Andrew H. Hedges, historian and editor for the Joseph Smith Papers Project, and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, present in this volume a window to the thoughts and feelings of Lorenzo Snow during a particularly challenging time in his life. This record book contains some of his writings while he was in prison, having been convicted of three counts of unlawful cohabitation. Although a prison diary written by a polygamist of this time period is not unusual, Snow’s record book is particularly interesting because he was an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time of his conviction. It is also unique because these writings are almost entirely in verse.
Within These Prison Walls begins with an introduction providing background information on Lorenzo Snow’s life, as well as the history of antipolygamy laws. This summary of the conflict that existed between the Mormons in Utah and the U.S. government is particularly helpful for those who are not familiar with the details of that struggle. The second section is a transcription of the actual record book, including images of many pages. Although the handwriting belongs to Rudger Clawson, the images share the feel of the original book and demonstrate the quality of the transcription. The third and final section of the book provides biographical information on most of the individuals mentioned in the record book. These details are mostly drawn from biographical collections, such as Andrew Jenson’s Church Chronology and Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia and Frank Esshom’s Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah.
While in prison, President Snow wrote to his family and others, benefiting them with his encouragement. While writing to his daughter Lydia Snow Pierce, he expressed the feeling that he had a mission to cheer others, especially those imprisoned with him:
I feel content and happy too
In that my Master’s work I do
In coming here within these walls
To help, to cheer, and comfort all. (10)
This work will be of interest to Latter-day Saints, as well as to historians studying this period. Snow’s writings provide greater understanding of his personality, his tender feelings for his family, and his testimony of the work of the Lord, regardless of the challenges he faced.