“Lorenzo Snow,” Church History Topics
Lorenzo Snow was the fifth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1836 he accepted an invitation from his sister, Eliza R. Snow, to come to Kirtland to study Hebrew with Latter-day Saints, and he soon joined the Church. He was ordained an Apostle in 1849. Snow was a prolific missionary, preaching and overseeing missionary work in the United States, Britain, Italy, Malta, Palestine, and Hawaii. He accepted plural marriage in Nauvoo, and in Utah he was jailed for 11 months for resisting anti-polygamy laws enacted by the United States Congress. Snow married nine women and fathered 42 children.
Lorenzo Snow was sustained as President of the Church in 1898. During his three years as President, the Church continued to struggle with financial problems that resulted, in part, from the United States government’s anti-polygamy campaign in the 1880s. The Lord inspired President Snow to recommit Church members to live the law of tithing in order to stabilize the Church financially and pay its debts. Snow died in October 1901, just days after his final general conference address.
President Wilford Woodruff’s death in 1898 raised the question of how long the Quorum of the Twelve should wait before reorganizing the First Presidency. Previous leaders had waited between 18 months and three years. Woodruff had expressed his hope that the Quorum of the Twelve would reorganize the Presidency immediately upon his death to avoid the debates among Church leaders that had accompanied previous delays.1 On September 13, 1898, just a few days after Woodruff’s funeral, the 14 living Apostles met in the Salt Lake Temple. The purpose of the meeting was to find a way to finance Church debts, and the Apostles knew that to do so they needed to name a new trustee to replace Woodruff. Elder Francis Lyman recalled President Woodruff’s counsel and suggested the Council not only name a trustee but sustain Snow as President of the Church. Joseph F. Smith put the question to a vote, and the Apostles sustained Snow unanimously.
After the vote, President Snow shared a sacred experience he had in the Salt Lake Temple. Just days earlier, he had gone to the temple, feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of leading the Church. He prayed at the altar to know the Lord’s will with regard to the question of organizing the Presidency and naming counselors. He testified to his brethren that “his prayer was answered, the Lord manifesting unto him clearly what he should do.” He told the assembled Apostles he had kept his experience to himself at first to see if “the same spirit which the Lord manifested to me was in you.” He was gratified that the members of the Quorum of the Twelve were united. “In accordance with the light given me,” he added, “I now present to you the name of George Q. Cannon as my first counselor, and of Joseph F. Smith as my second counselor.”2
Thirty-five years later, Snow’s son LeRoi published an article about these events in the Improvement Era.3 LeRoi’s telling was based on an account by President Snow’s granddaughter Allie Pond. Pond recalled that her grandfather had told her that Jesus Christ had appeared to him in the temple that night after his prayer. President Snow left no known firsthand account of this remarkable vision.
For more information about the events and themes in the life of Lorenzo Snow, see the Prophets of the Restoration videos at history.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.