Lorenzo Snow was a farm boy, raised on the frontier of nineteenth century America, in Ohio. His daily tasks included felling trees, clearing fields, and overseeing the farm in his father’s frequent absence. He was the oldest son in a large family and did not know what it meant to be idle. His family developed bonds of love and trust and mutual help that were set to endure.
His Early Life Included Lessons in Responsibility
Oliver and Rosetta Snow were natives of New England. After the birth of two daughters, they moved from New England to Ohio, where they had five other children—two more girls and three boys. Lorenzo was their fifth child and the oldest boy. His parents established themselves as farmers in Portage County, Ohio. They were soon joined by relatives and former friends from New England. As the years passed, the Snow family became prosperous and influential.
Lorenzo Snow’s parents and relatives and many of the other townspeople were educated people. They encouraged their children in the pursuit of intellectual honor, culture, and social accomplishment. Lorenzo received this same encouragement and struggled determinedly to satisfy the expectations of his family and neighbors.
Lorenzo’s father was frequently away from home on private and public business. On many occasions Lorenzo was left in charge when he was only a child. The responsibilities of a large and prosperous farm seemed no serious obstacle to him. In carrying these early burdens, he was punctual, resolute and energetic. As he grew older he superintended the shipment of farm produce downriver to New Orleans. Though such excursions required months of work, he was ever responsible and equal to the task.
He Was Taught to Be Sympathetic, Broad-Minded, and Tolerant
In her biography of her brother, Lorenzo Snow’s older sister Eliza wrote: “In their religious faith our parents were by profession Baptists, but not of the rigid, iron-bedstead order; their house was a resort for the good and intelligent of all denominations, and their hospitality was proverbial” (Eliza R. Snow Smith, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow , 2). Discussions at home were never allowed to become bigoted or narrow, and Lorenzo, along with his brothers and sisters, were encouraged to form broad acquaintance with people and their views. His frequent shipping excursions to New Orleans gave him much practical opportunity to observe a variety of situations and people.
He Enjoyed Reading
Books were Lorenzo Snow’s constant companions. When his attention was not demanded by the responsibilities of the farm, he would take a book and go off where he would not be disturbed. He read widely and became acquainted with history, geography, and literature, both classic and contemporary.
He Wanted to Join the Military
It was perhaps due partly to his interest in history that Lorenzo Snow became interested in joining the military. Shortly after his twenty-first birthday, he completed his secondary studies and had won a lieutenant’s commission by appointment from the governor of Ohio. But, feeling that a college education would brighten his military prospects, he temporarily laid his military training aside, sold his share of his father’s estate, and moved to Oberlin, Ohio. There the Presbyterians had established a widely acclaimed college just a few years before.
His Mother and Two Sisters Were Converted
Lorenzo Snow studied a year at Oberlin College. Although by nature he had a tender regard for people, he had never been particularly attracted to institutionalized religion. He wrote to his sister Eliza near the end of his term, “If there is nothing better than is to be found here in Oberlin College, good bye to all religions” (Smith, Biography and Family Record, 5).
His mother and a sister were the first members of Lorenzo Snow’s family to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Later, his sister Eliza joined. Lorenzo had deep respect for Eliza’s opinions and judgment, and he wrote to her at Kirtland, Ohio, and asked many questions about the newly revealed religion. She responded to his questions and requested that he come to Kirtland and study with Professor Seixas, who had been engaged to teach Hebrew by the leaders of the Church. In the spring of 1836, Lorenzo left Oberlin and moved to Kirtland.
He Was Open and Receptive to the Church
Lorenzo Snow was anxious to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith. Not long after he arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, he was talking with his sister Eliza on the street when “Joseph passed by, seemingly in a big hurry. He paused just long enough to be introduced to Lorenzo and to say to Eliza: ‘Eliza, bring your brother over to the house to dinner.’ She was then boarding at the home of the Prophet and teaching his private school. Lorenzo watched the stranger as far as he could see him, and then remarked to his sister: ‘Joseph Smith is a most remarkable man. I want to get better acquainted with him. Perhaps, after all, there is something more to Joseph Smith and to Mormonism than I have ever dreamed’” (Thomas C. Romney, The Life of Lorenzo Snow , 23).
Like his father, Lorenzo never approached religion in a narrow, dogmatic way. He regarded Mormonism as a healing solace to the injured. He studied the religion cautiously, listened to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s public discourses, and conversed with him privately. He befriended the Prophet’s father, who said to him, “You will soon be convinced of the truth of the latter-day work, and be baptized, and you will become as great as you can possibly wish—even as great as God, and you cannot wish to be greater” (quoted in LeRoi C. Snow, “Devotion to a Divine Inspiration,” Improvement Era, June 1919, 654).
He Observed the Members Carefully Before He Accepted Baptism
Lorenzo Snow observed the members of the Church and was astonished at the testimonies of the elders because they were so plain and positive about heavenly things. He was astonished at the divine power that was manifest through the administrations of Patriarch Joseph Smith Sr. “Being present at a ‘Blessing Meeting,’ in the [Kirtland] Temple, previous to his baptism into the Church; after listening to several patriarchal blessings pronounced upon the heads of different individuals with whose history he was acquainted, and of whom he knew the Patriarch was entirely ignorant; he was struck with astonishment to hear the peculiarities of those persons positively and plainly referred to in their blessings. And, as he afterwards expressed, he was convinced that an influence, superior to human prescience, dictated the words of the one who officiated” (Smith, Biography and Family Record, 9).
He Studied, Was Baptized, and Received a Witness of the Truth of the Restoration
Lorenzo Snow studied and diligently compared the claims of Mormonism with ancient Christianity. He recorded the following in his journal:
“Previous to accepting the ordinance of baptism, in my investigations of the principles taught by the Latter-day Saints, which I proved, by comparison, to be the same as those mentioned in the New Testament taught by Christ and His Apostles, I was thoroughly convinced that obedience to those principles would impart miraculous powers, manifestations and revelations. With sanguine expectation of this result, I received baptism and the ordinance of laying on of hands by one who professed to have divine authority; and, having thus yielded obedience to these ordinances, I was in constant expectation of the fulfilment of the promise of the reception of the Holy Ghost.
“The manifestation did not immediately follow my baptism, as I had expected, but, although the time was deferred, when I did receive it, its realization was more perfect, tangible and miraculous than even my strongest hopes had led me to anticipate.
“Some two or three weeks after I was baptized, one day while engaged in my studies, I began to reflect upon the fact that I had not obtained a knowledge of the truth of the work—that I had not realized the fulfilment of the promise ‘he that doeth my will shall know of the doctrine,’ and I began to feel very uneasy. I laid aside my books, left the house, and wandered around through the fields under the oppressive influence of a gloomy, disconsolate spirit, while an indescribable cloud of darkness seemed to envelop me. I had been accustomed, at the close of the day, to retire for secret prayer, to a grove a short distance from my lodgings, but at this time I felt no inclination to do so. The spirit of prayer had departed and the heavens seemed like brass over my head. At length, realizing that the usual time had come for secret prayer, I concluded I would not forego my evening service, and, as a matter of formality, knelt as I was in the habit of doing, and in my accustomed retired place, but not feeling as I was wont to feel.
“I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray, than I heard a sound, just above my head, like the rustling of silken robes, and immediately the Spirit of God descended upon me, completely enveloping my whole person, filling me, from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and O, the joy and happiness I felt! No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge, as it was at that time imparted to my understanding. I then received a perfect knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel. It was a complete baptism—a tangible immersion in the heavenly principle or element, the Holy Ghost; and even more real and physical in its effects upon every part of my system than the immersion by water; dispelling forever, so long as reason and memory last, all possibility of doubt or fear in relation to the fact handed down to us historically, that the ‘Babe of Bethlehem’ is truly the Son of God; also the fact that He is now being revealed to the children of men, and communicating knowledge, the same as in the Apostolic times. I was perfectly satisfied, as well I might be, for my expectations were more than realized, I think I may safely say in an infinite degree.
“I cannot tell how long I remained in the full flow of the blissful enjoyment and divine enlightenment, but it was several minutes before the celestial element which filled and surrounded me began gradually to withdraw. On arising from my kneeling posture, with my heart swelling with gratitude to God, beyond the power of expression, I felt—I knew that He had conferred on me what only an omnipotent being can confer—that which is of greater value than all the wealth and honors worlds can bestow. That night, as I retired to rest, the same wonderful manifestations were repeated, and continued to be for several successive nights. The sweet remembrance of those glorious experiences, from that time to the present, bring them fresh before me, imparting an inspiring influence which pervades my whole being, and I trust will to the close of my earthly existence” (quoted in Smith, Biography and Family Record, 7–9).
He prayed, he pondered, he believed, and he was baptized. His life was changed as he embraced the gospel with all his heart.
He Wanted to Serve God
Throughout the fall of 1836 young Lorenzo Snow saw the elders returning from their missions and wanted to serve a mission himself. He said:
“The testimonies of young missionaries as they rehearsed their experiences as laborers in the vineyard, proclaiming the joyful news that God was again speaking to His children on the earth; that He had raised up a Prophet through whom He was communicating His will, and calling on all the inhabitants of the earth to ‘repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,’ stirred within me an irresistible desire to join in the glorious enterprise.
“About this time a proclamation of the First Presidency was given from the stand, inviting those who wished to become members of the Elders’ Quorum to present their names, and if accounted worthy by the Presidency, they should be ordained. With many others, I submitted my name for approval or otherwise, which is the only time in my life that I have offered my name for or solicited an office or calling” (quoted in Smith, Biography and Family Record, 14).
Within a few weeks of his ordination, Lorenzo started on the first of many missions that he would serve. He preached to his father’s family in Ohio, and later he preached in Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. He also taught the gospel in England, Italy, France, and Switzerland. Like Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor, Lorenzo Snow brought thousands into the Church and bore witness before queens and princes.
He wrote the following, describing his feelings as he left to serve his first mission:
“Early in the spring of 1837, I shouldered my valise and started out like the ancient missionaries, ‘without purse or scrip,’ on foot and alone, to proclaim the restoration of the fulness of the Gospel of the Son of God, and to bear witness of what I had seen and heard, and of the knowledge I had received by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
“It was, however, a severe trial to my natural feelings of independence to go without purse or scrip—especially the purse; for, from the time I was old enough to work, the feeling that I ‘paid my way’ always seemed a necessary adjunct to self respect, and nothing but a positive knowledge that God required it now, as He did anciently of His servants, the Disciples of Jesus, could induce me to go forth dependent on my fellow creatures for the common necessaries of life. But my duty in this respect was clearly made known to me, and I determined to do it” (quoted in Smith, Biography and Family Record, 15).
He Faced His First Congregation in Ohio
Lorenzo Snow preached his first sermon in Medina County, Ohio, the neighborhood of his father’s family. He described that experience in his journal: “The people were notified and a respectable congregation assembled. It was a sore trial to face that audience in the capacity of a preacher, but I believed and felt an assurance that a Spirit of inspiration would prompt and give me utterance. I had sought by prayer and fasting—I had humbled myself before the Lord, calling on Him in mighty prayer to impart the power and inspiration of the holy Priesthood; and when I stood before that congregation, although I knew not one word I could say, as soon as I opened my mouth to speak, the Holy Ghost rested mightily upon me, filling my mind with light and communicating ideas and proper language by which to impart them. The people were astonished and requested another meeting” (quoted in Smith, Biography and Family Record, 16).
As a result of those meetings, Lorenzo baptized and confirmed into the Church his uncle, aunt, and several of his cousins. One of those cousins, Adaline, later became his wife. While on this mission, he traveled in various parts of the state of Ohio and baptized many persons who remained faithful to the truth. He recorded that he was greatly blessed in performing his labors (see Smith, Biography and Family Record, 16, 19).
He Preached in Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky
Feeling the insistent desire to teach the gospel, in October 1838 Lorenzo Snow again left his home and, with Elder Abel Butterfield, departed for southern Missouri. They later decided to separate so that Elder Butterfield could labor in northern Illinois and Indiana while Elder Snow served in southern Illinois and Kentucky. Though there was very little interest in his message in Illinois, his time in Kentucky was met with varied success and treatment. He returned from his labors almost six months after he started. Sometimes he had been received with courtesy and listened to with interest, while other times he had suffered abuse and insults.
He Served a Mission to the British Isles
In the spring of 1840, Elder Lorenzo Snow was called to serve a mission in Great Britain, where he spent almost three years. There were many members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also serving in the British Isles, including Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and John Taylor. During his mission, Elder Snow experienced great opposition. Yet, despite the difficulties, the missionary work progressed and the Church grew. During his time in Britain, Elder Snow presided over the London Branch and saw it more than double in membership. He also served as counselor to Thomas Ward, president of the British Mission. In addition, Elder Snow presented two specially bound copies of the Book of Mormon to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
Returning from his first mission to Britain, Lorenzo Snow arrived in the growing new city of Nauvoo, Illinois. Soon after his arrival, he learned about the doctrine of plural marriage from the Prophet Joseph Smith. Almost two years later, after the Prophet’s martyrdom and as the work on the Nauvoo temple neared completion, Lorenzo illustrated his acceptance of the doctrine of plural marriage. “He was acutely aware that a principal ordinance to be performed in the temple was the sealing of husbands to wives in an eternal union. Given his total commitment to the Church and its doctrines, the counsel he had received from the Prophet Joseph Smith about polygamy, and his advancing age, we may be sure that as the temple neared completion Lorenzo became increasingly conscious of the need to marry. The depth of his feelings may be gauged by the fact that in 1845, at age thirty-one, he was sealed to four women in the Nauvoo temple: Mary Adaline Goddard (his cousin, who had three sons by a former marriage, Hyrum, Orville, and Jacob); Charlotte Squires; Sarah Ann Prichard; and Harriet Amelia Squires” (Francis M. Gibbons, Lorenzo Snow: Spiritual Giant, Prophet of God , 48).
A Call Came to Serve in Italy
In October 1849, Lorenzo Snow was called to serve a mission in Italy. This mission also included preaching and teaching in other European countries, including England, France, and Switzerland. He served until July 1852. In a letter to his sister Eliza, Elder Snow wrote of his experiences during the winter of 1849 while traveling with his companions across the American plains to the east coast, where they would depart for their mission. In his letter, he wrote:
“One day, as we were taking our noon-tide meal, and our horses were quietly grazing on the prairies, the following scene occurred: A startling shout resounded through our little camp—To arms! To arms! The Indians are upon us! We looked and beheld a spectacle, grand, imposing and fearful. Two hundred warriors upon their furious steeds, painted, armed and clothed with all the horrors of war, rushing towards us like a mighty torrent. In a moment we placed ourselves in an attitude of defence [sic]. But could we expect with thirty men to withstand this powerful host? Onward came the savage band with accelerated speed, as a mighty rock, loosed from the mountain’s brow, rushes impetuously downward, sweeping, overturning, and burying everything in its course. We saw it was their intention to crush us beneath the feet of their foaming chargers. Now they were within a few paces, and in another moment we should be overwhelmed, when, lo! an alarm like an electric shock struck through their ranks and stayed their career, as an avalanche, sweeping down the mountain side, stops in the midst of its course by the power of a hand unseen—the Lord had said, Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm!
“Many incidents occurred which often called forth the remark, that in our past experience, the hand of the Lord had never been more visibly manifested. When we arrived on the banks of the great Missouri, her waters immediately congealed for the first time during the season, thus forming a bridge over which we passed to the other side: this was no sooner accomplished than the torrent ran as before” (quoted in “The Apostle Lorenzo Snow,” Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine, Jan. 1883, 381).
He Faced Opposition in Italy
Italy was the fountainhead of Catholicism and the people there opposed any missionary activity of other churches. Laws against proselyting were extant throughout the nation and imposed the strictest penalties. Lorenzo Snow fully expected persecution and had seriously contemplated the thought that his life might be in danger.
In Rome, on 27 June 1851, he observed a feast day honoring Saint Peter. In a letter written to President Brigham Young, Elder Snow commented on the irony of the circumstances of that celebration. The ancient Romans had crucified Peter. Then, centuries later, a huge church was built in Rome as a monument to his name. Yet, they rejected and persecuted living Apostles in their midst. Elder Snow pondered what the ultimate outcome of such an attitude would mean for him and wrote to President Young: “The fathers beheaded John and crucified Peter: this week we have witnessed feastings and rejoicings in honor of their names. Pleasing reflections—starvation!—bonds! imprisonment!—and martyrdom! and subsequent generations paying us divine honors” (quoted in Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine, Jan. 1883, 384).
As difficult as the mission was, it laid the cornerstone for future Church growth in Italy. During the nearly three-year span of Elder Snow’s Italian mission, he formally organized the Church in the valleys of Italy’s Piedmont region, arranged for and supervised the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon and several missionary tracts into the Italian language, directed missionary work in Switzerland, sent missionaries to begin laboring in India, and instructed numerous congregations of Saints in Britain, France, and Switzerland through the written and spoken word.
He Established a Successful Cooperative
In October 1853, President Brigham Young called Elder Lorenzo Snow, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to move his family to Brigham City, Utah, and preside over the Saints there. Several years later, Elder Snow established a financial cooperative based on principles of the United Order, with the purpose of uniting the people both spiritually and temporally.
“His first step in the co-operative movement was in the mercantile line. In 1863–64 he commenced by establishing a co-operative store, with stock in shares of $5.00, thus making it possible for people of very moderate circumstances to become shareholders.
“Many difficulties occurred in the start, and the progress was slow, but it steadily gained in the confidence of the people, the stockholders realizing from twenty to twenty-five per cent per annum in merchandise, and in five years it was an acknowledged success. Then, aided by the profits from the mercantile department, an extensive tannery was erected at a cost of $10,000, the people having the privilege of putting in labor as capital; and soon after these departments were in successful operation, a woolen factory, at a cost of nearly forty thousand dollars, was brought into working order, again taking labor as stock.
“A co-operative sheep-herd, for supplying the factory, was soon added—then co-operative farms, and to these a cheese dairy. Thus one department of industry after another was established, until between thirty and forty departments were combined—all working harmoniously like the wheels of a grand piece of machinery” (Eliza R. Snow, quoted in “The Twelve Apostles,” Historical Record, Feb. 1887, 142–43).
Many who knew him attributed his success at Brigham City to his spiritual nature. It was later written that his “spirituality was highly developed. It was the predominating trait of his character. All other traits were simply adjuncts and accessories clustering around this one great dictator, obedience to its will and assisting to accomplish its aim. For years he preached about and labored in the affairs of this world, but things temporal were only the means to things spiritual. The financier was at all times subservient to the Apostle” (Leslie Woodruff Snow, “President Lorenzo Snow,” Young Woman’s Journal, Sept. 1903, 392).
His Life Was Preserved in Hawaii
In November 1860 President Brigham Young called Walter Murray Gibson, a new convert, to serve a mission in Japan. On his way to Japan, in the summer of 1861, Gibson arrived in Hawaii and decided to stay there. Because the missionaries had been called home during the Utah War, Gibson was able to take over the leadership of the Church in Hawaii. He convinced many Hawaiian members to turn their property over to him and bow in his presence. He also sold the rights to various Church offices to naive members and wore robes while conducting church services with great pomp and ceremony. His plan was to take over the islands and become king.
The First Presidency learned of the situation in Hawaii and sent Ezra T. Benson and Lorenzo Snow, who were members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and former Hawaiian missionaries William W. Cluff, Alma Smith, and Joseph F. Smith to discipline Walter Gibson and address the related problems. While attempting to go ashore in turbulent water, they left their steamer and boarded a small boat. Joseph F. Smith stayed behind, saying that the waters were too dangerous, which proved to be correct.
As they crossed the offshore reef, huge waves capsized their boat. All the men were safely rescued except for Lorenzo, whose unconscious body was found in the water and partially under the overturned boat. His companions brought him to shore and worked to revive him for nearly an hour. William Cluff explained how Elder Snow was finally revived:
“We did not only what was customary in such cases, but also what the spirit seemed to whisper to us.
“After working over him for some time, without any indication of returning life, the by-standers said that nothing more could be done for him. But we did not feel like giving him up, and still prayed and worked over him, with an assurance that the Lord would hear and answer our prayers.
“Finally we were impressed to place our mouth over his and make an effort to inflate his lungs, alternately blowing in and drawing out the air, imitating, as far as possible, the natural process of breathing. … After a little, we perceived very faint indications of returning life. … These grew more and more distinct, until consciousness was fully restored” (quoted in Romney, Life of Lorenzo Snow, 203–4).
After an investigation and several meetings with the members, Walter Gibson was excommunicated and the Church and mission leadership in Hawaii was placed under the direction of Joseph F. Smith. Elder Snow returned home with Elder Benson.
He Was a Dedicated Apostle and Defender of the Faith
The Morrill Bill of 1862, the Edmunds Act of 1882, and the Edmunds Tucker Bill of 1887 were enforced during three decades prior to the issuing of the Manifesto in 1890. During that time major properties of the Church were confiscated.
In 1886, Elder Lorenzo Snow was charged and convicted of violating the Edmunds law. Appeal of the plural marriage cases beyond territorial courts to the United States Supreme Court could not be scheduled unless the defendant was incarcerated. Elder Snow was taken to prison, as were scores of his brethren. He served a term of eleven months, during which time he organized a school.
Patient in bonds, Lorenzo Snow was like the Apostle Paul. Years before, he had testified:
“We are here that we may be educated in a school of suffering and fiery trials, which school was necessary for Jesus our elder brother, who, the scriptures tell us, was made perfect through suffering. It is necessary we suffer in all things, that we may be qualified and worthy to rule and govern all things, even as our Father in heaven and his eldest son Jesus. …
“And now, where is the man among you having once burst the veil and gazed upon this purity, the glory, the might, majesty, and dominion of a perfected man, in celestial glory, in eternity, will not cheerfully resign life, suffer the most excruciating tortures, let limb be torn from limb sooner than dishonor or resign his Priesthood?” (“Address to the Saints of Great Britain,” Millennial Star, 1 Dec. 1851, 363).
He Brought a Young Woman Back to Life
Soon after Lorenzo Snow was baptized, he received a blessing from Patriarch Joseph Smith Sr. Among other blessings, Lorenzo was promised that “if expedient the dead shall rise and come forth at thy bidding” (quoted in Romney, Life of Lorenzo Snow, 406). This promised blessing was literally fulfilled many years later when President Snow, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, blessed his niece Ella Jensen, of Brigham City, Utah, and called her spirit back from the spirit world after she had been dead for three hours. Ella Jensen wrote the following about her experience:
“On the 1st of March, 1891, I was taken severely ill with the scarlet fever, and suffered very much for a week. It was on the morning of the 9th that I awoke with a feeling that I was going to die. As soon as I opened my eyes I could see some of my relatives from the other world. … I then asked my sister to assist me in getting ready to go into the spirit world. She combed my hair, washed me, and I brushed my teeth and cleaned my nails that I might be clean when going before my Maker. … I then bade my dear ones good by, and my spirit left my body.
“For some time I could hear my parents and relatives weeping and mourning, which troubled me greatly. As soon, however, as I had a glimpse of the other world my attention was drawn away from them to my relatives there, who all seemed pleased to see me. … I saw so many of my departed friends and relatives, all of whom I have mentioned many times afterwards, and with many of them I conversed. … After having stayed with my departed friends what seemed to me but a very short time, yet it lasted several hours, I heard Apostle Lorenzo Snow administer to me, telling me that I must come back, as I had some work to do on the earth yet. I was loath to leave the heavenly place, but told my friends that I must leave them. … For a long time afterwards I had a great desire to go back to the place of heavenly rest, where I dwelt so short a time” (quoted in “Remarkable Experience,” Young Woman’s Journal, Jan. 1893, 165).
The Savior Appeared to Him in the Salt Lake Temple
“For some time President Woodruff’s health had been failing. Nearly every evening President Lorenzo Snow visited him at his home. This particular evening the doctors said that President Woodruff could not live much longer, that he was becoming weaker every day. President Snow was greatly worried. We cannot realize today what a terrible financial condition the Church was in at that time—owing millions of dollars and not being able to pay even the interest on its indebtedness.
“My father went to his room in the Salt Lake Temple, dressed in his robes of the Priesthood, knelt at the sacred altar in the Holy of Holies in the House of the Lord and there plead to the Lord to spare President Woodruff’s life, that President Woodruff might outlive him and that the great responsibility of Church leadership would not fall upon his shoulders. Yet he promised the Lord that he would devotedly perform any duty required at his hands. …
“… [On 2 September 1898, after receiving word of the death of Wilford Woodruff, President Snow] went to his private room in the Salt Lake Temple.
“President Snow put on his holy temple robes, repaired again to the same sacred altar, offered up the signs of the Priesthood and poured out his heart to the Lord. He reminded the Lord how he plead for President Woodruff’s life to be spared, that President Woodruff’s days would be lengthened beyond his own; that he might never be called upon to bear the heavy burdens and responsibilities of the Church. ‘Nevertheless,’ he said, ‘Thy will be done. I have not sought this responsibility but if it be Thy will, I now present myself before Thee for Thy guidance and instruction. I ask that Thou show me what Thou wouldst have me do.’
“After finishing his prayer he expected a reply, some special manifestation from the Lord. So he waited,—and waited—and waited. There was no reply, no voice, no visitation, no manifestation. He left the altar and the room in great disappointment. Passing through the Celestial room and out into the large corridor a glorious manifestation was given President Snow which I relate in the words of his grand-daughter, Allie Young Pond. …
“‘One evening while I was visiting grandpa Snow in his room in the Salt Lake Temple, I remained until the door keepers had gone and the night-watchmen had not yet come in, so grand-pa said he would take me to the main front entrance and let me out that way. He got his bunch of keys from his dresser. After we left his room and while we were still in the large corridor leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of grand-pa when he stopped me and said: “Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff.”
“‘Then grand-pa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: “He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.”
“‘Grand-pa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful white robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gaze upon Him.
“‘Then he came another step nearer and put his right hand on my head and said: “Now, grand-daughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grand-father, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the Temple, and talked with Him face to face”’” (LeRoi C. Snow, “An Experience of My Father’s,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1933, 677).
He Was Called to Be President of the Church
Lorenzo Snow served for nine years as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and at the age of eighty-four years became President of the Church. Some people expressed fear that a man of his age would not be capable of standing up under the strains and challenges of the presidency. He was not a large man physically. He was slight of build and appeared deceptively frail and weak, weighing about 125 pounds. But he quickly dispelled such fears. He was erect, strong, active, and full of inspiration until the time of his last illness at the age of eighty-seven. His clarity of mind was demonstrated again and again as he spoke to the Saints, directed the Church, and moved the kingdom of God forward toward its destiny. His youngest daughter, born when he was eighty-two, recalled that he was accustomed to carrying her up the stairs on his back until the last year of his life. More importantly, however, the Lord was not concerned about President Snow’s advanced age, for it was He who called this eighty-four-year-old spiritual giant to be His prophet.
He Received Revelation that Helped Solve the Church’s Financial Crisis
President Lorenzo Snow struggled mightily to wrest the Church from the financial difficulties caused by the decades of persecution. Because the federal government had seized so much property from the Church, it seemed to many members that to pay tithing and other offerings was simply to give their means away to be used by the enemies of the Church. The Saints were not wealthy, and many of them decided that they would not pay tithing. The resources of the Church were extremely strained.
In early May of 1899, the Lord revealed to President Snow that he and others of the leading brethren should go to St. George, Utah, and hold a conference. The Lord did not reveal at that time the purpose of their visit, but merely that they should go and conduct a series of special conferences. They traveled to St. George by carriage.
The first session of the conference in St. George was held on 17 May 1899. President Snow said to the Saints there: “My brethren and sisters, we are in your midst because the Lord directed me to come; but the purpose of our coming is not clearly known at the present, but this will be made known to me during our sojourn among you” (quoted in Romney, Life of Lorenzo Snow, 456).
LeRoi C. Snow, son of the President, was reporting on the conference for the Deseret News and recalled what happened during a subsequent session when President Snow was speaking:
“All at once father paused in his discourse. Complete stillness filled the room. I shall never forget the thrill as long as I live. When he commenced to speak again his voice strengthened and the inspiration of God seemed to come over him, as well as over the entire assembly. His eyes seemed to brighten and his countenance to shine. He was filled with unusual power. Then he revealed to the Latter-day Saints the vision that was before him.
“God manifested to him there and then not only the purpose of the call to visit the Saints in the South, but also Lorenzo Snow’s special mission, the great work for which God had prepared and preserved him, and he unveiled the vision to the people. He told them that he could see, as he had never realized before, how the law of tithing had been neglected by the people, also that the Saints, themselves, were heavily in debt, as well as the Church, and now through strict obedience to this law—the paying of a full and honest tithing—not only would the Church be relieved of its great indebtedness, but through the blessings of the Lord this would also be the means of freeing the Latter-day Saints from their individual obligations, and they would become a prosperous people” (LeRoi C. Snow, “The Lord’s Way out of Bondage Was Not the Way of Men,” Improvement Era, July 1938, 439).
In his discourse, President Snow told the Saints:
“The word of the Lord to you is not anything new; it is simply this: The Time Has Now Come For Every Latter-Day Saint, Who Calculates To Be Prepared For The Future And To Hold His Feet Strong Upon a Proper Foundation, To Do The Will Of The Lord And To Pay His Tithing In Full. That is the word of the Lord to you, and it will be the word of the Lord to every settlement throughout the land of Zion. After I leave you and you get to thinking about this, you will see yourselves that the time has come when every man should stand up and pay his tithing in full. The Lord has blessed us and has had mercy upon us in the past; but there are times coming when the Lord requires us to stand up and do that which He has commanded and not leave it any longer. What I say to you in this Stake of Zion I will say to every Stake of Zion that has been organized. There is no man or woman that now hears what I am saying who will feel satisfied if he or she fails to pay a full tithing” (“Discourse by President Lorenzo Snow,” Millennial Star, 24 Aug. 1899, 533).
“Before I die,” President Snow once said, “I hope to see the Church cleared of debt and in a commanding position financially” (“Characteristic Sayings of President Lorenzo Snow,” Improvement Era, June 1919, 651). By revelation, he called on the Saints to be obedient to the law of tithing. The Saints’ obedience to that call eventually brought the Church out of debt (during President Joseph F. Smith’s administration) and established a firm temporal foundation for the kingdom of God. Much of today’s growth in temples, chapels, and other buildings and Church programs around the world is the direct result of the temporal prosperity of the Church that came, and still comes, as the result of Saints living the law of tithing.
He Enjoyed a Carriage Race
After the conference in St. George, Utah, where the revelation on tithing had been received, President Lorenzo Snow and his party made their way by carriage from St. George through as many settlements as possible on their way back to Salt Lake City, preaching at every stop. As the party was traveling between Cove Fort and Fillmore, President Snow’s buggy led the procession. The day was clear, and everyone was in good spirits.
“As a rule the party had some difficulty in maintaining the pace, but upon this occasion the [eighty-five-year-old] President’s carriage was jogging along at a most comfortable rate. President Joseph F. Smith, who was second in line, drove along side the President and suggested, ‘Perhaps it would be as well to go a trifle faster over these good roads, President Snow.’
“‘Very well,’ was the answer, ‘just follow us.’ President Snow gave his teamster a knowing nudge and in another minute both teams were on a forty-mile gait, over sage brush and ditches, and those behind saw only a cloud of dust, with now and then a glimpse of something resembling a buggy top. On and on the horses dashed, and the excitement of the occupants increased with every leap. It was invigorating. The horses had traveled neck and neck for two miles or more. The eyes of the aged leader flashed like diamonds as he rose in his seat and watched the progress of the race.
“‘Go on, go on!’ he shouted, ‘never mind the ruts. We’ll get beat. Go!’ and the driver did so. President Smith’s team was slightly outclassed, and the other managed to maintain the lead. Clumps of sage brush and five-foot washouts were as pebbles to these venerable leaders, now thoroughly enshrouded in their boyhood days. Up in the air and down, touching only the high places here and there, the contest lasted for fifteen miles, and President Snow loves to relate how his team came out victorious, though the honors are disputed by President Smith” (quoted in Romney, Life of Lorenzo Snow, 453, 455).
He Received a Revelation about Man’s Divine Potential
“In the spring of 1840, just before leaving on his first mission to England, Lorenzo Snow spent an evening in the home of his friend, Elder H. G. Sherwood, in Nauvoo. Elder Sherwood was endeavoring to explain the parable of the Savior about the husbandman who sent forth servants at different hours of the day to labor in the vineyard. While thus engaged in thought this most important event occurred, as told by President Snow himself:
“‘While attentively listening to his (Elder Sherwood’s) explanation, the Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon me—the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I saw as clear as the sun at noon-day, with wonder and astonishment, the pathway of God and man. I formed the following couplet which expresses the revelation, as it was shown to me … :
As man now is,
God once was:
As God now is,
man may be.
“‘I felt this to be a sacred communication which I related to no one except my sister Eliza, until I reached England, when in a confidential, private conversation with President Brigham Young, in Manchester, I related to him this extraordinary manifestation.’
“Soon after his return from England, in January, 1843, Lorenzo Snow related to the Prophet Joseph Smith his experience in Elder Sherwood’s home. This was in a confidential interview in Nauvoo. The Prophet’s reply was: ‘Brother Snow, that is true gospel doctrine, and it is a revelation from God to you’” (Snow, Improvement Era, June 1919, 656).
The principle of man’s divine potential had previously been revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Joseph Smith Sr. In fact, it was a statement made by that Patriarch to the Church four years earlier that first awakened the thought in Lorenzo Snow’s mind. When he was investigating the teachings of the Church, Joseph Smith Sr. had said to him, “You will soon be convinced of the truth of the latter-day work, and be baptized, and you will become as great as you can possibly wish—even as great as God, and you cannot wish to be greater” (quoted in Snow, Improvement Era, June 1919, 654). However, the doctrine was not publicly taught until 1844.
Lorenzo Snow was present when the Prophet Joseph Smith gave the funeral sermon for King Follet, an elder in the Church, during the April conference of the Church. In his discourse, the Prophet taught:
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another. …
“These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345–46).
Referring to those teachings from the Prophet’s sermon, which were printed in the Times and Seasons and the Millennial Star, LeRoi C. Snow, President Snow’s son, wrote:
“In President Snow’s own copy of the Times and Seasons, which I now have, he drew more particular attention, with his own indelible pencil, to this part of the Prophet’s King Follett sermon than any other reference in all the six volumes. This great hope in man’s destiny, through strict obedience to the gospel, was in his mind so constantly that he frequently referred to it in the home circle, in his public discourses, both when addressing aged parents and when talking to little children, and many of his intimate friends know that it was a favorite theme in private and confidential conversations.
“Few comparisons were more frequently repeated by President Snow in his public speaking than the following:
“‘As an illustration, here is an infant upon its mother’s breast. It is without power or knowledge to feed and clothe itself. It is so helpless that it has to be fed by its mother. But see its possibilities! This infant has a father and a mother, though it knows scarcely anything about them. Who is its father? Who is its mother? Why, its father is an emperor, its mother is an empress, and they sit upon a throne, governing an empire. This little infant will some day, in all probability, sit upon his father’s throne, and govern and control the empire, just as King Edward of England now sits upon the throne of his mother. We should have this in mind; for we are the sons of God, as much so and more, if possible, than we are the sons of our earthly fathers.
“‘You sisters, I suppose, have read that poem which my sister, Eliza R. Snow Smith, composed, years ago, and which is sung quite frequently now in our meetings [see “O My Father,” Hymns, no. 292]. It tells us that we not only have a Father in “that high and glorious place.” but that we have a Mother, too; and you sisters will become as great as your Mother, if you are faithful’” (Improvement Era, June 1919, 658).
They Shall Organize Worlds and Rule Over Them
“Only a short time before his death, President Snow visited the Brigham Young University [then Brigham Young Academy], at Provo. President Brimhall escorted the party through one of the buildings; he wanted to reach the assembly room as soon as possible, as the students had already gathered. They were going through one of the kindergarten rooms; President Brimhall had reached the door and was about to open it and go on when President Snow said: ‘Wait a moment, President Brimhall, I want to see these children at work; what are they doing?’ Brother Brimhall replied that they were making clay spheres. ‘That is very interesting,’ the President said. ‘I want to watch them.’ He quietly watched the children for several minutes and then lifted a little girl, perhaps six years of age, and stood her on a table. He then took the clay sphere from her hand, and, turning to Brother Brimhall, said:
“‘President Brimhall, these children are now at play, making mud worlds, the time will come when some of these boys, through their faithfulness to the gospel, will progress and develop in knowledge, intelligence and power, in future eternities, until they shall be able to go out into space where there is unorganized matter and call together the necessary elements, and through their knowledge of and control over the laws and powers of nature, to organize matter into worlds on which their posterity may dwell, and over which they shall rule as gods’” (Snow, Improvement Era, June 1919, 658–59).
The Trial of Mortality Is the School of Perfection
In 1851, Elder Lorenzo Snow, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave the following counsel:
“In all your acts and conduct ever have the consciousness that you are now preparing and making yourselves a life to be continued through eternities; act upon no principle that you would be ashamed or unwilling to act upon in heaven, employ no means in the attainment of an object that a celestial enlightened conscience would disapprove. Whilst feelings and passions excite you to action, let principles pure, honorable, holy, and virtuous, always rule and govern. Deity is within us, our spiritual organization is Deity—the child of God, begotten in his image. …
“We are here that we may be educated in a school of suffering and of fiery trials, which school was necessary for Jesus our elder brother, who, the scriptures tell us, was made perfect through suffering. It is necessary we suffer in all things, that we may be qualified and worthy to rule and govern all things, even as our Father in heaven and his eldest son Jesus” (“Address to the Saints of Great Britain,” Millennial Star, 1 Dec. 1851, 363).
We Should Work Earnestly to Be Obedient
President Lorenzo Snow taught:
“There is great enjoyment to be had in having done right in the past and meditating upon the fact, and feeling that we are doing right now, because it is the privilege of every Latter-day Saint to know when he is doing that which pertains to the things of the Lord. … There is this privilege that every Latter-day Saint should seek to enjoy, to know positively that his work is accepted of God. I am afraid Latter-day Saints are not much better and perhaps they are worse than other people if they do not have this knowledge and seek to do right. …
“… John says: ‘Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, and every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as He is pure’ [1 John 3:2–3].
“Every man having this hope in him purifies himself. There then naturally arises a determination to work for that high and noble position, to work for those wonderful promises made. There is an inducement to pursue a course of righteousness” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, 13).
We Should Strive for Daily Improvement
President Lorenzo Snow taught: “We ought to improve ourselves and move faster toward the point of perfection. It is said that we cannot be perfect. Jesus has commanded us to be perfect even as God, the Father, is perfect. It is our duty to try to be perfect, and it is our duty to improve each day, and look upon our course last week and do things better this week; do things better today than we did them yesterday, and go on and on from one degree of righteousness to another. Jesus will come by and by, and appear in our midst, as He appeared in the day when upon the earth among the Jews, and He will eat and drink with us and talk to us, and explain the mysteries of the Kingdom, and tell us things that are not lawful to talk about now” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, 13–14).
We Require Divine Assistance to Overcome the World
President Lorenzo Snow made the following statements about how we may receive help from God:
“I have read something that is very peculiar in regard to the promises that are made, and which I know will be fulfilled, if we on our part do our duty. I have not lived in this Church for about sixty-two years without finding out something. I devoted myself to be worthy to receive something that no mortal man can receive except through the spirit and power of the Holy Ghost, and the Lord has shown me things and made me to understand them as clearly as the sun at noonday in regard to what shall be the outcome of those Latter-day Saints that are faithful to their callings. … [He then quoted D&C 84:37–38and Revelation 3:21.]
“There are many Scriptures bearing upon this point. I believe in this. I believe that we are the sons and daughters of God, and that He has bestowed upon us the capacity for infinite wisdom and knowledge, because He has given us a portion of Himself” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, 62–63).
“We are dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord to aid us and to manifest to us from time to time what is necessary for us to accomplish under the peculiar circumstances that may surround us. It is the privilege of Latter-day Saints, when they get into difficulties, to have supernatural power of God, and in faith, day by day; to secure from the circumstances which may surround us that which will be beneficial and advance us in the principles of holiness and sanctification, that we may as far as possible be like our Father” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1898, 2).
Do Not Be Discouraged While Seeking Improvement
President Lorenzo Snow explained:
“If we could read in detail the life of Abraham, or the lives of other great and holy men, we would doubtless find that their efforts to be righteous were not always crowned with success. Hence we should not be discouraged if we should be overcome in a weak moment; but, on the contrary, straightway repent of the error or the wrong we may have committed, and as far as possible repair it, and then seek to God for renewed strength to go on and do better. …
“If the Apostle Peter had become discouraged at his manifest failure to maintain the position that he had taken to stand by the Savior under all circumstances, he would have lost all; whereas, by repenting and persevering he lost nothing but gained all, leaving us too to profit by his experience. The Latter-day Saints should cultivate this ambition constantly which was so clearly set forth by the Apostles in former days. We should try to walk each day so that our conscience would be void of offense before everybody. … We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged whenever we discover our weakness” (The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, ed. Clyde J. Williams , 34–35).
He Was a Builder of the Kingdom
Lorenzo Snow was a schoolmaster, campaigner, husband, father, temple builder, superintendent of schools, temple officiator, branch president, pioneer, and Apostle. As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he sat in council and administered the business of the Church. Other responsibilities included managing the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, founding the Italian Mission, supervising the translation of the Book of Mormon into new languages, and preparing and publishing tracts. He served as regent of a university, territorial legislator, and founder of philosophical and scientific societies. Austere, devoted, and selfless—he was not laboring for himself but for the Master, whose servant he was. He was guided in his ministry by dreams and revelations.
Lorenzo Snow was called to preside among the Saints in Box Elder, Utah, which was later called Brigham City. He interrupted that assignment to serve in the Utah War and missions to Hawaii and the Holy Land. When he returned to Brigham City, the cooperative enterprise he established flowered. (The cooperative was dissolved under federal pressure against plural marriage in the late 1870s.)
Lorenzo Snow served as a counselor to the First Presidency under Brigham Young, served for nine years as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and at the great age of eighty-four years, assumed the office of President of the Church. For three years he struggled mightily to wrest the Church from the financial difficulties resulting from decades of persecution. He emphasized the law of tithing once again among the Saints. He succeeded in seeing the Church well on its way to complete solvency and then went on to contemplate again the vision of his first apostolic years—to establish missions throughout the earth. He sent missionaries to Japan and spoke of sending the gospel to all nations. He sought to purify Zion and was secure in the promise of his lifelong understanding that “the destiny of man is to be like his Father—a god in eternity.” He felt that this knowledge should be a bright, illuminating star before him at all times—in his heart, in his soul, and in his mind.
As man now is, God once was:
As God now is, man may be.
A son of God, like God to be,
Would not be robbing Deity.
[Lorenzo Snow, Improvement Era, June 1919, 651.]
President Lorenzo Snow was a prophet of God and should be ranked as one of the foremost social reformers of the age.
“We have got to reach … a higher plane: we have got to love God more than we love the world.”
From the Life of Lorenzo Snow
Shortly after Lorenzo Snow was baptized and confirmed in Kirtland, Ohio, a number of Latter-day Saints, including some Church leaders, turned against the Prophet Joseph Smith. According to Lorenzo Snow, this apostasy was fueled by speculation, or, in other words, unusual business risks in hopes of getting rich quickly. Blinded by a desire for the temporary things of the world, people turned away from the eternal blessings of the gospel.
About 50 years later, President Snow, serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke to a group of Latter-day Saints in Logan, Utah. He told them about the adversity he had witnessed in Kirtland and warned them that they would soon experience similar trials. “There is rapidly coming something that will try you, perhaps as you have never been tried before,” he said. “All, however, that is necessary for us to do now is to see where our faults and weaknesses lie, if we have any. If we have been unfaithful in the past, let us renew our covenants with God and determine, by fasting and prayer, that we will get forgiveness of our sins, that the Spirit of the Almighty may rest upon us, that peradventure we may escape those powerful temptations that are approaching. The cloud is gathering in blackness. You see what were the results in Kirtland of this spirit of speculation. Therefore, take warning.”1
Because President Snow’s warning continues to apply to Latter-day Saints today, much of his sermon to the Saints in Logan is included in this chapter. He said, “Perhaps a few words in regard to our condition at that time [in Kirtland] might prove of some service to us in the future—might give us some useful lessons.”2 [See suggestion 1 on page 255.]
Teachings of Lorenzo Snow
When people allow worldliness to pervade their minds and hearts, they turn their backs on eternal principles.
I remember very clearly the troublous times which were experienced in Kirtland … , where the Prophet of God resided, where God Himself, even Jesus, the Son of God, appeared and showed Himself in His glory. He stood upon the breastwork of the pulpit of the Temple, built by commandment. There was under His feet a pavework of pure gold, in color like amber. His hair was white as the pure snow. His countenance shone as the sun in its strength. His voice was as the sound of rushing waters. [See D&C 110.] This wonderful manifestation was in the temple which had been reared to His honor. I was in Kirtland at that time, where we passed through scenes which, I sometimes think, we are now beginning to repeat. The circumstances which surrounded the Latter-day Saints at that time were of a peculiar nature; at least, the effects upon the people were of a peculiar character. … At that time a spirit of speculation pervaded the minds of the people of this nation. There were money speculations, bank speculations, speculations in lands, speculations in city lots, speculations in numerous other directions. That spirit of speculation rose out of the world, and swept over the hearts of the Saints like a mighty wave or rushing torrent, and many fell, and apostatized.3
Some of them [the Saints in Kirtland] began speculating; they forgot their religion, they forgot the principles that had been revealed to them, and many of them fell into the spirit of the times and were carried away with speculating. Difficulties arose—envy and strife—and the Lord, being displeased with them, brought destruction into their midst and they were broken to pieces as a settlement.4
Just previous to this great apostasy the Lord had poured out wonderful blessings upon the people. The gifts of the Gospel had been poured out to a remarkable extent—the riches of eternity. Angels had visited them. The Son of God, as I before remarked, had talked with His servants. At the dedication of the Temple the blessings which the people received were marvelous. During that rich time of God’s favors I, myself, attended the various meetings which were held in the Temple. We had prayer meetings, and testimony meetings, and such testimonies as the brethren and sisters could bear were wonderful. They prophesied, they spake in tongues, and had the interpretation of tongues to a remarkable degree. These blessings were almost universal upon the people in Kirtland. Their hearts were then devoted; they felt as though they could sacrifice anything they possessed. They felt that they were dwelling almost in the presence of God, and it was natural that they should have that feeling under such marvelous influences.
All these blessings, and many others that I have not time to enumerate, were enjoyed by the Latter-day Saints just previous to the time when this spirit of speculation began to pervade the hearts of the people. One would have imagined that after receiving these wonderful manifestations no temptation could have overthrown the Saints. But it did, and it scattered them, as it were, to the four winds.
Singular as it may appear, this spirit of speculation pervaded the quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the quorum of the Seven Presidents of Seventies; indeed, there was not a quorum in the Church but was more or less touched with this spirit of speculation. As that spirit increased, disunion followed. Brethren and sisters began to slander and quarrel one with the other, because their interests were not in harmony.
Will this be the case with the Latter-day Saints I am now addressing? I fear it is coming, but how far it will affect you it is not for me to say. You will have the experience, however; and perhaps it is very necessary that you should.
… One-half the quorum of the Apostles, in the days of Kirtland, fell beneath these evil influences. It was this speculation, this love of gold—the god of the world—which produced this doleful effect. And if it had this effect upon those who held the highest priesthood upon the earth, how would it affect us who, perhaps, have not had the intelligence, the information and the experience they possessed? …
Now, you are a good people. … God loves you. He delights in your righteousness, and He would not like to see the scenes enacted … that were in Kirtland. There is no need of it. We hold in our own hands the power to preserve ourselves from those things that divided the Saints in Kirtland and overthrew one-half of the Twelve. The Lord does not wish that, at this late day, these scenes should again be witnessed.5
The Latter-day Saints ought to be too far along in wisdom and intelligence to fall into snares of this character. It does not pay. It will pay no man to turn his back upon these glorious principles and those things which have been received from the eternal worlds—to turn our backs upon these things and mix up and devote ourselves to the beggarly things of the world. It will not pay us. Whatever temptation may come upon us or to which we are now exposed we should listen to the history of the past and not allow ourselves to be overcome, or we will much regret it.6 [See suggestion 2 on page 255.]
We have covenanted to separate ourselves from worldliness and devote ourselves to the kingdom of God.
The god of the world is the gold and the silver. The world worships this god. It is all-powerful to them, though they might not be willing to acknowledge it. Now, it is designed, in the providence of God, that the Latter-day Saints should show whether they have so far advanced in the knowledge, in the wisdom and in the power of God that they cannot be overcome by the god of the world. We must come to that point. We have also got to reach another standard, a higher plane: we have got to love God more than we love the world, more than we love gold or silver, and love our neighbor as ourselves.7
If we … fail to keep the covenants we have made, namely, to use our time, talent and ability for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God upon the earth, how can we reasonably expect to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection, identified with the great work of redemption? If we, in our manner, habits and deal[ings], imitate the … world, thereby identifying ourselves with the world, do you think, my brethren, that God will bestow upon us the blessings we desire to inherit? I tell you no, he will not! … We must build ourselves up in the righteousness of heaven and plant in our hearts the righteousness of God. Said the Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” [Jeremiah 31:33.] This is what the Lord is endeavoring to do, and this he will accomplish in us if we conform to his will.8
I thank God that in these times of corruption and wickedness in the world, we have holy and righteous men and women who can devote those superior talents which God has bestowed upon them to His praise and glory. And I might say further, that there are thousands of virtuous and honorable men and women, whom the Lord has gathered out from the nations, that are also willing to devote their time and talents to aid in accomplishing the work of God in the interest of His children.9 [See suggestion 3 on page 255.]
We follow the Savior’s example when we refuse to trade the glories of eternity for the riches of the world.
You may expect … to encounter obstacles in the path of life, which will task to the uttermost your best resolutions, and some of you may be tempted to swerve from the path of truth and honor, and, like Esau, feel to relinquish the glories of eternity for a few passing moments of gratification and pleasure [see Genesis 25:29–34]; then … seize your opportunity to emulate the example of our Savior when offered the glory of this world, if he would stoop to an act of folly; he replied to his tempter, “Get behind me, Satan!” [See Luke 4:5–8.]10
I find in reflecting on life, that this world is short compared with eternity; that our intelligence, the divinity within us, has always existed, was never created, and will always exist through all eternity [see D&C 93:29]. In view of these facts, it becomes us as intelligent beings, to realize that this life closes in a few days, then comes the life which is eternal; and in proportion as we have kept commandments, we have the advantage of those who failed to make those improvements.11
The gospel binds together the hearts of all its adherents, it makes no difference, it knows no difference between the rich and the poor; we are all bound as one individual to perform the duties which devolve upon us. … Now let me ask the question, Who [does] possess anything, who can really and truly call any of this world’s goods his own? I do not presume to, I am merely a steward over a very little, and unto God I am held accountable for its use and disposition. The Latter-day Saints have received the law of the gospel through the revelations of God, and it is so plainly written that all can understand. And if we understood and comprehended the position we assumed in subscribing to it when we entered into its covenant through baptism for the remission of sins, we must still be conscious of the fact that that law requires us to seek first the kingdom of God, and that our time, talent and ability must be held subservient to its interest [see Matthew 6:33; 3 Nephi 13:33]. If this were not so, how could we expect hereafter, when this earth shall have been made the dwelling place of God and his Son, to inherit eternal lives and to live and reign with him?
Who shall say that the rich, or those that possess many talents, have any better hope or prospect to inherit these blessings than the poor, or those who have but one talent? As I understand it, the man who works in the shop, whether as tailor, carpenter, shoemaker or in any other industrial department, and who lives according to the law of the Gospel, and is honest and faithful in his calling, that man is just as eligible to the receiving of these and all the blessings of the New and Everlasting Covenant as any other man; through his faithfulness he shall possess thrones, principalities and powers, his children becoming as numerous as the stars in the firmament or the sands on the sea shore. Who, I ask, has any greater prospect than this?12 [See suggestions 3 and 4 below.]