Descendants of Joseph and Hyrum Smith are joining in a project to renovate and landscape the Smith family cemetery in Nauvoo where the Prophet and his brother and 25 of their family members are buried.
The burial site, overlooking the Mississippi River, is next to the old log Homestead where Joseph and Emma lived prior to their move kitty-cornered across the street into the Mansion House. Among those buried at the site, in addition to Joseph and Hyrum, are Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, Emma Smith, and Samuel and Don Carlos Smith, brothers of the Prophet.Project chairmen said that two of the driving forces behind upgrading the hallowed grounds are the limited access to the Smith family grave site area, and particularly a plea of Emma Smith, made to her son Joseph III in 1867:
“I have always felt sad about the neglected condition of that place, and as I do not expect ever to be able to build me a house to live in, I would like to fix a place to be put away when I have done all my work on the earth. . . .
“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.”
The “Smith relations” mentioned by Emma Smith – the descendants of Joseph and Hyrum – last year formed the Joseph & Hyrum Smith Family Foundation. The foundation is currently raising funds to landscape, beautify and provide for open public access and ongoing maintenance of this historic cemetery.
In the project, new monuments will be placed on the graves of Joseph, Emma and Hyrum Smith. A patio and a lighted brick walkway leading to Water Street and a new sprinkler system will be installed. Additional trees and flower beds will dot the grounds.
A dedication ceremony for the completed project is planned for Aug. 4 at 4 p.m. in the cemetery. President Wallace B. Smith of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a great-grandson of Joseph Smith, will participate.
Also taking part will be Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve, a great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith, and other family members.
As part of the dedication, a time capsule will be encased in the new monuments with the names of those who helped or contributed to the project in any way.
The project leaders said, “A new-found spirit of unity is developing through this project in the spirit of Joseph and Hyrum, of whom it was said, `In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!’
“These brothers set the example to their descendants through their love which was expressed by Hyrum near the time of the martyrdom when, given the opportunity to escape, he told his brother, `Joseph, I can’t leave you.’ ”
Eldred G. Smith, a great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith and project co-chairman, said, “The RLDS Church has been very cooperative and gracious in working with us and allowing the Joseph and Hyrum Smith Family Foundation to undertake this project.”
Dan M. Larsen, a descendant of Joseph Smith and executive director of the project, declared, “I truly believe this can be a beginning of an extraordinary relationship between the Smith family members and the RLDS and LDS churches and an opportunity to once more work together in old Nauvoo.”
Elder Ballard referred to Joseph Smith’s expressed desire: “The place where man is buried is sacred to me. . . . In the morning of the resurrection let me strike hands with my father.”
Elder Ballard added, “I am sure there will be personal joy and satisfaction for each one of us knowing that we helped provide a pleasing resting place from which these great ancestors of ours can rise on the morning of the resurrection and `strike hands.’ “