Editor's note: Part 1 in a series of essays on visiting sites significant to the history of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Four years ago, my wife and I traveled to Israel with our six children — our oldest was 12 and our youngest was four months. We were joined by my sister and her six children and my parents. Any trip with multiple children, whether across the street or across the world, provides its own limitless supply of adventures. This trip did not disappoint.
For nearly three weeks, we walked, swam and drove in the beautiful Holy Land. There are countless historical sites, most of them filled with tourists and those hoping to make a living off of tourists. There is one notable exception that is unique to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden.
The garden commemorates the October 1841 dedicatory prayer offered by Elder Orson Hyde on top of the Mount of Olives. (See David B. Galbraith, “Orson Hyde’s 1841 Mission to the Holy Land," Ensign, October 1991.) Elder Hyde, an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was in Jerusalem by assignment from Joseph Smith to dedicate that land for the return of the Jewish people. His prayer focused on “three themes: the gathering of Judah, the building up of Jerusalem and the rearing of a temple,” according to Galbraith. A copy of the prayer can be found in chapter 26, volume 4 of the History of the Church.
The approximately 5.25-acre garden area was acquired through private, non-church funds and was dedicated by President Spencer W. Kimball in October 1979. The dedication was attended by several general authorities, church members (including a 300-strong choir from the same cruise ship carrying President and Sister Kimball) and community leaders, including the mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, according to Galbraith. The dedication was broadcast to the United States via satellite by two visiting television stations.
Today, the garden’s winding paths cascading down the Mount of Olives are lined with trees, plants and seasonal flowers. Although the dull roar of Jerusalem traffic can be heard, it is mostly a quiet and serene location with few visitors. It is within walking distance of BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. Additionally, it has some of the best views in Jerusalem of the Old City and the Kidron Valley. It also has a large amphitheater that provides an ideal setting for large groups — usually BYU students or touring members of the church — to gather and worship together in song and prayer.
Most significantly, the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden lies just north of several churches and gardens marking various traditional locations of the Garden of Gethsemane. Following connected pathways, our families passed through the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden on our way to visit those locations.
The location and surroundings of the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden create an atmosphere conducive to the Spirit. There, the pace of our “adventures” slowed and we took time to mediate and ponder the Savior’s Atonement. I felt the significance of Gethsemane in my heart as I contemplated the Savior drinking the bitter cup of my pains and my afflictions and my sins and my temptations and my infirmities.
This sacred journey will always remain in my memory, but the feelings I experienced are not unique to that part of the world. They can be and have been replicated many times in my life, both before and after this trip, when I have tried to sincerely reflect on my Savior and improve my life in sacrament meetings in Arizona where I live.
Scott Brown practices commercial and bankruptcy law with Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP in Phoenix.
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