Discourse Delivered in the Mill Creek Ward, on Sunday, July 14th, 1901, by President Lorenzo Snow.
Your Bishop, brethren and sisters, wishes me to address you for a short time, and I have pleasure in answering to his wishes. Over sixty years ago I saw for the first time Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Lord. He was holding a meeting in the town of Hiram. He was about three miles from where I was born and brought up. He was standing by a door and talking to an audience of about two hundred and fifty persons under a bowery. I was about eighteen years of age. I had heard something about the ”Mormon” Prophet, I felt some anxiety to see him and judge for myself, as he was generally believed to be a false prophet. My mother and my two sisters (one of whom was Eliza R. Snow) received the principles of “Mormonism,” and were baptized. At the time I refer to, Joseph Smith was not what would be called a fluent speaker. He simply bore his testimony to what the Lord had manifested to him, to the dispensation of the Gospel which had been committed to him, and to the authority that he. possessed. As I looked upon him and listened, I thought to myself that a man bearing such a wonderful testimony as he did, and having such a countenance as he possessed, could hardly be a false prophet. He certainly could not have been deceived, it seemed to me, and if he was a deceiver, he was deceiving the people knowingly; for when he testified that he had had a conversation with Jesus, the Son of God, and talked with Him personally, as Moses is said to have talked with God upon Mount Sinai, and that he had also heard the voice of the Father, he was telling something that he either knew to be false or positively true. I was not at that time what might be called a religious boy, but I was interested in what I saw and heard there. However, being busy in other directions, it passed measurably out of my mind. Some two-and-a-half years later, business called me to Kirtland. My two sisters had been there for some time, and I made my home with them. There I became perfectly acquainted with Joseph Smith, the Prophet. I sat at his table and had a number of conversations with him. I also became somewhat intimate with his father. The first time I saw Father Smith he was holding a patriarchal blessing meeting, at which there were twelve or fifteen persons present. I was then searching to know whether there was any truth in “Mormonism.” I have never experienced anything supernatural with one slight exception, and I did not know that anything supernatural had ever been exhibited among the children of men. I had heard Methodists, Presbyterians and others relate their experiences, but I thought I could attribute all they said to natural causes. It was hard for me to be convinced that there could be such extraordinary manifestations as I saw exhibited in visiting the temple and listening to the testimonies of persons and hearing the extraordinary accounts of what the Lord had manifested to them. Talking with President Joseph Smith, and being with him and his father, I could not help but believe that there was something more than common in what was called “Mormonism.” [p.542]
At this meeting that Father Smith held I listened with astonishment to him telling the brethren and sisters their parentage, their lineage, and other things I could not help but believe he knew nothing about, save as the Spirit manifested them unto him. After he got through with this meeting, I was introduced to him, and in the course of the conversation he remarked, ”Why, Brother Snow (he called me Brother Snow, although I had not been baptized, and did not know that I ever would be) do not worry; I discover that you are trying to understand the principles of ‘Mormonism.'” I replied that that was the object I had in view. “Well,” said he, “do not worry, but pray to the Lord and satisfy yourself; study the matter over, compare the Scriptures with what we are teaching; talk with the brethren that you are acquainted with, and after a time you will be convinced that “Mormonism” is of God, and you will be baptized, and you will become as great as you will want to be—as great as God Himself, and you cannot wish to be greater.” Of course, such expressions as those I could not understand. I thought it was wonderful that a man professing what he did should talk in that way. Anyone seeing old Father Smith as he then appeared, and having read of old Father Abraham in the Scriptures, would be apt to think that Father Smith looked a good deal like Abraham did; at least, that is what I thought. I do not know that any man among the Saints was more loved than Father Smith; and when anyone was seriously sick Father Smith would be called for, whether it was night or day. He was as noble and generous a man as I have ever seen.
One Sunday the Prophet Joseph Smith arose in the pulpit just before the meeting closed and said, “A young man by the name of Lorenzo Snow wishes to be baptized, and Brother John Boynton (who was then one of Twelve Apostles) will baptize him.” I was baptized in the stream that ran through Kirtland, and hands were laid upon me by Hyrum Smith and some others. I received no special manifestation at that time, but I was perfectly satisfied that I had done what was wisdom for me to do under the circumstances. I had studied the Scriptures and was convinced that the Gospel as preached by the Latter-day Saints was in accordance with that taught by the Son of God and His Apostles in former days. A peaceable, good spirit came upon me that I had never experienced before, and I felt satisfied at the sacrifice I had made. Since then I have been ashamed to call it a sacrifice, but at that time it was a sacrifice to me, because I could see that it would change my whole future and perhaps destroy all my worldly prospects and aspirations, besides being a great disappointment to my relatives and friends.
About two weeks after that, Elder Sherwood, at that time one of the right hand men of the Prophet’s, said to me, “Brother Snow, have you received the Holy Ghost since you were baptized?” 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; and after Brother Sherwood put this question to me I felt dissatisfied, not with what I had done, but with myself. With that feeling I retired in the evening to a place where I had been accustomed to offer my devotions to the Lord. I knelt down under the shade of a tree, and immediately I heard [p.543] a noise over my head like the rustle of silken garments, and there descended upon me the Spirit and power of God. That will never be erased from my memory as long as memory endures. It came upon me and enveloped my whole system, and 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 the 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 preach in His name, just as Noah was in his day.
I do not remember ever having related these incidents before in a public meeting as I now tell them to you, but I felt, from the remarks made by Brother Winter, that it would be a good opportunity for me to testify something in regard to my first experience in connection with this holy Gospel. I received these truths with an open heart, and I was determined not to stop there. I was then attending a high school in the Temple at Kirtland, and preparing myself for some eastern college or university. A professor by the name of Haws was teaching us, and President Woodruff and other brethren attended this school. I began to be a little worried in my mind whether, after having received this wonderful knowledge, it was proper for me to remain without testifying in reference to it. Young men who had been sent out upon missions were returning and testifying of the blessings that had attended them in their traveling without purse and scrip in Ohio and other places, and I began to think that, instead of preparing myself for an eastern college or university, I ought to start out and bear testimony to what the Lord had so fully given me knowledge of. At the same time I did not like to give up my prospects of an education, because I had had it in mind for a long time, and I then had the opportunity and the means to accomplish it. I concluded to go for advice to President Rigdon, who was then President Joseph Smith’s first counselor, and with whom I had been acquainted before he joined the “Mormons,” when he was a Campbellite and used to preach in my father’s neighborhood. I told him what I wanted, and he said, “Brother Snow, I would not give anyone else such counsel as I feel to give you, under the circumstances. If I were in your place, I would go on with my intentions and get an education.” That was just the very thing I wanted him to say, and it pleased me. I was contented for a time; but in the winter season, hearing these young Elders testify of their success in preaching the Gospel, I began to think of it still more. The Lord had given me a knowledge that He was coming upon the earth, and that there was a preparation necessary to be made; He had given me all I had asked for, and more; for the baptism which I received, of the Holy Ghost and the perfect knowledge then given to me, was more real and convincing than my immersion in the cold water; and I felt that there was a responsibility resting upon me. So I shut up my books, laid my Latin and Greek aside, and I have never seen them since. I started out without purse and scrip, and under the circumstances that was about as great a sacrifice as I have ever made. I had not [p.544] been accustomed to depend upon anybody for food or shelter. If I were going off any distance, my father would make sure that I started out with plenty of money for my expenses. And now, to go out and ask for some, thing to eat and for a place to lay my head, was very trying to me, it being so different to my training. [p.545]
I remember my experience the first night after I started out. About twenty miles from Kirtland I stopped at my aunt’s. She was a Presbyterian, a very wealthy woman, and a woman of considerable experience. I was telling her that I expected to be treated like other Elders, turned out of doors, etc., and she said, “Lorenzo, I don’t believe a word of that. They will know you are an honest man, and you will not be turned out.” “Well,” I replied, “I do not expect to be treated any better than my brethren,”—and I was not. After leaving my aunt that night, I walked several miles, and as the sun was going down I thought it was about time to make an experiment and ask for some place in which to stop. I did so, and I never shall forget the house—where it stood, its distance from the road, the picket fence, and the gate that I went through. I walked up to the house, knocked, and was bidden to come in. A gentlemen and his wife were there, and I told them I was a “Mormon” Elder, traveling without purse or scrip, and would be very much obliged if I could get a night’s lodgings. They made some kind of an excuse. I told them I was not particular; the privilege to lie down on the floor with a blanket would suit me. But no; they did not want to keep me. Well, I had a little more courage when I came to the next house, but was met with the same objection. So it went on until I got to the ninth house, where I got a [p.546] night’s lodging, but had to leave without breakfast. The next day or two I arrived at one of my aunt’s, and preached there for the first time in my life. I was quite bashful then, and, not having spoken in public before, it was a very difficult thing for me to get up there and preach to my kindred and the neighbors who were called in. 1 remember that I prayed nearly all day preceding the night I was to speak. I went out by myself and asked the Lord to give me something to say. My aunt told me afterwards that she almost trembled when she saw me getting up to speak; but I opened my mouth, and what I said I never did know, but my aunt said I spoke fine for about three quarters of an hour. I held another meeting the next night, and the night after that I was invited to speak in the Medina court house by the party who had it in charge. After I got through speaking there a gentleman came to me and said, “Now, Elder Snow, I am a much older man than you are. You are a young man, just starting out, I see, to be a minister. I want to give you a little counsel. If you continue to talk as loud as you talked to-night, in six mouths you will be taken to the cemetery.” I thanked him very much and told him I would try and benefit by his counsel. Then I thought I owed a duty to my uncles and aunts and schoolmates, and they let me have the school house in which to preach to them. The house was nearly filled by my grandfather, my uncles and aunts, and a numerous lot of cousins. I thought I was going to convert them all, but after I got through talking and bearing testimony, all I could get from them was, “Well, Lorenzo is an honest boy, but he is deceived.” Then I got the town house in the place where I was born, and preached there, as well as in a Presbyterian meeting house. The result of it all was, I baptized a few, very few, of my classmates.
The first time I ever attempted to speak was at one of Father Smith’s evening testimony meetings, at which there were probably twenty or twenty-five brethren and sisters present. Father Smith was an exceedingly kind and gentle old soul, and he would beg the brethren to get up and speak. He would not want the meeting dismissed until every one had spoken. He would say in a kindly spirit, “Now brother (or sister) you must get up and say something, no matter how little, or if you don’t you will be sorry when you leave, and I am afraid you will lose the Spirit.” But I did not like to get up, I was so bashful and diffident; nevertheless I could not bear the idea of having the meeting dismissed without making the attempt; so when nearly all had spoken I got up, and everything I could think of was said in about one minute.
I am telling you these things so that if any of you can derive any benefit from my inexperience, I want you to have it. We were talking here this morning about President Snow being a Prophet, and creating almost a furore among the children to hear a Prophet, and I imagined that when I got up they would expect to hear something extraordinary, but I told them that they would probably hear no more than they had heard before. I tell you these things, brethren and sisters, that none of you need be discouraged. You that are members of the Young Men’s and Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement associations, do not be afraid to get up and speak; you cannot do worse than the President of the Church has done; [p.547] you cannot make yourselves any less than he has done, not only once, but several times. But there is one thing to say in this connection: When the Lord gave aae the i-evelation that I have mentioned, I made up my mind that I would do my duty, and that has been my guide through life.
Now, I have told you what Father Smith said to me, that I should become as great as I could want to be, even as great as God Himself. About two years and a half after, in Nauvoo, I asked Elder Sherwood to explain a certain passage of Scripture, and while he was endeavoring to give an explanation the Spirit of God fell upon me to a marked extent, and the Lord revealed to me, just as plainly as the sun at noonday, this principle, which I put in a couplet:
As man now is, God once was;
As God now is, man may be.
That fulfilled Father Smith’s declaration. Nothing was ever revealed more distinctly than that was to me. Of course, now that it is so well known it may not appear such a wonderful manifestation, but when I received it, the knowledge was marvelous to me. This principle, in substance, is found also in the Scriptures. The Lord said to John, as recorded in the third chapter of his Revelation:
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.”
Have you ever heard the ministers of the day preach a doctrine of that kind? They read it, but do not believe it. Paul says in his second epistle to the Corinthians, 12th chapter:
“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
And I knew such a man, (whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
This same Paul, writing to the Phillipians, says:
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”
Do we ever hear ministers try to explain that? But these things are undoubtedly clear to your minds. I say to you sisters, your husbands, if they are faithful, will be Gods in eternity. After we have passed through the various ordeals of life and go to the other life, where our Father dwells, even the God of heaven, the promise is that we shall be like Him. The Apostle John says:
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him.”
As an illustration, here is an infant upon its mother’s breast. It is without power or knowledge to feed and clothe itself. It is so helpless that it has to be fed by its mother. But see its possibilities! This infant has a father and a mother, though it knows scarcely anything about them; and when it gets to be quite a little boy it does not know much about them. [p.548] Who is its father? Who is its mother? Why, its father is an emperor, its mother is an empress, and they sit upon a throne, governing an empire. This little infant will some day, in all probability, sit upon his father’s throne, and govern and control the empire, just as King Edward of England now sits upon the throne of his mother. We should have this in mind; for we are the sons of God, as much so and more, if possible, than we are the sons of our earthly fathers. You sisters, I suppose, have read that poem which my sister composed years ago, and which is sung quite frequently now in our meetings. 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 will become as great as your Mother, if you are faithful.
Wives, be faithful to your husbands. I know you have to put up with many unpleasant things, and your husbands have to put up with some things as well. Doubtless you are sometimes tried by your husbands, on account, perhaps, of the ignorance of your husbands, or perchance at times because of your own ignorance. I wonder if any of my sisters whom I am now addressing ever saw a time when they wished they had a better husband, and perhaps entertained the idea of getting a divorce. I tell you how 1 used to do when I was President of the Box Elder Stake of Zion. Once in a while a woman would come to me with the information that she had been abused by her husband, and she wanted a bill of divorce. What has your husband done? I would ask. Well, he had done such and such things. Have you ever done wrong? said I. Well, she thought perhaps she might have done wrong sometimes. “Have you ever prayed that your husband might be a better man?” She did not know that she had prayed for him very hard, because at times he had been so abusive that she could scarcely exercise much faith in that direction. “Well,” said I, “you go home and think about it; see if you have not been unwise sometimes and offended your husband; and go into a secret place and pray for him.” I had at that time some very nice apples growing in an orchard which I had planted in an early day. One tree especially yielded some choice red apples, and I would pick six apples from that tree and give them to her, three for herself and three for her husband, and I would ask her to be sure and give him those three apples without saying that I gave them to her for that purpose. “Then,” I said to her, “if things do not get better in about two or three months, come to me again and I will see what I can do for you.” Well, the apples I gave and what I said to her accomplished the object. Sisters, I do not say but that your husbands are bad—just as bad as you are, and probably some of them are worse; but, never mind; try to endure the unpleasantnesses which arise at times, and when you meet each other in the next life you will feel glad that you put up with those things. To the husbands, I say: Many of you do not value your wives as you should— unless you are different from any audience of this size that I have ever had before me. Be kind to them. When they go out to meeting you carry the baby at least half the time. When it needs rocking, and you have not much to do, rock it. Be kind when sometimes you have to make a little sacrifice to do so; feel kind, anyway, no matter what the sacrifice. [p.549]
I wonder if there are any bachelors in this audience. Now, when a young man is twenty-one years of age he ought to get married; and if he does not get married, let the Bishop or the President of the Stake send me his name, and we will send him on a mission for two or three years. On the other hand, if he gets married when he is twenty-one, and he happens to be called to go on a mission, just let me know and we will give him the privilege of staying at home for one year. That is what they did in Ancient Israel, and Israel did just right in some things. You will find this provision recorded in the 24th chapter of Deuteronomy:
“When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.”
I think we ought to be as liberal as the old Israelites were.
Now, God bless you, my brethren and sisters. I am pleased that your Bishop was determined I should come to see you. He came to my office three or four times to remind me that I was to come to-day; and I have come, and have talked to you as I have, and I trust I have done you no harm. God bless you. Amen.
“The Grand Destiny of Man,” Millennnial Star, 15 August 1901, 541-544; 22 Aug. 1901, 545-549.
All images courtesy LDS.org.