Erastus Fairbanks Snow, early member of the Quorum of the Twelve and one of the first pioneers in the Church's westward migration, was honored Saturday, May 24, by hundreds of his descendants and members of the community.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve presided at a meeting in St. George's historic tabernacle prior to the unveiling of a bust and plaque, outside on the grounds, which honor the man who helped found the city in 1861.As an overcast and windy sky threatened rain, the building was filled to overflowing with members lining the walls and filling the foyers outside the main hall.
"It is important for young people to have occasions to remember the past," Elder Holland said. "We have an obligation to make sure each member of the rising generation has the opportunity to know what their ancestors did for them. They, in turn, must then go forward in faith to blaze the trail for future generations."
He also spoke of the recent meeting with those who are currently crossing the Nebraska plains re-enacting the pioneer crossing on the Mormon Trail, reminding the congregation that Erastus Snow was in that first pioneer company.
"One of the things I want to remind his descendants is that the day of pioneering is not over," he said. "Because there is still so much to do. I wonder if we're doing as much with what we have, as they did with what they had," he said.
Elder Ben. B. Banks of the Seventy and Utah South Area president, who conducted the ceremony, said, "I believe each one of us is a modern pioneer to go before" future generations and to bind families together.
Karl Snow, a great-grandson of Erastus Snow, said he was asked by a few members of the family to approach the First Presidency about setting up the memorial to coincide with other sesquicentennial activities honoring the pioneers. Everything was done under the direction of the First Presidency, he said, with Snow descendants raising all the money and organizing materials.
The bust is affixed atop a stone from the original St. George Temple quarry. While the quarry is no longer available for removing rock, the family was contacted after a piece fell from a large overhang. The core was cut out and the stone was shaped according to the sculptor's specifications, Karl said. The memorial now stands near the northeast entrance to the red adobe tabernacle.
"The setting for this monument on the tabernacle grounds was a natural," said sculptor Ortho Fairbanks, who was one of the speakers. "The tabernacle was the first real permanent structure that we had here. It said, `We're going to stay,' " he told those assembled before joining Elder Holland and Karl Snow for the unveiling.
The memorial honors a man who is generally recognized as second only to Brigham Young as a western colonizer for the Church, the speakers said. He was one of the first two men to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley in advance of Brigham Young's 1847 party, and eventually would cross the Plains seven times before the advent of the transcontinental railroad.
When he led colonizers to southern Utah in 1861 to build the Cotton Mission and strengthen members scattered throughout the region, some of those who had been called from the pulpit in Salt Lake City refused to go, said Rula Snow Williams, another descendant of Erastus Snow. Others went, then returned to their homes in northern Utah rather than continue in the harsh desert climate.
Cotton grew but never became an economic success. Karl Snow paraphrased a statement made by his grandfather Edward Hunter Snow when he explained the true purpose of the settlements: "We did not come to Dixie to raise cotton, but men and women committed to the cause of Jesus Christ."
Elder Holland reiterated the point when he said that we often think God is doing one thing, when, in fact, He is actually doing something very different.
"In time, St. George and the Cotton Mission became a hub second only to Salt Lake City as the center for establishing the Church for hundreds of miles in every direction from that southern Utah outpost," Elder Holland said.
Quoting President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Holland said, "Our forebears laid a solid and marvelous foundation. Now ours is the great opportunity to build a superstructure, all fitly framed together with Christ as the chief cornerstone."
In bearing his testimony of the divinity of the latter-day work, Elder Holland included the phrase, "What from your father's heritage is lent, earn it anew to repossess it."