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Joseph Smith's First Vision/Accounts/Orson Hyde referred to "angels"
Orson Hyde referred to "angels" in the First Vision
Orson Hyde (1854): "Some one may say, 'If this work of the last days be true, why did not the Saviour come himself to communicate this intelligence to the world?'"
This statement by Orson Hyde is commonly misunderstood to be a reference to angels in the First Vision. However, Orson Hyde was not talking of the First Vision in this instance, but rather the events that would occur at the end of the world. Elder Hyde wanted to impress upon that Saints that the latter-day work of gathering (the figurative harvest imagery) was inaugurated by angels and they would also play a role in the figurative separation of the wheat and the tares.
Orson Hyde said:
When we take a more extensive view of the subject, we find that the grand harvest is reserved until the last—until the winding up scene; for it is said, "The harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels," by whose agency this reaping dispensation was committed to the children of men. Some one may say, "If this work of the last days be true, why did not the Saviour come himself to communicate this intelligence to the world?" Because to the angels was committed the power of reaping the earth, and it was committed to none else. And after the mighty champions that hold the keys of this dispensation came and brought the intelligence that the time of harvest was now—that the time of the end was drawing nigh,—when this proclamation was made, and the announcement saluted the ears of the children of men, what was to be done next? Behold, the gathering of the Saints begins. 
Question: In 1854, was Orson Hyde unaware of the details of the Father and Son appearing to Joseph in the First Vision?
Orson Hyde was quite familiar with the First Vision from previously published literature, and in this case he was not talking about that event
Orson Hyde said during a General Conference in 1854:"Some one may say, 'If this work of the last days be true, why did not the Saviour come himself to communicate this intelligence to the world?'" Was Orson Hyde unaware of the details of the Father and Son appearing to Joseph in the First Vision?
When Elder Orson Hyde was discoursing in General Conference on 6 April 1854 he was NOT speaking about the First Vision (a story he knew very well from previously published literature) - he was trying to teach the Latter-day Saints about "the grand harvest" which would take place during "the winding up scene" and the part that "angels" would have in it. The evidence suggests that Elder Hyde was utilizing section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants as the basis for some of his remarks about angels, NOT about the events that took place within the Sacred Grove.
The proper context of Elder Hyde’s remarks can be determined simply by examining his opening statement. There he makes it clear that because it was currently the season for sowing crops he wanted to discourse on some parable imagery found in the 13th chapter of the New Testament book of Matthew (verses 1–9, 36–43).
Elder Hyde specifically mentioned that the "angels" were the agency through which "this reaping dispensation was committed to the children of men" and that these heavenly beings held "the keys of this dispensation." With these words he may well have been referring to the episode recorded in section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants where angels tell Joseph Smith - "the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands" (v. 16). They also "committed the gospel of the dispensation of Abraham" to the Prophet (v. 12) and, furthermore, they "committed unto [him] the keys of the gathering" (v. 11) - [harvest imagery]. Elder Hyde said in his sermon that the angels brought the news that "the time of the end was drawing nigh" and, significantly, the last of the angels to appear in D&C 110 said, "the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors" (v. 16).
A summary of Elder Hyde’s comments shows that he did not intend to speak about the First Vision at all; he wanted to impress upon that Saints that the latter-day work of gathering (the figurative harvest imagery) was inaugurated by angels and they would also play a role in the figurative separation of the wheat and the tares.
Question: What evidence is there that Orson Hyde was familiar with the details of the First Vision at the time he made his statement about "angels"?
15 June 1841
When Orson Hyde was in London, England on a mission he wrote to the Prophet Joseph Smith and informed him: “I have written a book to publish in the German language, setting forth our doctrine and principles in as clear and concise a manner as I possibly could. After giving the history of the rise of the Church, in something the manner that Br[other] O[rson] Pratt did, I have written a snug little article upon every point of doctrine believed by the Saints.”
Elder Hyde is referring to Elder Pratt’s missionary tract - published in Scotland in 1840 - called An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, which contained the first known published, full-length description of the First Vision event. Elder Hyde’s pamphlet contained a recounting of the First Vision that was very similar to the one found in Elder Pratt’s pamphlet.
Elder Hyde’s pamphlet was published in Frankfurt, Germany sometime in the year 1842. It was called Eine Stimme aus dem Schoose der Erde (A Cry from the Wilderness, A Voice from the Depths of the Earth). This was the first known foreign-language rendition of the First Vision story.
6 February 1851
Elder Lorenzo Snow wrote a letter to Elder Orson Hyde on 6 February 1851 from Geneva, Switzerland and informed him that his own missionary tract called “The Voice of Joseph” (written between 23 July 1850 and 6 September 1850) was circulating in both Italy and Switzerland.
From the above information it can be determined that before Orson Hyde made his 1854 remarks he was aware of at least three orthodox First Vision accounts produced by members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
- Orson Pratt’s missionary tract [published in 1840],
- his own missionary tract [written in 1841], and
- Lorenzo Snow’s missionary tract [written in 1850].
It is high unlikely that Elder Hyde did not possess an accurate understanding of the First Vision story before the year 1854.
Orson Hyde (1842): "Two glorious heavenly personages stood before him, resembling each other exactly in features and stature"
Orson Hyde published a account of the rise and progress of the church, in 1842, in German. He appears to have used Orson Pratt's 1840 account as a starting point.
At this sacred moment, the natural world around him was excluded from his view, so that he would be open to the presentation of heavenly and spiritual things. Two glorious heavenly personages stood before him, resembling each other exactly in features and stature. They told him that his prayers had been answered and that the Lord had decided to grant him a special blessing. He was also told that he should not join any of the religious sects or denominations, because all of them erred in doctrine and none was recognized by God as his church and kingdom. He was further commanded, to wait patiently until some future time, when the true doctrine of Christ and the complete truth of the gospel would be revealed to him. The vision closed and peace and calm filled his mind.
Orson Hyde (1850): "In the first vision which Joseph Smith received in the Spring of the year 1820, (he being between fourteen and fifteen years of age,) both the Father and the Son, while he was praying, appeared unto him"
Orson Hyde published an article in The Frontier Guardian by Orson Pratt:
In the first vision which Joseph Smith received in the Spring of the year 1820, (he being between fourteen and fifteen years of age,) both the Father and the Son, while he was praying, appeared unto him. He says: "When the light rested upon me, I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said -(pointing to the other,) This is my beloved Son, hear him. Thus we find that the visions both of the ancient and modern prophets agree, and clearly demonstrate the existence of two distinct persons - the Father and the Son.
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here
- Orson Hyde, (6 April 1854) Journal of Discourses 6:335.
- Orson Hyde, Times and Seasons 2 no. 23 (1 October 1841), 551. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
- Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1884), 176.
- Orson Hyde, Ein Ruf aus der Wuste, eine Stimme aus dem Schoose der Erde [A Cry from the Wilderness, a Voice from the Dust of the Earth] (Frankfurt, 1842); translation by Marvin Folsom, in Dean Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith. Volume 1. Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1989): 405, 407, 409, at page 409.
- Orson Hyde, printing and article by Orson Pratt, The Frontier Guardian (6 March 1850).