By LeRoi C. Snow (Son of Lorenzo Snow)
For some time President Woodruff’s health had been failing. Nearly every evening President Lorenzo Snow visited him at his home on South 5th East Street. This particular evening the doctors said President Woodruff was failing rapidly and they feared he would not live much longer.
Lorenzo Snow was then President of the Council of Twelve and was greatly worried over the possibility of succeeding President Woodruff, especially because of the terrible financial condition of the Church. Referring to this condition, President Heber J. Grant has said: “The Church was in a financial slough of despond, so to speak, almost financially bankrupt–its credit was hardly good for a thousand dollars without security.”
My father went to his room in the Salt Lake Temple, where he was residing at the time. He dressed in his robes of the Priesthood, went into the Holy of Holies, there in the House of the Lord and knelt at the sacred altar. He plead with the Lord to spare President Woodruff’s life, that President Woodruff might outlive him and that the great responsibility of Church leadership would never fall upon his shoulders. Yet he promised the Lord that he would devotedly perform any duty required at his hands. At this time he was in his eighty-sixth year.
Soon after this President Woodruff was taken to California, where he died Friday morning at 6:40 o’clock, September 2, 1898. President George Q. Cannon at once wired the sad information to the President’s office in Salt Lake City. Word was forwarded to President Snow who was in Brigham City. The telegram was delivered to him on the street in Brigham. He read it to President Rudger Clawson, then president of Box Elder Stake, who was with him, went to the telegraph office and replied that he would leave on the train about 5:30 that evening. He reached Salt Lake City about 7:15, proceeded to the President’s office, gave some instructions and then went to his private room in the Salt Lake Temple.
President Snow … poured out his heart to the Lord. He reminded the Lord how he had plead for President Woodruff’s life and that his days might be lengthened beyond his own; that he might never be called upon to bear the heavy burdens and responsibilities of Church leadership. “Nevertheless,” he said, “Thy will be done. I have not sought this responsibility but if it be Thy will, I now present myself before Thee for Thy guidance and instruction. I ask that Thou show me what Thou wouldst have me do.”
After finishing his prayer he expected a reply, some special manifestation from the Lord. So he waited-and waited-and waited. There was no reply, no voice, no visitation, no manifestation. He left the altar and the room in great disappointment. He passed through the Celestial room and out into the large corridor leading to his own room where a most glorious manifestation was given President Snow. One of the most beautiful accounts of this experience is told by his granddaughter, Allie Young Pond.
“One evening when I was visiting Grandpa Snow in his room in the Salt Lake Temple, I remained until the doorkeepers had gone and the nightwatchman had not yet come in, so Grandpa said he would take me to the main front entrance and let me out that way. He got his bunch of keys from his dresser.
“After we left his room and while we were still in the large corridor, leading into the Celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of Grandpa when he stopped me, saying: ‘Wait a moment, Allie. I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as he had done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff.’
“Then Grandpa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: ‘He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.’
“Grandpa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful White Robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gaze upon Him.
“Then Grandpa came another step nearer me and put his right hand on my head and said: ‘Now, granddaughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior here in the Temple and talked with Him face to face.’
“Then we went on and Grandpa let me out of the main front door of the Temple.”
During the M. I. A. June conference in 1919 at the officers’ testimony meeting in the Assembly Hall, I related Allie Young Pond’s experience and testimony. President Heber J. Grant immediately arose and said:
“In confirmation of the testimony given by Brother LeRoi C. Snow quoting the granddaughter of Lorenzo Snow, I want to call attention to the fact that several years elapsed after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith before President Young was sustained as the president of the Church. After the death of President Young, several years elapsed again before President Taylor was sustained, and again when he died several years elapsed before President Woodruff was sustained.
“After the funeral of President Wilford Woodruff the Apostles met in the office of the First Presidency and Brother Francis M. Lyman said: ‘I feel impressed although one of the younger members of the quorum, to say that I believe it would be pleasing in the sight of the Lord if the First Presidency of the Church was reorganized right here and right now. If I am in error regarding this impression, President Snow and the senior members of the council can correct me.’
“President Snow said that he would be pleased to hear from all the brethren upon this question, and each and all of us expressed ourselves as believing it would be pleasing to the Lord and that it would be the proper thing to have the Presidency organized at once.
“When we had finished, then and not until then did Brother Snow tell us that he was instructed of the Lord in the Temple the night after President Woodruff died, to organize the Presidency of the Church at once. President Anthon H. Lund and myself are the only men now living who were present at that meeting.” The Deseret News, Saturday, April 2, 1938. (N. B. Lundwall, Temples of the Most High, p.139-142. See also: LeRoi C. Snow, “An Experience of My Father’s,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1933, 677).