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Administration of President Snow — 1898-1901

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President Lorenzo Snow

The Presidency Re-organized

Eleven days after the death of President Wilford Woodruff, the apostles met in council and reorganized the First Presidency.

Lorenzo Snow, then in his 85th year, was sustained as President of the Church, and selected the same counselors who had served with President Woodruff. The reason for this immediate action in reorganizing the First Presidency was a statement by President Woodruff, shortly before his death, that “it was not the will of the Lord that in the future there should be a lengthy period elapse between the death of the president and the re-organization of the First Presidency.” At the October conference (1898) the usual procedure was followed in presenting the new officers of the presidency, and all the authorities of the Church were unanimously sustained. Elder Rudger Clawson, president of the Box Elder Stake, was called to the apostleship and was ordained, October 10.[Essentials in Church History. Joseph Fielding Smith, pg. 501-502[/note]

President Lorenzo Snow

President Lorenzo Snow was born April 3, 1814, in Mantua, Portage County, Ohio. In June, 1836, he was baptized by John F. Boynton, and the following winter was ordained an elder. He immediately entered the ministry and was laboring in Kentucky when the Saints were expelled from Missouri. In the early forties he labored in Great Britain, his fields being Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and London. After the departure of most of the apostles from that mission he acted as assistant to Elder Parley P. Pratt, who presided over the British Mission. He returned to America in 1843 and made his home at Nauvoo. In 1849 he was called to the apostleship, and took a mission to Italy, where he introduced the work, but met with little success. During the anti-polygamy crusade he was sentenced by Judge Orlando W. Powers under the “segregation” ruling, to serve three terms of imprisonment of six months each, making a period of eighteen months, and to pay three fines of three hundred dollars each. The supreme court of Utah confirmed the sentence and an appeal was taken to the court of last resort. After he had served eleven months of his imprisonment the supreme court of the United States reversed the ruling made in his case, denying the right of the Utah judges to inflict punishment by “segregation,” and he was released from confinement. This ruling also released others who had been illegally sentenced by the judges of the Utah courts. President Snow was sustained as the president of the Twelve Apostles when the First Presidency was re-organized in 1889, and was also called to preside in the Salt Lake Temple when that building was opened for work (1893), which position he retained until his death.[Ibid. pg.502]

The Roberts Case

At the general election held November 8, 1898, Brigham H. Roberts (Democrat) and a member of the presiding council of the seventies, was elected as Utah’s representative in Congress, and Robert N. Baskin was elected to the Utah supreme court. During the campaign much was said by the enemies of Mr. Roberts, because he had a plural family, and the agitation became nationwide. It had been understood when Utah became a state that there should be no more plural marriages, and the Utah constitution contained a provision as follows:

“That perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured and that no inhabitant of said state shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship; provided, that polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited.”

However it was not understood that those who had entered into that relation should be barred from political rights. President Grover Cleveland, in September, 1894, by proclamation, restored all political and civil rights to those who had been disfranchised by the antipolygamy legislation. Similar action had previously been taken by President Benjamin Harrison. John Henry Smith, president of the constitutional convention, was a polygamist, and Brigham H. Roberts also served in that body without any question of opposition, and helped to frame the constitution which prohibited plural marriage in the state.[Ibid. pg.502]

Opposition of the Ministers

The opposition against Congressman Roberts was led by the Ministerial Alliance of Salt Lake City, Attorney A. T. Schroeder, and the Salt Lake Tribune, which at that time was the organ of the Republican party. Mr. Charles C. Goodwin, editor of the Tribune, had served with B. H. Roberts in the constitutional convention without a thought of opposition. It appeared now that the old question was to be revived through religious and political hate, and that the harmony which had prevailed was to come to an end. The Ministerial Alliance met December 6, 1898, and prepared an address which was signed by twenty-four “ministers of the Gospel,” “most earnestly” calling upon the people of the United States to join them in a protest against the seating of Congressman-elect Roberts of Utah. They declared that the “Mormon” Church, in the election of Congressman Roberts, had broken its pledge with the government.[Ibid. pg.503]

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First Presidency of the Church – September 18, 1898: George Q. Cannon, Lorenzo Snow, and Joseph F. Smith

Statement of President Snow

In a telegram to the New York World, December 29, 1898, President Snow stated, officially and emphatically, in answer to the many false reports, that plural marriages had ceased with the issuance of the manifesto by President Woodruff, and that the Church had nothing to do with the nomination and election of B. H. Roberts, that matter being entirely a secular and political affair. The record of the election showed that B. H. Roberts received greater support from the non-“Mormons” than he did from the “Mormon” people.[Ibid. pg.503]

Declaration of Senator Rawlins

In answer to the false accusations, Senator Joseph L. Rawlins (non-“Mormon,”) stated:

“That polygamists should be disqualified to vote or to hold office was no part of the compact between the state of Utah and the United States. In territorial elections polygamists were so disqualified. But Congress purposely and knowingly wiped away all such disqualifications as to the very first election to be held under the enabling act, namely, the election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention.”[Ibid. pg.503]

Congressman Roberts Excluded

When B. H. Roberts was called to the bar of the house to be sworn in, Mr. Robert W. Tayler of Ohio arose and moved that the question of the right of the representative from Utah be referred to a committee of nine members of the house, and until such committee made report, the said B. H. Roberts should not be sworn in, or permitted to occupy a seat. The motion was carried, and after an investigation of six weeks, seven of the members of the committee reported in favor of his exclusion which should be determined by a majority vote; the other two members of the committee favored admission of the Utah member, and then expulsion afterwards. In the meantime many petitions from all parts of the United States poured into Congress asking for his expulsion. January 25, 1900, the matter came to a vote and bigotry prevailed. Congressman-elect Roberts was excluded by a vote of 244 to 50 and 36 not voting. A number of those who voted for the majority report confessed that they voted against their consciences and in favor of public clamor that their own political lives might be saved. Having been given a chance to make a defense, B. H. Roberts spoke, making a vigorous and telling protest against the bigoted action proposed against him.[Ibid. pg.504]

The Issue of Church Bonds

Due to the financial difficulties in which the Church was placed because of continued prosecution and persecution, it became necessary for some action to be taken. It was decided that bonds be issued, and this was done in the sum of one million dollars. The bonds were taken up by the people at home and local interests, and by this aid the Church was able to meet its many obligations and was saved from financial embarrassment.[Ibid. pg.504]

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The St. George Tabernacle, where the revelation President Snow received on tithing was first presented

The Law of Tithing

The administration of President Lorenzo Snow was noted particularly for the teaching of the law of tithing, and the great reform among the members of the Church in relation to that principle. This reform was inaugurated in the spring of 1899, while the presidency were visiting the various settlements of the Church in southern Utah. On the return journey from St. George the law of tithing was made the special theme. This topic was continued in the sessions of the Mutual Improvement conference held the latter part of May, and it became the watchword, or slogan, of the various stakes. A resolution was unanimously adopted in the Mutual conference, as follows:

“Resolved: That we accept the doctrine of tithing, as now presented by President Snow, as the present word and will of the Lord unto us, and we do accept it with all our hearts; we will ourselves observe it, and we will do all in our power to get the Latter-day Saints to do likewise.”

After a few remarks by Elder Francis M. Lyman in relation to the resolution, President Snow remarked: “Brethren, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you. Every man who is here, who has made this promise will be saved in the Celestial Kingdom. God bless you. Amen.”[Ibid. pg.504]

The Solemn Fast-Day

Following the Mutual conference, a solemn assembly of all the general authorities and the officers of the various stakes, was held in the Salt Lake Temple, Sunday, July 2, 1899. The day was also observed as a general fast day according to the custom of the Church. The law of tithing was discussed among other important topics, and here also a resolution was adopted by the assembled brethren, six hundred and twenty-three officers of the Church being present, that they would covenant with the Lord to observe this sacred law of tithing, and teach the Saints to do the same. From that time forth the paying of tithes and offerings on the part of the members was observed with increased interest, although there still are many who do not faithfully observe this law.[Ibid. pg.505]

Celebration of Mission Jubilees

The fiftieth anniversary of the introduction of the Gospel into Scandinavia was celebrated with fitting ceremonies, Thursday, June 14, 1900, in the Assembly Hall, Salt Lake City. Elder Anthon H. Lund, of the council of the apostles, presided. The festivities continued until the 17th of June.

A similar celebration was held in December, 1900, at Honolulu. Hawaii, in commemoration of the opening of the mission in the Hawaiian Islands. President George Q. Cannon, one of the first missionaries to the land, was present as the guest of honor. The Saints from the various islands assembled and engaged in a time of feasting and refreshing and were instructed by President Cannon and many others.[Ibid. pg.505]

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Scofield Mine explosion in Salt Lake Tribune

The Scofield Disaster

A sad occurrence which cast a cloud of gloom over Utah, was the explosion in Mine number 4, at Winter Quarters, near Scofield, Carbon County, May 1, 1900. About two hundred miners were killed many of whom were members of the Church. Elders George Teasdale, Heber J. Grant and Reed Smoot of the council of the twelve, attended the services which were held at Scofield, Sunday, May 6, 1900. Governor Heber M. Wells appealed to the public for aid for the bereaved families and the people of the state responded nobly.[Ibid. pg.505-506]

The Japanese Mission

An event of great interest which occurred near the close of the ministry of President Snow, was the opening of a mission in Japan. In keeping with the commandment to preach the Gospel in all the world, President Snow was led to send missionaries to the people of the Far East. Elder Heber J. Grant, of the council of the apostles, was chosen February 14, 1901, to open that mission. Later Elders Horace S. Ensign, Louis A. Kelsch and Alma O. Taylor, were called to assist in that labor. These brethren departed for Japan, July 24, 1901, and arrived in Yokohama, August 12. The work of teaching the natives was slow because of the many centuries of pagan teaching and the difficulty the elders had in learning the language. After the return of the other brethren, Elder Taylor remained in that land as president of the mission for nine years. Work is still being conducted among the Japanese.[Ibid. pg.506]

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President Snow

Death of President Snow

When the October conference was held in 1901, President Snow was ill and unable to attend the opening sessions. Sunday afternoon, the third and closing day (Oct. 6), he was present and, though somewhat feeble, made extended remarks. At the close of his address the general authorities were sustained. Joseph F. Smith was presented as first counselor in the First Presidency—President George Q. Cannon having died April 12, 1901, in California—and Rudger Clawson was presented as second counselor. These brethren, however, were not set apart to these positions, for President Snow returned from the conference and was confined to his room in the Bee Hive House, where, four days later (Oct. 10), he died. Funeral services were held in the tabernacle on the 13th after which the body was taken by special train to Brigham City, President Snow’s former home, and there interred, in the presence of the general authorities of the Church and a vast concourse of people.[Ibid. pg.506]

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