Eliza R. Snow was born 21 January 1804 in Becket, Berkshire County, Massachusetts to Oliver Snow (1775-1845) and Rosetta Lenora Pettibone (1778-1846) and died 5 December 1887 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah of unspecified causes. She married Joseph Smith (1805-1844) 29 June 1842 in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. She married Brigham Young (1801-1877) 26 June 1845 in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois.


Eliza Roxcy Snow was one of the most celebrated Mormon women of the nineteenth century. A renowned poet, she chronicled history, celebrated nature and relationships, and expounded scripture and doctrine. Snow was married to Joseph Smith (1805-1844) as a plural wife and was openly a plural wife of Brigham Young (1801-1877) after Smith's death. Snow was the second general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), which she reestablished in Utah Territory in 1866. She was also the sister of Lorenzo Snow (1814-1901), the church's fifth president.

Early Life

Born in Becket, Massachusetts, Snow was the second daughter of Oliver and Rosetta Snow. When she was two years old, her family left New England to settle on a new and fertile farm in the Western Reserve valley, in Mantua, Ohio. The Snow family valued learning and saw that each child had educational opportunities. Snow worked as secretary for her father in his office as justice of the peace.

Snow's Baptist parents welcomed a variety of religious believers into their home. In 1828, Snow and her parents joined Alexander Campbell's Christian restorationist movement, the Disciples of Christ. In 1831, when Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, took up residence in Hiram, Ohio, four miles from the family's farm, the Snow family took a strong interest in the new religious movement. Snow's mother and sister joined Smith's Church of Christ early on; several years later, in 1835, Snow was baptized and moved to Kirtland, Ohio, the headquarters of the church. Upon her arrival, Snow donated her inheritance, a large sum of money, toward the building of the church's Kirtland Temple. In appreciation, the building committee provided her with the title to "a very valuable [lot]-situated near the Temple, with a fruit tree-an excellent spring of water, and house that accommodated two families." Here, Snow taught school for Smith's family and was influential in interesting her younger brother, Lorenzo, in Mormonism. Lorenzo Snow later became an apostle and the church's fifth president.

Relief Society Service

The first Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois on March 17, 1842, as a philanthropic and women's educational organization.[9] Snow served as the organization's first secretary, with Joseph Smith's wife, Emma Smith, as president. The organization was originally known as "The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo." [10] It later became known simply as "The Relief Society." For the next three years, Snow kept copious notes of the organization's meetings, including Joseph Smith's teachings on how the organization should operate. Members of the original Relief Society stopped meeting shortly after Smith's death in 1844, and the organization soon became defunct.[9]

Brigham Young led a migration of LDS Church members to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, and for the next twenty years attempts were periodically made to reestablish the organization. Until 1868, however, activity was limited, and no sustained, church-wide Relief Society existed.[11]

In 1868, Young commissioned Snow with reestablishing the Relief Society. For the next several years, Snow traveled throughout the Utah Territory helping LDS bishops organize Relief Societies in their local wards, using the notes she took as secretary in Nauvoo as the founding principles of the reestablished Relief Society.[12] "What is the object of the Female Relief Society?" Snow wrote on one occasion. "I would reply--to do good--to bring into requisition every capacity we possess for doing good, not only in relieving the poor but in saving souls."[13] Local Relief Societies soon fell under the umbrella of a church-wide, general Relief Society of which Snow served as president until 1887.

Poetry & LDS Hymns

Snow wrote poetry from a young age, one time even writing school lessons in rhyme. Between 1826 and 1832, she published more than 20 poems in local newspapers under various pen names, including the Western Courier of Ravenna, Ohio, and the Ohio Star. A number of Snow's poems were set to music and have become important Mormon hymns, some of which appear in the current edition of the LDS Church's hymnal. One of her hymns, "Great is the Lord", was published in the first Latter Day Saint hymnal in 1835, the year of her baptism.

In Nauvoo, Snow gained unique distinction as a Mormon poet featured in local newspapers, and she was later called "Zion's Poetess." She continued to write poems as she journeyed to the Salt Lake Valley, documenting the pioneer trail and life in Utah.

One of her best-known poems, "Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother," was written soon after the death of her father and just over a year after the death of Joseph Smith.[20] The poem, renamed "O My Father" after the first line, is included in the current LDS Church's hymnal, as are Snow's hymns "Great is the Lord"; "Again We Meet Around the Board"; "Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake!"; "How Great the Wisdom and the Love"; "The Time Is Far Spent"; "In Our Lovely Deseret"; "Though Deepening Trials"; "Behold the Great Redeemer Die"; and "Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses".

Marriage & Family

1st Marriage: Joseph Smith

Snow moved west with her family and the body of the church, first to Adam-ondi-Ahman, a short-lived settlement in Missouri, and then to Nauvoo, Illinois. In the 1930s Alice Merrill Horne wrote in her autobiography that when she was a girl she overheard a conversation that in Missouri during the 1838 Mormon War, Eliza Snow was brutally gang-raped by eight Missourians, which left her unable to have children.[4] Later, according to Alice Merrill Horne, Joseph Smith offered her marriage as a plural wife "as a way of promising her that she would still have eternal offspring and that she would be a mother in Zion."[4]

In Nauvoo, Snow again made her living as a school teacher. After Smith's death, Snow claimed to have secretly wed him on June 29, 1842, as a plural wife. Snow wrote fondly of Smith, "my beloved husband, the choice of my heart and the crown of my life".[5] However, Snow had organized a petition in that same summer of 1842, with a thousand female signatures, denying that Smith was connected with polygamy and extoling his virtue.[6] As Secretary of the Ladies' Relief Society, she organized the publishing of a certificate in October 1842 denouncing polygamy and denying Smith as its creator or participant.[7] Years later, when Snow was informed that Smith's first wife, Emma, had stated on her deathbed that her husband had never been a polygamist, Snow was reported to have stated she doubted the story but "If ... [this] was really [Sister Emma's] testimony she died with a libel on her lips".[8]

2nd Marriage: Brigham Young

After Smith's death, Snow married Brigham Young as a plural wife. She traveled west across the plains and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on October 2, 1847. There, childless Eliza became a prominent member of Young's family, moving into an upper bedroom in Young's Salt Lake City residence, the Lion House.


#g1: Offspring of Oliver Snow (1775-1845) and Rosetta Lenora Pettibone (1778-1846)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Lenora Abigail Snow (1801-1872)
Eliza Roxcy Snow (1804-1887) 21 January 1804 Becket, Berkshire County, Massachusetts 5 December 1887 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Joseph Smith (1805-1844)
Brigham Young (1801-1877)
Percy Amanda Snow (1808-1848)
Melissa Snow (1810-1835)
Lorenzo Snow (1814-1901) 3 April 1814 Mantua, Portage County, Ohio 10 October 1901 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah
Lucius Augustus Snow (1819-1898)
Samuel Pearce Snow (1821-1908)



Footnotes (including sources)