LDS Church rededicates final resting place to Brigham Young and some of his wives

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Known as the Brigham Young Family Cemetery, this 150-year-old monument on the avenues of Salt Lake City has been completely renovated.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A bust of Brigham Young at the Brigham Young Family Cemetery in Salt Lake City on Oct. 22, 2022. The Avenues Cemetery was rededicated after a major renovation.

Officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have revamped and rededicated the final resting place of pioneer prophet Brigham Young and several members of his extended family.

After nearly a year of renovations at the Brigham Young family cemetery, church leaders held a ceremony Saturday at the 150-year-old monument nestled in the Avenues neighborhood of Salt Lake City.

Kevin W. Pearson, the Utah Area president for the faith, presided over the rally, according to a news release, and praised the sacrifices of the Latter-day Saint pioneers who colonized the area while Young was the second president of the church.

“It would be impossible to overstate his impact on the state of Utah and the ‘pioneer corridor,'” 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.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A statue depicting Brigham Young reading to his grandchildren at the Brigham Young Family Cemetery in Salt Lake City on October 22, 2022.

Along with a white stone headstone for Young and a prominent bust of the famous polygamist, the cemetery houses the graves of several of his wives, including Mary Ann Angell, Lucy Ann Decker, Emmeline Free, Mary Van Cott and Eliza R. Snow, along with the children Joseph Angell Young and Alice Young Clawson.

Part of the small cemetery, according to the church statement, was also dedicated to the legacy of early pioneers such as Snow and William Clayton, whose poems have been adopted as popular Latter-day Saint hymns.

Burial place of the large de Young family

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The newly restored sandstone wall and wrought iron fence surrounding the perimeter of the Brigham Young Family Cemetery in Salt Lake City on October 22, 2022.

Emily Utt, the church’s curator and historic preservation expert, told city officials in late 2021 that ground-penetrating radar imagery conducted at the cemetery prior to renovations had detected up to “more of 40” graves, whereas only 11 previously were marked.

Retired church historian Randy Dixon, who has studied relics of Utah’s pioneer past, said nearly 48 graves are documented in grave lists and death records related to the family cemetery located at 140 E. First Ave., including wives, children, grandchildren. and some neighbors of Young.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Church Historic Sites Preservation Specialist Emily Utt speaks during the rededication ceremony for the Brigham Young Family Cemetery in Salt Lake City on October 22, 2022.

Although now overshadowed by the adjacent Brigham Flats on South Temple, the grassy spot once offered sweeping views south over the Salt Lake Valley. The church leader, nicknamed the “American Moses”, is said to have been buried in a corner of the plot a few meters from his strawberry field.

In 1974, the cemetery was dedicated as a Mormon Pioneer Memorial, and a statue in the park commemorates Latter-day Saint pioneers who lost their lives on a trek to Utah.

A need for more security

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A memorial plaque at Brigham Young’s grave at the Brigham Young Family Cemetery in Salt Lake City on October 22, 2022.

Church historians also revealed in 2021 that the cemetery had been plagued by a wave of intrusions, vandalism and litter for more than two years, prompting increased guard patrols and new lighting.

Latter-day Saint leaders have also petitioned the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission for permission to add height to a distinctive, original wrought-iron fence around the perimeter of the cemetery to better protect it from intruders. After their claims were denied by the commission, around Thanksgiving 2021, a team working for the church removed the fence around Young’s white headstone and took it to an undisclosed location, in violation of a city ​​order.

Church officials later confirmed that the historic wrought-iron fence “had been carefully removed” and had been temporarily stored offsite “for preservation” – pending reinstallation as part of the restoration project.

According to the rededication statement, special care has been taken to restore and reinforce the site’s original craftsmanship, including the 32-inch fence and sandstone wall on the perimeter of the cemetery.

Church officials said renovations to the cemetery began in April 2020, with multiple departments ensuring “meticulous care to preserve the historic integrity of the site”.

Contractors from Salt Lake City-based Jacobsen Construction did all digging by hand, the statement said, which caused problems after two layers of concrete about 10 inches thick were discovered under the graveyard’s sandstone paved driveway.

The renovation also restored the graveyard’s stone walkways and walls, removed some aging trees, improved lighting, and upgraded the site’s irrigation system.

“We tried to create an open, inviting and peaceful atmosphere where the spirit can be felt,” said project manager Greg Green. “Also, a place to reflect on the past and help inspire us as we move forward in our lives.”

(Courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The rededication ceremony of the Brigham Young family cemetery in Salt Lake City on October 22, 2022.

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