The First Presidency has recently approved minor adjustments to the names of historic sites of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Seventeen of the 26 sites have been renamed to place greater emphasis on the Restoration of the gospel.
The Church’s historic sites are places where significant events happened in the Restoration and history of the Church, said Jenny Lund, director of the Historic Sites Division in the Church History Department. Several sites were acquired in the early 1900s.
“They’re part of the record that we’re admonished to keep in section 21 of the Doctrine and Covenants,” Lund said. The opening line of the first revelation given to the Church after its organization on April 6, 1830, reads “Behold, there shall be a record kept among you.”
Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., a General Authority Seventy serving as Church Historian and Recorder, said historic sites matter to the Lord. “They matter so much that under His guidance, the Church goes to great lengths to preserve them and share them.
“We’re grateful to be able to share the sites with hundreds of thousands of visitors every year,” he continued. “Those visitors will come to understand the Restoration of the gospel more deeply, they will feel a profound connection to the Saints of earlier times, and they will find inspiration for their own lives.”
Adjustments to historic sites names
The following is a list of minor adjustments to names of historic sites (former names are in parenthesis):
- Brigham Young Winter Home and Office (Brigham Young Winter Home)
- Carthage Jail (Historic Carthage Jail and Visitors’ Center)
- Cove Fort (Historic Cove Fort)
- Grandin Building: Book of Mormon Publication Site (Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site)
- Hamblin Home (Home of Jacob Hamblin)
- Hawn’s Mill (Haun’s Mill)
- Johnson Home (Historic John Johnson Home)
- Joseph Smith Birthplace (Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial)
- Liberty Jail (Historic Liberty Jail)
- Morley Farm (Historic Isaac Morley Farm)
- Mormon Battalion Center at San Diego (Mormon Battalion Historic Site at San Diego)
- Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters (Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters)
- Martin’s Cove: Mormon Trail Site (Mormon Handcart Historic Site: Martin’s Cove)
- Sacred Grove (now includes Joseph Smith Family Farm)
- Sixth Crossing: Mormon Trail Site (Mormon Handcart Historic Site: Willie Center at Sixth Crossing)
- Rock Creek Hollow: Mormon Trail Site (Mormon Handcart Historic Site: Rock Creek Hollow)
- Whitmer Farm: Church Organization Site (Peter Whitmer Farm)
The following is a list of names of historic sites that did not change:
- Beehive House
- Far West Temple Site
- Hill Cumorah
- Historic Kirtland
- Historic Nauvoo
- Independence Visitors’ Center
- Kanesville Tabernacle
- Priesthood Restoration Site
- St. George Tabernacle
Why the name changes?
Jacob Olmstead, curator of historic sites in the Church History Department, said the primary reason for the name adjustments is to better reflect the event that took place at a specific site.
“We wanted to ensure that the names could represent or illustrate or speak to the significance of the events that happened there as best as possible,” he said.
For example, the Joseph Smith Family Farm is now part of the Sacred Grove site. “We wanted to make sure there was real clarity that this is the place where the First Vision took place … so there was not any confusion about ‘What is the Joseph Smith Family Farm in comparison to the Sacred Grove?’”
Another example is the Joseph Smith Birthplace, which was formerly the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial. Rather than highlighting the memorial, the new name places significance on the Prophet’s birthplace, Olmstead said.
The Brigham Young Winter Home located in St. George, Utah, is now the Brigham Young Winter Home and Office. “While there were many important things that took place in Brigham Young’s home, the office that he built just adjacent to the home itself was where the endowment was written down for the first time,” Olmstead said.
Some names now include subtitles for clarification, such as the Whitmer Farm: Church Organization Site (formerly the Peter Whitmer Farm).
The names of the hardcart sites at Martin’s Cove, Sixth Crossing and Rock Creek Hollow now include “Mormon Trail Site” to be more recognizable.
“We do have a large number of visitors that come because they’re passing along, visiting the sites along the Mormon or the California or the Oregon trail,” Olmstead said. “Many of those are non-Latter-day Saints, and so we wanted them to understand that these sites are important to a broader story as well.”
Olmstead said another motive for adjusting the names is to “remove gender biases.” The former names of Peter Whitmer Farm, John Johnson Home and Home of Jacob Hamlin “highlighted the men that live there,” he said.
In many cases, the women took care of the property while the men were away. “So we wanted to remove that bias toward the husband and acknowledge the husband, wife and the children by just using the surname of the family that owned that property.”
Haun’s Mill is now Hawn’s Mill to reflect the correct spelling of Jacob Hawn, the owner of the mill in Caldwell County, Missouri, that was attacked by a mob in 1838.
Other historic site names were changed for simplicity. The Historic Liberty Jail is now Liberty Jail, and the Historic Cove Fort is now Cove Fort. The Mormon Battalion Historic Site at San Diego is now Mormon Battalion Center at San Diego.
Historic Kirtland and Historic Nauvoo remain unchanged. “When there was a competing contemporary location, we kept ‘Historic’ in the title,” Olmstead said.
For the past few years, the Church has been refining its identity, Olmstead said. President Russell M. Nelson has placed great emphasis on the correct name of the Church. Many names of the Church’s platforms and channels have been updated. A new symbol was introduced during the April general conference.
“Because these sites are so significant to the identity and the experience and the history of the Church, we wanted to keep pace with these changes,” Olmstead said. The name adjustments are to “further sync the historic sites with the identity of the Church.”
The updated historic sites names, as well as the full name of the Church, will be present on signs and brochures, he said.
Lund said another motive behind the timing is to make the historic sites as “discoverable” as possible.
For years, different names for the historic sites online caused problems for those searching for information, she said. “We did a lot of research to help us find out ‘How do people think about these sites? What do they call them?’”
“We hope it will be easier for them when they see the name, they’ll know what it’s about, or be able to recall the name when they want to look for it, or to be able to find it on the web,” she said.
Olmstead added, “We want individuals who are interested in knowing more about the events that took place at these historic places to be able to find that information readily when they need it.”
Olmstead said he hopes as Latter-day Saints recognize the names and historic sites, they’ll have a “clearer idea” of what happened, why it is significant, and why the Church spends so much effort to maintain the site.
“It’s really so that they can speak to the truthfulness of the gospel and the Restoration,” he said.
All of the Church’s historic sites are closed until further notice due to COVID-19 concerns. To learn more about the sites, visit history.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/landing/historic-sites.