The Brigham Young Family Cemetery and Mormon Pioneer Memorial is open again in downtown Salt Lake City after a renovation designed to better protect the site, dozens of graves, and multiple statues and monuments.
The cemetery, which includes the graves of Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Eliza R. Snow, the church’s second Relief Society general president, was rededicated in a small ceremony on Saturday, according to a press release.
Parts of the historic sandstone wall around the cemetery had deteriorated, and vandals and dogs were breaking in over wrought iron fences and damaging the site prior to renovation.
The Salt Lake City Historic Landmark Commission refused to allow the church to raise the historic decorative fences by adding more wrought iron to the bottom of the bars, saying the work would ruin the historic nature of the site.
The church has taken other precautions to protect the site from vandalism, a spokesperson confirmed.
Brigham Young died in 1877 after more than 30 years as the head of the Church as the American Moses who led Latter-day Saints out of persecution in the United States into what became known as Utah.
The cemetery at 140 E. First Avenue includes a monument to the 6,000 pioneers who died trying to make the journey from Illinois and around the world from 1847 to 1869.
Elder Kevin W. Pearson, president of the church’s Utah Area and General Authority Seventy, presided over the rededication ceremony. He praised these pioneer sacrifices.
“It would be impossible to overstate (Brigham Young’s) impact on the state of Utah and the ‘pioneer corridor,'” Elder Pearson said. “It has been said that ‘history is the fulfillment of prophecy.’ Nowhere is this truer than in the times and lives of the early pioneer saints who came to the Great Salt Lake Valley.
Renovation workers using ground-penetrating radar uncovered dozens of previously unknown graves, the church said.
The cemetery is located in the South Temple National Historic District and Avenues Local Historic District in Salt Lake City.
A monument dedicated to Snow, a famous Latter-day Saint poet, was also renovated during the work. It commemorates the words of one of his poems, which has been adopted as an anthem, “Oh my father”.
Snow was married to the first president of the church, Joseph Smith. After his death, she married Brigham Young. The cemetery includes some of Young’s other wives – Mary Ann Angell, Lucy Ann Decker, Emmeline Free and Mary Van Cott – and at least two of his children, Joseph Angell Young and Alice Young Clawson.
Most graves are unmarked.
“The Young family buried here gave their all to this vision of community because of their unwavering belief in the eternal nature of the human soul and the eternal nature of the human family. They worked out together on this very earth the things that would make their family eternal,” said Emily Utt, curator of historic sites in the Church History Department.
The quarter-acre cemetery sits amid single-family homes and apartment buildings and is about half a block east of the Church Office Building and the larger Temple Square .
The cemetery is defined by two sections, the Upper Court Mormon Pioneer Memorial with the All is Well Statue and the Lower Court with the Brigham Young family graves.
The workers restored and reinforced the original work of the site.
“We have tried to create an open, inviting and peaceful atmosphere where the Spirit can be felt,” said project manager Greg Green during the rededication service. “Also, a place to reflect on the past and help inspire us as we move forward in our lives.”