Have you ever collected sets of things? A new state quarter from every state in the U.S.? An autograph from every member of your graduating class?
In Mormon circles, those collectible sets might be a Book of Mormon in every language in which it has been published, or photographs of you shaking hands with each member of the Quorum of the Twelve in a given year.
Or a set of documents containing the signatures of every First Presidency throughout the span of the Restoration?
Now that would be a feat, even if you assembled a set of photocopies rather than originals. Consider how short a time the Church was led by the First Presidency of Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and Henry B. Eyring – President Eyring was sustained on 6 October 2007 and Pres. Hinckley died on 27 January 2008. Throw in some time out of the office for holidays and illness, and even workhorses like those three men didn’t have a lot of days to be signing documents together.
There is at least one First Presidency that served an even shorter term than that of Hinckley-Monson-Eyring, however:
When Lorenzo Snow was sustained as president of the church in 1898, he retained as first counselor George Q. Cannon, who had served as a counselor under Presidents Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff. After almost 28 years of service as a counselor, and 41 years of service as an apostle, President Cannon died on 12 April 1901.
President Snow served with only one counselor (Joseph F. Smith) for almost six months. Finally, on 6 October 1901, he called a new second counselor, Rudger Clawson. Speaking in conference that fall, he said,
I have had only one Counselor since President Cannon died. I have chosen another Counselor. I have sought the guidance of the Lord in the matter, and the Lord has directed the choice. I have chosen a strong, energetic man, and I think he will be a great help to myself and President Smith: I hope therefore you will sustain him. God bless you all.
The First Presidency of Snow-Smith-Clawson was occupied for a day or two with the closing sessions of General Conference. They were in the office on 9 October, when the three of them signed the letter pictured here, endorsing Joseph Facer as a home missionary to work with the various stake Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Associations. This is the only document prepared for their signature that day.
On 10 October, President Snow died.
So, if you decide to start such a collection of First Presidency documents, here’s a freebie – quite possibly the rarest signature block in all of church history.