies,
    O, children, hear ye him;
    Hark! ’tis his voice, behold he cries,
    Repent, believe, and be baptized,
    And wash away your sin.

    Here “Jehovah” is explicitly the Father and not the Son, unless one is thinking in Trinitarian terms I’ve failed to understand.

    Bryan, I appreciate the further hymn references you note, though I was confused by “an excellent them”. In “Sacred Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Europe.” [Selected by B. Young, P. P. Pratt and J. Taylor.] Ninth edition, revised and enlarged [by F. D. Richards], 1851, that hymn no. 243, has the same text as “an excellent theme.” “Salem’s Bright King” is more difficult to read as consistent with current Church teaching (if possible at all) than are the hymns you cited. But I think your reading is correct — that Jehovah was understood to be the Father, at least in these three hymns.

  3. Jonathan, I read Hyde’s comment on Lot and Sodom to mean Lot’s beliefs were far from those of Sodom and not as a reference to any physical distance.

  4. Wondering, that’s probably what Hyde meant. But the language (so weit entfernt) is that of spatial distance, and the construction would suggest the use of spatial distance to exemplify a difference in belief, so I was expecting something along the lines of, “These beliefs are as far apart as Los Angeles is from New York,” I’m curious how Lot and Sodom get used in contrasts, since it’s not a comparison I’m familiar with.

  5. I think the concept of Entfernung is not always spatial, but may be used metaphorically in German as well as English. But I don’t know how old such usage may be. E.g., “Nichts auf der Welt ist so weit entfernt wie der Weg vom guten Vorsatz zur guten Tat.” and “Entfernungen haben keine Bedeutung, sich nahe zu sein ist Sache des Herzens.” It isn’t obvious to me whether Hyde might have had any spatial concept in mind or wrote only metaphorically..

  6. Wondering, expressing difference as distance is probably a nearly universal metaphor. What’s weird is that if you want to emphasize the difference of two things with a spatial metaphor, it seems like you’d choose two things that are more obviously distant from one another than Lot and Sodom. Or if you were only looking for another similar case of mere difference, it still seems odd to choose Lot. It seems like an unusual comparison and I’d guess it’s based on a usage that I’m not aware of.

    And it looks like that really is the case. Searching more widely, there are a lot of references to Lot as an example of hasty flight or provident rescue, but also some examples of Lot as an exemplar of piety among sinful people:



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