He was born in 1801, she in 1804. He was a man known for his humor and gruffness, she a woman known for her sobriety and refinement. He preached unforgettable sermons, though he never learned to spell. She wrote reams of poetry and songs. He provided her a home as one of his wives for thirty years, but she never took his name. Both he and she were passionately devoted to the Prophet Joseph Smith and his expansive vision of eternity. President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and presidentess of its Relief Society, Brigham Young and Eliza Roxcy Snow formed a couple whose marriage eludes simple description (fig. 1). Though no children were born to their union and nothing suggests that the two were ever “one flesh,” Brigham and Eliza were of “one heart and one mind.”
Patriarch, prophet, and president, colonizer and community planner, Brigham Young was unique among religious leaders in nineteenth-century America. Revered among Latter-day Saint for her spiritual gifts, temple ministry, and long tenure as president of Mormon women’s organizations, Eliza Snow was likewise distinctive among nineteenth-century female religious leaders.