On a revered hill outside a revered city, President Spencer W. Kimball October 24 dedicated a garden built in memory of an Apostle’s prayer.
The dedication’s setting was the Mount of Olives, across a valley from Jerusalem, in Israel. There, on 24 October 1841, Elder Orson Hyde dedicated the land of Palestine for the building up of Jerusalem and the gathering of Abraham’s posterity. This October 24, President Kimball dedicated the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden to commemorate that event and the ongoing fulfillment of that prayer.
Elder Hyde’s early morning prayer to consecrate the land, given at the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, was not witnessed by anyone else. But President Kimball’s dedication of the gardens was seen by several thousand in person, and later by uncounted others on television. Many attending the dedication were members of the Church who had journeyed to the Middle East to see the dedication as part of Biblical tours.
Portions of the dedication service were broadcast via satellite to the United States by two television stations who sent film crews to cover the dedication.
Seven General Authorities traveled to Jerusalem for the dedication: President Kimball; President N. Eldon Tanner, first counselor in the First Presidency; President Ezra Taft Benson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve; and Elders LeGrand Richards, Howard W. Hunter, and Marvin J. Ashton, members of the Quorum of the Twelve; and Patriarch Emeritus Eldred G. Smith.
The memorial garden, five-and-one-quarter landscaped acres, is just across the Kidron Valley from the City of Jerusalem. It is situated near the Garden of Gethsemane and the road to Jericho.
An amphitheater in a grottolike setting provides seating for visitors with a view of the Old City and numerous landmarks of Jerusalem. A heroic-size plaque in the garden inscribed in English and Hebrew contains excerpts of Elder Hyde’s prayer. The plaque is accessible by winding pathways through groves of trees, plants, and other shrubbery.
The garden is the largest single tract in the Jerusalem Gardens National Park, which encompasses a green belt of more than 600 acres surrounding the Old City. The Park preserves historic sites including Mount Zion, the City of David, the Kidron and Hinmon valleys, Gethsemane, and the slopes of the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus.
The words of President Kimball’s dedicatory prayer acknowledged the historic and religious significance of the garden’s setting:
“Father, bless these grounds, these walks, these structures, the flowers, the shrubs and trees, that they may radiate the loveliness and give pleasure to those who visit here,” President Kimball prayed.
“Protect this garden from the ravages of war and storm and depredation of every kind. Let it be a haven where all may meditate upon the glory which thou hast shed upon Jerusalem in ages past, and of the greater glory yet to be.
“Let those who come here feel of thy Spirit and influence, and the spirit of the holy prophets who have traversed this beautiful land.”
A 300-voice choir sang at the dedication service. Members of the choir had practiced for the performance during a Mediterranean cruise in which President Kimball and his wife, Camilia, participated.
Speaking at the dedication were President Kimball; Mayor Teddy Kollek; Orson Hyde White, chairman of the Orson Hyde Foundation; President Tanner; President Benson; and Elder Richards.
President Kimball told those attending that much of Elder Hyde’s prayer has been fulfilled.
“The land has become abundantly fruitful again, with flocks and orchards and fields. The scattered children of Abraham have returned in great numbers to build up this land as a refuge, and the city of Jerusalem has flourished,” he said.
He celebrated the history of the site: “If a person could have had a vantage seat on this mount down through the ages, what scenes his eyes would have beheld.
“From the mount, with the city of Jerusalem before him, a spectator through the centuries could have witnessed caravans of merchants and processions of armies and common folk from many nations and empires.”
President Kimball recalled that David had ascended the Mount of Olives and wept, that the Lord Jesus Christ had here given great teachings, that below the Mount of Olives he had suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane.
He also recalled some of Orson Hyde’s history. Elder Hyde was thirty-six years old when he gave the dedicatory prayer on the Mount of Olives and, after the prayer, collected a small mound of stones to commemorate the dedication.
“We today have built of stones a new and more permanent memorial to that same event,” the President said.
President Kimball was one of three Church leaders given a medal of the City of Jerusalem by Mayor Kollek. Also receiving medals were Elder Richards and Elder Hunter. Church leaders gave Mayor Kollek a porcelain statue of Noah holding a peace dove.
Prior to the dedication, Church leaders were honored at a reception hosted by Mayor Kollek. At the reception, Elder Richards presented Mayor Kollek with the final installment in the $1 million raised by the Orson Hyde Foundation to finance the garden. Elder Richards is president and trustee of the foundation. While numerous Church members contributed to the Orson Hyde Foundation, the memorial was not funded by the Church.
Mayor Kollek spoke of the Orson Hyde Foundation’s contribution to the beautification of Jerusalem and joked, “We’ll come to you with another project soon.”
He demonstrated his awareness of Latter-day Saint teachings when he quipped, “We are very grateful that all of you made the effort to come to the other Jerusalem”—referring to a Church teaching of a new Jerusalem to be built on the American continent. “Everybody who knows about the history of Jerusalem in comparatively modern times knows about the prophecy of Orson Hyde,” Mayor Kolleck said.
“And here the Jews are back in Jerusalem again. We have political arguments, but nobody doubts that the city today is a more beautiful city, a better city united than divided by barbed wire and mine fields and concrete walls. And it befalls to us as city administration to do everything to bring out the inherent beauty of Jerusalem by our own efforts,” he said.
At the dedication of the gardens, Mayor Kollek added: “I wish you all could continue as many generations as we have continued, and that this good relationship between you and us should persist during all these coming centuries. We are looking forward to it,” he said, his remarks bringing applause from the audience.
“And together we’ll make both Jerusalems very beautiful … and you’ll help us in doing so.”