Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter I
Lorenzo Snow's Birth and Parentage—Parents settled in Ohio.—Hardships and Privations.—Their Hospitality.—Lorenzo's early Characteristics.—Fondness for Books.—Military Aims.—Change in Pursuits.—Starts for Oberlin College.—Falls in Company with David W. Patten.—Conversation.—In College.—Eliza Embraces the Gospel.—Moves to Kirtland.—How she obtained a House and Lot.—Lorenzo in College.—Investigates.—Is disgusted.—Writes to Eliza.—Her Invitation.—He accepts and comes to Kirtland.—Studies Hebrew.—Is Baptized.—How he receives the Holy Ghost.
LORENZO SNOW, son of Oliver and Rosetta L. Pettibone Snow, was born April 3, 1814, in Mantua, Portage County, Ohio. Our father was a native of Massachusetts, our mother of Connecticut, and were descendants of the genuine Puritan stock—those who fled from religious persecution in the "old world," and landed on Plymouth Rock, of historic celebrity.
Early in the settlement of that portion of country now known as the Middle States, our parents, with their family, consisting of two daughters, Leonora, Abigail, and Eliza Roxcy, (the writer of this history,) left the home of their youth, and moved to what was at that period considered the extreme West, or, as it was sometimes styled, "the jumping off place," and settled in Mantua, Portage County, Ohio, making the eleventh family in the township. There two daughters and three sons were added to the family, to wit: Amanda Percy, Melissa, Lorenzo, Lucius Augustus, and Samuel Pearce.
Many times, and with intense interest, have their children listened to recitals of the hardships our parents encountered, and the privations they endured in that new and heavily timbered country, so very forbidding when compared with the beautiful prairie landscapes of the West. But as true and worthy representatives of our noble ancestors, our parents were proof against discouragement, surmounted every difficulty, and through the blessing of God on their efforts, created for themselves and their children an enviable home.
In their religious faith our parents were by profession Baptists, but not of the rigid, iron-bedstead order; their house was a resort for the good and intelligent of all denominations, and their hospitality was proverbial. Thus, as their children grew up they had ample opportunities for forming acquaintances with the erudite of all religious persuasions.
Without the least shadow of vanity we can truly say of our parents, their integrity was unimpeachable, and they were trustworthy in all the social relations and business transactions of life; and carefully trained their children to habits of industry, economy, and strict morality, and extended to them the best facilities for scholastic education the country at that time afforded.
Although a farmer by occupation, father was much abroad on public business, and Lorenzo, being the eldest of the three brothers, was left in charge, and early in life became accustomed to responsibilities, which he discharged with scrupulous punctuality and that inflexibility of purpose which ensures success; and from early childhood exhibited the energy and decision of character which have marked his progress in subsequent life. An unseen hand evidently was guiding him, for in his boyhood he was energetically, yet unconsciously, preparing for the position in life he was destined to occupy. Ever a student, at home as well as in school, (most of his schooling after his twelfth year was during the winter terms,) his book was his constant companion when disengaged from filial duties; and when sought by his associates, "hid up with his book" became proverbial. With the exception of one term in a High School in Ravenna, Ohio, also a special term of tuition under a Hebrew professor, he completed his scholastic training in Oberlin College, which at that time was exclusively a Presbyterian institution. Through the solicitation of an intimate friend, connected with the college, he was induced to enter, and through whose influence, as a special favor, he was admitted.
Although religiously trained from infancy, up to this time my brother had devoted little or no attention to the subject of religion, at least not sufficiently to decide in preference of any particular sect.
In the progress of his development, his ambition strongly led in the direction of military distinction, so much so, that, watching with a sisterly, jealous eye, the steps one by one, by which he gained promotion in the military road to honor, I feared lest in the course of human events his path might lead to the battle field, and his earthly career prematurely close on a gory bed. I frequently plead, entreated, and at times exhausted my stock of persuasion, but without effect.
At length he must have a first class military suit, and no one could make it so precisely to his liking as his sister; she had made his "freedom suit" (at the time referred to he had passed his twenty-first year), which every one admired—it fitted him exactly, and now this most important of all mortal habiliments should be entrusted to no other. I made the suit—it was beautiful, magnificent, and my brother donned it with as much, if not of military pride, of self-satisfaction as ever Napoleon won a battle, but it proved of short duration, for he soon felt that his ambition could not be satisfied without a collegiate education. Determined on this, he laid his military ambition on the altar, disposed of his paternal inheritance, and started for Oberlin. His classical purpose was very satisfactory to my views—forming a permanent quietus to my imaginary forebodings.
On his way to Oberlin, my brother accidentally fell in company with David W. Patten, an incident to which he frequently refers as one of those seemingly trivial occurrences in human life which leave an indelible trace. This gentleman was an early champion of the fulness of the Gospel as taught by Jesus and His Apostles in the meridian of time, and revealed in our own day through the Prophet Joseph Smith; to which cause Elder Patten fell a martyr on the 24th of October, 1838, in Missouri, during the terrible scenes of persecution through which the Latter-day Saints passed in that State. He possessed a mind of deep thought and rich intelligence. In conversation with him, my brother was much impressed with the depth and beauty of the philosophical reasoning with which this inspired Elder seemed perfectly familiar, as he descanted on the condition of the human family in connection with the sayings of the ancient Prophets, as recorded in the Scriptures—the dealings with, and the purposes of God in relation to His children on the earth. From that time a new field, with a new train of reflections, was open to my brother's mind, the impress of which has never been erased.
We will now leave the subject of these sketches, in Oberlin, clubbed with three or four of his classmates, alternately cooking their meals and pursuing their studies with combined energies, while we digress in order to form, a connecting link in our narrative. Having been thoroughly convinced of the authenticity of the Gospel in its purity as revealed through Joseph Smith, I was baptized on the fifth of April, 1835, and in the autumn of the same year, left my father's house and united my interest with the Latter-day Saints in Kirtland, Ohio.
Soon after my arrival, I sent for the "Building Committee of the Kirtland Temple," and, on my asking them if they would like a little money, they replied that they had a payment to make soon, and did not know where the means was coming from. I do not recollect how much I gave them; however, it was sufficient to cover the present liability of the committee, who felt greatly relieved, and proposed to send me their note of hand for the amount. I told them that I did not want a note—they were welcome to the money: however, they sent the note, and some time after wished me to accept a house and lot—thus redeeming their note. The lot was a very valuable one—situated near the Temple, with fruit trees—an excellent spring of water, and a house that accommodated two families. It was truly an enviable situation, and, although I was teaching the Prophet's family school, and had my home with them, my eldest sister, a widow with two children, wanted a home in Kirtland, and I rented one part of the house while she occupied the other. In all this, the hand of God was too plainly visible to be mistaken, as will be manifest in the following events.
Now to our narrative: So intimately was my brother associated while in college, with professors and students, that he became thoroughly acquainted with the profession and the practice of the denomination by which that popular institution was controlled; and, although he cherished very friendly regards for the people, he was unfavorably impressed with their system of religion. A short time before leaving Oberlin, he wrote, asking me many questions concerning revealed religion, at the same time saying, "If there is nothing better than is to be found here in Oberlin College, good bye to all religions." I answered his questions, and knowing he intended crowning his studies with a thorough knowledge of Hebrew, invited him to come to Kirtland at the close of his term in Oberlin, as a school was soon to commence there, under the tuition of an able Hebrew professor, for the sole study of that language. Accordingly he came, but not with the most distant idea of embracing the faith of the Latter-day Saints, of which were most of the Hebrew students, with whom, including Apostles and the Prophet Joseph, he became familiarly associated; and while he studied the dead language of the ancient Hebrews, his mind also drank in, and his heart became imbued with the living faith of the everlasting Gospel—"the faith once delivered to the" ancient "saints," and not many weeks passed after his arrival, before he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
What a marvelous change crossed the path of the young aspirant! This one act of stepping into the waters of baptism, with its accompanying ordinance of the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost, by authorized administrators, opened up a new world before him. He now sees with a changed and vastly enlarged vision—having been invested with an additional, a sixth sense, a sense which comprehends the things of God—which penetrates into futurity and estimates eternal values.
How wonderfully changed all his youthful aims! How suddenly they sink into insignificance! How extended the sphere of his youthful anticipations! How glorious—how exalted the motive power, the incentive that now prompts his youthful ambition! Instead of earthly military renown, he now enters the arena for championship with the armies of heaven—the achievements of the Gods, crowned with the laurels of eternity, everlasting glory, honor and eternal lives. Not to be armed with carnal weapons, and to be decked with glittering badges and costly equipage, to march forth in the pomp and pride of battle array, for the shedding of human blood: but to go "forth without purse or scrip," clothed in the power of the Gospel of the Son of God, wielding the sword of the Spirit of the Almighty, he now takes the field to battle with the powers of darkness, priestcraft, superstition, and wickedness, until the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In my brother's journal I find the following incidents recorded by himself:
I was baptized by Elder John Boynton, then one of the Twelve Apostles, June, 1836, in Kirtland, Ohio. Previous to accepting the ordinance of baptism, in my investigations of the principles taught by the Latter-day Saints, which I proved, by comparison, to be the same as those mentioned in the New Testament taught by Christ and His Apostles, I was thoroughly convinced that obedience to those principles would impart miraculous powers, manifestations and revelations. With sanguine expectation of this result, I received baptism and the ordinance of laying on of hands by one who professed to have divine authority; and, having thus yielded obedience to these ordinances, I was in constant expectation of the fulfilment of the promise of the reception of the Holy Ghost.
The manifestation did not immediately follow my baptism, as I had expected, but, although the time was deferred, when I did receive it, its realization was more perfect, tangible and miraculous than even my strongest hopes had led me to anticipate.
Some two or three weeks after I was baptized, one day while engaged in my studies, I began to reflect upon the fact that I had not obtained a knowledge of the truth of the work—that I had not realized the fulfilment of the promise "he that doeth my will shall know of the doctrine," and I began to feel very uneasy. I laid aside my books, left the house, and wandered around through the fields under the oppressive influence of a gloomy, disconsolate spirit, while an indescribable cloud of darkness seemed to envelop me. I had been accustomed, at the close of the day, to retire for secret prayer, to a grove a short distance from my lodgings, but at this time I felt no inclination to do so. The spirit of prayer had departed and the heavens seemed like brass over my head. At length, realizing that the usual time had come for secret prayer, I concluded I would not forego my evening service, and, as a matter of formality, knelt as I was in the habit of doing, and in my accustomed retired place, but not feeling as I was wont to feel.
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 0, the joy and happiness I felt! No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge, as it was at that time imparted to my understanding. 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. It was a complete baptism—a tangible immersion in the heavenly principle or element, the Holy Ghost; and even more real and physical in its effects upon every part of my system than the immersion by water; dispelling forever, so long as reason and memory last, all possibility of doubt or fear in relation to the fact handed down to us historically, that the Babe of Bethlehem" is truly the Son of God; also the fact that He is now being revealed to the children of men, and communicating knowledge, the same as in the Apostolic times. I was perfectly satisfied, as well I might be, for my expectations were more than realized, I think I may safely say in an infinite degree.
I cannot tell how long I remained in the full flow of the blissful enjoyment and divine enlightenment, but it was several minutes before the celestial element which filled and surrounded me began gradually to withdraw. On arising from my kneeling posture, with my heart swelling with gratitude to God, beyond the power of expression, I felt I knew that He had conferred on me what only an omnipotent being can confer that which is of greater value than all the wealth and honors worlds can bestow. That night, as I retired to rest, the same wonderful manifestations were repeated, and continued to be for several successive nights. The sweet remembrance of those glorious experiences, from that time to the present, bring them fresh before me, imparting an inspiring influence which pervades my whole being, and I trust will to the close of my earthly existence.