Eliza R. Snow

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Eliza R. Snow
Bust Photo of Eliza R. Snow
2nd Relief Society General President
December 1866[1][2] – December 5, 1887 (1887-12-05)[3]
Predecessor Emma Smith
Successor Zina D. H. Young
1st Secretary of the Relief Society
1842 – 1844
Personal details
Born Eliza Roxcy Snow
(1804-01-21)January 21, 1804
Becket, Massachusetts, United States
Died December 5, 1887(1887-12-05) (aged 83)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting place Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument
40°46′13″N 111°53′08″W / 40.7703°N 111.8856°W / 40.7703; -111.8856 (Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument)
Spouse(s) Joseph Smith (1842-1844; sealed)
Brigham Young (1844-1877; deceased)
Parents Oliver and Rosetta Snow
Signature of Eliza R. Snow

Eliza Roxcy Snow (January 21, 1804 – December 5, 1887) was one of the most celebrated Mormon women of the nineteenth century. A renowned poet, she chronicled history, celebrated nature and relationships, and expounded scripture and doctrine. Snow was married to Joseph Smith as a plural wife and was openly a plural wife of Brigham Young after Smith's death. Snow was the second general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), which she reestablished in Utah Territory in 1866.[2] She was also the sister of Lorenzo Snow, the church's fifth president.

Early life[edit]

Born in Becket, Massachusetts, Snow was the second daughter of Oliver and Rosetta Snow. When she was two years old, her family left New England to settle on a new and fertile farm in the Western Reserve valley, in Mantua, Ohio. The Snow family valued learning and saw that each child had educational opportunities. Snow worked as secretary for her father in his office as justice of the peace.

Early church involvement[edit]

House in Mantua, Ohio where the Snow family lived from 1815-1838
Early photograph of Eliza R. Snow

Snow's Baptist parents welcomed a variety of religious believers into their home. In 1828, Snow and her parents joined Alexander Campbell's Christian restorationist movement, the Disciples of Christ. In 1831, when Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, took up residence in Hiram, Ohio, four miles from the family's farm, the Snow family took a strong interest in the new religious movement. Snow's mother and sister joined Smith's Church of Christ early on; several years later, in 1835, Snow was baptized and moved to Kirtland, Ohio, the headquarters of the church. Upon her arrival, Snow donated her inheritance, a large sum of money, toward the building of the church's Kirtland Temple. In appreciation, the building committee provided her with the title to "a very valuable [lot]-situated near the Temple, with a fruit tree-an excellent spring of water, and house that accommodated two families." Here, Snow taught school for Smith's family and was influential in interesting her younger brother, Lorenzo, in Mormonism. Lorenzo Snow later became an apostle and the church's fifth president.

Snow moved west with her family and the body of the church, first to Adam-ondi-Ahman, a short-lived settlement in Missouri, and then to Nauvoo, Illinois. In Nauvoo, Snow again made her living as a school teacher. After Smith's death, Snow claimed to have secretly wed him on June 29, 1842, as a plural wife. Snow wrote fondly of Smith, "my beloved husband, the choice of my heart and the crown of my life".[4] However, Snow had organized a petition in that same summer of 1842, with a thousand female signatures, denying that Smith was connected with polygamy and extoling his virtue.[5] As Secretary of the Ladies' Relief Society, she organized the publishing of a certificate in October 1842 denouncing polygamy and denying Smith as its creator or participant.[6] Years later, when Snow was informed that Smith's first wife, Emma, had stated on her deathbed that her husband had never been a polygamist, Snow was reported to have stated she doubted the story but "If ... [this] was really [Sister Emma's] testimony she died with a libel on her lips".[7]

After Smith's death, Snow married Brigham Young as a plural wife. She traveled west across the plains and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on October 2, 1847. There, childless Eliza became a prominent member of Young's family, moving into an upper bedroom in Young's Salt Lake City residence, the Lion House.

Relief Society service[edit]

Engraving of Eliza R. Snow

In 1842, Snow became the first secretary of the Nauvoo Ladies' Relief Society under the presidency of Emma Smith.

Snow was called by Young in 1866 to become head-up a reorganized Relief Society and to assist bishops in organizing Relief Societies in local wards and to "instruct the sisters".[2] Snow traveled throughout Utah Territory encouraging women to attend meetings, sustain priesthood leaders, and support Young's economic programs.

Snow's presidency emphasized spirituality and self-sufficiency. The Relief Society sent women to medical school, trained nurses, opened the Deseret Hospital, operated cooperative stores, promoted silk manufacture, saved wheat, and built granaries. In 1872, Snow provided assistance and advice to Louisa L. Greene in the creation of a woman's publication loosely affiliated with the Relief Society—the Woman's Exponent. Snow's responsibilities also extended to young women and children within the church. She was a primary organizer for the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Association in 1870 and assisted Aurelia Spencer Rogers in establishing the Primary Association in 1878.

Snow served as president of the Relief Society until her death in 1887. By 1888, the Relief Society had more than 22,000 members in 400 local congregations.

Snow died in Salt Lake City, and was buried in Brigham Young's family cemetery.


Snow wrote poetry from a young age, one time even writing school lessons in rhyme. Between 1826 and 1832, she published more than 20 poems in local newspapers under various pen names, including the Western Courier of Ravenna, Ohio, and the Ohio Star. A number of Snow's poems were set to music and have become important Mormon hymns, some of which appear in the current edition of the LDS Church's hymnal. One of her hymns, "Great is the Lord", was published in the first Latter Day Saint hymnal in 1835, the year of her baptism.

In Nauvoo, Snow gained unique distinction as a Mormon poet featured in local newspapers, and she was later called "Zion's Poetess." She continued to write poems as she journeyed to the Salt Lake Valley, documenting the pioneer trail and life in Utah. The first of her two volumes of Poems, Religious, Historical, and Political appeared in 1856, followed by the second in 1877. Some of her poems include:

  • "How Great the Wisdom and the Love"[8]
  • "Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother" [retitled "O My Father"][9]
  • "Be Not Discouraged"[10]
  • "My First View of a Western Prairie"[11]
  • "Mental Gas"[12]
  • "Think not When You Gather to Zion Your Troubles and Trials are Through"
  • "O Awake! My Slumbering Minstrel"
  • "Truth Reflects upon Our Senses"[13]

One of her best-known poems, "Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother," was written soon after the death of her father and just over a year after the death of Joseph Smith.[14] The poem, renamed "O My Father" after the first line, is included in the current LDS Church's hymnal, as are Snow's hymns "Great is the Lord"; "Again We Meet Around the Board"; "Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake!"; "How Great the Wisdom and the Love"; "The Time Is Far Spent"; "In Our Lovely Deseret"; "Though Deepening Trials"; "Behold the Great Redeemer Die"; and "Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses".

Eliza Snow's grave in Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument, near that of Brigham Young



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beecher, Maureen Ursenbach (1992). "Snow, Eliza R.". In Ludlow, Daniel H. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing. pp. 1364–1367. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140. In December 1866, following the Civil War, President Young once more saw need for the Women to be organized, and called Eliza R Snow to "head up" the movement, this time on an all-church basis. 
  2. ^ a b c Although Snow was the churchwide leader of the Relief Society since 1866 or 1867, she was not officially sustained as its president until June 19, 1880, following the death of Emma Smith, the first such president. See:
  3. ^ "Appendix 1: Biographical Register of General Church Officers". Encyclopedia of Mormonism. p. 1647. 
  4. ^ "The Significance of "O My Father" in the Personal Journey of Eliza R. Snow" (PDF). BYU Studies (Brigham Young University) 36 (1): 87. Retrieved December 5, 2011. 
  5. ^ Times and Seasons 3 [(August 1, 1842): 869.
  6. ^ Times and Seasons 3 (October 1, 1842): 940.
  7. ^ Newell, L.K. & Avery, V.T. (1994) Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, pp. 307-08, quoting Women's Exponent.[full citation needed]
  8. ^ How Great the Wisdom and the Love, Mormon Literature Website, BYU
  9. ^ Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother, Mormon Literature Website, BYU
  10. ^ Be Not Discouraged, Mormon Literature Website, BYU
  11. ^ My First View of a Western Prairie, Mormon Literature Website, BYU
  12. ^ Mental Gas, Mormon Literature Website, BYU
  13. ^ See "Life's Railway to Heaven" as first published by Charles Davis Tillman.
  14. ^ Snow, E.R. "My Father in Heaven", Times and Seasons 6 (November 15, 1845).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Emma Hale Smith
Relief Society General President
December 1866 – December 5, 1887 (1887-12-05)
Succeeded by
Zina D. H. Young