Saturday, March 19, 2011

Precise, Punctual, Poet, Presidentess

Eliza R. Snow

Can I tell you of the fun that I had today playing the role of Eliza R. Snow in our Relief Society Training Meeting?  In an attempt to follow Sister Beck's admonition to study and learn about the history of Relief Society, we each chose one past RS President to talk about.  I talked about Eliza R. Snow using four props to tell stories from her life.  I also dressed up like her!  Her life is so unique and impressive.  Just four stories really won't tell you even a fraction of what she accomplished in her lifetime, but perhaps you will remember these stories and the lessons taught therein each time you see one of these fairly common objects:

A pocket watch, an autograph book, a golden pencil, an umbrella.

Here are the notes that I used to base my presentation on today:  (Much of my remarks came from this talk.)

Many of the experiences Eliza had yearned for as a woman had been denied her or thwarted. Her beloved husband, the Prophet Joseph Smith, had been cruelly murdered after only two short years of marriage. She had never been blessed with a home or children of her own. All the love and wisdom her heart had stored up had burst into the flame of a poetic fire that inspired and comforted the Saints of her day and of future generations. She clothed her profound theology in verse.  As you listen to stories of her experience, note how stalwart she was and how she employed her natural, God-given talents and passions to further the work of the Lord.

In Winter 1830–31 Met Joseph Smith at her parents’ home, Mantua, Ohio
5 April 1835 Baptized a member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints


What was Eliza R. Snow like? For one thing, she was precise and punctual. She carried a large pocket watch on a gold chain and referred to it often during her busy day. She was meticulous and feminine, and she loved elegant, high-fashion clothes. 

In addition to being precise and punctual, she was also a poet and later earned the nickname of “Presidentess” as she played important roles in the forming and leading of the Women’s, YW, and children’s organizations of the church.

It has been said that she had great decision of character and that So deep were her convictions and potent her sense of morality, that we believe she would more readily have surrendered her life than act in opposition to them.”

She was the second born of seven children and sister to Lorenzo Snow (5th President of the church).  She loved the bible and sought after the spiritual gifts mentioned therein.  She was a brilliant pupil of the scriptures and also became proficient in the domestic arts, needlework, weaving, and cooking.

Eliza’s motto was “Prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.”


The year 1835 was a critical year in Eliza’s life, for with the publication of her beautiful poems, she had become famous and sought after. Her autograph album contains the priceless signatures of Queen Victoria of England, Charles Dickens, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Susan B. Anthony, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Victor Hugo, Abraham Lincoln, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, to name but a few.

In 1837 she joined the saints in Kirtland.

In 1842, when the RS was organized by the prophet Joseph Smith, she was elected to be secretary.


Along with her poetic nature, Eliza had a profound, exalted, spiritual temperament. Her sublime reverence for God and man’s relationship to him was immortally expressed in her “Invocation, of the Eternal Father and Mother,” which begins with the words “O my Father.” She wrote this poem in a little attic room in the home of Stephen Markham in Nauvoo in the spring of 1845, about a year after the martyrdom of the Prophet. She had been given temporary shelter in the Markham home, and her little room had bare walls and floor, except for a small rag rug beside her bed. On a small bedside table lay the Holy Bible, her beloved Book of Mormon, and a tiny gold pencil the Prophet had given her and with which she wrote this immortal poem. (See Hymns, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no. 139.)

Eliza was one of the first persons to leave Nauvoo in February 1846. This was the third time she had left a home for the sake of her beliefs. From the time she crossed the Mississippi until she arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, she attended the sick, assisted new mothers, wrote poems of consolation to those who lost loved ones on the trek west, and kept a daily journal. 


Brigham Young, who, solicitous of Eliza’s welfare, had married her in Nauvoo, arranged for her to travel with the Robert Peirce family and to live in the valley with his wife Clara Decker Young, one of the three women who traveled west with the first company under President Young.
That first winter Eliza and Clara shared a log room, about 18 feet square, roofed with willows and earth. Eliza’s sense of humor remained with her even in a March rainstorm, when the roof, covered with mice nests, leaked badly. Eliza sat in bed with her umbrella up all night, laughing, while it rained mice and mud.
In 1866, when the Relief Society was reorganized, Eliza was set apart as president over the entire sisterhood of the Church. She received many letters from officers in ward Relief Societies, asking about their duties and responsibilities. In 1869, in answer to such a letter, she wrote these words to Mary Lightener:
“Tell the sisters to go forth and discharge their duties in humility and faithfulness and the Spirit of God will rest upon them, and they will be blest in their labors. Let them seek for wisdom instead of power and they will have all the power they have wisdom to exercise!!!” 

Exposure and hardship, coupled with lack of good food, had weakened Eliza, and she suffered with poor health for many years. But in May 1855, when the Endowment House was dedicated, President Young asked Eliza to preside over the sisters’ work there. She reminded him of her ill health and doubted if she would be physically able to do it. The President blessed her and told her her health would improve if she would accept the call; she did accept, and almost immediately her health and strength returned and she could fulfill her obligations.
Eliza was able to continue to serve and enjoy good health for another 32 years living to the age of 84!!!  She died of old age and requested that no black be worn at her funeral.
She even wrote her own epitagh.

Eliza R Snow was faithful, courageous, talented, always a servant to others, always willing to follow God’s prophets.  She did not let life’s sorrows weigh her down, but instead shone brightly as refined gold that has been tested and found true.


Sorry this post is a tad bit quick and dirty, but it's a nice day and I want to go outside and play!  I actually shared more about Sister Snow, but perhaps I'll share more in a future post.

I am joining the new "Sunday Society" blog hop where we'll be talking about women in the history of the church and writing our own current RS histories.
Please join us at!


  1. What, no pictures of you dressed as Eliza? I had to dress as Zina D.H. Wells several years ago. I still have the costume - my girls have used it for Anne of Green Gables and other characters.

  2. You did a great job pulling this together, very interesting. I loved the gold pencil (I wish I had that) and I wonder where the autograph book is? Inspiring woman.

  3. well thanks, I learned more about a special lady important in the history of our church...

  4. Love it! I got to be Eliza this year, too!

  5. Love this story about her. She was such an amazing woman.

  6. I meant to write Zina D. H. YOUNG not Wells...that's what happens when I'm trying to type and listen to the kids fighting in the other room at the same time. :D

  7. yay! I love Eliza R. Snow. I'm reading Women of Covenant this year and I got to do the relief society history presentation at the birthday party this year. It seems that the more I learn about Eliza the more I love her. She was so influential in the formation of our Church structure. It seems like everything she did fulfilled the mission of Relief Society as given by Joseph Smith "that the Society of Sisters might provoke the brethren to good works in looking to the wants of the poor-searching after objects of charity, and in administering to their wants--to assist by correctng the morals and strengthening the virtues of the community" and "not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls.” She has inspired me to be a better RS teacher and sister.

  8. I would love to have seen you do this. I'll bet you did a wonderful job!


  9. What a fun idea! And such great stories. I am ashamed to say that I know so little about Sister Snow, so thanks for teaching me just a little. :)

  10. Huh! It is so interesting hearing these little details about Eliza! I love the story about her pocket watch. I can just imagine me, continuously looking at my phone for the time like Eliza (too bad I'm always late though...)