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Lorenzo Snow (April 3, 1814October 10, 1901) was the fifth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1898 to his death. Snow was the last president of the LDS Church in the nineteenth century.

Snow was the fifth child and first son of Oliver Snow and Rosetta Pettibone, residents of Mantua Townshipmarker, Ohiomarker, who had left New Englandmarker to settle on a new and fertile farm in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Despite the labor required on the farm, the Snow family valued learning and saw that each child had educational opportunities. Lorenzo received his final year of education at Oberlin Collegemarker, which was originally founded by two Presbyterian ministers. Snow later made his living as a school teacher when not engaged in church service.

Introduction to Mormonism

In 1831, Joseph Smith, Jr., the Latter Day Saint prophet, took up residence in Hiram, Ohiomarker, four miles from the Snow farm. The Snow family were Baptists, but soon took a strong interest in the new religious movement. Snow recorded that he heard the Book of Mormon being read in his home in Mantua and met Smith at Hiram in 1831. By 1835, Lorenzo's mother and his older sister Eliza Roxcy Snow, had joined the Latter Day Saint church. Eliza soon moved to the church headquarters in Kirtland, Ohiomarker, and worked as a school teacher. She, in her biography of Lorenzo, claims to have fostered his interest in Mormonism while he was at Oberlin. She invited Lorenzo to visit her and attend a school of Hebrew newly established by the church. During his visit there, in June 1836, Lorenzo was baptized by John F. Boynton, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Early church service

While living in Kirtland in 1837, Snow was called to serve a short mission in Ohiomarker, traveling "without purse or scrip." He recorded that relying on the kindness of others for his meals and lodging was difficult for him, as he had always had sufficient means to care for himself. When he returned to Kirtland in 1838, Snow found Smith's followers in turmoil over the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society. Snow and the members of his extended family chose to move to Missourimarker in the summer of 1838 and join the Latter Day Saints settling near Far Westmarker. Snow became seriously ill with a fever, and was nursed for several weeks by his sister Eliza.

On his recovery, Snow left for a second mission to Illinoismarker and Kentuckymarker in the fall of 1838. He served there through February 1839, when he learned that the Latter Day Saints had been expelled from their settlements in Missouri. He traveled home by way of his former mission area in Ohio. He was again taken ill and was cared for by members of the church. He remained in Ohio, preaching and working with church members until the fall of 1839. During the school year of 1839–40, Snow taught in Shalersville, Ohiomarker. He sent money to his family, which had by then settled in Nauvoo, Illinoismarker. He joined them in May 1840.

Shortly after he arrived in Nauvoo, Snow was again called to serve an active mission, this time to Englandmarker. After an unpleasant sea voyage from New York Citymarker, Snow met with some of the members of the Twelve Apostles who had opened the British Mission in 1839, including Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Parley P. Pratt. He worked briefly in the Manchestermarker area, and had success in Birminghammarker, where he baptized people in Greet's Green and organized a branch in Wolverhampton. Snow was then assigned to preside over church members in Londonmarker. During his administration, church membership in the city increased from 100 to approximately 400 members. He was released from his mission by Pratt, who by then was president of an expanding European Mission. Snow arrived home on April 12, 1843, bringing with him a shipload of 250 British converts.

After visiting with his family, Snow again secured a teaching position for the winter, teaching at Lima, Illinoismarker, thirty miles from Nauvoo. In late spring 1844, he returned to Ohio, preaching and baptizing new converts and distributing recent church publications to members. He was working in Cincinnati, Ohiomarker when he learned of the assassination of Joseph Smith. Snow closed his Ohio mission and promptly returned to Nauvoo.

During the period of disorganization and schism that followed Smith's death, Snow chose to follow the Quorum of the Twelve under Brigham Young. In 1845, Snow was involved in work in the Nauvoo Temple.


Before leaving Nauvoo, Snow accepted the principle of plural marriage and took four wives: Charlotte Squires (age 20), Mary Adaline Goddard (age 32), Sarah Ann Prichard (age 18), and Harriet Amelia Squires (age 26). Snow would later take several more wives: Eleanor Houtz (age 14), Mary Elizabeth Houtz (younger sister of Eleanor), Caroline Horton (age 29), Sarah Minnie Ephamina (age 16). Snow also wed the 17-year-old Pheobe Woodruff, the daughter of Wilford Woodruff.Snow fathered the child Rhea Lucile Snow at the age of 83 while serving as president of the LDS Church.Snow's sister Eliza R. Snow was also a polygamous wife of Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement.

Migration to Utah

Snow and his family, with wagons and livestock, joined a group of emigrants and moved across the Mississippi River into Iowamarker in February 1846. On the way west, Snow again became ill and the family stopped at Mt. Pisgah, Iowa. Three Snow children were born at the Mormon refugee settlement, but one child did not survive. Snow was called to preside over the church organization in Mt. Pisgah and actively raised money to assist the bands of emigrants in their move west. The Snow family moved on to the Salt Lake Valley in 1848.

Call to the Twelve and missions abroad

In 1849 Snow was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was called the same day as Franklin D. Richards, Erastus Snow (a distant cousin), and Charles C. Rich. They were called to fill vacancies caused by the re-establishment of the First Presidency and Lyman Wight's apostasy.

Shortly after his call to the Twelve, Snow left on a mission to Italymarker and French-speaking Switzerlandmarker. He later sent missionaries under his direction to Indiamarker (1849–1852). Snow was directly involved in missionary work in Italy and Switzerland, and also visited Maltamarker. He had planned to visit India, but various circumstances prevented this journey.

In 1851, Snow published a pamphlet entitled "The Italian Mission" about his and his companions efforts in Italy. It was published in Londonmarker.

Snow wrote a pamphlet entitled "The Voice of Joseph" in 1850 to advance missionary work in the Italian mission. He was unable to find anyone in Italy to translate it so sent it to Orson Pratt, then the president of the British Mission, who eventually found someone in Parismarker to translate it.

In January 1851, Snow went to England and found a person there whom he hired to translate the Book of Mormon into Italian.

The efforts of missionaries under Snow, especially the ones he sent to Turinmarker, inspired an article attacking the Mormon missionaries for undermining the Roman Catholic Church in the Turinese paper, L'Armonia. Snow and his successors were unsuccessful in the cities also due to opposition to their activities by the government of Camillo Cavour.

Activities in Utah

On his return to Utah, Snow founded a society called the polysophical society to conduct study into the various aspects of human knowledge. He encouraged church members of all ages to join and some view this organization as a predecessor of the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association.

In 1853, under the direction of church president Brigham Young, Snow founded Brigham City, Utahmarker. Settlement had begun on a limited scale at this site under the name "Box Elder". Snow changed the name and moved the community towards living up to its name. He was also a key backer of the Brigham City Cooperative, which was the inspiration for ZCMI and other cooperatives.

In 1864, Snow was sent on a mission to the Sandwich Islands. He went on this mission with Ezra T. Benson and Joseph F. Smith. They were responding to messages from Jonatana Napela and other Hawaiian church members about the irregular administration of the church by Walter Gibson. While here, Snow was seriously injured but was healed through the ministration of holders of the priesthood.

Some accused Snow of engineering the election of Thomas Kearns, his friend and a wealthy Catholic to the United States Senate in 1901. However it may have been a shrewd decision to help ensure statehood for Utah by electing a non-mormon.

Other activities

Activities in Idaho

As the church expanded into the surrounding states, members of the Quorum of the Twelve would be sent to other states of assignment.

In 1888, Snow went to Rexburg, Idahomarker. While here he told the leaders of the stake that Karl G. Maeser had been appointed Commissioner of Church Education and recommended that they form a stake academy. The local leaders followed Snow's instructions and the institution they formed eventually evolved into Brigham Young University–Idahomarker.

Snow in the U.S. Supreme Court

Snow was the subject of a United States Supreme Courtmarker case regarding polygamy prosecutions under the Edmunds Act. In late 1885, Snow was indicted by a federal grand jury for three counts of unlawful cohabitation. According to his indictments, Snow had lived with more than one woman for three years. The jury delivered one indictment for each of these years, and Snow was convicted on each count. After conviction he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court which convicted him. The petition was denied, but federal law guaranteed him an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. In Ex Parte Snow the Supreme Court invalidated Snow's second and third convictions for unlawful cohabitation. It found that unlawful cohabitation was a "continuing offense," and thus that Snow was at most guilty of one such offense for cohabiting continuously with more than one woman for three years.

Actions as church president

The first notable action of Lorenzo Snow as president of the church was that he organized the First Presidency almost immediately after Wilford Woodruff's death, instead of waiting years as his predecessors had.

As he began his tenure as president, Snow had to deal with the aftermath of legal battles with the United States over the practice of plural marriage. Men engaging in plural marriage were still being arrested and confined in Utah Territory. Some members of the LDS Church did not accept the 1890 Manifesto put forth by Wilford Woodruff, and there was a strong division of opinion on plural marriage even in the priesthood hierarchy of the church.

The LDS Church was also in severe financial difficulties, some of which were related to the legal problems over plural marriage. Snow approached this problem first by issuing short term bonds with a total value of one million dollars. This was followed by emphatic teaching on tithing. It was during this time that the LDS Church officially adopted the principle of tithing, the payment of 10% of one's income, as a hallmark of membership. Snow gave an address at the St. George Tabernacle in St. George, Utahmarker, imploring the Latter-day Saints to pay tithes of corn, money or whatever they had in order to have sufficient rain. After much patience and faith, it rained in southern Utah. In a short period of time, the members' practice of paying a tithe reduced the church's debt and financial difficulties to a manageable level.

Snow died of pneumonia in Salt Lake City, Utahmarker and was succeeded in the church presidency by Joseph F. Smith.


  2. Il Libro di Mormon: Anticipating Growth Beyond Italy's Waldensian Valleys - Maxwell Institute JBMS
  3. See Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow.
  4. Malmquist, O.N.:The First 100 Years, pp..
  5. Public Relations Office – BYU–Idaho


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