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Brigham Young Family Cemetery Reopens After Major Renovation

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A rededication ceremony was held on Saturday, October 22, at the newly renovated Brigham Young Family Cemetery in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. The 150-year-old landmark is the burial place of the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young, and several of his family members, including Eliza R. Snow, the Church’s second General Relief Society President and renowned Latter-day Saint poet.

Kevin W. Pearson, Utah Area President, presided at the rededication ceremony and praised the sacrifices of early pioneer Latter-day Saints who settled Utah under Brigham Young’s leadership. “It would be impossible to overstate his [Brigham Young’s] impact on the state of Utah and the ‘pioneer corridor,’” Elder Pearson expressed. “It has been said that ‘history is the fulfillment of prophecy.’ Nowhere is that truer than in the times and lives of the early pioneer Saints who came to the Great Salt Lake Valley.”

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Elder Kevin W. Pearson speaks at the rededication ceremony for the Brigham Young Family Cemetery.

Part of the cemetery is dedicated to the legacies of early pioneers including William Clayton and Eliza R. Snow, whose poems were later adopted as Latter-day Saint hymns that continue to be cherished today.

A monument for Snow was also restored during the renovation. It memorializes the words of one of her poems, which was adopted as the hymn, “Oh My Father.”

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The gravesite of Eliza R. Snow.

“The Young family buried here gave their all to this vision of community because of their unflinching belief in the eternal nature of the human soul and the eternal nature of the human family. They worked out together on this very land the things that would make their family eternal,” said Emily Utt, historic sites curator with the Church History Department.

Renovation

Planning for the family cemetery’s renovation began in April 2020. Multiple Church departments worked together with meticulous care to preserve the historical integrity of the site. The cemetery has more than 40 graves, the vast majority unmarked. To avoid disturbing the graves ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology was used to find their precise location.

Contractors also conducted all digging by hand, which proved challenging when two layers of concrete about 10 inches thick were discovered under the sandstone-paved walkway. Special care was taken in restoring and reinforcing the site’s original workmanship, such as the pioneer-era wrought iron fence and sandstone wall on the cemetery’s perimeter.

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The restored sandstone wall and iron fence surrounding the cemetery.

“We have tried to create an open, inviting, peaceful atmosphere where the Spirit can be felt. Also, a place to reflect on the past, and help inspire us as we move forward with our lives,” said Project Manager Greg Green during remarks given at the rededication.

History

The Brigham Young Family Cemetery is located about a block east of Temple Square in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City near what was once his family’s strawberry patch.

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Members of the Young family and others used a family cemetery on the property rather than providing a burial place in the large city-owned cemetery. Aside from Brigham Young, other marked graves in the cemetery include his wives, Mary Ann Angell, Lucy Ann Decker, Emmeline Free, Mary Van Cott, and Eliza R. Snow, as well as his children, Joseph Angell Young and Alice Young Clawson. The majority of the graves in the family cemetery are unmarked.

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Brigham Young’s initials on a cemetery gate.

On June 1, 1974, the 173rd anniversary of Brigham Young’s birth, the Brigham Young Family Cemetery was dedicated as the Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument. A statue in the center of the park honors the 6,000 Latter-day Saint pioneers who lost their lives while crossing the western plains of the United States to Utah. Other monuments in the cemetery honor the life of Brigham Young and early Latter-day Saints.

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