Eliza R. Snow (1804–87) was a poet in Mantua, Ohio, USA, when she learned about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon in 1830. She eventually wrote over 500 poems, including hymns in our hymnbook today.1 She captured historical events and personal relationships, and sometimes she preached doctrine through her poems. One line recurred in five of her poems: “My heart is fix’d,” drawing on Old Testament psalms—“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (see Psalms 57:7; 108:1; 112:7).
Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines fixed as settled, established, or stable. The Hebrew word translated as “fixed” can also mean steadfast, firm, or immovable. Eliza’s established reputation as a Relief Society General President (from 1880 to 1887) presents an immovable identity as a Latter-day Saint. Her conversion, however, took much time and study, starting at a young age.
Eliza learned as a child to respect the Bible. She attended a Baptist Sunday School, where she often memorized chapters from the New Testament. She remembered, “My heart yearned for the gifts and manifestations of which those ancient Apostles testified.” She desired to “see, and listen to a true Prophet of God, through whom He communicated His will to the children of men.” But her teachers taught her that those days and blessings had passed.2
Oliver and Rosetta Snow, Eliza’s parents, taught their children to listen to people with different religious beliefs and choose for themselves. Eliza soon realized that with so many diverse religious practices, she searched for something firmly founded in Bible teachings. In the fall of 1830, when Eliza was 26, the Snows heard about Joseph Smith, “a Prophet to whom the Lord was speaking from the heavens”—the very model that she had been looking for since her childhood. As much as she wanted the news to be legitimate, she wrote, “I considered it a hoax—too good to be true.” Eliza continued to study the ancient prophets in order to learn their patterns.3
In the winter of 1831–32, Joseph Smith came to the Snow home. As he sat by the fire, Eliza “scrutinized his face as closely as I could without attracting his attention, and decided that his was an honest face.” Even so, her investigative nature led her to observe what happened over time. She attended a local meeting where Joseph and two Book of Mormon witnesses spoke, and she was deeply impressed. Her mother and sister, Rosetta and Leonora, believed and were baptized that spring.4 Still Eliza waited, studying the Book of Mormon, watching and listening.
In the spring of 1835, Rosetta and Leonora went to Kirtland, Ohio, where other Latter-day Saints lived. They returned with stories about the Church, the priesthood, and great spiritual manifestations. Five years had passed since the time Eliza first heard about Joseph Smith. The accounts of her mother and sister brought Eliza an undeniable witness of the truth. She had waited until she knew it was true. “My heart was now fixed,” she wrote. She decided to be baptized.5
Even then, baptism was a challenge for Eliza, a humble woman who followed social rules and propriety. She prayed for someone to come baptize her, but no one came. When she heard of a meeting of the Saints about two miles from home, she asked her father’s permission to go and be baptized—as an adult, she respected her father, and he readily consented. At the meeting, there was no discussion about baptism, but Eliza gained courage to stand up and request the privilege. Before she could arise, a dark fear came over her. She pushed through the fear and was baptized in a nearby stream on April 5, 1835. “From that day to this I have not doubted the truth of the work,” she wrote.
That night, Eliza reflected on her baptism: “I felt an indescribable, tangible sensation, … commencing at my head and enveloping my person and passing off at my feet, producing inexpressible happiness.” She saw in a vision a candle with a long, bright flame, and a voice told her, “The lamp of intelligence shall be lighted over your path.” She was satisfied.6
Eliza moved to Kirtland to join the Saints for a time and taught school. When she returned to her family’s home at the end of the term, her old friends and neighbors asked about the “strange people” with whom she associated. “I was exceedingly happy in testifying of what I had both seen and heard,” she later wrote. Eliza determined to change her life and live permanently with the Latter-day Saints. Her conversion deepened even further in 1837 when she lived with Joseph Smith and his family. Again, she observed. “I had ample opportunity of judging his daily walk and conversation,” she recalled. She saw much more than the miraculous events of the Kirtland Temple dedication—she saw the life and relationships of a prophet of God. “The more I made his acquaintance, the more cause I found to appreciate him in his divine calling.”7
Thirty-seven years after her baptism, with a heart firmly fixed through persecutions in Missouri and the eventual assassination of Joseph Smith, Eliza remained a committed Latter-day Saint. On June 22, 1872, she shared about her conversion with a group of women in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: “When I heard it announced that the Lord had spoken from heaven and a record had been brought forth I was deeply interested. I prayed unto the Lord to let me know if the work were true, covenanting with him if he did so that I would ever praise his name.” After her baptism, she said, she attended Church meetings. “We were called upon to speak; I dared not refuse for I had promised God I would ever praise his name in the congregation of the Saints.”8 Her continual conversion required her continued witness.
Eliza bore her testimony over a thousand times as she traveled throughout Utah Territory to teach the Relief Society, young women, and Primary children about the Restoration. Her heart was fixed, and she invited others to experience their own conversions and become firm and steadfast.