[On First Presidency stationery] [10 handwritten pages long]
CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST
P.O. Box B Salt Lake City, U.T. [Salt Lake City, Utah Territory]
Aug 7, 1887 [Sunday 7 Aug 1887]
Dear daughter Elida [Elida Crosby Snow, b. 1854]
Your answer [letter] to me dated July 10 [Sunday 10 Jul 1887] has been returned from Mexico [Mexico City, Mexico] inclosed with one from Erastus B. [Erastus Beman Snow, b. 1853] dated ]?] 12th [Tuesday 12 Jul 1887] which had gone from the City of Mexico [Mexico City, Mexico] to Juarez [Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico - http://www.mormoncoloniesinmexico.com/] and both again mailed to me by Bro. M. P. Romney [Brother Miles P. Romney] and reached me only yesterday [in Salt Lake City, Utah]. I have later letters from Erastus B. [Erastus Beman Snow, b. 1853] and up to Aug. 17 [Wesnesday 17 Aug 1887] all are well in Mexico [Mexico City, Mexico]. I am pleased with the frank open spirit of your letter although I differ with you in some of your views of the relationships and duties as well as rights and responsibilities of the different members of plural families and the government of the same. You seem to think that the first wife should of right hold some sort of authority over those received into the family after her and to have a voice in their government and control either jointly with or independant [independent] of the husband. And you refer to the case of Abraham Sarah and Hagar in support of your views, but you loose [lose] sight of the fact that that was an exceptional case altogether different for ours and from other cases in Abraham’s own family and subsequently in the families of Israel. Hagar is often spoken and written of in Scriptures as the “handwoman’ being an Egyptian girl bought by and bound to Sarai while in Egypt as her personal servant and property, and her relationship in the family as recognized under the ancient laws and customs similar to those relationships existing in the Southern States before our late Civil war between the black servant and her mistress. Hence after Sarai had given her to Abraham expressly to raise up children to herself she, being barren, and Hagar, when she found herself fruitful, exalted herself over her mistress and treated her disdainfully and subsequently taught her son to make up faces at Sarai and otherwise treat her contemptuosly until it became necessary for her to corrected and to remember her true condition as a “handwoman” never released from that relationship to Sarai. Abraham recognized this right and perceived the continued insolence of Hagar and readily consented for her to be sent away as the most effectual means to bringing her to her senses. But when in her distress she humbled herself and called on the Lord, He remembered her and His Angel comforted her and for Abraham’s sake He blessed her son but never gave him equal rights with Isaac, son of Sarai the free woman who was of the Royal liniage [lineage].
Now mark the difference. Subsequently in ancient Israel as also in our own time righteous men are allowed to take the daughters of Israel to wife, all of whom are full and equal fellow heirs in the new and Everlasting Covenant No one sustains the character of a bondwoman to the other but that of a sister and fellow wife and enjoying equal facilities and rights with her husband and equal control of their own person, children and personal effects, entitled to equal care sympathy and respect of their husband if they are equally faithful and obedient to his counsels, only the first wife by priority of position takes precedence in the household when all are together in her own house, the same as the Twelve Apostles take precedence according to their priority in their quorum. But the first wife should not usurp the functions of her husband in the control and government of his wives and their children nor should he ever allow the reins of government to pass from his own hands into that of a wife while he lives, And each wife should retain in life and after his death separate and independant [independent] control of her own affairs and household. There is however, recognized in the revelations of God, a right of the first wife called the “law of Sarai” to be consulted by her husband and to give her approval to his taking a second into the family and the same right also extends to the second when a third is to be taken, in order that all may be done by common consent, in order to maintain union, mutual Confidence and fellowship and love in the whole family circle. The same as members of the Church are received or expelled by common vote, all things being done in righteousness, the husband being counselled [counseled] by the Holy Spirit and his brethren that are over him in the Lord.
Touching your reference to what you deem my failures or errors in relation to my first wife, I have long understood how that you looked at those things from your stand point [standpoint] but never felt it possible from your standpoint to judge correctly in that matter but I made due allowance for your early training and natural predelictions and speaking one word for Artamesia [Artimesia Beman Snow] and two for yourself. But I entertain no fears of any questions of that kind to be settled by my beloved Artamesia [Artimesia Beman Snow]. I am not quite so certain whether I have been altogether as just in relation to some of my family yet living though I have always endeavored to hold the balances as near equal as possible and reward all according to their works. I am not aware that either in my own family or with others I have been any more ready to espouse the cause or vindicate a second wife more than the first, and if I ever appeared to do so it was because I felt they needed it. In relation to A.S. [Ann Stafford Snow, b. 1867] I promised her after Artamesia’s [Artimesia Beman Snow] death to treat her as one of my children confided to us as she was in her childhood and bereft of all blood kindred in this country and after she was drawn into the closer relationships in your household my solicitude for her wellfare [welfare] was rather increased than diminished, not from fear of any desire or intent of any one [anyone] to do her wrong, or from any want of appreciation of E.B.’s [Erastus Beman Snow 1853-1900] equity of purpose or of your own good head and heart, but from the common weakness of each and all of you and more especially your early training and the views you entertained as herein before expressed in relation to the prerogatives of the first wife. I have always recognized and do still your good qualities as a wife and mother and your heroism in bearing your trials and keeping them as far as you have done within your own heart or in your immediate family circle and therefore I use the more freedom in speaking and writing to you.
Trusting that you will ultimately triumph over your own weaknesses and will honor your husband in his efforts to deal justly with each of you and that you will recognize the wisdom of his late move and to take her from harm’s way and shield himself from immediate personal danger and that to without any wrong or injustice to you personally unless you hold to be such his first main act in taking her to himself. As to her remaining in Juarez [Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico - http://www.mormoncoloniesinmexico.com/] it had been so decided by all of us as best until I received tidings of the serious illness of President Taylor [President John Taylor] with advices for me to prepare for my immediate return after which our minds were changed for to leave her among comparative strangers in Juarez [Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico - http://www.mormoncoloniesinmexico.com/] without home, funds or immediate personal friends would be worse for her and for him than it would be for her to accompany him to Mexico [Mexico City, Mexico] where she could be of service and earn her living and receivesome solace from him as well as him from her. And how can it be possible, Elida, that any comfort which either derives from the other can detract from or lessen your own unless it be disappointed ambition or foiled jelousy [jealousy], either of which is unworthy of a noble wife and mother in Israel.
Now dear daughter let me entreat you again for the sake of yourself and your true hearted husband and your excellent children that you rise into the dignity of your true position and shake off these unworthy feelings and rejoice and be happy. Anything I can do for you and your children to lighten your burden and add to your comfort I am ready to do with great pleasure. Since commencing this letter another has been handed in from E.B. [Erastus Beman Snow, b. 1853] dated Aug. 29th [Monday 29 Aug 1887] giving news of a fresh arrival [Lulu Stafford Snow, b. 1887] in their house But as he says he was writing you at the same time I need add no particulars.
Hoping soon to see you and trusting that this communication may remain safely with you and from all eyes that ought not to see it
I am affectionately your devoted father-in-law Erastus Snow [Erastus Snow, b. 1818]
[Published in Erastus Snow: The Life of a Missionary and Pioneer for the Early Mormon Church, by Andrew Karl Larsen, The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1971, p 764-773]