Smith Family Cemetery Dedicated
November 1991

“Smith Family Cemetery Dedicated,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 109

Smith Family Cemetery Dedicated

The Smith Family Cemetery in Nauvoo, Illinois, where the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum are buried, has been renovated and dedicated through the efforts of descendants of Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack Smith.

Speaking at the August 4 dedication, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve commented: “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.” He called the renovation a “crowning accomplishment.”

Elder Ballard, who is a great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith, continued: “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.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith; his wife Emma; his parents, Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack Smith; his brothers Hyrum, Don Carlos, and Samuel; and seventeen other relatives and friends are buried in this cemetery on the banks of the Mississippi River. One large granite headstone marks the graves of Joseph, Emma, and Hyrum.

Trees, flowers, and grass were planted, and benches and a lighting system were installed. A fence was built around the graveyard site, which is located west of the log home where Joseph and Emma lived before moving into the Mansion House.

In 1867, Emma wrote to her son Joseph III about the family cemetery: “I have always felt sad about the neglected condition of that place. … 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.”

This letter and the limited accessibility of the cemetery provided impetus for the renovation project. The Joseph and Hyrum Smith Family Foundation was organized in 1990 to raise money for the renovation. Elder Ballard commented that a new bond has developed among the Smiths’ extended family because of this common effort.

Elder Ballard reflected that the Prophet Joseph always demonstrated a deep love for his family. He quoted Joseph: “I will tell you what I want. 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.”

“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,” Elder Ballard continued. “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.”

President Wallace B. Smith, president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, offered the dedicatory prayer and said, “It is felt that this [cemetery] 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.”


The Smith homestead, where the renovated graves are located. (Photos by C. Michael Trapp.)


Left to right: Wallace B. Smith, president of the RLDS Church, and Elder M. Russell Ballard at dedication ceremonies.