Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter XIII

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Plural Marriage.—It tries the Prophet.—God commands, and he must obey.—Interview on the bank of the river.—The Prophet's words.—Gives Lorenzo a precious promise.—Lorenzo and myself visit our Parents, and return.—Lorenzo goes to Ohio.—Where he finds me on his return.—Close of 1843.—A social gathering.—Extract from Lorenzo's speech.—He organizes a company.—The General's compliment.—Lorenzo's experience in an unfortunate school.—Makes a success.—Mobbing at Lima.

IT was at the private interview referred to above, that the Prophet Joseph unbosomed his heart, and described the trying mental ordeal he experienced in overcoming the repugnance of his feelings, the natural result of the force of education and social custom, relative to the introduction of plural marriage. He knew the voice of God—he knew the commandment of the Almighty to him was to go forward—to set the example, and establish Celestial plural marriage. He knew that he had not only his own prejudices and prepossessions to combat and to overcome, but those of the whole Christian world stared him in the face; but God, who is above all, had given the commandment, and He must be obeyed. Yet the Prophet hesitated and deferred from time to time, until an angel of God stood by him with a drawn sword, and told him that, unless he moved forward and established plural marriage, his Priesthood would be taken from him and he should be destroyed! This testimony he not only bore to my brother, but also to others—a testimony that cannot be gainsayed.

From my brother's journal: "At the interview on the bank of the Mississippi, in which the Prophet Joseph explained the doctrine of Celestial Marriage, I felt very humble, and in my simplicity besought him earnestly to correct me and set me right if, at any time, he should see me indulging any principle or practice that might tend to lead astray, into forbidden paths; to which he replied, 'Brother Lorenzo, the principles of honesty and integrity are founded within you, and you will never be guilty of any serious error or wrong, to lead you from the path of duty. The Lord will open your way to receive and obey the law of Celestial Marriage.' During the conversation, I remarked to the Prophet I thought he appeared to have been endowed with great additional power during my mission in England. He said it was true; the Lord had bestowed on him additional divine power."

On the 22d of May, Lorenzo and I started on a visit to our parents in Walnut Grove, seventy-five miles northeast from Nauvoo, and we returned on the 1st of June. On the 12th, he left for Ohio; and when he returned on the last of August, he found me at our sister's, Mrs. Leonora A. Snow Morley, where our brother's occasional visits were highly appreciated. He spent a few days with us at the close o the year 1843. On the evening of December 31, a social circle of a few choice friends convened at the house of our sister, and we had a lovely time.

My brother being one of the orators of the evening, and his sister secretary pro tem., I copy from my own journal the following extracts from his parting speech, on the closing year:

Lima, Sunday Evening, December 31, 1843. The year 1843 is just closing upon us with all its eventfulness. While meditating upon the subject, the thought suggested to my mind that it was brother Lorenzo's turn to address those present. I made the motion, which was seconded and carried unanimously (of course); and responding, he gave a very interesting address—beautifully adapted to the occasion and to the peculiar circumstances of those present.

He spoke of the anticipations of the future, on which the past had a very important bearing—the probable eventful scenery of the year about to open before us. In referring to the past, he said that the individuals present, while standing on the threshold of the year now closing, did not and could not imagine it possible for the changes to transpire which have transpired, with the reception and understanding—the light and intelligence connected with principles of salvation, etc., which will have an important bearing upon our future welfare; and we may also expect that the coming year will be as replete with interesting changes, and with consequences of more importance than our minds at present are capable of comprehending.

But from the marvellous dealings of Divine Providence in overruling all things for our good—in bringing us safely through difficult scenes, we may look forward without the least anxiety—having everything to hope and nothing to fear.

In referring to his own personal experience he said that one year ago he was in the great city of London, presiding over the conference of Saints in the metropolis, and officiating as first counselor to the President of all the Churches in the British Empire—looking forward with deep solicitude, anticipating the difficulties and dangers that awaited him in crossing the boisterous ocean, and holding the responsibility attendant on leading up to Zion a company of Saints; but the Lord had brought him through most successfully; and we are here together, enjoying the blessings of social life, etc., etc.

He said, the year upon which we are soon to enter will, probably, release some of us from the difficulties into which the changes of the past have placed us; it will open our path and make things clear before us, but, perhaps we shall then meet other things of an unpleasant nature, as consequent attendants on those circumstances, and that scenery in which we may find ourselves.

He forcibly suggested the utility of suppressing all anxiety with respect to the future, saying, "How illy were we qualified one year ago to pass through the scenes through which we have been led with success! From which, let us realize the folly of an over anxiety to pry into scenes that are lying before us, inasmuch as God will prepare the way by a gradual process, step by step; and leading us forward in a manner that will prove easy, as we pass along, but which, if presented to our view at once, would seem insurmountable."

He said that inasmuch as w r e are disposed to do right, we may learn from the past year's experience, that those things which we are called to suffer, produce a very different effect upon the mind from what we should anticipate if they were presented before us in prospect; producing pleasure and satisfaction where we would look for misery. While we reflect with astonishment on the past, we may be instructed to set our hearts at rest with regard to the future; and also by contrasting the situations of some present with our situations one year ago, and taking into consideration our present enjoyments, we find it practicable for the mind to rise superior to circumstance; by having cultivated in our bosoms such principles as are calculated to elevate the affections—bring the feelings into subjection and give stability to the mind; thus producing happiness independent of outward contingencies—possessing our happiness within ourselves.

He said, in taking a retrospective view of our lives, even from the time we embraced the Gospel, although we had passed through some scenes of severe trials, God had borne us off victoriously thus far, even to our great astonishment and we may confidently trust in His guidance and protection for the coming year!

I will here record a little circumstance which transpired a short time after my brother returned from his English mission, as follows:

By request of Lieutenant General Joseph Smith for him to organize a military company, which was to constitute a portion of the celebrated "Nauvoo Legion," Lorenzo proceeded at once. The company which he organized was mostly composed of volunteers from the company of Saints he had recently conducted from England. In the selection of officers, he was chosen captain.

At their first parade they were inspected by Gen. Smith, by whom the captain was highly complimented for the fine martial appearance and good military maneuvering of his company. It would not be at all surprising if an encomium from that source should arouse the long dormant military spirit of a man, who, as his early history tells, had so strikingly manifested a chivalrous vein in his "make up." Suffice it to say, the "Legion" claims the finale of Lorenzo's military tactics.

An interval occurred between the missionary travels of my brother, which he decided to spend alternately between Nauvoo and the home of our sister, Mrs. L. A. Morley.

Her home was in a small town called Lima, thirty miles south of Nauvoo. A few families of the Saints had clustered there, but most of the inhabitants were "old settlers," and anti-Mormon in their feelings, yet, when there was no uprising, very friendly and respectful to those of our people who sojourned among them.

Knowing that Lorenzo was rather leisurely that winter, the trustees solicited him to teach their district school. He consented, although, at the time, he well knew that he was taking an elephant by the bitts. The condition of that school was simply preposterous. A club of rough, ungovernable, rowdy boys, for some time previous, had prided themselves on whipping teachers and breaking up schools. The Saints being a small minority, could exercise no authority to remedy the evil, and the "old settlers" too indifferent on the subject of education to do so, and the roughs carried the day, insomuch that no teacher had been able to complete his term for some time before this, without serious difficulty.

Lorenzo was unaccustomed to defeat, and in this instance was willing to risk the chances. In the first place, he must obtain a school certificate of his moral character and proper qualifications, in order to secure the share of public money to which the district was entitled. Mr. Williams, a notorious mobocrat, was the one authorized to issue certificates, and to him my brother applied. The examination was not only brief, but very superficial—sufficiently so to exhibit Williams' profound ignorance, which was truly amusing.

The day arrived—he opened school—the belligerents were at their post, and as he proceeded in the arrangements, he noticed a half dozen of those boys grouped together, eying and scrutinizing him in that kind of earnestness that means business. Without a wise policy on his part, a battle was inevitable. "Stoop to conquer," was at this juncture his watchword. Physically they had decidedly the advantage of him, but mentally the advantage was altogether on his side. He resolved to win respect by conferring it. "Love, and love only, is the loan for love,"[1] and he addressed those boys as though they were most respectable gentlemen. Grown up without either moral or mental culture, they were larger, and some of them perhaps older than himself.

He took especial pains to impress them with a sense of the interest he felt in their behalf, and the efforts he purposed making to assist them forward in their studies, with his peculiar faculty for teaching—the ambition he felt in this direction, etc., etc. In this way, by kindness and persuasion, their feelings relaxed—their confidence was won, and with patient and continued exertions, the unscrupulous roughs were transformed into respectful students; and long before the expiration of the term, with surprising progress, they had become habitually studious.

The parents of those sons whom, through the wisdom that God had given, my brother had civilized, moralized and mentalized, were delighted with the wonderful changes, and expressed their high appreciation and deep gratitude for the interest he had taken in their behalf.

Patriarch Morley, the husband of our sister Leonora, presided over the Saints at Lima. A few families, mostly his family connections, had grouped together and formed a little neighborhood of their own, which was known as the "Morley Settlement." Here occurred the first violent outbreak of hostilities against the Latter-day Saints in the State of Illinois. It commenced in a sudden raid in which houses and other conbustible[2] property were burned, to that extent that the Saints had to flee precipitately, and destitute, to Nauvoo, leaving their real estate possessions to a heartless mob.


  1. Young, Edward. The Complaint: or Night-Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality, Night the Second.
  2. Spelling in original