This peacefully landscaped park is on a small hill one-half block east from the midway point on the block which contains both the Church Office Building and the Beehive House. It is the gravesite of Brigham Young, Eliza R. Snow, and other members of the Young family. The cemetery is located in an area that, before large modern buildings were constructed, overlooked Brigham Young’s homestead and the valley he helped settle.
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Standing in this cemetery, visitors might reflect on the courage and determined leadership Brigham Young exhibited to make this desert blossom like a rose. President N. Eldon Tanner rededicated this site as a memorial park on June 1, 1974, the 173rd anniversary of Brigham Young’s birth. It was remodeled once more in 2000 and offers visitors the opportunity for quiet reflection about the lives of Brigham Young and other influential Latter-day Saints.
David M. Whitchurch
Kathie and W. Jeffrey Marsh
Several sculptures and monuments can be found throughout the park. Among them are memorials to two unique Latter-day Saint hymns. As visitors enter the gate, to their right is a bronze plaque in honor of the unique Latter-day Saint hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” by William Clayton. William was with the first group of pioneering Saints in Iowa near the banks of the Chariton River. He was worried about his wife that he had to leave behind in Nauvoo, Illinois, due to her expectant condition. Upon receiving the news that his wife had given birth to a new baby boy, he wrote a poem and set it to music. The opening line reflects this situation: “Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear.” To the left of the gate, on the opposite side of the park, another plaque commemorates Eliza R. Snow’s poem “O My Father,” about our father-child relationship with God and our eventual reunion with Him after this life. Thus, one poem celebrates life, and the other commemorates death and our eventual entering back into God’s presence.
Just inside the front gate of the park is a sculpture by Edward J. Fraughton honoring the six thousand pioneers who lost their lives crossing the plains between 1847 and 1869. In the very center of the cemetery is a magnificent bust of President Young. Just to the west is a unique monument depicting Brigham seated on a bench, reading the scriptures with two children. It portrays a loving father spending important time with family members.
Several individuals who worked closely with Brigham Young left accounts of their reflections concerning his life and death.
In describing President Young’s faith, one biographer observed: If I were asked to point out the principal thing, which, more than all others, made President Young the great man he was, I think I should reply, without hesitation, that it was his ability to believe— his great faith. First, faith in a living God. . . . Second, faith in every principle and doctrine revealed and taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith. . . . Third, faith in himself, and in his ability to carry on the great work of establishing the Kingdom of God. . . . On his tombstone one might well have written, HE BELIEVED.
Contemplating the imminent death of President Young, George Q. Cannon described his feelings:
On Tuesday night, as I sat at the head of his bed and thought of his death, if it should occur . . . it seemed to me that he was indispensable. What could we do without him? He has been the brain, the eye, the ear, the mouth and hand for the entire people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From the greatest details connected with the organization of this Church down to the smallest minutiæ connected with the work, he has left upon it the impress of his great mind. From the organization of the Church, and the construction of Temples; the building of Tabernacles; from the creation of a Provisional State government and a Territorial government, down to the small matter of directing the shape of these seats upon which we sit this day; upon all these things, as well as upon all the settlements of the Territory, the impress of his genius is apparent. Nothing was too small for his mind; nothing was too large. His mind was of that character that it could grasp the greatest subjects, and yet it had the capacity to descend to the minutest details. This was evident in all his counsels and associations with the Saints; he had that power, that wonderful faculty which God gave him and with which he was inspired. And while I was thus thinking of all this, it seemed as though we could not spare him, he was indispensable to this great work. And while I felt it, it seemed as though a voice said, “I am God; this is my work; it is I who build it up and carry it forward; it is my business to guide my saints.”
Kathie and W. Jeffrey Marsh
Those who witnessed the passing of Brigham Young in the Lion House recorded the following:
[President Young] seemed so restless that Dr. Seymour B. Young, his nephew, thought it best for him to be removed from the canopy bed he occupied which stood in an alcove of the room and placed him before the open window where he would get the air and where his beloved ones could be around him. . . .
When he was placed upon the bed in front of the window he seemed to partially revive, and opening his eyes, he gazed upward, exclaiming: “Joseph! Joseph! Joseph!” and the divine look in his face seemed to indicate that he was communicating with his beloved friend, Joseph Smith, the Prophet. This name was the last word he uttered.”
Representative of his foresight and meticulous but plain manner, President Young left the following instructions for his funeral:
I, Brigham Young, wish my funeral services to be conducted in the following manner:
When I breathe my last I wish my friends to put my body in as clean and wholesome state as can conveniently be done. . . . I want my coffin made of plump one and one-quarter inch boards, not scrimped in length, but two inches longer than I would measure, and from two to three inches wider than is commonly made for a person of my breadth and size, and deep enough to place me on a little comfortable cotton bed, with a good suitable pillow for size and quality; my body dressed in my temple clothing, and laid nicely into my coffin, and the coffin to have the appearance that if I wanted to turn a little to the right or to the left, I should have plenty of room to do so. The lid can be made crowning.
At my interment I wish all of my family present that can be conveniently, and the male members wear no crepe on their hats or on their coats; the females to buy no black bonnets, nor black dresses, nor black veils; but if they have them they are at liberty to wear them. The services may be permitted, as singing and a prayer offered, and if any of my friends wish to say a few words, and really desire, do so; and when they have closed their services, take my remains on a bier, and repair to the little burying ground, which I have reserved on my lot east of the White House on the hill, and in the southeast corner of this lot, have a vault built of mason work large enough to receive my coffin, and that may be placed in a box, if they choose, made of the same material as the coffin-,redwood. Then place flat rocks over the vault sufficiently large to cover it, that the earth may be placed over it—nice, fine, dry earth—to cover it until the walls of the little cemetery are reared, which will leave me in the south- east corner. This vault ought to be roofed over with some kind of temporary roof. There let my earthly house or tabernacle rest in peace, and have a good sleep, until the morning of the first resurrection; no crying or mourning with anyone as I have done my work faithfully and in good faith.
I wish this to be read at the funeral, providing that if I should die anywhere in the mountains, I desire the above directions respecting my place of burial to be observed; but if I should live to go back with the Church to Jackson County, I wish to be buried there.
Brigham Young. President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sunday, November 9th, 1873, Salt Lake City, Utah.
David M. Whitchurch
President Wilford Woodruff left us this description of President Young’s funeral: This was the greatest day in some respects that the Latter Day Saints Ever Saw. The funeral of President Brigham Young was attended to this day in the New Tabernacle. 18,000 people by actual Count passed through the Tabernacle to visit the Body of President Young and several thousand were not Counted. It is estimated that 25,000 took their last fare well of the honored dead. . . .
The procession was then formed and the Corps Carried and Deposited in the vault & Elder W Woodruff then Dedicated the ground the vault and the body unto the Lord. The History of all this with the speeches is published in the Deseret News weekly of Sept. 5, 1877.