When my mom passed away on July 21, 2011, the Church magazine “The Friend” happened to be running a story about John Carling, 1800 – 1855, who Brigham Young had asked to carve the pattern for the 12 oxen that held up the font in the Nauvoo Temple. At Mom’s burial in the Fillmore cemetery, one of her granddaughters had the magazine with her and wanted to find John’s gravestone.
We found it, a piece of native red sandstone about 24 inches high by 14 inches wide, varying from 2 to 4 inches thick. It was carved simply on one side J C, and laying flat on the ground. The bottom 4 inches was stained where it had stood upright for 150 years, before being knocked over by the lawnmower. Somebody said, “Someone should make John a new headstone.”
Try as I would, I couldn’t get that statement out of my mind. I have an art degree from BYU, but hadn’t done any sculpture for decades, and none in stone. If I was going to do it, it had to represent the oxen and the font, had to fit the neighborhood of the other more substantial headstones where John’s grave lay, and had to be done in Nauvoo limestone, since Nauvoo was “John’s Temple.” Still not committing to the job, I did several sketches and finally came up with something I thought was worthy.
I was one of 150 volunteers who assisted the 2,500 paid workers on the Nauvoo Temple, and knew who had cut the stone for the exterior cladding. I called Idaho Travertine and told the owner there what I wanted to do. He acted as if he’d been expecting my call. Pres. Hinckley told him, once the Nauvoo project was over, to take all the scraps and leftover pieces of stone out and bury them. He didn’t want any “Mormon Idols” floating around. It was now 10 years later, but Idaho Travertine had a large piece of Nauvoo limestone that had been used as a machine base until a few days previous, and would I like to have it?