Orson Hyde

Orson Hyde
Mormon Church
One of
Twelve Apostles

Derby may not have a large Mormon presence, yet one of its 19th century residents went on to play a major role in the establishment and growth of the Mormon Church.  Orson Hyde was born in Oxford on January 8, 1805 and was the tenth child of Nathan and Sally Thorp Hyde. The death of both of his parents caused him to be raised in Derby by Nathan Wheeler. It seems that his mother died shortly after giving birth to her eleventh child, and his father drowned while swimming in Derby. (Dorothy DeBisschop, historian for the Town of Oxford, sent us evidence that Hyde was born in a section of Oxford that now is part of Seymour!)

When Mr. Wheeler's business failed in Derby, he purchased a farm in the Western Reserve, and at the age of 14, Orson Hyde walked to Kirtland, Ohio to be with him. It was in Kirtland that he converted from his Methodist faith to the new Mormon religion which was just beginning to emerge. He was drawn to see and hear Joseph Smith. Though his faith in the new religion wavered in the early years, he was baptized on Oct. 30, 1831 and Smith ordained him as an elder in the Mormon Church. He spent the next four years conducting missions on behalf of the church. In 1835, Orson Hyde was ordained as one of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, one of the ruling bodies of Mormonism.

He continued his missionary work for the church traveling to England, but in 1838 once more wavered in his faith during a period of extreme persecution. He signed an affidavit against Joseph Smith that led to his being disciplined, but not removed from the church. He was was dropped from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles until he recanted and was returned as a member of the Quorum, but this break in service would eventually cost him the chance to succeed Brigham Young as president of the church!

Orson Hyde Memorial Garden - Jerusalem (photo by Tamarah)

Hyde was a leader in the Mormon movement westward, holding leadership positions in Mormon settlements in Iowa, Nevada, and Utah.  However, he is probably best remembered for his mission to Jerusalem (1840-1842) to dedicate the land for the return of the Jews. He was assigned by Joseph Smith to go to Jerusalem where he delivered a prayer  for the gathering of the Jews, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the creation of a Jewish state, and the rearing of a temple. On October 24, 1979 The Orson Hyde Memorial Garden on the Mount of Olives was dedicated in memory of Hyde's original trip and prayer.

He practiced polygamy and had eight wives and more than thirty children! He died on November 28, 1878.

He might well have followed Brigham Young as head of the Mormon Church when Young died in 1877 if not for his earlier disillusionment with his religion.  When Brigham Young died, the senior Apostle (the apostle who had been in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles for the longest), John Taylor, became the third President of the LDS Church. When the LDS Church's President dies, the senior Apostle becomes the next President. In 1835, when Hyde was ordained as one of the twelve Apostles, he stood fifth in seniority. Brigham Young was third at that point. However in a meeting of the Twelve Apostles held in 1875, Brigham Young made a decision that Hyde and another Apostle (Orson Pratt) would lose their seniority to three other Apostles who had been ordained while Hyde and Pratt were away from membership in the Quorum. If not for that decision, Orson Hyde, who grew up in Derby, might have become President of the Mormon Church!

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