ELIZA R. SNOW
In her youth, Eliza’s
talent as poet was evident. Still in her early twenties, she published
poetry in local magazines and newspapers, winning awards for her work.
In 1828, twenty-four year old Eliza joined Alexander Campbell’s Christian
primitivist movement, and would later join Mormonism. Wanting to
be near others of her new faith, Eliza moved to Kirtland in December of
Upon her arrival in
Kirtland, Eliza donated a large sum of money to the in progress temple
project. In appreciation, the building committee insisted that she
take “a very valuable [lot]-situated near the Temple, with a fruit tree-an
excellent spring of water, and house that accommodated two families.” Eliza
was already boarding at the home of Joseph Smith, so her older sister Leonora
lived in one half; renters in the other half.
In 1838 Eliza, relocated
to Missouri, and then Illinois. In 1842 Emma Smith selected her to
be Secretary of the newly organized, “Female Relief Society”.
Eliza remembers it was about this time she “first understood that the
practice of plurality was to be introduced into the church. The subject
was very repugnant to my feelings...I consoled myself with the idea that
it was far in the distance and beyond the period of my mortal existence.”
However, a few months later, on June 29, 1842, Eliza married Joseph Smith.
She wrote, “I was sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for time and eternity,
in accordance with the Celestial Law of Marriage which God has revealed”.
Eliza fondly wrote of Joseph, “my beloved husband, the choice of my
heart and the crown of my life.”
It is uncertain when
Joseph’s first wife, Emma, became aware of his marriage to Eliza.
In any case on August 14 Eliza wrote, “Yesterday Mrs. Smith sent for
me, having previously given me the offer of a home in her house...This...I
trust is for good.” Eliza soon moved in with the Smith’s, schooling
the Smith children, and performing other duties. She recalls, “I
was entirely governed by the wishes of Prest. and Mrs. Smith, I desire
and aim to be submissive to the requirements of those whom [God] has place’d
in authority over me.”
A week later Eliza
revealed in poem her own anxious feelings about these recent events:
[We are] apt to conclude, from the medly of things;
We’ve got into a jumble of late-
A deep intricate puzzle, a tangle of strings,
That no possible scheme can make straight
From the midst of confusion can harmony flow?
Or can peace from distraction come forth?
From out of corruption, integrity grow?
Or can vice unto virtue give birth?
Will the righteous come forth with their garments unstained?
With their hearts unpolluted with sin?
O, yes; Zion, thy honor will be sustained.
And the glory of God usher’d in.
Eliza stayed in the
Smith home for six months, until February 11, 1843, when she wrote in her
diary: “Took board and had my lodging removed to the residence of br.
Holmes.”. Several acquaintances of Eliza spoke of Emma discovering
Eliza’s relationship with Joseph, leading to her departure.
When Joseph Smith was
killed in 1844, Eliza was overcome with grief, even praying that she might
also die and be reunited with her husband. She said that Joseph appeared
to her in a vision and “told her that his work upon earth was complete...but
hers was not; ...she must be of good courage and help to cheer, and lighten
the burdens of others.” Eliza later married Brigham Young, and
continued to influence others with her poetic talents. In 1845, she
wrote the words to the, now popular, Mormon hymn, “O My Father”.