Letter to Orson Hyde and John E. Page, 14 May 1840

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  • Historical Introduction

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Hancock Co. Ills May 14th 1840
Dear Bretheren
I am happy in being informed by your letter that your mission swells “larger and larger”; it is a great and important mission, and one that is worthy of those inteligences who surround the throne of Jehovah to be ingaged in; Altho it appears great at present, yet you have but just begun to realize the greatness, the extent and glory of the same. If there is any thing calculated to interest the mind of the , to awaken in them the finest sensibilities; and arouse them to enterprise, and exertion, surely it is the great and precious promises, made by our heavenly Father to the children of Abraham; and those engaged in seeking the outcasts of Israel, and the dispersed of Judah, cannot fail to enjoy the Spirit of the Lord, and have the choisests blessings of Heaven rest upon them in copious effusions, Bretheren you are in the path way to Eternal Fame! and immortal Glory; and inasmuch as you feel interested for the covenant people of the Lord, the God of their Father shall bless you. Do not be discouraged on accou[n]t of the greatness of the work; only be humble, and faithful, and then you can say, “what art thou, O, great mountain, “before Zerubbable shalt thou be brought down” He who scattered Israel has promised to them; therefore, inasmuch as you are to be instrumental in this great work, he will you with power, wisdom, might, and inteligence; and every qualification necessary; while your minds will expand wider and wider, untill you can circumscribe the Earth, & the Heavens, and reach forth into eternity; contemplate the mighty acts of Jehovah, in all their variety & glory
In answer to your inquiries, respecting the translation and publication, of the Book of Mormon, Hymn Book, History of the church, &c, &c; I would say, that I entirely approve of the same; and give my consent, with the exception of the Hymn Book, as a new edition, containing a greater variety of Hymns, will be shortly published or printed in this place; which, I think will be a standard work
As soon as it is printed, you shall have some [p. 146] to you, which you may get translated, and printed into any language you please. Should we not be able to send some to you, and there should be a great call for Hymns where you are may be; then I should have no objections to your publishing the present one. Were you to publish the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, or Hymn Book; I desire the copy rights of the same to be secured in my name.
With respect to publishing any other work, either original, or those which have been published before, you will be governed by circumstances; if you think necessary to do so I shall have no objections whatever— It will be well to study plainness and simplicity in whatever you may publish “for my soul delighteth in pla[i]nness”.
I feel much pleased with the spirit of your letter, and be assured, Dear Bretheren, of my hearty co-operation, and my prayers for your welfare and sucess.
In answer to your enquiry in a former letter, relative to the duty of the in regulating churches &c; I say that the duties of the seventies is, more particularly to preach the Gospel, & build up churches, rather than regulate them.— that a may take charge of them.
If a high priest should be remiss in his duty, & should lead, or suffer the to be led astray; depart from the of the Lord, then it is the duty of one of the seventies, acting under the special direction of the —being duly commissioned by them with their delegated authority, to go that church and if agreeable to a majority of the members of said church to proceed to regulate and put in order the same— otherwise he can have no authority to act [p. 147]


  1. 1

    The opening line of Hyde and Page’s 1 May 1840 letter reads, “Sir, The mission upon which we are sent, swells greater & greater.” (Letter from Orson Hyde and John E. Page, 1 May 1840.)  

  2. 2

    An 1833 revelation described the eternal nature of “inteligences,” teaching that “man was also in the begining with God, inteligence or the Light of truth was not created or made neith[er] indeed can be.” (Revelation, 6 May 1833 [D&C 93:29].)  

  3. 3

    See Genesis 12:1–3; 28:1–4.  

  4. 4

    See Zechariah 4:7.  

  5. 5

    See, for example, Jeremiah 31:10; Book of Mormon, 1837 ed., 105 [2 Nephi 21:12]; and Revelation, ca. 7 Mar. 1831 [D&C 45:24–25].  

  6. 6

    In September 1839, Brigham Young, JS, and others selected hymns for a new hymnal before members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles departed for England, where Young presumably planned to publish a collection of hymns. At a 27 October 1839 meeting, however, the Nauvoo high council decided that Emma Smith should select and compile the new hymnal and that Young should be informed he was not to compile a hymnal using the hymns he had taken with him. Possibly unaware of this instruction, a 15 April 1840 general conference of the church in Preston, England, appointed the Twelve to publish a hymnal, which was printed in Manchester, England, later in the same year. The hymnal that was printed in Nauvoo in 1841 contained seventy-eight hymns from the British edition. (Kimball, “History,” 111; Minutes, 27 Oct. 1839; “From England,” Times and Seasons, June 1840, 1:119–121; Letter from Brigham Young, 29 Apr. 1840; Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:154–155; A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Europe [Manchester, England: W. R. Thomas, 1840]; A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [Nauvoo, IL: E. Robinson, 1841].)  

    Kimball, Heber C. “History of Heber Chase Kimball by His Own Dictation,” ca. 1842–1856. Heber C. Kimball, Papers, 1837–1866. CHL. MS 627, box 2.

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

    Crawley, Peter. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. 3 vols. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997–2012.

    A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Europe. Manchester, England: W. R. Thomas, 1840.

    A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Edited by Emma Smith. Nauvoo, IL: E. Robinson, 1841.

  7. 7

    In their 16 April 1840 meeting in Preston, the Quorum of the Twelve appointed Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Parley P. Pratt as a committee to secure British copyrights for the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. Young wrote to the First Presidency on 29 April 1840, enclosing a report of the meeting at which this and other decisions were made, though JS would not have received that letter by 14 May, when he wrote to Hyde and Page. (“From England,” Times and Seasons, June 1840, 1:121; Letter from Brigham Young, 29 Apr. 1840.)  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  8. 8

    In their 1 May 1840 letter, Hyde and Page had asked whether they were at liberty to translate or publish original works or works previously published by the church if “the circumstances in which we are placed seem to require.” In 1842 Hyde published a pamphlet titled Ein Ruf aus der Wüste [A cry out of the wilderness], which included components of the publication he and Page had proposed in their earlier letter. (Letter from Orson Hyde and John E. Page, 1 May 1840; “Conference Minutes,” Times and Seasons, 15 Apr. 1842, 3:761–763; Orson Hyde, Ein Ruf aus der Wüste, eine Stimme aus dem Schoose der Erde [Frankfurt: Im Selbstverlage des Verfassers (by the author), 1842].)  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  9. 9

    See Book of Mormon, 1837 ed., 126 [2 Nephi 31:3].  

  10. 10

    It is unclear to which former letter JS was referring. Hyde and Page did not inquire regarding the duties of the Seventy in their 1 May 1840 letter.  

  11. 11

    At a January 1840 conference of church members in Philadelphia, JS gave similar instruction regarding elders, admonishing that “travelling Elders should be especially cautious of incroaching on the ground of stationed & presiding Elders and rather direct their efforts to breaking up and occupying new ground.” In 1835 JS taught that “the seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world. Thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.” (Minutes and Discourse, 13 Jan. 1840; Instruction on Priesthood, between ca. 1 Mar. and ca. 4 May 1835 [D&C 107:25].)  

  12. 12

    In 1835 JS taught that “the seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the twelve, or the travelling high council, in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same, in all nations.” (Instruction on Priesthood, between ca. 1 Mar. and ca. 4 May 1835 [D&C 107:34].)