Eliza Roxcy Snow was a plural wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Return to Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
Born: January 21, 1804
Died: December 5, 1887, Salt Lake City, Utah
Sealed (Joseph Smith): June 29, 1842
Full Name: Eliza Roxcy Snow
Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and their Mothers
There were illustrious names among those pioneer women — Eliza R. Snow, whose poetic soul, sang in the wilderness, making glorious the read they trod. She, who could have stood among the first ranks of the singers of the last century, and who put aside an ambition that would have tempted a spirit less noble, that she might cheer the hearts of her chosen people, as they carved out their destinies in the new land. As this refined woman was on the way through the wilderness, she sang, with the sweetness of a soul touched by divine fire, songs that glorified the journey, and cheered the weary hearts around her with promises of coming recompense.
Eliza R. Snow: “Sketch of My Life”
In Nauvoo I first understood that the practice of plurality of wives was to be introduced into the church. The subject was very repugnant to my feelings—so directly was it in opposition to my educated prepossessions, that it seemed as though all the prejudices of my ancestors for generations past congregated around me: But when I reflected that I was living in the Dispensation of the fulness of times, embracing all other Dispensations, surely Plural Marriage must necessarily be included, and I consoled myself with the idea that it was far in the distance, and beyond the period of my mortal existence. It was not long however, after I received the first intimation, before the announcement reached me that the “set time” had come—that God had commanded his servants to establish the order, by taking additional wives—I knew that God . . . was speaking. . . . As I increased in knowledge concerning the principle and design of Plural Marriage, I grew in love with it. . . .
I was sealed to the Prophet, Joseph Smith, for time and eternity, in accordance with the Celestial Law of Marriage which God has revealed—the ceremony being performed by a servant of the Most High—authorized to officiate in sacred ordinances. This, one of the most important circumstances of my life, I have never had cause to regret. 1
When first plural marriage was suggested to me . . . I would not listen to the matter. The idea was repugnant, abhorrent. I was like any other young woman who had beaux and suitors for her hand. I wanted to share a husband with no woman. But I was told it was God’s command, and I went to God and asked God to enlighten me, and he did. I saw and felt that plural marriage was not only right, but that it was the only true manner of living up to the gospels and I quenched my womanly emotions and entered the order.2
In Nauvoo I first understood that the practice of plurality of wives was to be introduced into the church. The subject was very repugnant to my feelings—so directly was it in opposition to my educated prepossessions, that it seemed as though all the prejudices of my ancestors for generations past congregated around me: But when I reflected that I was living in the Dispensation of the fulness of times, embracing all other Dispensations, surely Plural Marriage must necessarily be included, and I consoled myself with the idea that it was far in the distance, and beyond the period of my mortal existence. It was not long however, after I received the first intimation, before the announcement reach me that the “set time” had come—that God had commanded his servants to establish the order, by taking additional wives—I knew that God . . . was speaking. . . . As I increased in knowledge concerning the principle and design of Plural Marriage, I grew in love with it. . . .
- Eliza R. Snow, “Sketch of My Life,” in “Utah and Mormons” collection, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, microfilm copy in CHL, under call number MS 8305, Reel 1, Item 11, page 13. See also Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, ed., The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, Logan: Utah State Univesity Press, 2000, 16–17.[/note]
“From personal knowledge I bear my testimony that Plural Celestial Marriage is a pure and holy principle, not only tending to individual purity and elevation of character, but also instrumental in producing a more perfect type of manhood mentally and physically, as well as in restoring human life to its former longevity.” 3
Eliza Roxcy Snow “Woman’s Mass Meeting”
“I am proud to state, before this large and honorable assembly that I believe in the principle of plural marriage just as sacredly as I believe in any other institution which God has revealed. I believe it to be necessary for the redemption of the human family from the low state of corruption into which it has sunken… this sacred principle of plural marriage tends to virtue, purity and holiness. Those who represent the women of Utah as ignorant and degraded are either aiming to bring evil upon us, or they know not what they are doing.” 4
First entry in journal
This is a day of much interest to my feelings. Reflecting on past occurrences, a variety of thoughts have presented themselves to my mind with regard to events which have chased each other in rapid succession in the scenery of human life.
As an individual, I have not passed altogether unnoticed by change, in reference to present circumstances and future prospects . . . though I rejoice in the blessing of the society of the saints, and the approbation of God; a lonely feeling will steal over me before I am aware, while I am contemplating the present state of society—the powers of darkness, and the prejudices of the human mind which stand arrayed like an impregnable barrier against the work of God. While these thoughts were revolving in my mind, the heavens became shadowed with clouds and a heavy shower of rain and hail ensued, and I exclaimed “O God, is it not enough that we have the prepossessions of mankind—their prejudices and their hatred to contend with; but must we also stand amid the rage of elements?” I concluded within myself that the period might not be far distant, that will require faith to do so; but the grace of God is sufficient, therefore I will not fear. I will put my trust in Him who is mighty to save; rejoicing in his goodness and determined to live by every word that proceedeth out of his mouth. 5
Sarah Ann Whitney
“He [Joseph Smith, Jr.] had been strictly charged by the angel… that the most profound secrecy must be maintained… He… confided to him [Newell] the principles [of polygamy]… My husband revealed these things to me… We pondered upon them continually, and our prayers were unceasing that the Lord would grant us some special manifestation concerning this new and strange doctrine. The Lord was very merciful to us; He revealed unto us His power and glory. We were seemingly wrapt in a heavenly vision, a halo of light encircled us, and we were convinced in our own minds that God heard and approved our prayers… Our hearts were comforted and our faith made so perfect that we were willing to give our eldest daughter, then only seventeen years of age, to Joseph, in the holy order of plural marriage… laying aside all our traditions and former notions in regard to marriage, we gave her with our mutual consent.” 6
Angus M. Cannon
“All I knew was that which Lucy Walker herself contends. They were so nervous and lived in such constant fear that they could not conceive. He made light of my reply. He said, ‘I am informed that Eliza Snow was a virgin at the time of her death.’ I in turn said, ‘Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked her the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, ‘I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that.’” 7
Joseph Smith revelation: Daniel Bachman
“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto my servant N.K. Whitney, the thing that my servant Joseph Smith has made known unto you and your family and which you have agreed upon is right in mine eyes and shall be rewarded upon your heads with honor and immortality and eternal life to all your house, both old and young because of the lineage of my Priesthood, saith the Lord, it shall be upon you and upon your children after you from generation to generation, by virtue of the holy promise which I now make unto you, saith the Lord….
“These are the words which you shall pronounce upon my servant Joseph and your daughter S.A. Whitney. They shall take each other by the hand and you shall say, ‘You both mutually agree,’ calling them by name, ‘to be each other’s companion so long as you both shall live, preserving yourselves for each other and from all others and also throughout eternity, reserving only those rights which have been given to my servant Joseph by revelation and commandment and by legal authority in times passed. If you both agree to covenant and do this, I then give you, S.A. Whitney, my daughter, to Joseph Smith, to be his wife, to observe all the rights between you both that belong to that condition. I do it in my own name and in the name of my wife, your mother, and in the name of my holy progenitors, by the right of birth which is of priesthood, vested in my by revelation and commandment and promise of the living God, obtained by the Holy Melchisedeck Gethrow [Jethro] and others of the Holy Fathers, commanding in the name of the Lord all those powers to concentrate in you and through you to your posterity forever. All these things I do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and through this order he may be glorified and that through the power of anointing David may reign King over Israel, which shall hereafter be revealed. Let immortality and eternal life hereafter be sealed upon your heads forever and ever.” 8
Comfort to Joseph Smith
“Eliza had I the talent of a poet, or the gifts which thou Hast I would write to Thee and spread my thoughts on paper. But like Anthony I am a plain blunt man. What I have to say I speak right on without any regard to the Poets measure or rhyme, or law, or order; Thou hast spread thy thoughts on Paper for men to read: I have read them many an hour. They have stired my soul with thoughts, deep thoughts, thoughts which Could not be born. Thy soul hath been inspired with the spirit of God, and Eternal light and truth and Noble sentiment and God has given thee gifts to utter them. Thy lamp hath been lit at Gods Holy altar whare the Oil was pure and the spirit free [p.136] so thou couldst weigh Eternal truth and tell it unto men.
“Why hath this talent this Choice gift been given unto thee Eliza? Ah the spirit whispers it was to Cheer the heart of A Prophet A Patriarch, An Apostle in the dark hours of Gloom. It was to give the Lords Anointed a ray of light and a Consoleing thought while Hells dark Billows rolled around in the midst of wicked men and Devils who Continually cry out and say that no kingdom on the Earth shall belong to God.
“It was to tell the assassins of Missouri and Illinois in streams of Living fire that the Judgments of God awaited their guilty souls and that there Judgment had begun. It was to tell the wicked Nation who now Pollute the sacred soil of Joseph that when their Cup was full they would find a grave there to remain untill Called to Judgment by the trump of God.
“Hast thou not been faithful in thy mission to Earth? Yes the spirit whispers Yes. Many an hour has Joseph spent in gloom and sorrow because of Fals Brethren and wicked men. Even the hearts of the saints were so barred by fals tradition that He Could not unbosom his soul in the House of his Friends. This Caused him pain. Then thou dist Comfort him. Thy frendly thoughts and acts and words inspired by Gods Eternal truth was like a flaming shaft. Though launch by a female hand, that hand was nerved by faith and power that it pierced the walls of Darkness fear and death and gave the Prophet Joy.”9
- Eliza R. Snow, “Sketch of My Life,” in “Utah and Mormons” collection, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, microfilm copy in CHL, under call number MS 8305, Reel 1, item 11, page 13.; emphasis hers. See also Beecher, The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, 16–17.
- “Two Prophets’ Widows A Visit to the Relicts of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young,” J. J. J., in St. Louis Globe–Democrat (St. Louis, MO) 85 (Thursday, August 18, 1887): 6 col E.
- Eliza Snow Affidavit, Smith Affidavit Books, comp. by Joseph Fielding Smith, v. 1, p. 25
- Eliza Roxcy Snow, “Woman’s Mass Meeting,” Women’s Exponent, v. 7, December 1, 1878, pp. 97-98
- Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, “Eliza R. Snow’s Nauvoo Journal,” Brigham Young University Studies 15 (Summer 1975): 394.
- Elizabeth Whitney, in Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 102
- Angus M. Cannon, statement, 25-26, see In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, by Todd Compton, p. 13
- Joseph Smith revelation, in Daniel Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage before the Death of Joseph Smith,” Master’s thesis, Purdue University, 121-122
- Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 5, p. 136, December 1857