President Lorenzo Snow: A Revelation on Tithing

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 183


President Wilford Woodruff died in 1898 and the prophetic mantle fell on the experienced shoulders of President Lorenzo Snow, then 85 years old. No previous Church President had entered office at such an advanced age. Latter-day Saints looked to the new century with great hope and optimism. The missionary and temple work continued to progress, and the serious financial debt of the Church was addressed and resolved.

His Life (1814–1901)

1814

Born on April 3 to Oliver and Rosetta Leonora Pettibone Snow in Mantua, Ohio

1836

Age 22, baptized on June 19 in the Chagrin River, which runs through Kirtland, Ohio

1837

Age 23, served a mission to Ohio

1838–39

Age 24–25, served a mission to Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio

1840–43

Age 26–29, served a mission to Great Britain

1845

Age 31, married Charlotte Merrill Squires, Mary Adelaine Goddard, Sarah Ann Prichard, and Harriet Amelia Squires on January 17

1849

Age 34, ordained an Apostle by Heber C. Kimball on February 12

1849–52

Age 35–38, served a mission to Italy, England, Switzerland, and Malta

1864

Age 50, served a short mission to the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands

1873–77

Age 59–63, served as counselor to President Brigham Young

1885

Age 71, served a mission to the Indians of northwestern United States

1898

Age 84, sustained as President of the Church on September 13, after the death of President Wilford Woodruff on September 2; retained Presidents George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith as counselors

1901

Age 87, died October 10 in Salt Lake City after three years as President of the Church

His Presidency (1898–1901)

 

1898

Jesus Christ appeared to him in the Salt Lake Temple and told him not to wait to reorganize the First Presidency; the first full-time single sister missionaries were called

1899

Received a revelation to teach the importance of the law of tithing

1901

Missions in Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, and Germany were opened

President Lorenzo Snow and Tithing

1. “After the death of President Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, became President of the Church. He was a wise and loving leader who had been prepared well for his responsibilities. He had known and been taught by every latter-day prophet up to that time. In November 1900, he told the Saints assembled in the Tabernacle that he had often visited the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family, dined at his table, and had private interviews with him. He knew Joseph was a prophet of God because the Lord had shown him this truth ‘most clearly and completely’ [“The Redemption of Zion,”Millennial Star,Nov. 29, 1900, 754].

2. “During President Snow’s administration, the Church faced serious financial difficulties that had been brought about by the federal government’s legislation against plural marriage. President Snow pondered and prayed for guidance about how to free the Church from its debilitating debt. Following the April 1899 general conference, he felt inspired to visit St. George, Utah. While speaking at a meeting there he paused for some time, and when he continued, he declared that he had received a revelation. The people of the Church had neglected the law of tithing, and the Lord had told him that if Church members more faithfully paid a full tithing, blessings would be showered upon them.

3. “The prophet preached the importance of tithing to congregations throughout Utah. The Saints obeyed his counsel, and that year they paid twice as much tithing as the previous year. By 1907, the Church possessed sufficient funds to pay all its creditors and become debt-free.

Tithing Certificate

4. “In 1898, at a reception for the general board of the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association, President George Q. Cannon announced that the First Presidency had made a decision to call ‘some of our wise and prudent women into the missionary field’ [“Biographical Sketches: Jennie Brimhall and Inez Knight,”Young Women’s Journal,June 1898, 245]. Before this time, a few sisters had accompanied their husbands on missions, but this was the first time that the Church had officially called and set apart sisters as missionary ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. While sisters do not have the duty to serve missions, in the past decades thousands have exercised this privilege and served the Lord valiantly as full-time missionaries.

5. “President Lorenzo Snow led the Church into the twentieth century. When the new century dawned, the Church had 43 stakes, 20 missions, and 967 wards and branches. There were 283,765 members, most of whom resided in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. Four temples were in operation, and theJuvenile Instructor, Improvement Era,andYoung Women’s Journalcarried articles about the Church to its members. Rumors circulated that at least one new mission might be opened, and Latter-day Saints could scarcely imagine what the next hundred years would bring. Yet they were confident that prophecies concerning the destiny of the Church would be fulfilled” (Our Heritage,103–4).

Understanding the Reading

President Lorenzo Snow and Tithing

Debilitating(par. 2)Heavy, crushing 
Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association(par. 4)The name for the first young women’s organization in the Church 
Ambassadors(par. 4)Official representatives 

The Teachings and Testimony of Lorenzo Snow

6. President Lorenzo Snow wrote about “a circumstance which occurred a short time [before a mission to England in 1840]—one which has been riveted on my memory, never to be erased, so extraordinary was the manifestation. At the time, I was at the house of Elder H. G. Sherwood; he was endeavering to explain the parable of our Savior, when speaking of the husbandman who hired servants and sent them forth at different hours of the day to labor in his vineyard.

7. “While attentively listening to his explanation, the Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon me—the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I saw as clear as the sun at noonday, with wonder and astonishment, the pathway of God and man. I formed the following couplet which expresses the revelation, as it was shown me. …

8. As man now is, God once was:

As God now is, man may be

9. “I felt this to be a sacred communication” (in Eliza R. Snow,Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow[1884], 46).

10. “You sisters, I suppose, have read that poem which my sister, Eliza R. Snow Smith, composed, years ago, and which is sung quite frequently now in our meetings [ “O My Father,”Hymns,no. 292]. It tells us that we not only have a Father in ‘that high and glorious place,’ but that we have a Mother, too; and you sisters will become as great as your Mother, if you are faithful” (in LeRoi C. Snow, “Devotion to a Divine Inspiration,”Improvement Era,June 1919, 658).

11. Before Wilford Woodruff received the revelation that ended the practice of plural marriage (Official Declaration 1), many members of the Church decided to stop paying tithing because of the laws that were passed that took money and property away from the Church. Because of these circumstances, the Church was deeply in debt. On May 8, 1899, soon after becoming President of the Church, President Lorenzo Snow was speaking at a stake conference in St. George, Utah. While he was speaking, he paused as he received a revelation from the Lord. He then said that he could , as he had never realized before, how the law of tithing had been ignored. He said: “The word of the Lord to you is not anything new; it is simply this: THE TIME HAS NOW COME FOR EVERYLATTER-DAYSAINT, WHO CALCULATES TO BE PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE AND TO HOLD HIS FEET STRONG UPON A PROPER FOUNDATION, TO DO THE WILL OF THELORD AND TO PAY HIS TITHING IN FULL. That is the word of the Lord to you, and it will be the word of the Lord to every settlement throughout the land of Zion” (“Discourse by President Lorenzo Snow,”Millennial Star,Aug. 24, 1899, 533).

12. About two weeks after he was baptized, Lorenzo Snow went to a grove of trees to pray for a greater testimony. He wrote: “I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray, than 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 fulness of the Gospel” (in Snow,Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow,8).

13. President Snow’s granddaughter, Allie Young Pond, shared the following story:

14. “One evening while I was visiting grandpa Snow in his room in the Salt Lake Temple, I remained until the door keepers had gone and the night-watchmen had not yet come in, so grand-pa said he would take me to the main front entrance and let me out that way. He got his bunch of keys from his dresser. After we left his room and while we were still in the large corridor leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of grand-pa when he stopped me and said: ‘Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff.’

15. “Then grand-pa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: ‘He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.’

16. “Grand-pa 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.

17. “Then he came another step nearer and put his right hand on my head and said: ‘Now, grand-daughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grand-father, 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’ ” (in LeRoi C. Snow, “An Experience of My Father’s,”Improvement Era,Sept. 1933, 677).

Understanding the Reading

The Teachings and Testimony of Lorenzo Snow

Couplet(par. 7)Two rhyming lines of verse 
Composed(par. 10)Wrote 
Rustling(par. 12)Soft clear sounds 
Enveloping(par. 12)Covering, surrounding 
Corridor(par. 14)Hallway 

Studying the Reading

Do activity A or B as you study “President Lorenzo Snow.”

Activity A iconPreparing for Missionary Service

  1. 1.

    ReadDoctrine and Covenants 4:1–7and list five qualities mentioned there that you think are important to being a successful missionary.

  2. 2.

    Select five stories, events, or teachings from President Lorenzo Snow’s life that you believe show he possessed those qualities.

  3. 3.

    Choose one of those qualities that you would like to develop more fully in your life and explain why it is important to you and what you can do to be better prepared in that area.

Activity B iconGive a Brief Explanation

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “Some people say, ‘I can’t afford to pay tithing.’ Those who place their faith in the Lord’s promises say, ‘I can’t afford not to pay tithing’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 44; orEnsign,May 1994, 34).

  1. 1.

    StudyMalachi 3:8–12and list the blessings promised there to those who pay an honest tithing.

  2. 2.

    From your reading of “The Teachings and Testimony of Lorenzo Snow” (paragraphs 6–17), describe the blessings you that have come to the Church because of faithful Saints who live the law of tithing.

  3. 3.

    What blessings have you received and will receive from paying an honest tithe?