For Steven E. Snow, the memories of standing over a steam press in his father's dry cleaning business on a hot August day in St. George, Utah, were ample motivation to seek greener pastures.
"I wanted to be a small town lawyer," he said, recounting how lingering memories of cascading perspiration sustained him in law school years later.
But while he changed careers, Elder Snow couldn't leave the red rock setting of his youth. All his life, including the past 30 years since he and his wife, Phyllis, were married, he has lived in a community colonized by one of his pioneering progenitors.
"I'm proud to be a descendent of Elder Erastus Snow who led the mission to colonize St. George in 1861," he said. "These ancestors provided a template of service. They were tough folks who endured the heat and floods. The faith with which they lived their lives seems to resound throughout the area. There were many things around us to remind us of our heritage. We knew we were to live up to those who had gone before us."
Elder Snow, sustained to the First Quorum of Seventy on March 30, carries the middle name of "Erastus," just as his father did, and his father before him, and now his oldest son.
" 'Service is the rent we pay for being here,' my grandfather often told me," Elder Snow said. "We serve to repay. My grandfather was more of an example of service than a preacher of service. He owned a furniture store near my father's dry cleaning business. Sometimes he would talk and help customers for such a long time that my grandmother would remind him that there was more work to be done."
Fortified by such examples, Elder Snow became involved in the community early in life. Sometimes he threw his hat into the public arena by serving as the president of the local school board or as vice-chairman and chairman of the Utah State Board of Regents. Other times he stood as a moderate voice in the oftentimes controversial environmental issues of the area.
The measure of his contribution to southern Utah can be tallied in friendships. At social gatherings or on street corners, Elder Snow is remembered as someone who befriends others with an engaging smile and handshake.
"He has been a good friend to everyone, young and old," said Sister Snow. "People feel he is their best friend, and he is. He's always been that way. Even in high school when he was a tall, handsome athlete and student body leader."
It was his smile, Sister Snow said, that prompted her to take a second glance when they met in the sixth grade. By high school they were good friends, a friendship that prevailed over their other friendships and led to their marriage in the St. George Temple in 1971 after his mission to northern Germany.
Following law school at Brigham Young University, they returned to St. George where he hung his law shingle and raised a family of four boys, including an Indian Placement son.
"I don't remember our early married years to be hard," Elder Snow said. "We didn't have much money. I remember sending $50 as an acceptance fee to attend law school at BYU because they were the first to accept me. A week later I received notice that I had been accepted to the law school at the University of Utah. But we couldn't afford to forfeit the money, so I took the BYU offer.
"The older I get, the more I realize money doesn't buy happiness. It's relationships, particularly with family, that are important. We've always loved being with family. The boys have loved camping and skiing. We decided we'd do those things that would bring us together," he said.
Part of the family's effort to be together centered around the rebuilding of a cabin in Pine Valley, located about 32 miles outside St. George. "We bought a ramshackle cabin that many people thought should have been bulldozed. It was originally built in 1870 with two rooms. An addition was built years later. The area that became the living room had been used by farmers after World War II as a place to milk cows," Elder Snow said.
"There was always some project which gave us a chance to be together," said Sister Snow. "We also really enjoyed hiking and backpacking. We found that by doing wholesome family activities we could then lead the boys in family prayer and scripture study."
Not that scripture reading came easily. "During the hot summer months we sometimes had to poke them when it was their time to read," she said. "It's amazing how much they learned."
Another highlight of their family life came when Elder Snow was called as president of the California San Fernando Mission. "Our boys say these years were their best," said Sister Snow.
"These were times when we never ceased to be amazed at the miracle of conversion. One sister said it was like her life was now in color. The missionaries worked miracles, not just once in a while, but every day," said Elder Snow. "They'd do such wonderful things and show such maturity that, at times, we'd have to remind ourselves that they weren't 45 years old."
The cumulative sum of their experiences, as a family and in the Church, combines in a refrain that both sing. "The happiest time in life is right now. Whatever the day, that's the best day," Elder and Sister Snow said, almost in unison. "We've had many good times, but never better than today."
They trust this attitude of joy will sustain this summer as they race between the marriages of three of their sons. "We'll have to get on the treadmill," Sister Snow said.
E-mail: [email protected]