Lorenzo Snow: Course of Study for 2013

  By Clyde J. Williams, assistant director of Correlation Evaluation for the Church

  • 3 January 2013

President Lorenzo Snow’s life experiences became the foundation for much of what he taught. 

Article Highlights

  • In 2013 the course of study for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society is based on the teachings of Lorenzo Snow.
  • In addition to central Church doctrines, President Snow’s teachings addressed the role of women in the work of the Lord, how to approach striving for perfection, and many more relevant topics.
  • President Snow’s unselfishness and dedication to the work of the Lord is reflected in the following statement: “I don’t want this administration to be known as Lorenzo Snow’s administration, but as God’s, in and through Lorenzo Snow.”

“I know that Lorenzo Snow was God’s mouthpiece upon the earth, that he was the representative of the Lord, and that he was in very deed a prophet of God.”  —Heber J. Grant, seventh President of the Church

As the fifth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lorenzo Snow was the last prophet not born and raised a member of the Church and the last to have, as an adult, personally known the Prophet Joseph Smith. Couple these facts with his experiences in Kirtland, Ohio; Far West, Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; the trek across the plains in 1848; and his role as prophet, seer, and revelator at the conclusion of the 19th century, and we are blessed with one who was uniquely prepared to lead the Church in his day.

In 2013 the course of study for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society is based on the teachings of Lorenzo Snow. This volume of study comprises the 11th in the ongoing series of “Teachings of Presidents of the Church.” President Snow served as the President of the Church from September 1898 to October 1901, following the death of President Wilford Woodruff.

In June 1836, Lorenzo was baptized a member of the Church. A short time later he was asked if he had received the Holy Ghost. He recalled: “That question struck me almost with consternation. The fact was, while I had received all I needed perhaps, I had not received that which I had anticipated” (Teachings: Lorenzo Snow, 6). Feeling dissatisfied, he retired in the evening to a place where he was accustomed to praying. On this occasion the answer to his prayer came immediately. Concerning the impact of this important event, President Snow declared:

“I received a perfect knowledge that there was a God, that Jesus, who died upon Calvary, was His Son, and that Joseph the Prophet had received the authority which he professed to have. The satisfaction and the glory of that manifestation no language can express! I returned to my lodgings. I could now testify to the whole world that I knew, by positive knowledge, that the Gospel of the Son of God had been restored, and that Joseph was a Prophet of God, authorized to speak in His name” (Teachings: Lorenzo Snow, 7).  

President Snow’s life experiences became the foundation for much of what he taught. In a blessing received from Joseph Smith Sr., he was promised, “You will become as great as you can possibly wish—even as great as God” (Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow [1884], 10). This led him to continually reflect and ponder the scriptures until in 1840 he received the following spiritual impression: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, 83). This knowledge, which was later confirmed by the Prophet Joseph Smith, came to influence what he taught the remainder of his life. 

President Snow was also profoundly affected by the many trials and tests that he experienced and by those he saw his fellow Saints endure. He experienced the trials of the Saints in Ohio, Missouri, Nauvoo, and crossing the plains to the Mountain West. He served missions to England and Italy in nearly destitute circumstances. He was drowned and miraculously revived while on a short mission to Hawaii. All these trials and many more led him to the firm conviction that “it is impossible for us to work out our salvation and accomplish the purposes of God without trials or without sacrifices” (Teachings: Lorenzo Snow, 110).  

In 1853 he was given an assignment by Brigham Young to take 50 families and settle a community north of Salt Lake City. This community he called Brigham City in honor of President Young. He eventually established the United Order in Brigham City, and his success in this endeavor was unequaled among all the communities of the Saints. Of this effort Brigham Young said, “Brother Lorenzo Snow, who has charge of you, has set the best example for the literal building up of the kingdom of God of any of our presiding Elders” (in Thomas C. Romney, The Life of Lorenzo Snow [1955], 334). From these experiences he learned the importance of unity and oneness, of service and sacrifice, and of doing good to others.

In our study of the teachings of Lorenzo Snow this coming year, many significant questions and issues will be addressed, such as:

  • What is the role of women in the work of the Lord?
  • How should we approach striving for perfection?
  • What happens to those who have no opportunity to marry in this life?
  • How often can we enjoy manifestations of the Spirit?
  • What happens to those who allow worldliness and speculation to overcome their minds?

These and many more relevant topics are addressed in President Snow’s teachings.  

Perhaps that which President Snow is most remembered for was his renewed emphasis on tithing. President Snow inherited the pressing problems of the Church’s financial debt, which had come in part because of the years of persecution and legal expenses incurred over plural marriage. He prayerfully sought a solution to the Church’s financial problems and was directed by the Lord to take a trip to St. George, Utah. While addressing the Saints on May 18, 1899, he made clear what the Lord had revealed to him when he said:

“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” (Teachings: Lorenzo Snow, 157).

President Snow went on to say, “What I say to you in this Stake of Zion I will say to every Stake of Zion that has been organized. There is no man or woman that now hears what I am saying who will feel satisfied if he or she fails to pay a full tithing” (Teachings: Lorenzo Snow, 158).

Over the next several years the Church was able to remove itself from debt. As to the success of President Snow’s efforts to bring the Church out of financial despair, President Heber J. Grant said:

“[He] came to the presidency of the Church when he was eighty-five years of age, and what he accomplished during the next three years of his life is simply marvelous to contemplate. He lifted the Church ... from almost financial bankruptcy ... and made its credit A No. 1. ... This man, beyond the age of ability in the estimation of the world, this man who had not been engaged in financial affairs, ... took hold of the finances of the Church of Christ, under the inspiration of the living God, and in those three years changed everything, financially, from darkness to light.

“I know that Lorenzo Snow was God’s mouthpiece upon the earth, that he was the representative of the Lord, and that he was in very deed a Prophet of God” (“Inspiration and Integrity of the Prophets,” Improvement Era, Aug. 1919, 847).

President Snow did not believe that the primary reason for paying tithing was to remove the Church from debt. Rather he taught, “I believe truly if the Latter-day Saints will conform with this law [tithing] we can claim deliverance from every evil that may come upon us” (Teachings: Lorenzo Snow, 163).

President Snow’s unselfishness and dedication to the work of the Lord is reflected in the following statement he made to the Quorum of the Twelve when they sustained him to become President of the Church. To them he said, “I don’t want this administration to be known as Lorenzo Snow’s administration, but as God’s, in and through Lorenzo Snow” (in Orson F. Whitney, “Lorenzo Snow,” Juvenile Instructor, Jan. 1, 1900, 3).

Such were the feelings of this prophet, seer, and revelator whose teachings we are privileged to study this coming year.