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Eliza R. Snow Hails the New Deseret Hospital and Defends Religious Freedom in Newly Published Discourses

SALT LAKE CITY—The Church Historian’s Press today announced the online publication of about 150 additional discourses by Latter-day Saint leader and poet Eliza R. Snow, dating from February 1882 to December 1884. Transcripts of discourses from 1868 to 1884 are available for free to the public at churchhistorianspress.org/eliza-r-snow.

Snow addressed two major events of this period in many of her discourses: the passage of the Edmunds Act in early 1882 and the dedication of the Deseret Hospital six months later. The Edmunds Act was one of many federal attempts to stop the practice of plural marriage, which Latter-day Saints of that era saw as an essential element of their religion. For those convicted of bigamy or cohabitation, the act imposed fines and prison terms and removed voting and jury rights. The new law was “tearing in shreds the laws of our constitution,” Snow told the Salt Lake Stake Relief Society on March 25, 1882, presumably in reference to the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion. “’Tis a very eventful time. A crisis is coming,” she warned the Davis Stake Relief Society a month later. “I feel the necessity of drawing near to God,” she told the women in Brigham City. “These are evil times; we need safeguards.” And speaking again to the Davis Stake Relief Society in July 1882, she cautioned, “We have more duties to perform than time in which to perform them. We need to arouse ourselves and shake off every lethargy of feeling.” Snow encouraged women to be faithful in such times. “Zion shall arise and shine, but she has got to go through tight places first,” she told the women of the Farmers Ward in south Salt Lake City on August 22, 1882.

One way that Latter-day Saint women could contribute was with the Deseret Hospital. While the idea of a Latter-day Saint hospital had been presented as early as 1872, it wasn’t until 1879 that Snow actively began to rally women to the cause. She told the Cache Stake Relief Society that the responsibility of being president of the hospital board felt to her “like having to carry a big elephant.” Even after the hospital opened in Salt Lake City in summer 1882, she continued to request monetary and in-kind donations. She asked the Morgan Stake Relief Society for “old sheets for bandages etc. and all kinds of eatables” on July 29, 1882. Five days later in Pleasant Grove, she invited women to donate “anything of a household nature,” because “invalids come faster than we are prepared to receive them.” And she reminded the women of the Tooele Stake on June 14, 1884, “Our first duty is to our home and the poor, then the Hospital.”

By the end of this period, there were nearly 250 ward and stake Relief Societies.

About the Church Historian’s Press

The Church Historian’s Press was announced in 2008 by the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Joseph Smith Papers was the first publication to bear the imprint. The press publishes works of Latter-day Saint history that meet high standards of scholarship. For more information, visit the Church Historian’s Press website.