Question: Erastus Snow is mentioned in D&C 136:12. Was Erastus Snow one of the first Latter-day Saints to gaze upon the Salt Lake Valley? Was Erastus an Apostle? Is there a town in Arizona named after him?
Answer: Erastus Snow was born 9 November 1818 in Caledonia County, Vermont, one of eleven children of Levi Snow and Lucina Streeter. The youthful years of Erastus were spent on the family farm in Vermont. There he pondered the Savior’s teachings, repeating them again and again until he knew them by memory.
In 1832 Orson Pratt and Lyman E, Johnson arrived in Charleston, Vermont. They held a meeting and explained that a new Prophet had been called by God and that the Gospel had been restored. They talked about a new book, "the Book of Mormon" and other important truths. Erastus’ brothers, William and Zerubbabel, attended their meeting. They were favorably impressed and were baptized soon after. On the 3 February 1833 William baptized his younger brother Erastus, age fourteen. On 18 June 1833 Lucina and three more children were baptized.
From the day of his baptism, Erastus was desirous to preach the gospel. He was ordained a teacher, a priest, and then an elder. Her served a mission to Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire from 1834 to 1835. In 1835 at age sixteen, Erastus moved with some of his family to Kirtland, Ohio, where he lived with the Prophet Joseph for several weeks. In early 1836, Erastus was ordained a seventy and served a mission to Pennsylvania. In 1837 Erastus became a member of the Kirtland Safety Society. He served another mission to Ohio, and Maryland, traveling sixteen hundred miles and baptizing fifty persons. He also served a mission to Salem, Massachusetts, where he baptized several converts, including Nathaniel Ashby, a man with whom he shared a duplex when they both resided in Nauvoo, Illinois.
After each mission, Erastus returned to Kirtland until mobocracy forced his removal to Missouri and then to Quincy, Illinois. Erastus settled with his family in Montrose, Iowa, and then moved his family across the Mississippi River to Nauvoo. In Nauvoo he was admitted to the Council of Fifty. He served several missions and was in Massachusetts when he learned of the Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
Erastus’ attention next turned to completing and then serving within the Nauvoo temple. All too soon the Snows were forced to join the Saints in the temporary encampments in the Iowa Territory. From Winter Quarters, Erastus trekked in Brigham Young’s vanguard company. Erastus is remembered as being one of the first Latter-day Saints to gaze upon the Salt Lake Valley, along with Orson Pratt. They climbed the butte on 21 July 1847, and at “the first glimpse of the blue waters of the Great Salt Lake, swung our hats and shouted, ‘Hosannah!’”
Erastus then returned to Winter Quarters to prepare his family for the trek West. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 20 September 1848. Erastus was then called as a counselor in the Salt Lake Stake Presidency in October 1848 and ordained an Apostle on 12 February 1849.
For nearly forty years Erastus was a pillar of missionary, emigration, and colonizing work. In 1850 he established the Scandinavian Mission. In 1852 he was appointed to serve a colonizing mission to Iron Co., Utah Territory. In 1854 he published and edited the St. Louis Luminary in Missouri. He then returned to Utah where he helped strengthen struggling communities throughout southern Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. He helped settle the Mormon communities of Kingman and Snowflake, Arizona, which was named in honor of Elder Snow and its founder, William J. Flake. Snow Canyon State Park near St. George, Utah, was also named in his honor.
Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, was also named for two leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Erastus and Lorenzo Snow. He later officiated in the St. George Temple. From 1884 to 1888, Erastus went to Mexico to avoid imprisonment for practicing plural marriage. There he strengthened the saints in the Mormon colonies.
Erastus returned to Salt Lake City in 1888, where he died 27 May 1888 and he was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Source: Who's Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black; FamilySearch.org; Biography of Erastus Snow in the Joseph Smith Papers.