Cemetery dedication a fulfillment of dreams

Elder Ballard, a great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith, said: "It's a great privilege for family members to honor their forefathers and to prepare a garden spot for them to rise in the resurrection. That is the crowning accomplishment.

"I have a feeling, brothers and sisters, that our Heavenly Father and His beloved Son, our Savior and Redeemer the Lord Jesus Christ, are smiling upon us at this moment."

More than 1,000 people, including about 200 descendants of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, met at the services to commemorate the completion of the renovation and landscaping project, which began last year. The prophet Joseph Smith; his wife, Emma; and his parents and three brothers, including Hyrum, are buried in the cemetery. (See related story on page 6.)

Pres. Wallace B. Smith, president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints dedicated the cemetery, which is located on RLDS property. He is a great-grandson of Joseph Smith.

The project was inspired by a letter written by Emma to her son, Joseph III, on Dec. 2, 1867, in which she expresses her concern for the condition of the family cemetery.

"I have always felt sad about the neglected condition of that place, . . ." she wrote. "I have got twenty-five dollars that no one has any right to but myself. . . . I feel anxious to apply that money on the graveyard. After I have done that I think we can ask our Smith relations to help mark Father's and Mother's graves, if no more."

Limited accessibility to the gravesite area was another reason that spurred family members to form the Joseph and Hyrum Smith Family Foundation. The foundation was formed to raise money to pay for the project and ongoing maintenance of the cemetery.

A large granite headstone marks the graves of Hyrum, Joseph and Emma, located near the old log Homestead where Joseph and Emma lived prior to their move across the street to the Mansion House.

Trees, grass and flowers were planted, brick walkways, teak wood benches and a lighting system were installed, and a new fence was built around the Homestead and graveyard area, which sits at the edge of the Mississippi River.

Three bronze plaques pay tribute to those who are buried in the cemetery. One plaque notes the contributions of Joseph, Emma and Hyrum; a second identifies, for the first time, all who are buried in the cemetery; and a third pays tribute to Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith.

A time capsule will be placed on the south side of the granite headstone with the names of all known Smith descendants. The time capsule will also include those who have made contributions for the renovation and the names of those who helped in the burials of Joseph, Emma and Hyrum Smith in the 1800s. A video tape of the dedication service will also be included in the time capsule.

"This is a great moment in history," Elder Ballard remarked. "The fact that Hyrum's family, Joseph's family, Samuel's family, Catherine's, Don Carlos' and others of the family can all be here together in a combined effort must be so pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

"I feel to pay tribute, particularly to Joseph Smith Sr. and to his sweetheart and companion Lucy Mack Smith, the parents of these great men, this great family whom we honor today."

The writings of the prophet Joseph show the deep love he had for his family and his hope to rise with them in the resurrection, he added.

"I will tell you what I want," Elder Ballard quoted, reading from Joseph's writings. "If tomorrow I shall be called to lie in yonder tomb, in the morning of the resurrection, let me strike hands with my father, and cry, My father,' and he will say,My son, my son,' as soon as the rock rends and before we come out of our graves. . . . And when the voice calls for the dead to arise, suppose I am laid by the side of my father, what would be the first joy of my heart? To meet my father, my mother, my brother, my sister; and when they are by my side, I embrace them and they me."

Elder Ballard asked: "Aren't you just thrilled, brothers and sisters, family members, that they will embrace one another on that great day in this beautiful garden spot?

"I am grateful that on the day of the resurrection they will rise up and have no question as to whether or not their posterity loved them. I think we have demonstrated by our combined efforts our deep love and affection for those whom we honor by the improvement of this cemetery.

"I hope that as we conclude the services here by dedicating the improved cemetery that this will be the beginning of wonderful times together as the Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith family.

"I for one pledge to Pres. Smith that I will do all that I can do to see that we are always standing by, both as family and as the LDS Church, to be supportive and helpful and loving neighbors, friends and relatives."

In his remarks, Elder Ballard offered an apostolic blessing to family members of love and peace.

In his comments, Pres. Wallace B. Smith, co-chairman and trustee of the foundation, said: "It is felt that this [cemeteryT will perhaps finally constitute a fitting memorial to those principal figures of the Restoration and provide an appropriate setting for their repose.

"As we gather here today to pay tribute to the courage of these early saints and to dedicate this cemetery to their memory, may we gain strength from their example. . . . And most of all, may we affirm, by our own faith and actions, that they did not die in vain, that this may ever be true is my prayer."

In his dedicatory prayer, Pres. Smith asked that those who enter the cemetery "may be touched by the beauty and the serenity of these surroundings in such a way that they will be made to know once more and assured of the promises of the resurrection.

"May all that we do here today be prologue to the activities of the future in such ways that we may always make proud those who have gone before us. May we be aware of the fact that we are standing on the shoulders of the giants of the past who have gone before and showed us the way."

Elder H. Burke Peterson of the Seventy, president of the North America Central Area; and Elder Eldred G. Smith, an emeritus General Authority and a great-great-grandson of Hyrum, also attended the service. Elder Smith is co-chairman and trustee of the Joseph and Hyrum Smith Foundation.

Also speaking at the dedicatory services were Elder Smith; Daniel M. Larsen, executive director and trustee of the foundation and a great-great-grandson of Joseph Smith, Jr.; and Karl R. Anderson, secretary of the foundation and a former regional representative in the Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, regions.

Donna Lee Frogley, a great-great-great-grandaughter of Hyrum, and Lois Smith Larsen, a great-grandaughter of Joseph, placed a wreath on the grave headstone at the conclusion of the service.