Monday, August 9, 2021

President Lorenzo Snow’s Special Witness of Jesus Christ

 [Readers desiring to obtain their own hardback copies of volume one of I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses Came to Know Jesus Christ can find copies on sale here  Softbound copies can be purchased here, on sale. An ebook (Kindle) edition is available on Amazon here, for cheap. The Amazon page also includes the Introduction and first chapter of volume one for free.]

(by Dennis B. Horne)

“I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather,

 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.”


“There is no man that knows the truth of this work more than I do,” stated President Lorenzo Snow. “I know it fully; I know it distinctly. I know there is a God just as well as any man knows it, because God has revealed himself to me. I know it positively. I shall never forget the manifestations of the Lord; I never will forget them as long as memory endures. It is in me.”[1] Such was the testimony of one of the great prophets of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.

Lorenzo Snow was born April 3, 1814, in Mantua, Portage County, Ohio. He was raised on a farm and educated in the local schools. He excelled academically and loved to read. He also learned to manage the family farm while his father was away on business. About the time that he became a young man and needed to determine what to do with his life, he began to meet some “Mormons” including apostle David W. Patten, one of the original Twelve. Some members of his family joined the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. Lorenzo obtained some further schooling and also considered joining the state militia.


First experience with the Prophet Joseph Smith

            It was during these years of young formative manhood that Lorenzo first met the Prophet Joseph Smith. He wrote of his impressions:


I saw for the first time Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Lord. He was holding a meeting in the town of Hiram. He was about three miles from where I was born and brought up. He was standing by a door and talking to an audience of about 250 persons under a bowery. I was about eighteen years of age. I had heard something about the Mormon Prophet. I felt some anxiety to see him and judge for myself, as he was generally believed to be a false prophet. My mother and my two sisters (one of whom was Eliza R. Snow) received the principles of Mormonism and were baptized. At the time I refer to, Joseph Smith was not what would be called a fluent speaker. He simply bore his testimony to what the Lord had manifested to him, to the dispensations of the Gospel which had been committed to him, and to the authority that he possessed. As I looked upon him and listened, I thought to myself that a man bearing such a wonderful testimony as he did, and having such a countenance as he possessed, could hardly be a false prophet. He certainly could not have been deceived, it seemed to me, and if he was a deceiver he was deceiving the people knowingly; for when he testified that he had had a conversation with Jesus, the Son of God, and had talked with Him personally, as Moses is said to have talked with God upon Mount Sinai and that he had also heard the voice of the Father, he was telling something that he either knew to be false or positively true. I was not at that time what might be called a religious boy, but I was interested in what I saw and heard there. However, being busy in other directions, it passed measurably out of my mind. Some two years and a half later, business called me to Kirtland. My two sisters had been there for some time, and I made my home with them. There I became perfectly acquainted with Joseph Smith, the Prophet. I sat at his table and had a number of conversations with him. …

            Talking with President Joseph Smith, and being with him and with his father, I could not help but believe that there was something more than common in what was called Mormonism.


Experience with the personage of the Holy Ghost

            After further study and a conversation with Joseph Smith Sr., at that time the Patriarch of the Church (an office no longer existing because of stake patriarchs), Lorenzo decided to join the Church. Of his experience with baptism and confirmation, he recorded:


I was baptized by Elder John Boynton, then one of the Twelve Apostles, June, 1836, in Kirtland, Ohio. 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 fulfillment 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 fulfillment 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 Oh, 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.[2]


            This sublime experience became the first of many that enabled Lorenzo Snow to act as a special witness of Jesus Christ when the time came. Throughout his life he would refer to this experience more than once: “And now I will close my remarks by bearing my testimony to the knowledge of God that I have received in relation to this work. It is true. I received a knowledge of the truth of this work by a physical administration of the blessings of God. And when receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost I knew I was immersed in a divine principle that filled my whole system with inexpressible joy; and from that day to the present his blessing crowned my labors.” On another occasion, he again referenced the experience:


The President then related his doubts caused by his not having any great manifestation at the time of his confirmation. He felt that he had made great sacrifices in becoming a Mormon and in blighting his prospects as a young man, but he was ashamed now that he had ever called it a sacrifice. It is inconsistent, he said, for any of us to call our losses for the Gospel’s sake a sacrifice. He related his visit to his many relatives after he became a Mormon and how he had gained light and knowledge of the truth after being thus disturbed in his mind by not receiving the gift of tongues or prophecy when confirmed; and how the spirit had come down upon him once when kneeling in prayer with a power that had passed through his body and had given him an absolute knowledge that God lived, that he was our Father and that Jesus was his son and had come to earth and talked with the Prophet Joseph, receiving a perfect knowledge of the truth of this work. “I shall never forget it,” the speaker said, “so long as I draw breath.”


Vision of the pathway of God and man

Having come to know for himself the truth of the gospel, he then found himself needing to choose between further education and serving a mission. At length he decided a mission was best, and he served for some time in the areas of Ohio and Kentucky. His rigorous travels and missionary work so weakened Lorenzo that he took some time off to work as a school teacher, during 1839 and early 1840. By May of that year he moved on to Nauvoo, where the main body of Latter-day Saints were then beginning to settle and build a prosperous city and a temple. While living in Nauvoo, Lorenzo received one of the great spiritual experiences and communications of his life:


            Early in the spring of 1840, I was appointed to a mission in England, and I started on or about the twentieth of May. I here record a circumstance which occurred a short time previous—one which has been riveted on my memory, never to be erased, so extraordinary was the manifestation. At the time, I was at the house of Elder H. G. Sherwood; he was endeavoring to explain the parable of our Savior, when speaking of the husbandman who hired servants and sent them forth at different hours of the day to labor in his vineyard.

            While attentively listening to his 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 noonday, with wonder and astonishment, the pathway of God and man. I formed the following couplet which expresses the revelation, as it was shown me, and explains Father Smith's dark saying to me at a blessing meeting in the Kirtland Temple, prior to my baptism, as previously mentioned in my first interview with the Patriarch.

               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.


            Again, Lorenzo had received further witness of the reality of God, including the path that man can follow to become as God is now. Lorenzo never sought to do much to explain the manifestation beyond quoting his couplet. In later years he shared this vision many times with diverse groups of Latter-day Saints.

On returning from his mission to England, Lorenzo found his way to Nauvoo, Illinois, where the main body of Latter-day Saints were then assembling. He taught school, and also learned and accepted from the Prophet Joseph Smith the doctrine and practice of Plural Marriage. He eventually married nine women, several of them while living in Nauvoo.

As persecution increased, and after Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois, it became apparent that the Latter-day Saints would eventually need to leave their beloved Nauvoo. Lorenzo left in early 1846, travelling north to the Latter-day Saint settlement of Mt. Pisgah. It was here that he became very ill himself, nigh unto death. In his diary, he described his ordeal, with its attendant spiritual sufferings and joys:


[May 1846, soon after arriving at Mt. Pisgah] I never had such a severe fit of sickness before since my recollection. My friends and family had given up most all hopes of my recovery. Father Huntington, the President of the Place, called on his congregation to pray for me. He also with Gen. [Charles C.] Rich and some others clothed themselves in the garments of the Priesthood and prayed for my recovery. I believe it was through the continued applications [supplications] of my family and friends to the throne of Heaven that my life was spared. In my sickness I went through in my mind the most singular scenes that any man ever did. My family generally believed that I was not in my right mind. But the scenes through which my spirit travelled are yet fresh in my memory as though they occurred but yesterday. And when my people supposed me in the greatest pain and danger, I am conscious of having a great many spiritual exercises sometimes partaking of the most acute suffering that heart can conceive, and others the most rapturous enjoyment that heart ever felt or imagination ever conceived.

I suppose at first I must have been left in the hands of an evil spirit, in fact I was administered to upon this supposition. I was led into the full and perfect conviction that I was entirely a hopeless case in reference to salvation; that eternities upon eternities must pass and still I saw my case would remain the same. I saw the whole world rejoicing in all the powers and glories of salvation without the slightest beam of hope on my part, but doomed to a separation from my friends and family, all I loved most here, to eternity upon eternity. I shudder even now at the remembrance of the torments and agony of my feelings. No tongue can describe them or imagination conceive. Those who were attending me at that time describe me as being in a [near-dead] condition of body. I remained several hours refusing to speak. My body was cool, and my eyes and countenance denoted extreme suffering.

After this scene ended I entered another of an opposite character. My spirit seems to have left the world and introduced into that of Kolob. I heard a voice calling me by name saying, “he is worthy, he is worthy, take away his filthy garments.” My clothes were then taken off piece by piece and a voice said, “let him be clothed, let him be clothed.” Immediately I found a celestial body gradually growing upon me until at length I found myself crowned with all its glory and power. The ecstasy of joy I now experienced no man can tell, pen cannot describe it. I conversed familiarly with Joseph, Father [Joseph] Smith [Sr.] and others, and mingled in the society of the Holy One. I saw my family all saved and observed the dispensations of God with mankind, until at last a perfect redemption was effected, though great was the sufferings of the wicked, especially those that had persecuted the saints. My spirit must have remained, I should judge, for days enjoying the scenes of eternal happiness.[3]


            One is left in awe of this description, unable to comment further on such an experience. When Lorenzo had recovered his health, he served as the president of the Mt. Pisgah branch until the summer of 1848, when Brigham Young requested he make the journey across the plains to the new headquarters of the Church. He arrived in the Great Salt Lake valley with his family without serious accident—all in good health and rejoicing in the blessings of prospective peace. Soon after arrival, he was successful in obtaining what at that time was considered a fine log home.


Called to the Quorum of the Twelve

            On the 12th of February, 1849, he was asked to put in an appearance at a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve, then in session. Why or wherefore he could not imagine; but, with his characteristic promptitude, he went forthwith, ruminating in his mind whether he was called to answer some unsuspected charge or other; but a consciousness of faithful integrity to the duties assigned him predominated over every apprehension. To his great surprise, on arrival he was informed of his appointment to the Quorum of the Twelve, and was then ordained a member of that quorum (age 34). Elders Charles C. Rich, Erastus Snow and Franklin D. Richards were also ordained into that quorum at the same time, under the hands of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Parley P. Pratt, and John Taylor.

            Elder Snow later recalled this sacred occasion: “When I received the Apostleship, I well remember saying to my brethren, who were present, that very possibly the same sacrifices would be required of the modern Apostles as were experienced by the Apostles anciently, including their persecutions and martyrdoms. I said, in receiving this sacred calling, I felt as though it were ascending an altar where, perhaps, life itself would be offered. The Lord has said: ‘I have decreed in my heart that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my Covenant even unto death; for, if ye will not abide in my Covenant, ye are not worthy of me.’ Seriously considering all this, I asked myself: Am I willing to accept these conditions—to so deny myself and suffer for the glory of God, and to honor and magnify this Apostleship?” As related above, Elder Snow already had received several powerful spiritual experiences that qualified him to act as a special witness.


Healing the sick

            In late 1849, Elder Snow was called to open a mission for the Church in Italy. While there he was able to have some success among a Protestant group called the Waldenses, although in the main the majority Catholics rejected his message. One mighty miracle he was involved in is worthy of mention:


September 6th—This morning, my attention was directed to Joseph Grey, a boy of three years of age—the youngest child of our host. Many friends had been to see the child, as to all human appearances his end was near. I went to see him in the afternoon; death was preying upon his body—his former healthy frame was now reduced to a skeleton, and it was only by close observation we could discern that he was alive. As I reflected upon the peculiarity of our situation, my mind was fully awakened to a sense of our position. For some hours before I retired to rest, I called upon the Lord to assist us at this time. My feelings on this occasion will not easily be erased from my memory.

September 7th.—This morning I proposed to Elder Stenhouse we should fast and retire to the mountains and pray. As we departed, we called and saw the child—his eyeballs turned upwards—his eyelids fell and closed—his face and ears were thin, and wore the pale marble hue, indicative of approaching dissolution. The cold perspiration of death covered his body as the principle of life was nearly exhausted. Madam Grey and other females were sobbing, while Monsieur Grey hung his head and whispered to us, "Il meurt! il meurtt!" (He dies! he dies!)

            After a little rest upon the mountain, aside from any likelihood of interruption, we called upon the Lord in solemn, earnest prayer, to spare the life of the child. As I reflected on the course we wished to pursue, the claims that we should soon advance to the world, I regarded this circumstance as one of vast importance. I know not of any sacrifice which I can possibly make, that I am not willing to offer, that the Lord might grant our requests.

            We returned about three o'clock in the afternoon, and having consecrated some oil, I anointed my hand and laid it upon the head of the child, while we silently offered up the desires of our hearts for his restoration. A few hours afterward we called, and his father, with a smile of thankfulness, said, "Mieux beaucoup! beaucoup!" (Better, much, much!)

            September 8th.—The child had been so well during the past night the parents had been enabled to take their rest, which they had not done for some time before; and to-day they could leave him and attend to the business of the house. As I called to see him, Madam Grey expressed her joy in his restoration. I, in turn, remarked, "Il Dio di cielo ha fatto questa per voi." (The God of heaven has done this for you.)


            Whether this was an incident of healing the sick or of raising the dead is not fully settled, yet this mighty miracle softened the hearts of those among whom Elder Snow served, and he was able to begin teaching and baptizing and organizing a branch of the Church. Elder Snow returned from his mission in 1852, having been absent for three years.

            He was home in Salt Lake for only a year when he was called to take a large group of families and colonize what today is known as Brigham City, Utah. Here he helped to grow the settlement, serve as a member of the Utah State Legislature, and also serve as the stake president. In 1864, Elder Snow, in company with Elder Ezra T. Benson and a young Joseph F. Smith, served a short mission to Hawaii, in order to depose an apostate that had begun to take over the Church and practice priestcraft there. It was on this mission, while attempting to get to shore in a small boat, that high waves capsized their craft and Elder Snow was drowned and remained lifeless for an hour. After his companions were able to roll his body over a barrel and work the water out of him, and administer to him, he finally revived. In later years, he said that while experiencing this near-death episode, it was made known to him that Joseph F. Smith would one day become the president of the Church.


Bearing testimony as a Special Witness

            In January of 1872 Elder Snow preached one of the most powerful sermons to that point in his apostolic career. After reviewing the possibilities for the progression of men to become like their Heavenly Father, and the doctrine that the posterity of Adam are the offspring of God, he bore strong testimony, stating: “I testify before this assembly [in the Salt Lake Tabernacle], as I have testified before the people throughout the different States of the Union, and throughout [Europe], that God Almighty, through my obedience to the gospel of Jesus, has revealed to me, tangibly, that this is the work of God, that this is his gospel, that this is his kingdom. . . .” Further, “I would not be here today; I would not have traveled over the face of the earth as I have for the last thirty-five years unless God had revealed this unto me. … But I received a dispensation from the Almighty, and I could say and do say now, as the Apostle Paul said: ‘I received not this gospel from man, but I received it by revelation from the Almighty.’”

            In 1877, Elder Snow was released as stake president and his son Oliver was installed by Brigham Young in his place. All other apostles then serving as stake presidents were also released at that time, to enable them to give fulltime service in the Quorum of the Twelve. Shortly thereafter, President Young died. In the 1880s, Elder Snow’s difficulties mostly related to plural marriage, with United States marshals hunting for him. For this reason, he served a few short-term missions to get away from Utah. In 1885 he was caught, arrested, convicted, and served for eleven months in the Utah Territorial Prison (then located in what is now the Sugar House area of Salt Lake City, Utah). Then the United States Supreme Court overturned an unjust law used by the local Utah Territory anti-Mormons to imprison polygamists for longer terms, and mandated Elder Snow’s release.

            He immediately resumed his ministry by visiting a stake conference: “I have been engaged in promulgating the principles of the Gospel for the past fifty years,” he stated, “and I have received for myself a perfect testimony that this is the power of God unto salvation.” He also said, “We understand that those who are not of us do not understand these things; they do not know that God has spoken from heaven, and that He has appeared and manifested Himself to men who are now living. I know that these things are things that are true as God is true. But the nations of the earth are not aware of it, that Jesus, the Son of God, has come and appeared to man, and clothed them with authority to preach the Gospel and to promise the Holy Ghost to all who will believe and obey. . . . God bless the Latter-day Saints and pour out His Spirit upon you.”

To a General Conference congregation, Elder Snow said: “Brethren and sisters, my testimony is that this is the work of God in which we are engaged. I had not been in this Church two weeks when the Lord revealed to me a knowledge that He was God, and that He sent His Son into the world to be crucified for the sins of the world. No man ever did or ever could receive a more perfect knowledge in regard to the existence of God and of the truth of this work than God gave to me by revelation and the opening of the heavens.”

Sometime previous to 1889, Elder Snow was given a vision from the Lord, that showed him the near-future of the leadership of the Church. President George Q. Cannon recorded his testimony of this experience as given to the First Presidency and the Twelve:


President Lorenzo Snow made some very timely remarks concerning the reverence which he had for the Priesthood, and which he thought ought to be entertained by all the brethren. He spoke of the Prophet Joseph and of the Prophet Brigham. Though they were men and had their failings, and he felt that he had the right to scrutinize their conduct, at the same time, though he saw some things that he could not endorse as being always right, he knew they were servants of God, and they had his love and confidence, and he had never felt, even in his thoughts, to find fault with them or condemn them, much less in words. . . .

President Snow, in the course of remarks which he made in this connection, stated that while at St. George the Lord had shown to him that President Taylor’s days would be short, and he had seen that President Woodruff would preside over the church, and that I would be his first counselor and Brother Jos. F. Smith his second counselor. . . . President Snow related this circumstance or vision (he said it was the first time he had ever told it, except to President Woodruff while he was down at St. George) to show the confidence that he had in Brother Smith.[4]


Becomes the President of the Church and talks with Jesus

            In 1889, with President Woodruff becoming the President of the Church, Lorenzo Snow became the President of the Council of the Twelve.[5] He served in this position until September of 1898, when President Woodruff died. When President Snow learned that President Woodruff had died, he immediately sought to know the will of the Lord for himself. The following account, related by Elder Snow’s youngest son, is largely substantiated by other records:


President Snow put on his holy temple robes, repaired…to the…sacred altar [in the Holy of Holies], 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.


            The manifestation received at that time by President Snow was no less than the visit of the resurrected, glorified Son of God, Jesus the Christ, who had come to personally instruct his servant, the prophet Lorenzo Snow—herein given as related by “Allie” (Alice Armeda Snow Young) Pond, who carefully recorded the incident, as told to her, on the advice of her mother, Celestia Armeda Snow, soon after hearing it. Evidence indicates that the statements in quotation marks are taken directly from her diary. She wrote:


            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 grandpa 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 grandpa 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 grandpa 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.”

            Grandpa 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, granddaughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather, 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.”[6]


            In later years, Alice Pond and her husband, Noah S. Pond, often discussed her visit with her grandfather Snow in the temple. After her death, Noah Pond recorded his own memories of what she had told him, presenting a second account witnessing to its truth. He sent his account to Elder John A. Widstoe, who was investigating the experience in behalf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:


            We talked about the great privilege that was hers in visiting her grandfather, President Lorenzo Snow, in the Salt Lake Temple on the memorable evening of his narrative of the Heavenly visitation of the Savior to him and the instructions given him to proceed forthwith in the reorganization of the First Presidency of the Church.

            The reason for Allie going to the Temple [was] . . . the taking of the “Gruel,” a favorite food item of the President. On the Evening of the occurrence he had taken time to tell her many interesting experiences and the hour became late, so late in fact that the watchman had locked the doors and the Temple was silent with only the two within.

            President Snow led Allie to the large front door, and in passing from his room he halted at the designated spot, and placing his arm on her shoulder he said, “I want you to remember, my daughter, that here the Savior appeared to me in answer to my prayers, and instructed me to proceed with the reorganization of the First Presidency. That this was pleasing to the Lord and Blessings upon the Church would follow President Snow’s administration.”

            President Snow’s statement was very definite that he saw the Savior, and heard his voice.[7]


            President Snow himself disclosed a much less detailed account to his apostolic brethren in the temple, the day he was sustained by them as the President of the Church, as given below.  Others present on this occasion also verified President Snow’s testimony. President Snow’s son wrote of them:


            During the June conference in 1919 at an M. I. A. officers' meeting in the Assembly Hall I related the above testimony. President Heber J. Grant immediately arose and said:

            In confirmation of the testimony given by Brother LeRoi C. Snow quoting the grand-daughter of Lorenzo Snow, I want to call attention to the fact that several years elapsed after the death of the Prophet Joseph before President Young was sustained as the president of the Church; after the death of President Young, several years elapsed again before President Taylor was sustained, and again when he died several years elapsed before President Woodruff was sustained.

            After the funeral of President Wilford Woodruff, the apostles met in the office of the First Presidency and brother Francis M. Lyman said: “I feel impressed, although one of the younger members of the quorum, to say that I believe it would be pleasing in the sight of the Lord if the First Presidency of the Church was reorganized right here and right now. If I am in error regarding this impression, President Snow and the senior members of the council can correct me.”

            President Snow said that he would be pleased to hear from all the brethren upon this question, and each and all of us expressed ourselves as believing it would be pleasing to the Lord and that it would be the proper thing to have the Presidency organized at once.

            When we had finished, then and not till then, did Brother Snow tell us that he was instructed of the Lord in the temple the night after President Woodruff died, to organize the Presidency of the Church at once. President Anthon H. Lund and myself are the only men now living who were present at that meeting. …

A few days after the M. I. A. conference, in an interview with President Lund in his office, he retold the incident to me as given by President Grant regarding the meeting in the office of the First Presidency on Tuesday morning, September 13th, 1898, at which Lorenzo Snow was chosen President of the Church. He also said that he heard father tell a number of times of the Savior's appearance to him after he had dressed in his temple robes, presented himself before the Lord and offered up the signs of the Priesthood.

            I related this experience in the [Salt Lake] Eighteenth ward sacramental service. After the meeting Elder Arthur Winter told me he also had heard my father tell of the Savior's appearance to him in the Temple instructing him not only to reorganize the First Presidency at once but also to select the same counselors that President Woodruff had, Presidents George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith.


            Along with President Snow receiving the direction he sought from the Lord, this experience served to confirm his special witness, with the supernal privilege of literally talking face to face with Jesus. After President Woodruff’s funeral, the Quorum of the Twelve met to discuss the question of the reorganization of the First Presidency. After some preliminary comment by members of the Twelve, it was decided that President Snow should be sustained as the President of the Church:


Pres. Snow then arose and said: There was no use in his making excuses as to inability, etc., to assume the vast responsibilities involved in the position to which he had been elected [sustained]. He felt that it was for him to do the very best he could and depend upon the Lord. He knew the action taken by the Council was according to the mind and will of the Lord, who had shown and revealed to him several days ago that the First Presidency should be organized before the next conference. He had been feeling a little gloomy, and perhaps a little discouraged at the prospect, and the vast responsibility that would naturally fall upon him as President of the Twelve Apostles, and with this feeling he went before the Lord, offered up the signs of the Holy Priesthood and called upon Him to let light come to his mind. His prayer was answered, the Lord manifesting unto him clearly what he should do; also in regard to the counselors he should select when he became President of the Church, “and” said he, “In accordance with the light given me, I now present to you the name of George Q. Cannon as my first counselor, and that of Joseph F. Smith as my second counselor.

            Several of the brethren, speaking at the same time, seconded the choice of counselors, and the brethren named expressed themselves upon the subject—Bro. Cannon to the effect that he was willing to act in this capacity, or any other, if he could have the love and confidence of his brethren, and Bro. Smith to the effect that since the Lord had manifested his will in this matter, he had nothing to say, except that he was perfectly willing to act in this or any other position, and would do all he could to sustain the hands of the President in righteousness before the Lord.

            Pres. Snow, before calling for the vote, said, “I have not mentioned this matter to any person, either man or woman. I wanted to see what the feelings of the brethren were. I wanted to see if the same spirit which the Lord manifested to me was in you. I had confidence in you that the Lord would indicate to you that this was proper and according to his mind and will. I do not feel that I should be over-anxious in regard to anything pertaining to the work of the Lord. I had one revelation or manifestation in my early career which became my star, so to speak, and which I have always had before my mind. I put the meaning of it into couplet form, as follows:

            ‘As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be’.

            That was revealed to me with power; the Holy Ghost was upon me for a long time, and I knew it was my privilege to be like Him whom I afterwards knew was my Father and God. As John the Apostle says, “We are now the sons of God; when He shall appear we shall be like Him,” etc. We must act as far as we possibly can like God while we are in the flesh, and I know we can reach that degree of perfection [eventually]. Now brethren, I shall do the best I can, as God shall give me wisdom and power. I sense keenly my own weakness and inability, but I appreciate the fact that God can make me strong. If I know my own heart, the administration about to be ushered in shall not be known as Lorenzo Snow’s, but as God’s, in and through Lorenzo Snow. As to things which have happened in the past, I do not want to talk about them; it will become us as servants of the Lord to go to work and meet the difficulties before us, as the Lord shall aid and assist us. I feel to say in my heart, God bless you, and I invoke the blessing of the Lord upon myself in the discharge of the obligations resting upon me.”


            At a priesthood meeting held in conjunction with the next General Conference, President Snow bore his witness of revelation he had received in his life:


He himself felt keenly the weight of the responsibility resting upon him in being called to preside over the Church. … He referred to his early career. … He was [then] exceedingly anxious to know without doubt that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet, and when he received the Gospel, he obtained that knowledge, and was perfectly satisfied in relation to the matter. Everything he had thought about in a religious way was changed; every part of his system was convinced by the power of the Holy Ghost that God was his Father, that Jesus Christ was his elder brother, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Soon afterwards he was called upon a mission, and just before starting received a revelation which he put into the following couplet: “As man now is God once was; As God now is man may be.” The light imparted to him through this revelation prompted him to purify himself that it might take possession of his whole soul. Referring to the new position which he had recently been called to occupy as President of the Church, Bro. Snow said: “Brethren, I am at your service; if you desire to approve the action of the Apostles, I will try with them to carry out the purposes of God.”


            After being sustained by the membership of the Church as its President and Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, he was set apart as such by the Quorum of the Twelve, with President George Q. Cannon acting as voice. He was blessed, among other things, to “be entitled to the revelations of the Lord Jesus and give the mind and will of God to the Church; to impart unto them from time to time that knowledge concerning the will of God that shall be communicated to them.” He was blessed “with increased power to go forth and magnify [his] calling in the midst of the Church of Christ…and that the Lord will communicate with thee from time to time everything necessary for the perfect government of his Church.”

            In his first talk to the Latter-day Saints, he said:


            It is a matter of great rejoicing and satisfaction to me to behold the unity and brotherly love and perfect oneness of feeling existing with the Twelve and which was manifested a few days ago when they met in council and the First Presidency of the Church was reorganized. Every one of the Apostles expressed himself on that occasion, and they were perfectly agreed; the Spirit of the Lord rested upon them and prompted them in that which was done. It was not expected when they met on that occasion that this result would be accomplished. But the conditions and circumstances surrounding the Church rendered it necessary that something should be done in order that its affairs might be properly conducted, and when it was proposed that the First Presidency should at once be appointed, every one who was present was inspired by the same spirit and it was unanimously decided that this was the right thing to do. We all felt that this was the will of the Lord. There was no dissenting voice. When sustained by my brethren, the Apostles, as President of the Church, I selected as my counselors Presidents George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith and they were unanimously accepted and sustained by the Twelve.

            I can assure you, my brethren and sisters, that it made me feel very humble. I realize the responsibility that rests upon me and my brethren of the First Presidency, but I know that the blessings of the Lord have attended me in the past in the discharge of duties place upon my shoulders, and I feel assured that the Saints will support us in this position with their faith and their prayers and that the spirit of our calling will rest upon us and make us adequate to every task. . . .

            I can assure you, brethren and sisters, that I had no ambition to assume the responsibility which now rests upon me. If I could have escaped it honorably I should never have been found in my present position. I have never asked for it, nor have I ever asked the assistance of any of my brethren that I might attain to this position, but the Lord revealed to me and to my brethren that this was His will, and I have no disposition to shirk any responsibility nor to decline to occupy any position that the Lord requires me to fill.[8]


Receives a revelation regarding tithing

            The great pressing problem of the Church at this time in its history was its deep indebtedness. For various reasons, outside the scope of this chapter, the Church had been forced to go deeply into debt for many years and had reached a crisis point. It fell to President Snow to continue seeking for a solution. First, a million dollars of bonds were issued, which gave the Church short-term relief. Then President Snow received inspiration to go to St. George, Utah, although he knew not why.

            On arriving in St. George, a special stake conference was held. On May 17, 1899, during the adult session, in the middle of his address to the people, he received a manifestation, or vision, from the Lord, revealing to him the answer to the debt problems of the Church. As he concluded that talk, he mentioned that it was the word of the Lord that the Saints should pay their tithing. By the next day (May 18), the full import of what had been revealed to him the previous day had settled on President Snow, and he dedicated most of his discourse to the subject. At that time, among other things, he stated:


I need the faith and the prayers of every Latter-day Saint; no man needs them any more than I do; and it is unpleasant for me to say things that would in any way diminish the exercise of your faith and prayers in my behalf.  But the Lord requires me to say something to you, and since I commenced to labor in His interest, I have never failed, thank the Lord, to do that which He has required at my hands; and I shall not do it today, nor any other day, the Lord being my helper.  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 leaving St. George, President Snow preached on the same subject, obsessively, as he travelled throughout the various stakes in Utah, Idaho, and elsewhere. He also directed the members of the Quorum of the Twelve to do likewise. Consequently, by the time of his death, while the Church was not yet out of debt, it was on much sounder financial footing and could pay any obligation that arose. The crisis had passed and the Church would be freed from debt during the administration of President Joseph F. Smith.

            Because of some inaccurate information published in past decades about this period, a myth has persisted in the Church, unfortunately presented in the church-produced movie “The Windows of Heaven,” that while in St. George President Snow prophesied that the current drought afflicting that area would end if the Saints paid a full and honest tithing, and that they would yet reap a bounteous harvest that very year (1899). No such prophecy has been found in reliable historical records. The drought continued for most of two more years after President Snows visit; the harvest was very poor and many livestock died. (The myth is traceable to some articles prepared by President Snow’s son Leroi, who embellished and fictionalized some matters in some of his writings.)[9] One must separate the alleged but non-existent tithing-for-rain prophecy, from the documented fact that President Snow did receive a marvelous manifestation revealing the need for the Latter-day Saints, located anywhere in the Church, to reform and vastly improve in tithing payment, and that they would consequently be blessed in many ways. Also that the Church’s indebtedness would be relieved by that method. And such was indeed the case.

            While President of the Church, Lorenzo Snow was interviewed by a newspaper reporter. The following is the published version of that conversation:


[Published interview by a non-Latter-day Saint correspondent] I had an hour’s chat here with the venerable Lorenzo Snow, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the leader of the three hundred odd thousand Mormons who are scattered over the United States. Mr. Snow is now eighty-six year of age,…

            President Snow told me there was no doubt in his mind that the Father and Jesus Christ really appeared in person to Joseph Smith while he was upon earth, and that Joseph Smith had frequent and full directions for all things connected with the Church from on high. He said such revelations were manifested today, and I thereupon asked him point blank if he himself had ever had a revelation or direct manifestation from God.

            “I know that I have, and that several times,” replied the President of the Mormons, “The first one was when I was a boy. My parents were very well to do. They sent me to college at Oberlin, Ohio, but I found the professors, they were Congregationalists, insisted I should believe as they did, and I left and went to Kirtland. There I met Joseph Smith and the Mormons. I attended their meetings and saw the brethren and sisters prophesying, speaking strange tongues, and giving forth the revelations they received from God. I was converted by them. I believed they had the true religion, and I joined the Church. So far my conversion was merely a matter of reason. I had had no manifestation, but I expected one.

            “It was about two weeks later, when I went out in the woods one day to pray, that it came. I was on my knees when I heard a rustling like that of a silk dress, and something came down upon me and enveloped me. I can’t describe it, but I knew it was from the Lord. I was filled with ecstasy, and my sins seemed to have passed away. I was immersed in the presence, which stayed with me for perhaps an hour. It came again at night when I was in my bed. After that I had the power of conversion, and of healing by the laying on of my hands, and parties have told me that when my hands were placed upon them they experienced the same feelings I had in the woods. That was many, many years ago. I have been a Mormon ever since.”


            President Lorenzo Snow died of pneumonia soon after General Conference in October of 1901 after suffering for months with symptoms of heat stroke that turned into a severe cold. Then, at the October 1902 Conference, President Joseph F. Smith said of him:


One year ago today, as near as I can recall, we were honored by the presence, and with the privilege to hear the voice of President Snow. Shortly after he was called home to his final account before the great Judge of the quick and the dead. The Lord preserved his life to a goodly age, and I want to say that the Lord Almighty accomplished some things through President Lorenzo Snow that neither President John Taylor nor President Wilford Woodruff accomplished in their day. Although the same questions had been brought before them, yet they were never thoroughly decided and settled until President Snow did it. Therefore, I say, all honor and praise be unto that instrument in the hands of God of establishing order in the midst of uncertainty, and certain rules by which we know our bearings. I wish to mention this, because I feel in my heart to thank the Lord for President Snow, and to honor him as the instrument in His hands of accomplishing his mission, for which the Lord preserved him so long in life. He lived to bear his testimony to the world that Joseph Smith the Prophet taught him the doctrine of celestial [plural] marriage. He lived to declare to the world that he knew positively that Joseph Smith did receive it by revelation and that that doctrine was true and of God. And if he had done no more than this he would have accomplished a great work, because he was a living witness, an eye-witness and an ear-witness, and he knew whereof he spoke.[10]


            In these comments, President Smith likely referenced President Snow’s gentle and persuasive ability to reunify the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the days of Wilford Woodruff, to establish formally approved rules and precedent for apostolic succession in the presidency (see also the Joseph F. Smith chapter), and to so preach tithing (by the power of the Holy Ghost) to the saints that they largely and faithfully responded, paid a full tithing, and thereby relieved the Church of most of its debt before he died. This testimony also refutes those (liberal unbelievers) today who desire to reject Doctrine and Covenants section 132, the revelation establishing plural marriage in the Church until 1890 when President Woodruff issued his famous manifesto (see also D&C Official Declaration 1).


[1] Unless otherwise noted, all information and quotations found in this chapter come from the author’s previously published work, Latter Leaves in the Life of Lorenzo Snow (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, 2012); this volume should be consulted for dates and fuller information.

[2] Another account of this marvelous manifestation, when the personage of the Holy Ghost entered and enveloped the mortal body of Lorenzo Snow, is the following: 

I laid my pride, worldly ambition and aspirations upon the alter, and as humble as a child went to the waters of baptism, received the ordinance administered by an Apostle and afterward the laying on of hands.

                One evening, a few days after this, when alone, engaged in earnest prayer, the heavens were opened, the veil was rent from my mind, and then and there I received the most wonderful manifestations, grand and sublime, I believe, as man was ever permitted to receive, and beyond the power of language fully to describe.  It was shown me in that vision that there truly existed a Son of God—that Joseph Smith was really a prophet of God.

                The first intimation of the approach of that marvelous vision, was a sound just above my head like the rustling of silken robes, when immediately the Holy Spirit descended upon me enveloping my whole person, filling me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, which was a complete baptism as tangible an immersion in a Heavenly principle or element—the Holy Ghost—infinitely more real, physical in its effects upon every part of my system then was the immersion when I was baptized in water.  That night after retiring to rest the same wonderful manifestations were repeated, and continued to be several successive nights.  From that time to the present on numerous occasions, miraculous manifestations of the Divine power have followed me and my administrations of the Gospel ordinances. (As quoted in Horne, Latter Leaves in the Life of Lorenzo Snow, 443 [443-449]).

[3] Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, ed., “The Iowa Journal of Lorenzo Snow,” BYU Studies 24:3 (1984), 268–69. Slightly edited for modern punctuation and spelling. Although adding no detail, in substantiation of this account, in his diary, President George Q. Cannon wrote, “Sunday, October 1, 1899: I attended fast meeting in the temple this morning. President Snow opened the meeting by relating a vision that he had at Mount Pisgah, when he was apparently at the point of death. . . . There was a very good spirit in the meeting” (George Q. Cannon diary; Church Historian’s Press, October 1, 1899).

[4] George Q. Cannon diary, January 29, 1891.

[5] Lorenzo was also selected as the President of the newly dedicated Salt Lake Temple. President George Q. Cannon recorded: “This afternoon the time [in the general conference] was occupied by Brothers Joseph F. Smith and Lorenzo Snow. I never heard the latter speak better in my life than he did at this meeting. After the meeting was dismissed I asked President Woodruff if his mind had rested upon anyone to act as president of the Salt Lake Temple. I said that of course as President of the Church he was president of the Temple, but he had duties to perform which would preclude his spending much time in the Temple. He said that his mind had not rested on anyone, but he thought that it should be one of the Apostles. I also felt that one of them should have the place, and told him that while I did not want to say, I would suggest that Brother Lorenzo act in this capacity. President Woodruff was much pleased with the suggestion and thanked the Lord for it. He said he relied a great deal on me in these things, that I had a great many revelations and was his counselor, and he wished me to freely make suggestions” (George Q. Cannon diary, April 4, 1893).

[6] Leroi C. Snow, “An Experience of my Father’s,” as quoted in Horne, Latter Leaves in the Life of Lorenzo Snow, 261-65. Some (usually unbelieving critics) who are familiar with the loose and often unreliable writings of Leroi C. Snow, have attempted to cast doubt on this account. For this reason, both this chapter and my Latter Leaves in the Life of Lorenzo Snow contain thorough examination and documentation of the experience as recorded and substantiated in several sources; there is no question it occurred; see also note 5.

[7] Correspondence, Noah S. Pond to Elder John A. Widstoe, November 12, 1946; located in the LDS Church History Library, previously unpublished. This visitation by Jesus to President Snow as recorded by Allie Pond and related by LeRoi Snow was officially investigated for verification, resulting in the aforementioned letter in the main text. Elder Widstoe had written the following inquiry to Noah Pond:

                “I have been asked by the Council of the Twelve to look into the historical evidence concerning the divine manifestation received by President Snow shortly before his accession to the Presidency of the Church. Your splendid and devoted wife is reported by LeRoi C. Snow to have heard her grandfather tell her in some detail of this manifestation. According to this report, President Snow is reported to have said that he saw the Savior in the passage leading from the Celestial room to his office, now used as the sealing room [office]. Your wife must have told you the story often.

                “Would you be good enough to tell me if the report is essentially correct. We all know from unquestioned evidence that President Snow had a divine manifestation in the temple at that time. Did he tell his granddaughter that he actually saw the Savior and where? All this is merely to complete the story for the brethren here and for others who may be interested. It seems to me that you are the best living witness” (Correspondence, Elder John A. Widstoe to Noah S. Pond, October 30, 1946; CHL, unpublished). Alice Pond died in 1943, three years previous to this correspondence exchange. Noah Pond’s quoted statement, “in passing from his room he halted at the designated spot,” is the best verification available of LeRoi Snow’s assertions of exactly where in the Salt Lake Temple Jesus Christ appeared to President Snow. This location is understood to be at some mid-point in the large balcony hallway, above the main staircase, between the Celestial Room and what now serves as a temple sealer’s office, but in 1898 was probably President Snow’s living quarters.

[8] “Unchangeable Love of God,” in Collected Discourses 5, September 18, 1898.

[9] For an in-depth review of the tithing prophecy myth, see Horne, Latter Leaves in the Live of Lorenzo Snow, 307-27 and Dennis B. Horne, “Reexamining Lorenzo Snow’s 1899 Tithing Revelation,” Mormon Historical Studies 14:2 (Fall 2013), 143-53.

[10] Conference Report, October 1902, 87.

1 comment:

  1. Lorenzo Snow is one of my most admired heroes. Thank you for writing this article, Dennis.