President Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was born April 3, 1814, at Mantua, Ohio. He was invited by his sister Eliza, then teaching school in Kirtland, to come to Kirtland to enter a class in Hebrew. On the way he met Elder David W. Patten, who began to teach him the gospel. He was baptized in Kirtland in June 1836 by Elder John Boynton.
The following spring Lorenzo Snow was on his first mission, traveling through Ohio without purse and scrip (Luke 22:35). Other missions included one to Great Britain, where he presented the Book of Mormon to Queen Victoria; a mission to take the gospel to Italy; and missionary service in Switzerland and in Hawaii.
Elder Snow was sustained an apostle February 12, 1849, at Salt Lake City. Shortly after the death of President Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow was sustained as president of the Church September 13, 1898. President Snow is to be remembered for reemphasizing the law of tithing as the will of the Lord. A characteristic of his sermons and writings is an unbounded faith—a reaching out toward the infinite, with emphasis on the glory of man’s estate and the possibilities and perfectness of his future. President Snow died at Salt Lake City, on October 19, 1901.
This talk delivered at general conference in Salt Lake City, Monday, April 7, 1979, is reprinted from Journal of Discourses, volume 20, pages 187–192.
“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” (Gen. 17:1.)
In connection with this I will quote part of the words of the Savior in his sermon on the Mount, as contained in the last verse of the 5th chapter of Matthew.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.)
In occupying a short time this morning, I desire an interest in your faith and prayers.
We learn that the Lord appeared to Abraham and made him very great promises and that before he was prepared to receive them a certain requirement was made of him, that he should become perfect before the Lord. And the same requirement was made by the Savior of his disciples, that they should become perfect, even as he and his Father in heaven were perfect.
The Lord proposes to confer the highest blessings upon the Latter-day Saints; but, like Abraham, we must prepare ourselves for them, and to do this the same law that was given to him of the Lord has been given to us for our observance. We also are required to arrive at a state of perfection before the Lord; and the Lord in this case, the same as in every other, has not made a requirement that cannot be complied with.
When the Lord made this requirement of Abraham, He gave him the means by which he could become qualified to obey that law and come up fully to the requirement. He had the privilege of the Holy Spirit; as we are told the Gospel was preached to Abraham, and through that Gospel he could obtain that divine aid which would enable him to understand the things of God, and without it no man could arrive at a state of perfection before the Lord.
Although Abraham might have had faith to walk before the Lord according to this divine law, yet there were times when his faith was sorely tried, but still he was not discouraged because he exercised a determination to comply with the will of God. We may think that we cannot live up to the perfect law, that the work of perfecting ourselves is too difficult. This may be true in part, but the fact still remains that it is a command of the Almighty to us and we cannot ignore it. When we experience trying moments, then is the time for us to avail ourselves of that great privilege of calling upon the Lord for strength and understanding, intelligence and grace by which we can overcome the weakness of the flesh.
The Lord designs to bring us up into the celestial kingdom. He has made known, through direct revelation, that we are His offspring, begotten in the eternal worlds, that we have come to this earth for the special purpose of preparing ourselves to receive a fullness of our Father’s glory when we shall return into his presence. Therefore, we must seek the ability to keep this law, to sanctify our motives, desires, feelings and affections, that they may be pure and holy, and our will in all things be subservient to the will of God, and have no will of our own except to do the will of our Father. Such a man in his sphere is perfect, and commands the blessing of God in all that he does and wherever he goes.
But we are subject to folly, to the weakness of the flesh, and we are more or less ignorant, thereby liable to err. Yes, but that is no reason why we should not feel desirous to comply with this command of God, especially seeing that he has placed within our reach the means of accomplishing this work. This I understand is the meaning of the word perfection, as expressed by our Savior and by the Lord to Abraham. A person may be perfect in regard to some things and not others. A person who obeys the word of wisdom faithfully, is perfect as far as that law is concerned. When we repented of our sins and were baptized for the remission of them, we were perfect as far as that matter was concerned. Now we are told by the Apostle John, that we are “the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he (Christ) is pure.” (1 Jn. 3:2–3.)
The Latter-day Saints expect to arrive at this state of perfection; we expect to become as our Father and God, fit and worthy children to dwell in his presence; we expect that when the Son of God shall appear, we shall receive our bodies renewed and glorified, and that these vile bodies will be changed and become like unto his glorious body. (See Philip. 3:21.) These are our expectations.
Now let all present put this question to themselves. Are we seeking to purify ourselves? How can a Latter-day Saint feel justified in himself unless he is seeking to purify himself even as God is pure—unless he is seeking to keep his conscience void of offense before God and man (see D&C 135:4) every day of his life. Many of us, walk from day to day and from week to week, and from month to month, before God, feeling under no condemnation, conducting ourselves properly, and seeking earnestly and in all meekness for the Spirit of God to dictate our daily course; and yet there may be a certain time or times in our life, when we are greatly tried and perhaps overcome; even if this be so, that is no reason why we should not try again, and that, too, with redoubled energy and determination to accomplish our object.
If we could read in detail the life of Abraham, or the lives of other great and holy men, we would doubtless find that their efforts to be righteous were not always successful. Hence we should not be discouraged if we should be overcome in a weak moment; but, on the contrary, straightway repent of the error or the wrong we may have committed, and as far as possible repair it, and then seek to God for renewed strength to go on and do better.
Abraham could walk perfectly before God day after day when he was leaving his father’s house. There came a time in Abraham’s life, however, which must have been very trying; in fact, anything more severe can scarcely be conceived of. That was when the Lord called upon him to offer as a sacrifice his beloved and only son, even him through whom he expected the fulfillment of the great promise made him by the Lord. But through manifesting a proper disposition he was enabled to surmount the trial, and prove his faith and integrity to God. It can hardly be supposed that Abraham inherited such a state of mind from his idolatrous parents; but it is consistent to believe that under the blessing of God he was enabled to acquire it, after going through a similar warfare with the flesh as we are, and doubtless being overcome until he was enabled to stand so severe a test.
“Let this mind be in you,” says the Apostle Paul, “which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” (Philip. 2:5–6.)
Now every man that has this object before him will purify himself as God is pure, and try to walk perfectly before him. We have our little follies and our weaknesses; we should try to overcome them as fast as possible, and we should implant this feeling in the hearts of our children, that the fear of God may grow up with them from their very youth, and that they may learn to conduct themselves properly before him under all circumstances. If the husband can live with his wife one day without quarreling, or without treating anyone unkindly or without grieving the Spirit of God in any way, that is well so far; he is so far perfect. Then let him try to be the same the next day. But supposing he should fail in this, his next day’s attempt? That is no reason why he should not succeed in doing so the third day. If the Apostle Peter had become discouraged at his manifest failure to maintain the position that he had taken to stand by the Savior under all circumstances, he would have lost all; whereas, by repenting and persevering, he lost nothing but gained all, leaving us, too, to profit by his experience.
The Latter-day Saints should cultivate this ambition constantly which was so clearly set forth by the apostles in former days. We should try to walk each day so that our conscience would be void of offense before everybody. And God has placed in the Church certain means by which we can be assisted, namely, apostles and prophets, and evangelists, etc.” for the perfecting of the Saints,” etc. (see Eph. 4:11, 12.) And he has also conferred upon his Holy Spirit which is an unerring guide, standing, as an angel of God, at our side, telling us what to do, and affording us strength and succor when adverse circumstances arise in our way.
When we once get it into our minds that we really have the power within ourselves through the gospel we have received to conquer our passions, our appetites and in all things submit our will to the will of our Heavenly Father, and, instead of being the means of generating unpleasant feeling in our family circle, and those with whom we are associated, to assist greatly to create a little heaven upon earth, then the battle may be said to be half won.
One of the chief difficulties that many suffer from is that we are too apt to forget the great object of life, the motive of our Heavenly Father in sending us here to put on mortality, as well as the holy calling with which we have been called; and hence, instead of rising above the little transitory things of this life, we too often allow ourselves to come down to the level of the world without availing ourselves of the divine help which God has instituted, which alone can enable us to overcome them. We are not better than the rest of the world if we do not cultivate the determination to be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect.
This was the exhortation of the Savior to the former-day Saints, who were a people of like passions and who were subject to the same temptations as ourselves and he knew whether the people could conform to it or not; the Lord never has, nor will he require things of his children which it is impossible for them to perform. The Elders of Israel who expect to go forth to preach the gospel of salvation in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, (see Philip. 2:15) among a people who are full of evil and corruption, should cultivate this spirit especially. And not only they, but everybody, every young man and woman belonging to this Church who is worthy to be called a Saint should cultivate this desire to live up to this requirement that their consciences may be clear before God. It is a beautiful thing, either in young or old, to have this object in view; it is especially delightful to see our young people take a course that the light and intelligence of God can beam in their countenances, that they may have a correct understanding of life, and be able to live above the follies and vanities of the world and the errors and wickedness of man.
May God bless you, brethren and sisters, and pour out His Holy Spirit upon you, that you may be blessed in all your acts, in your incomings and your outgoings and in the performance of every duty, and be blessed in calling upon the Almighty, that His Spirit may be in you as a well of water springing up to everlasting life, (see D&C 63:23) to guide you through your fear or respect of Him throughout your life, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus. Amen.