Literary Lorenzo Snow #5: Pre-Existence

Edward H. AndersonLorenzo Snow’s teachings on man’s destiny and on the nature of God have often been met with both criticism from non-Mormons and wonder from members. His couplet about the past of God and the future of man (mentioned in the lesson), encapsulates an important part of Mormon theology, something that has been even encapsulated in our poetry, such as in his sister Eliza’s well-known poem, today sung as the hymn O My Father.

But that hymn is not the only poetical expression of these teachings.

Poet Edward H. Anderson was a long-time editor of the Church’s Improvement Era who is perhaps known today for his histories, including a biography of Brigham Young published in 1893. Born in Sweden in 1858, Anderson immigrated with his family to Utah in 1864 after they joined the Church, but wasn’t baptized himself until 1869. He graduated from the University of Utah in 1877 and taught school until he entered the newspaper business in Ogden in 1880 and later worked on the staff of The Contributor. After two years as mission president in Scandinavia, he served on the YMMIA general board and then succeeded B. H. Roberts as associate editor of the Improvement Era in 1899. As of 1922, he was the only editor of the Era, except for the President of the Church. Anderson died in 1928.



by Edward H. Anderson

“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self,
with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” – John xvii, 5.

Could I behold the life I left,
Once gaze on scenes I saw on high;
Or grasp the meaning of my life,
And analyze mortality;


See through the darkness of the past,
Behold the secrets of my birth;
And know again why God desired
My presence on this darkened earth;


Could I but feel the zeal of old,
When He revealed Salvation’s Plan
That caused hosannas from my lips
And raised to Gods the spirit man;


Or know how eagerly I prayed
That God would grant me leave to go
To gain a body and to learn
The secrets of his power to know;


And then behold in coming Time,
Or, rather, when Time is no more,
How I, if faithful, should obtain
Such gems and crowns as Father wore:


A God, enjoying all that is;
With power to make, with power to save,
Triumphant o’er intelligence
Victorious o’er the gaping grave;


If this I knew, how could I spend
My time in vice, in wicked ways?
Profane the Lord who granted this;
Thus lose the prize, and end my days?


How could I sin, how seek for joy
Among the things that fade and die?
And how devote my days to gain
The riches that take wings and fly?


Who knows but those who love on earth
Once loved in Heav’n, and promised there:
Together fell that they might rise,
“Each other’s pains and triumphs share?


Give answer thou, my soul, and say:
I left the world of Heav’nly bliss,
The friends I loved to call my own,
To suffer all the ills of this,


Because I saw the joys I had
Compared not with what was to gain.
Because I hoped for greater things,
I fell to rise, I’ll die to reign.


Let others seek for freedom here
Clasp close the pleasures of this earth,
I look for freedom, only when
I go to Him who gave me birth.


Help me, O Lord, on Thee rely,
On Thee depend for Comfort’s voice,
Faithful endure, pain, sorrow, death,
And then at length with Thee rejoice.

The Contributor 4 (1882-1883)


While this poem is titled Pre-Existence, it focuses more on the future, speaking of what the knowledge of the pre-existence might do to help us understand the destiny of Man. Anderson speaks of the plan of salvation and what we might become after this life, like the teachings of Lorenzo Snow in lesson #5.