“Dedication of the Holy Land,” Church History Topics
“Dedication of the Holy Land”
From his baptism into the Church in 1831, Orson Hyde had hoped to someday fulfill a mission to Jerusalem. One night in 1840, he dreamed that he took a missionary journey through London, Amsterdam, and Constantinople and finally ended in Jerusalem. Inspired by this dream, at the next Church conference, he proposed undertaking a mission to the Jews. Fellow Apostle John Page pledged support, citing Book of Mormon prophecies of the gathering of Israel and conversion of the Jews.1 Joseph Smith commissioned Hyde to represent the Church to “the priests, rulers and Elders of the Jews” in foreign lands.2 Hyde departed from Nauvoo, Illinois, nine days later and followed the path he had seen in his dream.
Page accompanied Hyde as far as Cincinnati, Ohio.3 Hyde then continued alone, reaching England in March 1841. There he assisted other members of the Twelve for four months before traveling in a southeast direction across Europe. Along the way, Hyde sent letters to leaders of Jewish communities and stopped in major cities to preach to Jews. In October, he landed on the Palestinian coast and proceeded inland to Jerusalem. He wept as he stood at the west gate and beheld the ancient city for the first time.
Before sunrise on Sunday, October 24, Hyde exited the city, crossed the Kidron Valley, and ascended the Mount of Olives. There he offered a prayer dedicating Jerusalem specifically “for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants” and also more broadly as a land of promise for all the scattered children of Abraham.4 After the prayer, he fashioned a stone altar to commemorate the occasion. Upon leaving Jerusalem, Hyde continued his mission by traveling back through Germany and then to London. He returned to Nauvoo in December 1842.5
When Hyde and others had been set apart as members of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1835, Joseph Smith informed them that only they had the authority to unlock the doors of the nations for the gathering of Israel.6 Hyde’s apostolic dedication of the Holy Land helped fulfill this charge. The dedication was, however, different from later dedications of countries for Latter-day Saint missionary work. Hyde understood that this dedication would set in motion the gathering of God’s ancient covenant people, the Jews, and would be a work that the Jewish people themselves would then carry out.
Between 1873 and 1933, several other dedicatory prayers for the Holy Land were offered by later Apostles.7 In the 1970s and 1980s, the Church established a presence in the area around Jerusalem by creating a Church district, establishing the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center, and dedicating the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden on the Mount of Olives.8 In 1979, Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve, who had played an important role in establishing these Latter-day Saint institutions in the Holy Land, taught that the monument to Hyde’s prayer did not mean “that we favor only the aims of the Jews. The Church has an interest in all of Abraham’s descendants.” He reminded his listeners that “Jerusalem is sacred to the Jews, but it is also sacred to the Arabs.” He concluded, “Both the Jews and the Arabs are children of our Father. They are both children of promise, and as a church we do not take sides. We have love for and an interest in each. The purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to bring about love, unity, and brotherhood of the highest order.”9