Lorenzo Snow

Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 49–55.

Lorenzo Snow portrait

Born: 3 April 1814, Mantua, Ohio

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: 12 February 1849 (age 34)

Additional counselor to President

Brigham Young: 8 April 1873

Assistant counselor to President

Brigham Young: 9 May 1874

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: 29 August 1877

President of the Quorum of the Twelve: 7 April 1889

President of the Church: 13 September 1898 (age 84)

Died: 10 October 1901 (age 87), Salt Lake City Utah

Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the Church, led a life interlaced with miracles. His very countenance reflected his closeness to the Lord. One traveler, the Reverend Dr. Prentis of North Carolina, observed, “When I was introduced to Pres. Lorenzo Snow . . . I was startled to see the holiest face but one I had ever been privileged to look upon. His face was a poem of peace, his presence a benediction of peace. . . . The strangest feeling stole over me, that I stood on holy ground. . . . The picture of that slight, venerable form hallowed with the aura of an ineffable peace will haunt my heart like the vision of a celestial picture.” [1]

President Snow was born under more opportune circumstances than most early leaders of the Church—his family of Mantua, Ohio, having been quite well-to-do. In his youth he attended schools near his home and planned to pursue a military career, a choice that his beloved older sister, Eliza, opposed heartily. Religion played no important role in his early life. When he attended Oberlin College to prepare for his chosen vocation, he noted that although Oberlin was supposed to have the epitome of a fine Protestant atmosphere, it fell far short of his expectations. He said, “If there is nothing better than is to be found here in Oberlin College, goodbye to all religions.” [2]

Shortly after this time Eliza joined the Latter-day Saints, and Lorenzo came to Kirtland at her suggestion. Here in Kirtland, he became further acquainted with the remarkable Prophet. An amazing transformation took place in Lorenzo’s life. Up until that time he was ambitious in the things of the world and desirous of becoming prominent in the pursuit of a military career. In Kirtland, he joined the Church, leaving behind his worldly pursuits. Two weeks after his baptism while praying in the woods, he received forceful confirmation of the truthfulness of the latter-day work. He recorded in his journal, “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 O, the joy and happiness I felt! . . . 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 fullness of the Gospel.” [3]

Not long after his baptism he received a marvelous patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith Sr., foretelling the great spiritual power he would possess, enumerating his marvelous gifts of the Spirit—which would include healing and even raising the dead—and making this unparalleled promise: “There shall not be a mightier man on earth than thou.” [4]

The next ten years of Lorenzo Snow’s life were spent in serving four missions for the Church—two to Ohio, one to Kentucky and Illinois, and one to England, where he helped increase the membership of the Church several times over. Following his return from these missions, he made the trek to Utah and there, in February 1849, was chosen as an apostle. The next winter, a small band of missionaries including Elder Snow set out on a treacherous journey across the plains to fulfill a mission to Italy. Again the Lord paved the way of this faithful man with miracles. As he and the other missionaries made their way across the snow-laden prairies, the wind preceded them, blowing the snow from their pathways and making it relatively easy for them to advance.

Once a warring band of two hundred Indians descended upon the small company with the obvious intent of doing violence to them. They were rushing toward the group of missionaries “like a mighty torrent.” Brother Snow recorded: “They approached within a few paces, and in another moment we should be overwhelmed, when lo, an alarm like an electric shock struck through their ranks and stayed their career, as an avalanche, sweeping down the mountain side, stops in the midst of its course by a hand unseen. The Lord had said, ‘Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.’” [5] A third time the Lord intervened to expedite the journey of his servants: “When we arrived on the banks of the great Missouri, her waters immediately congealed for the first time during the season, thus forming a bridge over which we passed to the other side; this was no sooner accomplished than the torrent ran as before.” [6]

In Italy Elder Snow almost despaired of finding any favorable reception to the gospel message. However, earnest prayer led him to a group of Protestants in the Piedmont, and following another miraculous manifestation—the healing of one of their little boys—he was able to make a few converts. On this missionary journey, he also traveled to Switzerland, Sicily, and Malta, in an effort to open the whole world for the preaching of the gospel. [7]

first presidency and 12 apostlesFirst Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, 1901. President Lorenzo Snow with counselors George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, clockwise from left: President Brigham Young Jr., Francis M. Lyman, John Henry Smith, George Teasdale, Heber J. Grant, John W. Taylor, Marriner W. Merrill, Anthon H. Lund, Matthias F. Cowley, Abraham O. Woodruff, Rudger Clawson, and Reed Smoot

This time when Lorenzo Snow returned to Utah, his calling became the strengthening of his own people. He labored diligently to raise the educational level of the Saints, organizing a culture and science society and furthering the cause of higher learning. He made two more missionary journeys for the Church; the first one was to Hawaii, where he was drowned in a boating accident and then miraculously brought back to life an hour later by the inspired application of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, a practice that was relatively unknown at the time. [8] The second missionary journey was to the Holy Land to rededicate it for the return of the Jews.

Shortly after Elder Snow had comfortably established his family in a new home in Salt Lake City, President Brigham Young assigned him to move to Brigham City to strengthen the economic position of that community. Here he demonstrated marvelous talents of leadership and industry as he organized cooperative businesses one after another, from which the entire community benefited. His spiritual powers were also tapped, as at this time the fulfillment of one part of his patriarchal blessing occurred. To the astonishment of everyone, he brought back to life a young girl, Ella Jensen, who had been dead for two hours. Elder Snow told her in the blessing he gave: “You shall yet live to perform a great mission.” [9] She lived to become the mother of eight children.

In 1893 Brother Snow was chosen to be the first president of the Salt Lake Temple. A friend commented on this appropriate choice: “He has ever been interested in Temple work. He is spiritually minded to a very high degree, and with his heavenly countenance and sweet, gentle dignity, no one living is better, if so well qualified.” [10]

Lorenzo Snow obeyed the law of plural marriage and was the father of a large family. One day in his eighty-second year he had a mysterious experience. While in the temple he heard a voice three nights in a row calling, “Papa! Papa! Papa!” It seemed incredible that another child should be born to him, but one year later his youngest wife, Minnie Jensen, gave birth to a little daughter, Lucille Snow Tracy. She lived until 1976, which was 162 years after her own father’s birth.

In 1898 the president of the Church, Wilford Woodruff, died. Lorenzo Snow was at that time eighty-four years old; he did not want to be president of the Church and take on the immense burdens of administration and financial struggle in which the Church was then immersed. But his calling was the Lord’s will. He had a beautiful spiritual experience while supplicating the Lord in the temple. For three days he received no answer to his prayers, and then as he was leaving the temple, a glorious manifestation was given. Later he showed one of his granddaughters the place where it happened and said, “It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. . . . He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.” She recalled: “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 [Grandpa] 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.’” [11]


[1] Thomas C. Romney, Life of Lorenzo Snow, Fifth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Sugarhouse, 1955), 2–3.

[2] Eliza R. Snow Smith, 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 Company Printers, 1884), 5.

[3] Snow, Biography and Family Record, 7–8.

[4] LeRoi C. Snow, “Devotion to a Divine Inspiration,” Improvement Era, June 1919,655.

[5] Preston Nibley, The Presidents of the Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1959), 183.

[6] Nibley, The Presidents of the Church, 183.

[7] Smith, Biography and Family Record, 211–12.

[8] Francis M. Gibbons, Lorenzo Snow: Spiritual Giant, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 94–96.

[9] LeRoi C. Snow, “Raised from the Dead,” Improvement Era, September 1929, 885.

[10] Nibley, The Presidents of the Church, 201.

[11] LeRoi C. Snow, “An Experience of My Father’s,” Improvement Era, September 1933,677.