Eliza R. Snow

  (Redirected from Eliza Roxcy Snow)

Eliza Roxcy Snow (January 21, 1804 – December 5, 1887) was one of the most celebrated Latter Day Saint 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.

Eliza R. Snow
Bust Photo of Eliza R. Snow
2nd Relief Society General President
December 1866 (1866-12)[1][2] – December 5, 1887 (1887-12-05)[3]
PredecessorEmma Smith
SuccessorZina D. H. Young
1st Secretary of the Relief Society
1842 – 1844
Personal details
BornEliza Roxcy Snow
(1804-01-21)January 21, 1804
Becket, Massachusetts, United States
DiedDecember 5, 1887(1887-12-05) (aged 83)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting placeMormon 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 (1842–44; sealed)
Brigham Young (1844–77; deceased)
Signature of Eliza R. Snow

Early years and educationEdit

Born in Becket, Massachusetts, Eliza Roxcy Snow was the second of seven children, four daughters and three sons, of Oliver and Rosetta Snow. Her parents were of English descent; their ancestors were among the earliest settlers of New England.[4] 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 Township, Portage County, Ohio. The Snow family valued learning and saw that each child had educational opportunities.

Although a farmer by occupation, Oliver Snow performed much public business, officiating in several responsible positions. His daughter Eliza, being ten years the senior of her eldest brother, was employed as secretary, as soon as she was competent, in her father's office as justice of the peace. She was skilled in various kinds of needlework and home manufactures. Two years in succession she drew the prize awarded by the committee on manufactures, at the county fair, for the best manufactured leghorn.[4]

Early church involvementEdit

House in Mantua, Ohio where the Snow family lived from 1815 to 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 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 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 the 1930s Alice Merrill Horne wrote in her autobiography that when she was a girl she overheard a conversation that in Missouri during the 1838 Mormon War, Eliza Snow was brutally gang-raped by eight Missourians, which left her unable to have children.[5] Later, according to Alice Merrill Horne, Joseph Smith offered her marriage as a plural wife "as a way of promising her that she would still have eternal offspring and that she would be a mother in Zion."[5]

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".[6] 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 extolling his virtue.[7] 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.[8] 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".[9]

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 serviceEdit

Engraving of Eliza R. Snow

The first Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois on March 17, 1842, as a philanthropic and women's educational organization.[10] Snow served as the organization's first secretary, with Joseph Smith's wife, Emma Smith, as president. The organization was originally known as "The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo." [11] It later became known simply as "The Relief Society." For the next three years, Snow kept copious notes of the organization's meetings, including Joseph Smith's teachings on how the organization should operate. Members of the original Relief Society stopped meeting shortly after Smith's death in 1844, and the organization soon became defunct.[10]

Brigham Young led a migration of LDS Church members to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, and for the next twenty years attempts were periodically made to reestablish the organization. Until 1868, however, activity was limited, and no sustained, church-wide Relief Society existed.[12]

In 1868, Young commissioned Snow with reestablishing the Relief Society. For the next several years, Snow traveled throughout the Utah Territory helping LDS bishops organize Relief Societies in their local wards, using the notes she took as secretary in Nauvoo as the founding principles of the reestablished Relief Society.[13] "What is the object of the Female Relief Society?" Snow wrote on one occasion. "I would reply--to do good--to bring into requisition every capacity we possess for doing good, not only in relieving the poor but in saving souls."[14] Local Relief Societies soon fell under the umbrella of a church-wide, general Relief Society of which Snow served as president until 1887.[13]

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 are:

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.[20] 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


  • Snow, Eliza R. (1856). Poems: Religious, Historical and Political, Volume 1. Liverpool: F.D. Richards. OCLC 6549748.
  • Smith, George A.; Snow, Lorenzo; Schettler, Paul A.; Snow, Eliza R. (1875). Correspondence of Palestine Tourists: Comprising a Series of Letters by George A. Smith, Lorenzo Snow, Paul A. Schettler, and Eliza R. Snow, of Utah: Mostly Written While Traveling in Europe, Asia and Africa in the Years 1872 and 1873. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Steam Printing Establishment. OCLC 85796473.
  • Snow, Eliza R. (1877). Poems: Religious, Historical and Political, Volume 2. Salt Lake City: The Latter-day Saints Printing and Publishing Establishment. OCLC 6549777.
  • —— (1880). Hymns and Songs: Selected From Various Authors, for the Primary Associations of the Children of Zion. Salt Lake City: Deseret News. OCLC 5330531.
  • —— (1880). Children's Primary Tune Book. Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office.
  • —— (1881). Bible Questions and Answers for Children. Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office. OCLC 228702929.
  • —— (1884). Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret News. OCLC 4623484.

Relief Society MagazineEdit



Posthumous publicationsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Beecher, Maureen Ursenbach (1992). "Snow, Eliza R.". In Ludlow, Daniel H (ed.). 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 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. ^ a b Tullidge 1881, p. 116-.
  5. ^ a b Peggy Fletcher Stack, "Shocking historical finding: Mormon icon Eliza R. Snow was gang-raped by Missouri ruffians", The Salt Lake Tribune, 3 March 2016.
  6. ^ "The Significance of "O My Father" in the Personal Journey of Eliza R. Snow" (PDF). BYU Studies. Brigham Young University. 36 (1): 87. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
  7. ^ Times and Seasons 3 (August 1, 1842): 869.
  8. ^ Times and Seasons 3 (October 1, 1842): 940.
  9. ^ Newell, L.K. & Avery, V.T. (1994) Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, pp. 307-08, quoting Women's Exponent.[full citation needed]
  10. ^ a b Derr, Jill Mulvay (2016). The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saints Women's History. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church Historian's Press. pp. 3–16, 23–26. ISBN 9781629721507.
  11. ^ Derr, Jill Mulvay (2016). The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women's History. Salt Lake City: The Church Historian's Press. p. 271. ISBN 9781629721507.
  12. ^ Derr, Jill Mulvay (2016). The First Fifty Years of Relief Society. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church Historian's Press. pp. 177–187. ISBN 9781629721507.
  13. ^ a b Derr, Jill Mulvay (2016). The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women's History. SLC, UT: The Church Historian's Press. pp. 235–255. ISBN 9781629721507.
  14. ^ Derr, Jill Mulvay (2016). The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women's History. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church Historian's Press. pp. 272–273. ISBN 9781629721507.
  15. ^ How Great the Wisdom and the Love, Mormon Literature Website, BYU
  16. ^ Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother, Mormon Literature Website, BYU
  17. ^ Be Not Discouraged, Mormon Literature Website, BYU
  18. ^ My First View of a Western Prairie, Mormon Literature Website, BYU
  19. ^ Mental Gas, Mormon Literature Website, BYU
  20. ^ Snow, E.R. "My Father in Heaven", Times and Seasons 6 (November 15, 1845).


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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