Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter XIX
The Editor's reflections.—The responsibility of Lorenzo's Mission.—His trust in God.—His knowledge that God had called him. Commendable characteristics.—How they are strengthened.—He writes to F. D. Richards.—Describes Genoa.—Armed men.—Priests.—Meets an acquaintance.—Curious interview.—Reflections.—Sympathy for the people.—Door opening for the Gospel in Piedmont.—Encouraging prospects.
A LITTLE reflection will impress the readers of the following letter of the peculiarly trying position Lorenzo occupied at the time indicated. Holding the Priesthood of God, and by Him sent forth clothed with authority,. with power to impart life unto life, or death unto death—invested with the responsibility of the souls of his fellow men, to the land where the "Mother of harlots" claimed the right "above all that was called God," and ruled with a rod of iron, where, under her scathing hand, not long since, the "bloody inquisition" sent terror into the springs and fountains of life! How formidable the mission! How character-proving the situation!
Without integrity of heart—without unswerving purpose—without confiding trust in God, and reliance on His
promises—without unshaken confidence in His assisting
power and grace, no mortal man could abide the ordeal. But
Lorenzo knew in whom he trusted—he knew that the work in
which he was engaged was the work of God, and for him to
shrink from his duty, or to doubt the success of the mission
unto which he was called, and surfer his energies to slacken,
would be ignoring the example of the Great Redeemer, and
prove himself unworthy of the high and holy calling unto
which God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, had called him.
Those noble characteristics which distinguished him even in his childhood, at this period having not only ripened in
manhood, but, being quickened and mightily strengthened by
the Spirit of the Most High, constituted an invigorating and
propelling force which greatly assisted in enabling him to
brook every hardship, every opposition, and to overcome
Genoa, July 20, 1850.
My Dear Franklin:
Having safely reached the land of my mission, I take the earliest opportunity to inform you of my location and prospects.
This ancient city, where I now reside, contains about one hundred and forty thousand inhabitants. It is chiefly built upon undulating ground, extending back as far as the base of the mountains, and, in some places, reaching partly up their summits. Before me I have a most lovely and interesting view of the port of Genoa, and then of the Mediterranean, bearing upon its broad bosom multitudes of fishing boats, schooners, war frigates, steamers, and ships of many nations.
The edifices of this city lie open on my right and left. Its palaces, cathedrals, churches, high-built promenades and antique buildings, form, altogether, a very singular and magnificent appearance. At a short distance from the city, I have the fascinating scenery of Italy's picturesque mountains, and over my head is a sky of clearest blue. My eyes are filled with tears while attempting to picture the glorious view. It recalls to my mind the more than lovely—the sacred scenery of the far-off West—the valley of the Great Salt Lake, where is poured forth the streams of revelation through our beloved Prophet Brigham, to a people gathered out from the nations; and where, nine months ago, in mournful silence, we pressed the parting hands of our weeping wives and tender offspring.
This city is filled with armed men; so, in fact, is almost every seaport and city through which we have passed since leaving England. Little money is circulating, and commerce languishes on every side. The country is not yet sufficiently settled to induce the enterprise of the capitalist. Since the revolution, the working classes have suffered severely from the depression of business. Wages are, of course, very low; upon an average, not more than twenty cents for a day's work, for a laborer, which is commonly made to consist of about sixteen hours.
Many of the customs, laws and institutions are very singular. Priests are seen in great numbers on every side. I meet them on every street. From the peculiarity of their dress, there is no mistaking their profession. Those of the superior order are clothed in black, and their heads display the accompaniment of a three-cornered hat. Those of another class present a shorn crown to the evening breeze and the noonday sun; and the meanness of their garments are intended to represent their vows of austere indigence. A coarse woollen dress is attached to the body by a rope loosely tied around the waist, from which hang their rosary beads and a small crucifix. Their feet are shod with a species of sandals. They are generally seen two together, and are very unlike the wealthy ecclesiastics, who mingle freely with the best society.
The other day, as I was returning from a walk, I fell into the following reflections: I am alone and a stranger in this great city—eight thousand miles from my beloved family, surrounded by a people with whose manners and peculiarities I am unacquainted. I have come to enlighten their minds and instruct them in principles of righteousness; but I see no possible means of accomplishing this object. All is darkness in the prospect.
While I thus walked gloomily along the thronged streets, I was suddenly awakened from my reverie by a glance of recognition from a gentleman passing, and was not a little pleased to find him an Englishman, with whom I had previously formed a slight acquaintance. He accosted me in a friendly manner—said he had called at my lodging, but was disappointed in not finding me at home. He wished me to write down the heads of subjects on which I sought information, which, he assured me, he would spare no pains to procure. He thought the society of many English visitors in Genoa was not suitable to men religiously inclined, as I appeared, and could not recommend them to my acquaintance. He accompanied me to my lodging, and desired to know in what way I thought this country could be spiritually benefitted. He evidently believed that I was a missionary, and was about to open a campaign against Catholicism; and he seemed exceedingly anxious to engage in the laudable undertaking. Comprehending the state of his feelings, I looked him steadfastly in the face, and said: "Do you think, Mr. A., that the Lord had any hand in your coming to this place?" "I do," said he, "for when letters were sent informing me I could have a situation whereby I could support my family, I opened them and spread them before the Lord, and knelt upon my knees, asking Him what I should do, and the Spirit manifested to me it was wisdom to come." I then said: "Mr. A., I have entered this country to establish the kingdom of God. The Lord God of Heaven has sent me. The Holy Ghost has sent me. The President of the Church of Jesus Christ has sent me, and the prayers of a hundred thousand people (Saints of God) are daily oftered up for my prosperity. Now I have a message for you from the Lord. It is your duty to be ordained unto the holy Priesthood, and assist me in establishing the Gospel among this people."
He listened with deep interest, and his countenance was lighted up with animation at the thought of being associated with me in such a glorious mission. He then made the inquiry, "Are you sent by the Wesleyans?" I replied, "I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." All his desires to do good seemed to go down in proportion as the last idea arose in his mind. He said he had heard one of our Elders preach, and he made baptism essential to salvation. "And," said, he, "what are your ideas on this point?" "It is now," I replied, "because God has commanded it—until He did command and authorized men to administer, it was not essential." I then loaned him several books, asking him to read them prayerfully. He promised to do so, but with great reluctance, "and he went away sorrowful."
I am now in a Roman Catholic country. Its inhabitants are before my eyes continually. My heart is pained to see their follies and wickedness—their gross darkness and superstition. I weep that the day of the Son of Man has come upon them unawares, so little are they prepared to receive the voice from on high: "Behold! the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him!"
They are clothed with darkness as with a garment, and, figuratively speaking, they know not their right hand from their left. I ask my Heavenly Father to look upon this people in mercy. O Lord, let them become the objects of Thy compassion, that they may not all perish. Forgive their sins, and let me be known among them, that they may know Thee, and know that Thou hast sent me to establish Thy kingdom. They do wickedly all the day long, and are guilty of many abominations. They have turned their backs upon Thee, though they kneel before the image of Thy Son, and decorate temples to Thy worship. The priests, the rulers and the people have all gone astray, and have forgotten Thee, the Lord their God. But wilt Thou not have mercy upon them? Thou knowest that I bade a heart-trying farewell to the loved and tried partners of my bosom, to obey Thy call; and hast Thou not some chosen ones among this people to whom I have been sent? Lead me unto such, and Thy name shall have the glory, through Jesus, Thy Son.
After I wrote the foregoing, I received a letter from Elders Stenhouse and Toronto. I have felt an intense desire to know the state of that province to which I had given them an appointment, as I felt assured it would be the field of my mission. Now, with a heart full of gratitude, I find an opening is presented in the valleys of Piedmont, when all other parts of Italy are closed against our efforts. I believe that the Lord has there hidden up a people amid the Alpine mountains, and it is the voice of the Spirit that I shall commence something of importance in that part of this dark nation.
Please remember me to Brothers Coward and Collins, whose names will never be forgotten for their kindness to Brother Erastus and myself.
Prudence and caution prompt me to request that you will not, at present, give publicity to my communications.
Your brother in the Gospel, affectionately,