Shaping the Stones

Lorenzo Snow’s Letters to Priesthood Leaders of the London Conference, November 1842


On the afternoon of Sunday, July 23, 1837, in Preston’s Vauxhall Chapel, Heber C. Kimball preached the first Latter-day Saint sermon to be delivered in England. Heber presided over England’s first baptisms one week later, after which he and his six companions parted company to cover more territory. People flocked to hear the missionaries’ message, and by the time Elder Kimball left England nine months later, over fifteen hundred people had been baptized in and around Preston.1 A more fertile land for missionary work could hardly be imagined.

The growth of the Church in the British Isles continued under the direction of Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles, who baptized over five thousand people between January 1840 and April 1841.2 As persecution against the Saints in America increased during the early and mid-1840s, conversions in England, Scotland, and Wales continued, with over forty-seven hundred converts having emigrated to America by 1847.3 By 1850 some thirty thousand Saints lived in the British Isles—almost three times as many as lived in the western United States—and by 1870, almost a quarter of Utah’s population had been born in the British Isles.4

One could get the impression from such numbers that missionary work in the British Isles was almost effortless, but such was not the case. People in Edinburgh, Scotland, for example, initially proved quite unreceptive to the gospel message, and Orson Pratt, who labored there, spent many weeks preaching “almost to empty walls.”5 Glasgow and other cities were similarly slow to hear the missionaries’ call.6 Nor was success achieved without a number of serious difficulties arising among the members of the various branches—problems that occasionally required weeks of prayer and counseling on the part of Church leaders to settle. Ministers and members of other denominations often opposed the missionaries as well, and those who labored in the mission knew what it meant to be frequently persecuted for the gospel’s sake. Preaching to the interested, baptizing the repentant, and organizing the converts into functional branches required the missionaries to work through nearly endless perplexities and served to educate them in the ways of man and God as much as they were educating their converts in the first principles of the gospel. Far from effortless, nineteenth-century missionary work in the British Isles tested and honed the leadership skills of many emerging Church leaders.

One of the most challenging fields of labor was the London area. Finding the city of two million “full of evry thing but righteousness” when they arrived in August 1840, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and George A. Smith had baptized only nineteen people by Christmas.7 Spurred on by “some good dreams of late about ketching fish,” Woodruff and Kimball continued to preach even after Smith was forced to leave the city’s fog and smog for health reasons. Their persistence paid off, and by February 14, 1841, the Church in London numbered forty-six members. Several dozen more were scattered in nearby villages, prompting the two Apostles to organize the area’s members—numbering just over one hundred—into the London Conference, which included the London, Bedford, Woolwich, and Ipswich Branches.8 The Apostles called ‘‘our Beloved Brother Elder Lorenzo Snow” to serve as president of the conference, as well as president of the London Branch.9

Lorenzo Snow was twenty-six years old at the time and had been a member of the Church four years.10 Despite his youth and relatively short tenure in the Church, Snow had already served two missions in the United States and had been in England since October 1840, preaching in Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham.11 Having attended the Hebrew school in Kirtland and having served his missions faithfully, Snow was well known to the Apostles as an intelligent, faithful, hard-working elder. Evidence suggests that Brigham Young had slated him for London shortly after his (Snow’s) arrival in England.12

Snow viewed his new assignment with humility and apprehension. “I want your prayers, for the powers of darkness are great in this city;’ he wrote to George A. Smith three days after his appointment, “and I shall soon be left alone, being assisted only by those who are infants in the kingdom, and at the same time, I can scarcely say that I yet have hardly arived at the state of childhood.”13 Despite his fears, the London Conference made rapid progress under his direction. During the first three weeks of his presidency, sixteen people were baptized in London alone, and by April conference that year the London Branch counted seventy-four members.14 Snow personally baptized eighteen more by May 26, 1841, and by August 21 the young president counted “nearly one hundred” members in London and “more than one hundred and twenty” in the entire conference.15 On October 27, 1841, Snow reported to Wilford Woodruff that the conference numbered over one hundred forty members—not including the “more than twenty” that had emigrated—and that “for a week to pass over without Baptizing several is becoming an uncommon occurrence in London.”16

Other branches were enjoying similar success; Bedford, for example, had seen twenty-three baptisms over a three-week period, while the Church in Woolwich had increased from six to sixteen by this time.17 By the end of the year—a mere ten months after his arrival in London—Snow counted “more than three hundred and twenty” members in the London Conference.18 This number had swelled to four hundred members, organized into eight branches, by May 15, 1842.19

When Snow left England for Nauvoo in January 1843, the Church was well established and flourishing in the London area, although scanty surviving records and continual emigration make it impossible to follow its progress precisely.20 From Snow’s personal records, however, we know that the Church’s remarkable growth in London had been accompanied by no small number of difficulties. These problems came in many forms. For example, Snow found himself besieged by evil spirits for three weeks following his call to be conference president—an occurrence similar to the 1837 experience of Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, and Isaac Russell.21 As unnerving as this direct confrontation with the adversary was, he found an even greater challenge trying to integrate new converts into functional positions in the branches of the Church. In fact, this seems to have been Lorenzo’s greatest fear all along. When he first assumed leadership of the conference, he wrote Heber C. Kimball in October 1841:

My mind was not so much troubled in regard to the church increasing as it was in regard to managing, hewing, and shaping the stones in such a manner as they would not crowd upon and bruise each other in such a manner as to make an entire smash of the whole building[.] I fear’d lest some stones might gather so much moisture and become so heavv that I could not put them in their proper place; and others in consequence of their lightness (no faith) would be continually shuffling out of Place.22

Snow’s fears were first realized while he was attending the April 1841 conference in Manchester, when the inexperienced elder whom he had appointed to preside in London during his absence became “so troubled in mind as hardly to have confidence suficient to preside at the meettings. and even had gone so far as to assert he would leave the Church.” Cutting his stay in Manchester short, Snow returned and found the London Branch “truly in a confused state,” but he was able to restore the peace in relatively little time.23 Other difficulties followed in the ensuing months, however, and toward the end of the year Snow was forced to excommunicate the branch’s “principle Elder together with about twenty members and subordinate officers” for falsely and maliciously accusing a new member of adultery. Most of these people were rebaptized the following year.24

These and similar experiences, along with strengthening the Church in London, proved an invaluable training ground for Snow himself—a fact of which he was keenly aware. “You and Elder Woodruff said it [the call to serve as conference president] should prove a school of experience,” he wrote Heber C. Kimball eight months into his mission, “which already has been the fact. . . . Ever since I came here something new has been continually coming up among the saints no sooner was one thing over than another would arise.”25 A veteran of two missions, Snow nevertheless came upon situations in London completely beyond his previous experience. Snow recorded, “I saw at once . . . [that] I could not encounter the difficulties, without God should assist me in a very great degree;’ and that the situation required him <‘to take a different course in management than any other I had ever before taken.”26 Three months later, Snow summed up for George A. Smith the lessons he had learned in his new calling:

One thing I have fully learned in my experience while endeavouring to magnify my office as a teacher in Israel, that is, of myself I know nothing nor can I do any thing: I also see clearly that no saint can prosper except he be obedient to the instructions and council of such as are placed to preside in the church. I am confident that so long as I keep his laws, the Lord God will uphold and support me in my office.27

A lifelong scholar, Snow suddenly found himself cast in the role of teacher as he organized the London-area converts into self-sufficient branches and trained and instructed local priesthood leaders. This was no small task, requiring Snow to grapple with issues any Church leader today would be familiar with: integrating people of diverse backgrounds and experiences into unified branches and wards, strengthening individuals and families during times of personal or other types of crises, managing the temporal affairs of the Church, and instructing new converts and aged veterans alike “in theory, in principle, in doctrine, . . . in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God” (D&C 88:78). While Church membership has changed since Snow’s time, the challenges facing Church leaders in this era of rapid growth have not changed in many respects, and managing the Church in London in the early 1840s demanded no less insight and inspiration on the part of its presiding elder than is required of general and local authorities today.

The three letters reproduced here, which Snow wrote to various priesthood leaders in the London area, give us a glimpse into his counsel and instruction. Not surprisingly, Snow referred to his own experiences in London as well as examples from the scriptures as he instructed the area’s leaders in the art of priesthood leadership. In the first, he used his specific experiences with one capable yet aspiring leader to sensitively warn all the brethren against using their Church positions to gratify their own ambitions, especially if caused by any “concerted spirit of self exaltation.” His advice provides superb guidance to any presiding authority. In the second letter, Snow observed that a priesthood calling subjects the office holder to more abuse than glory in this world and that most of the honor attending one’s calling in the priesthood will not be realized until the hereafter. And in the third, Snow cautioned the brethren against four serious temptations that “have opperated successfully,” he wrote, “in throwing many from their official standing” in the priesthood. Taken together, the three letters are a powerful personal testimony to the truths taught in Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46. His observations and counsel are as applicable for Church members in leadership positions throughout the world today as they were for the few presiding English elders he was addressing over a century and a half ago.

All three letters—published here for the first time—were written in November 1842 while Snow was visiting the Bedford Branch. The first is addressed to William Lewzey28 and William Major,29 the “Presiding Elders of London Branches,” while the second and third are addressed to all of the officers of both the London and Woolwich Branches. Warm and personal, the letters shed as much light on the character and abilities of Lorenzo Snow as they do on their stated topic, and they constitute a significant addition to the small collection of published personal writings of the fifth President of the Church.30

These letters are recorded in a personal notebook, and the handwriting has been positively identified as Snow’s. Snow apparently hand copied the letters into the notebook from the originals before sending them to the Church leaders, although the possibility exists that he composed the letters in the notebook and sent copies to the Church officers.31 The notebook measures 16 x 10 cm and is in remarkably good condition, with both covers still attached and the paper showing relatively little foxing. The first letter occupies sixteen pages of this notebook; the second occupies the next seven and a half pages, and the third takes the next six pages. All pages were unnumbered and written in cursive script, and the ink has apparently faded over time. A great-grandson of Lorenzo Snow donated the notebook to the Church Historian’s Office in 1965.

The letters have been transcribed here with as little editing as possible. Snow’s capitalization, grammar, and spelling have been retained, although in words where all of the individual letters could not be determined exactly, modern spelling has been supplied without editorial marks. In several places, it is clear that Snow was dividing the letters into paragraphs; these have been retained in this transcription. In other places, the unevenness of the left margin make it difficult to say where he may have intended a paragraph break, in which cases we have supplied such breaks, without editing marks, when the changing content of the letters appears to require it. Broken words such as “an nother” and “can not” have been joined, as have words that he began writing on one line and finished on the next. Strikeouts have been indicated as words with a line drawn through the center, although illegible words and single letters that were struck out have been silently eliminated. Square brackets [ ] have been used to clarify or explain information in the text, while angle brackets < > have been used to indicate textual insertions made by Snow himself. Superscripts have been lowered to the line of text without editing marks. Snow’s punctuation has been retained, although in a few places various marks have been added or eliminated to make the text more readable. Similarly, quotation marks have been added where appropriate.

Letter 1

     Bedfordshire                    5th November 1842

Elders Lewzey & Major

Dear Brethren

The intimate and fre acquaintance and friendship which I have formed with you while in your society has so endeared you to me as ever to keep you allive in my remamberance. But setting this asside their is annother circumstance that opperates equally forcibly to preserve you [your] <constat> remamberence, namely: the great, important and sacred responsibillity which has been lain upon you according to the mind and will of Heaven together with the various difficulties, perplexities and temptations that you becom<e> subject to in consequence hereof. I could have had but little feeling, as I aught to have, had I not learned by actual experience for persons placed in your situations had I not learned it by actual experience by being placed in myself in similar circumstances.

The nature of the Church is such is such, it gathering fish of all kind, that no Elder however wise can preside over any Branch of it without experienceing more or less unpleasitness. But much difficulty is not unfrequently brought upon ourselves by not exercising proper wisdom and prudence. It is said that many spirits are in the world. I have lately discovered one in the person of a good and faithful Presiding offier [officer], which I wish now to analyze that it may be are seen, known, and avoided.

The person whom I allude to has no external faults; is ambitious in promoteing the cause; is prompt in sending out to preach and fill appointments, every one under his charge; to see that everyone is in his place, and doing his duty; and teaches practa<c>lly what he teaches theoretically; labours in the work himself more industriously than they all. But notwithstanding all this, he is perplexed and disturbed in getting forward. One murmurs, annother complains, and a kind of secret opposition [arises] from every quarter. I see no fault of the brother, consequently I gently rebuke, admonish and exhort the saints to [cease] complainings and uphold our brother and support him in his standing. They acknowledg their wrong and resolve to amend, but again break out into a similar state of insurection. I ask them to point out our brother’s faults, but they acknowledge they cannot [and] consequently become wrong themselves and bring on their minds darkness.

One thing after annother taking place, something at last strikes me that perhaps the brother may possibly possess some secret, internal working spirit that he is not aware of, that does not manifest itself openly, but thro’ some opperation that is felt, but cannot well be described, brings upon him these perplexities. I accordingly prayed that the Lord would give me a spirit of discernment in the case. my prayer was answered; I found the brother possessed of a kind of half hiden concealed spirit of self exaltation which was directing him in many of his movements. He would send out a brother to fill an appointment but had a suppressed wish to have the honor of it himself; if the appointment was not attended to he would chasten the delinquent not because the work of the Lord was in any degree frustrated, or that the brother lost a blessing, but because himself was so despised in being disobeyed. When In [a] case where a number were babtized by a brother his heart rejoiced not <so much> because the persons were brought into the covenant, but because it was done under his superintendency. Secretly wishing no person under his charge to obtain much honor unless his own name were brought into conn connection.

A spirit of envi envy could be discerned lurking underneath of an expressed apbrobation of a brother’s success who did not chance to be particular in following at all his times his counsel in every particular. This spirit was concealed; its fruits were not openly manifist, but would be if not checked; it was an inherent working evil, that would eventually destroy his usefulness. I [It] brought upon him unnecessary trouble in conducting the affairs of his charge; it likewise originated a source of continued unpleasentness in his own mind. Anxious to promote the cause of God, but alway in such away that his own hand might be plainly seen in all things. Ambitious to give good instruction but careful to put his whole name in full length at the bottom of them.

Now in this case there was no apparent excuse for disobedience on the part of the complanents because he [had] done them no apparent wrong or outward injury; therefore they aught to have submitted patiently with all long suffering without murmuring, as children to their parent who may sometimes command them unwisely and in a wrong spirit; untill they had actually seen some sensible wrong they had no business to complain. They brought upon their own minds as much darkness in manifesting their feelings and rebelling against his counsel as they would provided he had not possess’d this spirit. As for the brother, he had done nothing by which he could be disapproved; they could be reproved openly, he could not be; apparently, in the eyes of the people they were wrong, he right, but in the eyes of the spirit they might almost be said to be right, and he posatively in the wrong.

Many persons in the Priesthood who sincerely believe themselves entirely devoid of this spirit of exaltation, would on close examination of their motives which inspire them in their conduct, discover to their surprize that this spirit was urging them forward to perform many of their movements. [It?] may be seen in their overanxiety to make manifest their good works to such persons as they esteam and respect, and when they hapen to fail in doing so there follows a great depression of spirit, so as almost to dispose them to exclaim with the man in Holy Writ, “all is vanity and vexation,”32 instead of rejoiceing in a pure conciousness of having done their duty in accomplishing a good work. This spirit in a Presideing Elder is often felt a long time before its fruits become apparent and forms and endless source of vexation and perplexity. Their whole eye not being single to the glory of God, a part very little portion of it they devote to seeing after themselves or to their own selfish purposes; and just in proportion as they seek their selfish aims they become tangled, and frustrated in all their movements, and their thoughts become tinctured with unpleasentness, and their views how to manage the affairs of their charge no longer appear clear and distinct.

To become as God would wish us, we must accustom our minds to rejoice in seeing others prospered as ourselves; rejoice in seeing the cause of Zion exalted by whatseoever hands the Providence may order; and have our bosoms closed against the entrance of envy when a weaker instrument than ourselves is call’d to greater honor; be content in magnifying a lesser office till call’d to a higher; be satisfyed be satisfied in doing small things and not claim the honor of doing great ones; and never feel too lofty to be to be sometimes cut down, squared, scored and hewed to be fitted into the place we are to occupy in the spiritual building. No Elder is yet so perfect but will sometimes become rusty and must needs be scowered up, and pollished; And it will be well to bear in mind that we cannot always select our pollisher no more than we can choose the manner in [which] we would be pollished. The nature of the Priesthood is such, however, that the person higher in standing than ourselves, generally acts as our pollisher when need’d.

But what makes it more grievous sometimes, is, their will or may occur a case where it will be seen that the person who pollishes needs more pollishing than the person undergoing this opperation, but in such instances we have only to submit without complaining, as we deserved what we receive their is no escape.

The wisest men and best counsellors are sometimes found guilty of unwise practices; and he may justly be call’d a fool that expects to run the Celestial Path without deviations at any time. But he that holds himself always in readiness to be put right when show [shown] wrong, is never wrong but always right. Such an Elder will always prosper; will continue to rise in the estimation of the people of God; advancing from one post of honor to annother untill he shall become a Morning Star upon the throne of Celestial power. Unfortinately, however, it is the case with some [that] they allow a spirit of pride to bear rule over them at times when their deviation are made manifest which cause them to feel a resistance toward the spirit that would show them their weakness.

They neglect that great saying of the Lord to the children of men; “Let men come unto me and I will show them their weakness.”33 Such persons never can become great in the kingdom of God; never can arise very high in the estimation of those of the Celestial glory; Resisting the spirit of correction they resist the spirit of perfection; Resisting the line, the plumet, and the ax they never can become squared, pollished and fitted to occupy a lofty standing in the great Temple of the Almighty.

The business of or office of a Presiding Elder is not to seek how he may best gloryfy himself, or get a great name name among his brethren or to make manifest some splended or extraiordinary abillities in himself, but on the other hand, despiseing these selfish views, to act over his church asa father over his family, accounting them all as his children, and seek to make them hapy. He must study the interests of his family, looking after the welfare of the feeblest members, as well as the strongest. He must not be moved to anger when any of his sturdy sons may hapen to act boisterously, or threaten confusion, but must then act in a composed mind, endeavour to bring the rebellious into order without falling out of order himself, strive to save the refracttory son by fatherly authority exercised with wisdom love and humillity, yet if he cannot be brought to order remove him from the family that he destroy not the innocent and harmeless.

Let the children have their own way in many things as far as preserving good order in the family will possibly allow; be sure always to give them their own way in matters of no consequence, they will then be more disposed see you do not rule for the sake of ruleing, and will be better disposed to hearken more freely to your counsels in such matters as intimately concern their own good. Also you will be able thereby to enforce your counsels of importance with a good conscience, not being troubled with apprehensions that they entertain thoughts that you wish to enforce obedience simply to enjoy the pleasure of being obeyed.

The fact is if a Presideing Elder will only seek to become as he may be and aught to be, riding [ridding] himself of these selfish principles, and always act for the good of his people, and be humble, and not seek to do too much in a little time, or be too great untill grown, he will never be at a loss how to magnify his office properly, nor will ever lack the power of God to bring about his wise purposes.

May the Lord bless you is my constant prayer Affectionately

L Snow.

To Elders Wm Lewzey and Wm Major Presiding Elders of London Branches

Letter 2

     Bedfordshire 18 November [1842]

To the Officers of the church at London and Wolwich,

Dear Brethren,

There are many circumstances which serve to continue in lively exercise within my bosom deep feelings of interest in your behalf of your welfare and prosperity. It has been thro’ me principally that the Holy spirit has selected you unto the several offices in the Priesthood which in which you now stand. You have received your respective offices mostly under my immediate administration. When I first formed an acquaintance with you I found you standing idle in the market place, and enjoyed the pleasure of witnessing your first sitting out, to obtain your penny, by laboring the eleventh hour in our master’s vineyard.34 I have been witness to your commenceing your labors in your greatest weakness, and with fear and trembling makes your first attempts to exercise yourselves in your holy calling. Many of you I have seen arise from your state of weakness, fears, and tremblings, and thro’ a laudable ambition and Godly Zeal become active, strong and wise in the administration of the word of truth, by the power of your priesthood. I have often assembled with you in your counsel meettings and shared your wisdom in consultations of the most proper measures to promulgate light, and truth to the best advantage thro’ your city: and, a long period have I been privaledged with the pleasure of your society and been cheered and elivened by your conservation [conversation]. Therefore, tho’ moons shall cease to wax and wane, and suns shall cease to roll, yet you can never cease to occupy a conspicuous place upon the tablet of my memory.

Continually I offer up to our heavenly Father my heartfelt desires for you [your] care, and preservation, and success in our master’s cause, that you may ever be strengthened so you faint not <nor> become weary in proggressing forward upon the Celestial path.

I wish to lay before you at this time some considerations in relation to the nature of your calling, and sphere of duties, which, tho’ I may often have spoken to you concerning, I hope will not be esteamed any the less interesting or worthy of your most serious attention. In respect to the honor and dignity and values of your calling I need say but little, as you know perfectly that the least standing you may occupy in the Priesthood is more desireable than the highest post of honor in the kingdoms of the world. Tho’ your office may now make you a hiss and by word among the people, but if magnifyed will, at some future period, exhalt you upon a throne in our Father’s Kingdom, more exceedingly grand, and magnifficient than any on which sit the greatest Manarch of this word [world]. Tho’ your office, for awhile, makes you but a servant, yet hereafter it shall exhalt you a heavenly king; If it now makes you but a hiss and by word, hereafter it will make you an object of awe, and reverence.

In the world Jesus Christ held the highest office in the Priesthood; but when on earth it gave him no glory, but made him an object among many, of contempt and derision; it made him a servant of the people who saw none of his glory or but little of the power of his office. He administered to them in his weakness altho’ their belonged to his office all the powers, and dominions on earth and in heaven. But he did not seek to be clothed upon while on earth with that glory which he had with the father before the world was. When he went into the heavens, however, he then received the authiorit [authority] to exercise the powers of his office, with awful sway. It is recorded in the book of Mormon that after his resurrection he exercised his kingly power in a terrible manner upon the wicked cities of the Nephites, spreading terror and devastation throughout their whole country.35 How very different is he now looked upon in comparison in comparison to what he was when dewling [dwelling] in weakness among men. At his presence nations fear, Monarchs tremble, and mountains flow down.

Brethren, though it doth not now appear what we shall be but we know when he shall apear we shall be like him36 as we possess the same Priesthood; that we shall sit down upon his throne like as he sets upon his Father’s throne. We now manifest ourselves to the world in <our> weakness and thereby become a stumbling unto the wicked and are mocked and derided, but hereafter will we present ourselves as their kings and rulers, and they shall pay us respect and reverence.

Elijah when on earth was but a servant to the people oftentimes being compell’d to flee for his life, and make his abode in dens, and caves. There seemed nothing in his appearance to call forth respect from the world, but now, he has power greater than a king to save the world by whom he was despised, by his own personal administration. The hearts of the children he shall turn to the parents, and the parent’s to the children to save the earth from destruction.37 The wonderful visions shown seen by John on the isle of Patmos were shown him by one of his brethren of the Priesthood who once dwelt on earth in weakness but afterward [was] exhalted.38 Moroni when on earth was but little thought of, and exercised the power of his office in a very limited degree, but now comes down from heaven, strikes men with astonishment at his glory, [and] points out the rich treasure that is destined to sweep into everlasting oblivion the false doctrines of all chrisendom and fill the whole earth with heaven born truths.39 Jhon [John] the babtist tho’ holding an office in the Priesthood, had not power to escape a violent death, but on arriveing among the Sanctifyed held the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood so the world with all their power and wisdom could not wrest them from him nor obtain them till he felt disposed to restore them personally.40 Peter, James and John in their ingnorance and weakness, were but little heeded by the people; they were imprisioned whiped and stoned, and the two former were killed; still they maintained ther standing in the Priesthood, and held power to close the heavens and leave generation upon generations powerless completely powerless, wandering in spiritual darkness. Nor would the Almighty deign to speak to the nations till there [their] servants in the Priesthood should feele inclined to revisit the world, and restore their authority.

From these examples we see how it is with the Priesthood. The office is receved here but the glory power and dominion must be expected hereafter. All things shall be subdued and brought under our subjection, but not all at once, time is required to complete fully the purposes of heaven in our favour. Our kingdom, provided we are faithful, is secured to us, but before we can enter much into possession of its glory honors &c we may expect generally to enter the assembly of the glorifyed to receive our coronation. But while on earth it would be wise not to set our hearts upon receiving much honor respect or favor from the world, nor much peace, but prepare our ears for salutation, of of “deceiver, false Prophet, ignoramos, phanatect [fanatic]”- &c and brace up our courage to be stoned, imprisioned, whipped, and bruised.

Having attained to the Priesthood and knowing its inestimable worth the greatest object of consideration is to how to conduct ourselves so as to maintain its possession; that we fail not, after the manner of some to who loose their Birthright; these considerations I will make the subject of my next communication.

May the Lord God of our Fathers bless you abundently.



Letter 3

November 24. [1842]

To the Officer at L. [London] W. [Woolwich]

Dear Brethren,

The path of the Priesthood is ever beset with temptations more numerous, and more dangerous than that of privite members. Satan is has always been found here more busy than on any other course. Christ experien<ed> them in their most fascinating attitude; The prophets likewise were often severely tempted to disgrace their Priesthood, Esaw being tempted sold his birthright and forever lost its blessings.

My brethren whom I now address I wish to caution against certain evils near home, and which he they will be tempted with more or less, and be overthrown some of them unless they are upon their guard. These evils that I am about mentioning have opperated successfully in throwing many from their official standing with whom I have been personally acquainted. I can arrange I think principally under the following heads, 1st Cultivateing a spirit of dislike 1st Allowing ourselves to cultivate a spirit of uneasiness and disaffectio [disaffection] because that, holding an office no way happens to open whereby to magnify it in such a manner as we can become distinguished and our ambition flattered. 2d. Indulging <feeling> of hatred and animosity for some injury either real or supossed that we may have received from someone standing in the Priesthood. 3rd Indulging feelings of dissatisfaction when a brother is promoted to a more honorable post than ourselves, Lastly, Dislikeng, disregarding and resisting those appointed over us. We will now take a general view of the character of these evils begining with the first mentioned.

An individual need not expect to render himself conspicuous in his office the moment on receiving it, some time may elapse before circumstances will allow his entering to any extent upon the discharge of its duties. Perhaps he had not been sufficiently instructed, or had sufficient experience to be sent out to officiate in the Priesthood. It .is foolish to allow oneself to be discouraged, and overcome because not call’d to officiate immediately to so great an extent as might be wished; for the Priesthood may be assured that they are by no means call’d to a kingdom of idleness but all will ultimately be furnished with quite as much business as they will know how to perform.

The next evil, that of indulging feelings of animosity, has been the direct occasion of overthrowing many; even the the Apostles did not wholly escape its pollutions, consequently were severely chastened for it (see Cov.).41 If this sin would not be passed over in the case of the Apostles, we may rest assured that it will be noticed if found in ourselves and receive its due punishment. It sometimes happens that a wrong is done an individual who thereupon stores up feelings of animosity and unwisely looks forward with fondness to the a time when the offending party shall meet with severe punishment; but it so happens that this party repents of his aggressions, receives pardon at [the] hands of the Lord whereby he escapes those troubles into which it was so fondly wished he should be plunged. Now the party that committed the offince stands blameless whereas the one on whom the injury was inflicted stand indulging feelings of hatred, stand on the broad road of apostacy; he has gotten an evil eye toward one whom the Lord has forgiven; watching for iniquity his mind is completely fill’d with gross darkness. Reflecting 011 a few cases like this will clearly show us the awful danger of allowing our hearts to give place to feelings of animosity. If we would receive an inheritance in the kingdom of our Father we must become as little children which indulge not hard feelings one against annother tho’ they sometimes fall out and. No officer need expect the spirit and power of his office who remains guilty of this transgression, but will eventually appostatize. May the Lord help us then to avoid this evil.

In regard to the next evil, that of envying such as may hapen to be esteamed, honored, or raised to a higher office than ourselves, I would observe that there are more that feel this passion than what some may imagine. Satan was the first who inculcated it, and so doing proved his destruction, and so it will prove also to every individual who fosters it. It is not a little strang [strange] that persons should indulge a passion wherein they must be perfectly aware nothing can be gained but eveything [everything] lost. This consideration should opperate in us a decided antipathy against its approach, and should it at some ungarded moment introduce itself to ou [our] minds to make it an unwelcome visitor and expell it at once. We need not fear tho’ one be exhalted a little before ourselves, it will soon become our lot to stand in equally as much glory, even as much as our hearts can possibly desire. And tho’ one run faster than ourselves he cannot be glorifyed till we arrive, and no doubt that when he may stop to a little to breath he will take this into consideration, and then turn his attention and put forth his exertions towards assisting us whose approaches are more slow and tardy.42

About the author(s)

Andrew Hedges is Assistant Professor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU. Jay Burrup is an archivist at the Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


1. James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker, Men with a Mission, 1837–1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 31-53.

2. Allen, Esplin, and Whittaker, Men with a Mission, 301–2, especially note 37.

3. M. Hamlin Cannon, “Migration of English Mormons to America,” American Historical Review 52 (April 1947): 441.

4. In 1850 the LDS population in the British Isles was 30,747, while Utah’s population stood at 11,380. In 1870, Utah’s population stood at 86,786. Of these, 20,772, or 23.93 percent, had been born in the British Isles. See V. Ben Bloxham, James R. Moss, and Larry C. Porter, eds., Truth Will Prevail: The Rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles, 1837–1987 (Solihull, England: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,1987), 442; Philip Arthur Michael Taylor, Expectations Westward: The Mormons and the Emigration of Their British Converts in the Nineteenth Century (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1965), 244; and Allan Kent Powell, “Population,” Utah History Encyclopedia, ed. Allan Kent Powell (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994), 431.

5. Orson Pratt to George A. Smith, October 17, 1840, George A. Smith Collection, Archives Division, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City (hereafter cited as LDS Church Archives).

6. Frederick S. Buchanan, “The Ebb and Flow of the Church in Scotland,” in Bloxham, Moss, and Porter, Truth Will Prevail, 268–70.

7. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898, Typescript, ed. Scott G. Kenney, 9 vols. (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983–85), 1:506 (September 2, 1840), 1:580 (December 20, 1840).

8. Woodruff, Journal, 2:45 (February 14, 1841); Lorenzo Snow to Parley P. Pratt, August 21, 1841, Lorenzo Snow Notebook, 1841–42, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives. Bedford had forty-two members, Ipswich twelve, and Woolwich six; see Woodruff, Journal, 2:45 (February 14, 1841). In a letter to Wilford Woodruff, dated October 27,1841, as well as in an unaddressed note dated December 21, 1841, Snow gives membership of the London Branch as forty-seven. Snow Notebook. The discrepancy is probably because another person was baptized immediately following the organization of the London Conference. See Woodruff, Journal, 2:46 (February 14, 1841).

9. Woodruff, Journal, 2:46–47 (February 14, 1841).

10. Snow was born April 3, 1814, in Mantua, Portage County, Ohio, and baptized by John F. Boynton in June 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio; see Eliza R. Snow Smith, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1884), 1, 7. Other biographies of Snow include Preston Nibley, The Presidents of the Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1941), 172–221; Thomas C. Romney, The Life of Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City: Sugarhouse, 1955); Francis M. Gibbons, Lorenzo Snow: Spiritual Giant, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982); Heidi S. Swinton, “Lorenzo Snow,” in The Presidents of the Church, ed. Leonard J. Arrington (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 145–76; and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Eliza and Her Sisters (Salt Lake City: Aspen Books, 1991), 41–54.

11. Snow’s first mission was to Ohio, while his second took him to Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. See Snow, Biography and Family Record, 15–19, 30–38. Snow arrived in England on October 22, 1840. After spending “some few days” in Liverpool and “about ten” more in Manchester, he moved to Birmingham, where he stayed until he left for London on February 11, 1841. See Lorenzo Snow to E. McConougley, n.d., Snow Notebook; and Lorenzo Snow to Charlotte Granger, February 25, 1841, Snow Notebook.

12. In a letter to George A. Smith dated December 10, 1840, Snow wrote, “Elder Young writes in a letter which I just received from Elder Woodruff ‘we do not know but we shall be glad for Elder Snow to come to London if he can be spared there.’” Lorenzo Snow to George A. Smith, December 10, 1840, George A. Smith Collection. Considering that Snow heard of Young’s plans for him third hand by early December, Young must have first voiced them shortly after his arrival on October 22.

13. Lorenzo Snow to George A. Smith, February 17,1841, George A. Smith Collection.

14. Lorenzo Snow to Brigham Young, May 1841, Snow Notebook.

15. Snow, Biography and Family Record, 52–53; Lorenzo Snow to Parley P. Pratt, August 21, 1841, Snow Notebook.

16. Lorenzo Snow to Wilford Woodruff, October 27, 1841, Snow Notebook.

17. Snow to Pratt, August 21, 1841; Snow to Woodruff, October 27, 1841, Snow Notebook.

18. Lorenzo Snow, unaddressed letter, December 21, 1841, Snow Notebook.

19. “General Conference,” Times and Seasons 4 (January 16, 1843): 76-77. Snow reported this number at the General Conference of the British Mission in Manchester, which was held on this date.

20. Relatively little has been written on Snow’s missionary work in London, as historians of the English mission have tended to focus their attention on the efforts of Brigham Young and other Apostles. For accounts of Snow’s mission, see the biographies mentioned above (note 10); Richard L. Evans, A Century of “Mormonism” in Great Britain (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1937); and Allen, Esplin, and Whittaker, Men with a Mission; 226, 264, 302, 308.

21. Lorenzo Snow to Heber C. Kimball, October 22, 1841, Snow Notebook.

22. Snow to Kimball, October 22, 1841, Snow Notebook.

23. Snow, unaddressed letter, December 21, 1841, Snow Notebook.

24. Lorenzo Snow, Journal and Letterbook, 1836–45, n.d., 43–44, LDS Church Archives; Lorenzo Snow to Heber C. Kimball, n.d., Snow Notebook; Lorenzo Snow to Parley P. Pratt, December 6, 1841, Snow Notebook; Parley P. Pratt to Lorenzo Snow, December 9, [1841], Snow Notebook; Lorenzo Snow, unaddressed letter, n.d., Snow Notebook; Joseph Brotherton to Elder Griffiths, December 14, 1841, Snow Notebook.

25. Snow to Kimball, October 22, 1841, Snow Notebook.

26. Snow to Kimball, October 22, 1841, Snow Notebook.

27. Lorenzo Snow to George A. Smith, January 20, 1842, Snow Notebook.

28. Relatively little is known about William Lewzey. His name first appears for certain in the records of the London Conference as Elder Lewzey on June 15, 1842, when he was appointed to hold a street meeting in London. By September 7, 1842, the London Branch was holding its regular officers’ council meeting in his home at 15 Goldsmith Row, Hackney, London. When the London Branch split into the East and West London Branches following Lorenzo Snow’s return to America, Lewzey was called to preside over the East London Branch, which was the larger of the two. He continued in this calling until January 29, 1844, at least, when it was voted that he receive a recommendation to go to Zion. We have no record of his whereabouts until February 9, 1846, when David Candland recorded having dinner with him in St. Louis. Lewzey was still living in St. Louis in 1850, at which time the census lists him as sixty years old. No record of his emigration to Utah has been found. See “Manuscript History of the London Conference,” LDS Church Archives; Documents of David Candland, typescript, February 9, 1846 (n.p., n.d.); and Bureau of the Census, “Population Schedules of the Seventh Census of the United States, 1850,” St. Louis, Mo., Wards 4–5, prepared by the National Archives and Records Service (Washington, D.C., 1963).

29. William Warner Major was born January 27,1804, in Bristol, England. He married Sarah Coles in 1832 and joined the Church in 1842. On September 4, 1843, after serving a mission to Reading and Berkshire, he was called to preside over the officers’ council meetings being held in the home of William Lewzey. Major left England for America in the winter of 1844, arriving in Nauvoo that summer. He was made a member of the High Council in Winter Quarters and came to Utah with Brigham Young in 1848. In 1853 he left for England on a mission, where he died October 2, 1854, after an extended illness. See “History of the Life of William Warner Major,” typescript, LDS Church Archives; “Death of Elder William Warner Major,” Millennial Star 16 (November 4, 1854): 700; Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Memorial Association and Deseret News, 1901–36), 3:674.

30. Snow, Biography and Family Record, contains lengthy extracts from Snow’s journal and several letters, including two he wrote while on his mission in England. Snow’s journal of his trek across Iowa is published in Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, “The Iowa Journal of Lorenzo Snow,” BYU Studies 24, no. 3 (1984): 261–73. Lorenzo’s record of his trip to Palestine with George A. Smith in 1873 has been published as Correspondence of Palestine Tourists (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Steam Printing Establishment, 1977). Aside from these few items, none of his personal writings has been published.

31. Two other letters in the notebook are specifically identified as copies of the originals, while none of the letters transcribed here are so identified. Hence the possibility that they were originally composed in the notebook.

32. Ecclesiastes 1:14; 2:17.

33. Snow is paraphrasing Ether 12:27: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.”

34. 34. Matthew 20:1–16.

35. See 3 Nephi 8. This destruction actually took place immediately following the Savior’s death, before his resurrection.

36. Compare 1 John 3:2.

37. See Malachi 4:5–6; 3 Nephi 25:5–6; Doctrine and Covenants 2; and Joseph Smith History 1:38–39.

38. Revelation 19:10.

39. Joseph Smith—History 1:30–34.

40. Joseph Smith—History 1:68–72.

41. Doctrine and Covenants 64:8.

42. Snow either did not discuss the fourth category of evils, that of “dislikeng, disregarding and resisting those appointed over us,” in his original letter to the officers of the Church in the London area, or he failed to copy that portion of the letter into his notebook. At any rate, the letter in his notebook ends without a discussion of the fourth evil.


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