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Alexander, "Edward Hunter Snow: Pioneer-Educator-Statesman" (reviewed by John S. Dinger) Options · View
jeffneedle
Posted: Tuesday, January 01, 2013 11:08:05 PM

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Review
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Title: Edward Hunter Snow: Pioneer-Educator-Statesman
Author: Thomas G. Alexander
Publisher: Arthur H. Clark Company
Genre: Biography/History
Year Published: 2012
Number of Pages: 432 pages, 29 B&W Illus.; 2 Maps
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN10: n/a
ISBN13: 978-0-87062-415-5
Price: $34.95

Reviewed by John S. Dinger for the Association for Mormon Letters

Thomas Alexander is best known for his award winning volume “Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints 1890-1930.”[1] That book showed the history of the church as it gave up polygamy and started to become the modern church it is today. With “Edward Hunter Snow,” Alexander has taken his expertise and has given us an equally interesting book, following a man through that same time period and showing the great contributions he made to the LDS church and the state of Utah.

Edward Snow was born in St. George, Utah in 1865 to a polygamous family. His father was Erastus Snow, a member of the Twelve Apostles, who was called by Brigham Young to help organize and later supervise the settling of southern Utah. It was there that his son Edward was born to his fourth wife. Edward was raised in St. George, but left in 1882 to attend the Brigham Young Academy where he took classes from Karl G. Maeser and James E. Talmage. After graduation he returned to southern Utah to teach and in 1885 married Sarah Hannah Nelson. Only a year after marriage he was called to serve in the Southern States Mission where he met Fredrick Douglass, the noted abolitionist.

It was after his return home where Edward really started to make his mark in the history of Utah and the LDS church. In 1896, Edward was elected to Utah’s first legislature and was the youngest member of the Utah Constitutional Convention. This was one of Alexander’s strongest and most interesting sections of the book. In it, he shows how Edward was possibly ahead of his times socially: “[h]e voted in favor of legislation protecting reporters, editors, and other newspaper people from libel suits,” and “he had voted in favor of a provision in the state constitution that prohibited the circulation by businesses of black lists containing the names of members of labor organizations.” (pg. 97)

However, it was his views on women that make him most admirable. Alexander gives great space to a speech that Edward made at the constitutional convention on women and women’s suffrage, showing that Edward “deplored the discrimination against women so prevalent in contemporary society.” (pg. 8cool. Edwards stated how he hated the “intolerant spirit that opposed the advancement of women in educational circles,” and “Society would be better off . . . if women were allowed to exercise the same skill in managing the financial affairs of government.” (pg. 88-89).

Edward was also called as President of the St. George Stake in 1901 and served until 1925. As the president of the Stake he was in charge of not just the spiritual well-being of his parishioners, but their secular and economic well-being as well. It was in this role where Edward also made his mark in Utah history, in setting up schools and educating the people of Southern Utah. Alexander was able to show just how deplorable the education system was before Edward was in a position to help change them. The schools in southern Utah were “of a poor quality,” many of the school buildings were old, inadequate, unsightly, unsanitary, poorly lighted, heated, and ventilated,” and teachers were being paid below the “average day laborer.” (pg. 165). However, under the leadership of Edward, education became a priority in Southern Utah which lead to the opening of Dixie Collage. He built new schools, raised the pay for teachers, fundraised, and helped schools become just as good as schools anywhere else in Utah.

Edward also served as a mission president, a temple president, and helped reform Utah’s tax system instead of simply living out a quiet retirement. His was a life of service, service to his church, service to the education system, service to Utah, but especially service to the people of Utah.

Besides just giving us a biography of Edward Hunter, Alexander litters the book with many interesting facts happening around Hunter. For example, in 1879, Reverend Lawrence Scanlan was a Catholic priest living in Southern Utah who wanted to celebrate high mass in a newly built church, but did not have a choir. The leader of the St. George Tabernacle Choir found out about this and proposed that his Mormon choir learn and perform the Catholic liturgy in the new church. Erastus Snow gave permission for this to occur, which helped the two groups “treat each other with due consideration and respect.” (pg. 44)

While the book is excellent, there are a few things I wish Alexander would have gone into more detail about, and a few things that interrupted the flow of the book. For example, in an early chapter where many people with the surname Snow are discussed, Alexander calls Edward both Edward and Ed. (pg. 3cool I found myself rereading to make sure both were talking about the subject of the book.

What I wished Alexander would have discussed more was Edward’s views and attitudes on polygamy. Because Edward was first married in 1895, he did have time before 1890 to take a plural wife, but he never did. Alexander points out that on his mission to the southern states he defended polygamy. However, he also pointed out that Anthony W. Ivins, a prominent Mormon who was a monogamist, served as a mentor to Edward. (pg. 27) I wonder if Edward didn’t have time before the manifesto, or if it was something he did not want to participate in seeing Ivins as a positive example. Regardless of my curiosity, because of the quality of this book, I imagine the answers were not available rather than Alexander failing to include them.

While Edward Snow is not as well-known as many other historical figures, “Edward Hunter Snow” is a well done biography of a man who lived through the transition of the Mormon Church. This volume will be of interest to many different people, such as those interested in southern Utah, education, or Utah political history. Alexander should be proud of this volume, just as the many Snows should be proud of their ancestor Edward Hunter Snow.

[1] It won the Mormon History Associations Best Book Award in 1986.
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