On April 12, the Sons of the Utah Pioneers made a trek to the Salt Lake City Cemetery. The tour was hosted by President Calvin and Lynette Stephens. The life accounts of these great men and women buried in the cemetery are a tribute to our ancestry and a credit to the inhabitants of these mountain valleys.
First up was the grave of William Clayton, who authored “Come, Come Ye Saints,” and ended at the tomb of Jedediah Morgan Grant, after whom Morgan County was named. President Stephens said, “Morgan Valley was never considered a viable place to grow gardens and raise livestock until President Grant blessed the Valley.”
At the tomb of Joseph Standing the powerful account of one of the early martyrs to the cause of Mormonism was shared. Standing and Rudger Clawson had been sent on a mission to the Southern States. A mob attacked them and shot Standing. They would have massacred Clawson, too, but he stood in defiance to them and they could not shoot further. Clawson recovered Standing’s body, washed it and put it on a train back to Utah. The train conductor wanted to throw the body off the train, but again Clawson stood in defense of the martyr and defied the cruel act.
Other stops included graves of valiant women such as Harriet Page Wheeler Young, one of three women who entered the Salt Lake Valley with the first pioneer company. She was the wife of Lorenzo D. Young, brother to Brigham Young.
Attendees also stopped at the graves of Mary Fielding Smith and Mercy Thompson, sisters. Mary was the wife of Hyrum Smith and Mercy the wife of Robert B. Thompson. Both of these men had sacrificed their lives for the church prior to the saints coming west. Hyrum, of course, died in the Carthage Jail with his brother Joseph. Brother Thompson was a clerk to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo.
Mary Fielding Smith was treated rather cruelly by the captain of their pioneer company. He had said “she would be a burden to the company.” Mary was very feisty and returned the captain’s comments with, “I won’t be a burden, and I’ll be in the valley before you!” She did indeed arrive in the valley before the captain of the company.
Orin Porter Rockwell’s grave was also on the tour. Rockwell was a fierce western lawman. As a boy he had been befriended by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He vowed that he would always defend the Smith family. There were several times when he was forced to do this, but perhaps the great example of his love for the Smiths was when he visited Agnes Coolbrith Smith, wife of Don Carlos, Joseph’s youngest brother. She suffered from a rare disease that caused her to go bald. Porter felt so bad he had his own long hair cut off for her wig.
The grave of W.W. Phelps was next. Phelps is perhaps our greatest writer of Mormon hymns. During the Missouri period he became disaffected with Joseph Smith and wrote some very scathing articles about the prophet. He finally realized how wrong he’d been. “Hat in hand” he came to the prophet and begged his forgiveness. Joseph then uttered one of the great statements of Mormonism: “Come on dear brother, since the war is past, friends at first will be friends again at last!” Phelps never again criticized the church.
The group visited up to 50 other graves. There was that of Joseph Fielding Smith who was thought to be a rather stern prophet. Smith replied to the criticism: “I would like to have been lighter, but the Lord assigned me repentance, and I was true to the assignment.”
There was George A. Smith, who had false teeth and a wig. When he stopped at a stream in the Utah Valley, he took out his teeth and swished them in the pond; he took off his wig and wiped the sweat from his head. The on-looking Indians called him “the man who comes apart!”
President Stephens also took the group to the graves of John Taylor, Heber J. Grant, Joseph F. Smith and Erastus Snow. At each stop he told incredibly tender accounts of the love these men had for the saints. He stopped at the grave of Caleb Baldwin, the man who had spent four months in the Liberty Jail with the Prophet Joseph. Looking atop the hill from John Taylor’s grave the group could see where David O McKay, Henry D. Moyle and Gordon B. Hinckley were buried.