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For the first time, Church of Jesus Christ is publishing a collection of Eliza R. Snow’s sermons

SHARE For the first time, Church of Jesus Christ is publishing a collection of Eliza R. Snow’s sermons
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Eliza R. Snow, circa 1850s-1860s. She was the second general Relief Society president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as a prolific poet, writer, teacher and historian.

Church History Department

SALT LAKE CITY — On July 10, 1868, Eliza R. Snow delivered a short-but-uplifting sermon to the sisters of the Salt Lake 20th Latter-day Saint Ward Relief Society. A secretary recorded her words, which included these inspiring thoughts:

  • “The Lord loves a cheerful heart. If we sometimes discover gloomy feelings creeping over us — we must arouse ourselves, (and) shake it off.”
  • “We are gaining an experience which is our wealth beyond the grave; (and) why should we shrink from experience.”
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Eliza R. Snow, the second general Relief Society president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a prolific poet, writer, teacher and historian.

Church History Department

  • “The soul that trusts in God — it mitigates much of their trials.”

The July 10, 1868, discourse, which even includes details about Snow’s Latter-day Saint conversion, is one of more than 1,000 she gave from 1840 to 1887, primarily in the Utah and Idaho territories.

Now her words are available to all.

For the first time, the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has created a website featuring “The Discourses of Eliza R. Snow,” accessible on Churchhistorianspress.org.

“We realized how prolific early Latter-day Saint women were, but especially Eliza R. Snow. She was showing up everywhere.” — Jenny Reeder

Wednesday’s first batch contains Snow’s sermons from 1868-1869, with more scheduled to come in the fall. Along with the talks, the website provides a timeline and biographical information, images, a list of Snow’s various publications, reference material with essential 19th-century historical context and a map showing Snow’s travels and the locations of her discourses. Some of the sermons even include a historic photo of the meetinghouse where Snow preached.

A print volume of select talks will be published at a future date, according to Jenny Reeder, a 19th century women’s history specialist and the project’s leader.

Eliza Roxcy Snow, the sister of the church’s fourth leader, President Lorenzo Snow, was a prolific poet, writer, teacher and historian. She was sealed to Joseph Smith as a plural wife in Nauvoo, Illinois. After his death, she married Brigham Young for time as a plural wife. Snow served as the first secretary of the Relief Society in Nauvoo and later as the organization’s second general president. She went on to become “the most influential Latter-day Saint woman of her time,” according to her website biography. The timing of the collection’s release coincides with the same week that Snow was called and set apart as the general Relief Society president in 1880.

“The Discourses of Eliza R. Snow” is the latest in a series of projects by the Church History Department focusing on women and their contributions to the church.

The Church Historian’s Press announced the online publication of “The Diaries of Emmeline B. Wells” in March.

In 2016, Church Historian’s Press released “The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History.” That was followed by “At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women,” published in 2017.

The idea to compile Snow’s sermons, a three-year project, stemmed in part from “At the Pulpit,” Reeder said.

“We realized how prolific early Latter-day Saint women were, but especially Eliza R. Snow,” Reeder said. “She was showing up everywhere. It was really hard to cut down to two or three sermons when she gave so many.”

What makes Snow such a unique figure in church history is her relationships with Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, as well as her key role in the Relief Society’s beginnings. After keeping minutes in the Nauvoo meetings, Snow carried the same book in her travels from settlement to settlement after Young called her to oversee the establishment and operation of ward relief societies throughout Utah and Idaho territories. In 47 years of church service, historians say, Snow delivered nearly 1,200 sermons that convey religious doctrine, practical principles, some political opinions and love for the Latter-day Saints. They are preserved thanks to the many secretaries, clerks and editors who wrote them down.

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Eliza R. Snow, circa 1862-1872.

Church History Department

“She helps us to understand the way that Joseph envisioned the Restoration and women’s place in it. She spoke about Joseph, the temple and women’s role and partnership with the priesthood,” Reeder said.

In studying the speeches, Reeder was fascinated to learn that Snow initially had a fear of public speaking but eventually overcame it, and urged other women to do the same.

“She always encouraged women to speak up and say something, to have something to say, which goes along with what President (Russell M.) Nelson has recently said about women needing to speak up and speak out,” Reeder said. “Some of the things that she says are very parallel to what we are talking about today.”

In some sermons, Snow addresses topics like plural marriage, not doing business with people of other faiths, women healings and spiritual gifts. For deeper understanding, Reeder highly recommends reading the historical context section.

Each discourse has “little nuggets” to discover, Reeder said.

In a May 26, 1868, visit to the Salt Lake City 14th Ward Relief Society meetinghouse, she taught: “Our calling is great and noble. We are called not only to work, but to instruct, council and console. The mind needs food as much as the body — indeed must have it, or it will dry, wither and perish.”

Speaking to the Farmington Ward Relief Society on June 3 of the same year, Snow said: “When you find a sister who is cast down in her feelings, and sees no beauty in our holy religion try to comfort them, and tell them to acknowledge the hand of God in all things. Make this society honorable by being honorable ourselves.”

On May 13, 1869, she gave the following counsel to the Kaysville Ward Relief Society in the Kaysville Tabernacle.

“Mothers do not allow your children to make use of vulgar language, but you must try and control your ownselves and be truthful in every respect,” she said. “While we are blessing and helping the poor, we are laying up blessings for ourselves. When we are called on to do any things we should go forward and do the best we can.”

Getting to know Snow through her sermons left Reeder with an “empowering” feeling. She hopes others have the same experience.

“This is a new resource,” Reeder said. “It’s important for both men and women to understand the teachings of Eliza R. Snow.”